The whole question of dating as a single parent is a very sensitive one. Many single parents avoid it all together and devote all their time outside of work to their children. Others decide to date but will only do so with another single parent as they feel that another single parent will understand their situation and have real empathy for them. Yet others are open to dating singles who have no children of their own. Whichever option one chooses, there are unique challenges that will present themselves.
Being socially active is important because it helps free you as parent from obsessing over your role. Vicki Lansky in her Divorce Book for Parents says that “Letting your adult life revolve around your child’s is actually very hard on your child.” As a single parent, you have adult needs for companionship, intimacy, romance, encouragement among others that can only be fulfilled by another adult not the children.
So how do you develop a long term relationship with a single person who has no children?
The truth is each person lives in completely different environments. You might be very compatible with your boyfriend/girlfriend but your environments are worlds apart and are very difficult if not impossible to mesh. Therefore its only a matter of time before they clash. Initially what promises to be a very fulfilling relationship can easily prove to be the most difficult experience of their lives.
For the single adult, their life does not involve children or a divorce. It is self-controlled. It is as simple or as complicated as he/she makes it. It is consistent, scheduled, orderly, and predictable. He/she knows exactly what kind of evenings and weekends they will have. Its easy to make decisions right off the bat as they only consideration is theirs.
For the single parent its a lot more complex. They may still have ongoing difficulties with their ex-spouse, they may still be suffering emotional heaviness from the divorce/separation, all while bearing the responsibilities of providing a roof over their head, food and clothing, education and entertainment for the children. Being a great parent has very many sacrifices which they will make that the single adult will not necessarily understand simply because they are not parents themselves.
So does this mean that your relationship is doomed to fail? Not at all. But you need to be aware of the factors in your environments that are not equal. The key to a successful relationship lies in understanding each others environments and proactively dealing with potential clash points. Being supportive of each other and discussing certain situations.The single adult must understand that sometimes the parent will make the final decision in some situations. And that this is not a rejection of them nor an oversight of their contribution and what they bring to the table. Always think of the bigger picture especially if marriage is the goal. All this determines how successful your stepfamily will be.
Finally remember to praise each other for what you are doing right. And the contributions that you both make in the relationship, instead of always focusing on what is not going right. We all like to be praised for the good things we do and this will always motivate your partner to do more and to be more.