Below is an interview I did for MyTreat some time back on the topic of dating as a single parent.
What has divorce taught you about yourself or what you look for in a relationship? Looking back is there a silver lining going through a divorce and if so what has that been for you?
Divorce teaches everyone who goes through it; but only those who are paying attention actually learn. For me it would be several years after my divorce, during what I have coined my ‘emotional winter’ that I finally started paying attention. It took coloring so far outside the lines of my upbringing and what I knew was right to finally recognize just how far off center I had moved. I had become someone else, in order to fit a certain role or expectation. What hitting bottom ultimately taught, about dating, was that we must date according to our values. If we measure a potential partner and future spouse on the scale of our own hardwired values we stand a far better chance that relationship will last. I’m reminded of this when someone, whose relationship failed says, ‘we grew apart’. The food we eat, clothes we wear, and music we like may change over time, but our values, integrity, and character are hard-coded. If we start with the important things, what our values and character show us, growing apart rarely happens. The silver lining in my divorce? Without it I never would have met my Queen.
After your divorce what was going through your mind when it came to dating and potentially marrying again? Were you thinking that you were going to stay single for a few years before dating? Did you decide to jump right in? What role did having kids affect your thinking when it came to dating again?
I give every new divorcee this one piece of advice. Take a calendar and circle today’s date – next year. Don’t date or see anyone until that day arrives. Take those 12 months to work on yourself, get right, learn a few things about who you really are. I didn’t do that, though I wish I had. Why should we take this time? It is impossible to find the right person until you’re right with yourself. Like attracts like. I’ve never met a new divorcee who said “I can’t wait to do that all over again!”. But time usually changes how we feel about marriage; relationship is imbedded in our DNA, no matter how we might try otherwise we just can’t get away from the idea of being in a strong lasting romantic relationship with another person.
Children take dating and toss it on its head. Most single parents don’t get that; they forget how their kids change the entire landscape. Single parents can’t date as if their kids don’t exist; every person we might be interested in must be viewed through the lens of, “What type of parent would this person be?’ We mess that up and we’re destined for heartache.
Do you think there is a proper time when single fathers should consider dating again? What determines in your mind when someone is ready or not?
As I said earlier, for mom’s or dads that is no sooner than twelve months after the divorce. For dad’s I encourage them to use this year to join a men’s group, find a mentor, someone you trust who doesn’t have skin in the game, who isn’t tied into things emotionally. Who can look out your lingering issues with an objective eye. I believe we are ready to date again when are able to confidently articulate what we are looking for, but more importantly why we are looking for it. What are the priorities in a relationship and partner? What are the deal killers? If we aren’t there yet – stay out of the dating pool.
And here is what brings all of that together…. We must be able to walk away from someone who doesn’t meet those standards. If they have one deal killer we must move on, otherwise what was the point of having priorities in the first place?
What are the biggest differences between dating as a non-parent versus dating as a single parent? Is it harder to find dates since some women might not want to date people with children already?
Single parents, by definition, have a lower stock value. What I mean is that we have baggage that doesn’t easily fit into the overhead bin. Who wants to be single one day and be instant family the next? I think it’s harder for single parents because our options can be more limited. If you are dating with the kids in mind, you may need to walk away from someone who otherwise might be a great fit, in a former kid-free life. But with the responsibilities parenting brings that person may not have what it takes in a kid-filled life. One of the first questions single parents must ask before dating again is, “will I date someone with kids or without kids?” This question must be answered early, otherwise you spend time and money putting round pegs in square holes.
When people ask you for advice what is the most common question that you get? How do you respond?
I’m always asked, ‘How do you and the Queen keep it so good?’
My answer is always the same – honor. I choose to honor her and the relationship we have, and through that filter I sift all of my actions and behaviors. If I consider doing something, going out with certain friends, saying something I try to ask myself “will this honor her and us?” if that answer is ‘no’. I don’t do it…it’s as simple as that.