The Single Mom’s Guide to Dating
By Mindy Erickson
I think I’ve learned more about men and dating in the last five years of being a single mom than I did during a twelve-year marriage. I saw a quote the other day, which I love to collect, that pretty much says it all; “I think; therefore, I’m single.” – Lizz Winstead. Sometimes too much knowledge can be a burden, but it has also given me some insight that I feel will ultimately be an asset to finding the relationship that lasts.
I believe there’s no better education than the one we can receive from the school of life – if we’re paying attention in class. This single mom has been paying attention and I have learned how to make better decisions regarding the man I will choose to become involved with and bring into the lives of my children and myself. I have yet to learn if all this new wisdom will make a difference, but I believe it will for us single moms.
These are some guidelines that I use when deciding whether or not to date someone and whether it should continue or not. These are conclusions based on the last five years of being a single mom, dating and paying attention. I have learned from the good experiences and especially from the ones that turned out poorly. I sincerely hope that learning from my successes and failures can help other single moms find happiness in a more positive way. Following is my list of basic principles that may help other single moms make better decisions regarding the men they date.
o Don’t date a man that has been divorced for less than two years if you want a lasting relationship. There are many reasons for this, but basically it rarely lasts because he is not ready to make an exclusive commitment at this point. Most single moms are spending time with a man for the purpose of creating a long term relationship, but newly divorced men are wanting to play the field a bit – which is fine, but not for you if you’re looking for something more. There are of course exceptions to every rule but single moms need to be more discerning in the case of a recently divorced man. That may seem unfair to him but it really ends up being better for both of you, and your children.
o Trust your instincts. We single moms should do this more in all areas of life, but we constantly second-guess ourselves; often to our own detriment. Take action on those little tinges of doubt – there are reasons you’re having them.
o Asses your vulnerability. As a single mom, chances are there are some stresses in your life. Single moms have a lot of responsibility and a man’s shoulder/strength is often missed and much desired. Don’t let this cloud your judgment as to whose shoulder you’re leaning on. No shoulder is better than the wrong shoulder. Eventually you will need to allow yourself to be vulnerable in order to have a great relationship, just make sure it’s with the right man and for the right reasons. Be an emotionally ready single mom who wants to open up, not one who needs an emotional crutch.
o If he comes on too strong too soon, he may have issues like being controlling, jealous, or a stalker. (or all three) It may feel flattering and seem like he’s really into you, but feelings develop over time, not in a week. Whatever the case, he’s looking for someone, maybe anyone, to fill a need and/or void and you just happen to be the one in front of him. Single moms need to be extra careful.
o Don’t settle for mediocrity. Nice words spoken after disrespectful behavior or an attempt to justify it; lip-service to your concerns with no actions to support the declarations; getting his attention/time only when it’s convenient for him – these are not the actions of a man that feels you or your time are valuable, and as a single mom, both are precious. Imagine the way you want a man to treat you and then accept no less and never forget that actions speak much louder than words.
o Take desperation out of the equation. I know a lot of single moms believe that it’s hard to find a good man that will also accept your kids – it is!! So wait for the man that does, not the man that uses your lack of self-confidence (vulnerability) about being a single mom to have you on his terms. Decide what your terms and boundaries are, and then let him meet them.
o Set boundaries. We single moms all have things that are important to us, and when we are asked to compromise them it makes us feel uncomfortable. If you wouldn’t be a passenger in a car with someone who’s been drinking behind the wheel then don’t be. No one should try to make you do something you don’t want to do, whether it’s getting in a car with them or something else, i.e.; anything that compromises the emotional and physical boundaries or integrity of the single mom. Remember, life is what YOU make it, so let your decisions determine the outcome of your relationship instead of making decisions only to sustain the relationship.
o Pay attention to who he is without you. This one comes from an Oprah show, but its wisdom I feel I must pass on, especially for the single mom. Who IS this man without your influence? For instance, if you’re spiritual and he says he is too, ask him to share that with you. Ask leading questions to receive information about him instead of revealing things about yourself. Many men try to tell you what you want to hear based on the clues you give them; so hold your cards close to your chest. See what he has to offer first.
o People will tell you who they are; all you have to do is listen. What happened in his past relationships? Does he have a history of “scorned” ex-girlfriends? Do his relationships always end because the woman did something wrong? Does he take responsibility for past failures, mistakes, etc.? Does he treat people well? Is he respectful? Let him answer these and other questions you have by observing how he acts and what he says. Do those two things contradict each other or is he consistent?
o Finally single moms, be protective of your children. They are not old enough to understand the complexities of adult relationships, and certainly not their parent’s dating. Do not introduce your dates to them; do not have men pick you up at home but rather meet them out instead. If and when the man you are dating decide to enter into a committed relationship and you’ve established a foundation of that nature where both of you are serious and wanting to move forward, then and only then should you consider having him meet your children.
OK single moms – good luck! I hope this list helps you find a great guy. It may narrow down the selection quite a bit, but as a single mom you don’t want to end up with a bad apple, and if you adhere to this list I don’t think you will. We single moms do need to be more discerning because we have more at stake. Our nature to believe the best in others until they prove otherwise can have severe consequences for a single mom. Unfortunately, dating is a different animal for single moms, so we must treat it as such. We can still be ourselves, just more aware than we were before our kids were part of the equation.
Mindy Erickson is a single mom of four living in Colorado. She is a frequent contributor of articles relating to her experiences and observations as a single mom. You can read more of her articles on her blog http://www.singlemommindy.blogspot.com