Getting Back In The Dating Game: Q&A For Single Parents And After Divorce


Baggage check

I am a single mother of two young children. It seems that I can’t find a date to save my life. I’m attractive and intelligent and have plenty to offer a man. In general, do single parents have problems finding someone to accept them with baggage or is it harder for one gender over another?   — Frustrated, Penn Valley, Calif.

The problem with most single parents is finding the time, energy, and opportunity to meet enough prospective single men or women to find one of interest. I don’t believe the problem with baggage is the issue of having it — because most people, even without kids, have baggage. The problem is how you perceive your life. If you turn it around and see your children as a gift that any man would be lucky to experience, then right off the bat you’ve shifted your perspective, which can have a great impact on the way men will respond to you.

I do find that women have a harder time having the energy and setting aside the time for the work required in dating. If you set the expectation of wanting a relationship then you have to go after it like you would a new job or any other goal. You have to make contacts, let friends know you’re on the dating path, and be open to meeting many new people before finding one you’d like to see again.

Here are a few fun rules to follow regarding baggage!

  • Each person needs to know what is in his own bag: Don’t date a person who has no idea what kind of baggage they have, or worse, thinks they have none.
  • Each person has to carry his or her own bag: There is nothing worse than being in a relationship with someone who is constantly putting his bag down in your path and expecting you to carry it.
  • Each person can only bring one bag: Accept the fact that you have baggage, but work hard to get rid of what you can so you don’t need a moving van everywhere you go.

Li’l Miss Behave

I’m going to meet a guy from Yahoo! Personals. He seems like my type, but guys don’t like me very well because of my five-year-old daughter. She has not seen her father for five years. Every time I have a relationship, she is always misbehaving. It’s so bad, that they tell me good-bye. I’ve tried everything. I give all the attention in the world. What else can I do?  — Discouraged, Wheaton, Mo.

Dear Discouraged:
It would be best if your dates do not meet your daughter until you know the relationship has the potential to be serious. Dating is a time for you to figure out what you want, what you like, and what you need. Focus on yourself and your date; talk about your lives — what you like to do, what you’re passionate about, and the goals you have. Don’t spend much time talking about your daughter or your parenting challenges because they won’t matter unless you’re in a long-term relationship with the man. When you do talk about your daughter, tell him the little things about her that delight you — not the issues that would scare off the bravest of souls. Start to view dating as the time you’ll spend away from your daughter nurturing yourself — then get a few friends on board who like to baby-sit.

If you wait until the relationship is established, the man you’re dating will have more incentive to take all the steps necessary to get the relationship with your daughter off to a great start.

Secret kids?

How should dating be handled when you have children? I am a single mom. When should you mention that you have kids and at what point should they be involved in the relationship?  — Mom’s the Word, Midland, Texas

Dear Mom’s
Having children is a big part of who you are, so you need to mention that fact up front. You don’t want to waste time being anyone but yourself, because sooner or later the real you with a real life will have to show up. It’s better to tell the whole truth, so you don’t fall for a guy who wants a different life and then have to go through healing from a broken heart. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to feel confident managing your life and your kids on your own. This may take a lot of work, but it means you won’t be dating out of a need to have some man come into your life and rescue you. It also puts you in the position of getting to choose the man that’s right for you whenever you’re ready. What scares men off is the fear that they’re going to have to step in to care for and support the children as well as you.

Don’t introduce your kids to a date until the relationship is serious. There is no need for the kids to like him or for him to like them if you don’t like each other! When you do introduce them plan some event the kids really enjoy doing — like going to the beach, zoo, or a movie. Let the kids totally be themselves, don’t get tense and try to impress your date or prove your kids are well behaved and lovely all the time. Have a sense of humor!

Not leading them on

I have been separated for four months. I would prefer to reconcile, but my husband is moving on with a divorce and dating. I need to do the same. How can I meet men on Yahoo! Personals for a beginning friendship, leading towards the possibility of a future relationship without the men feeling that I am playing games or leading them on. Most men I have found thus far are ready to date exclusively and move faster than I feel is fair given my present situation at this time.   — Hesitant, Southampton, N.Y.

Dear Hesitant:
The best policy is always to be totally honest about what you’re looking for when you fill out your profile. There may be many men who feel just as you do and you may have a better chance of finding a man interested in friendship if he’s recently out of a relationship as well. There is definitely something positive to be said for dating someone who is in a similar stage. If you’re still hurting, you are going to need to do some healing and grieving work before being able to be fully present in a relationship. That would go for both of you, so the friendship would naturally progress slowly into a relationship as time goes by. As far as men feeling you’ve been playing games or that they’ve been lead on by you — if you tell the truth — it is then up to them what they want to do with it.

Trust anew?

I have been married and divorced twice and am very nervous about opening up to someone again. I was cheated on, so trust is very important to me. Can you tell me what a good way to discuss those issues without seeming like a drill sergeant?  — Skittish, St. Peter, Minn.

Dear Skittish:
Take every opportunity when it comes up to share your experiences regarding relationships in the past where you were hurt. Focus on how you felt, instead of using your energy or time to talk about the jerk who cheated on you. You won’t come off as a drill sergeant if your story evolves as the relationship evolves. It wouldn’t be appropriate on the first or even fifth date to say, “From this day forward you have to call me every day, or report where you are going to be, because in the past my husband cheated on me.” Instead, as the relationship grows the man you’re dating is going to know exactly what happened and how you felt because you have shared with him those experiences and his compassion for the situation will grow.

All of the above depends on you choosing a man who is different from the two you’ve had in the past. So it’s also important for you to write down a description of character traits you’re going to need from the man in your life. If you find the man you’re falling for doesn’t have at least half of what’s written on that list, then it may be a case of dating for fun but not for the long-term.