Dating as a single young adult is one thing. Dating as a single mom is a different adventure altogether! In both cases, you have the mind-boggling task of trying to figure out if the person across the table shares your values and interests and is truly attractive to you. But throw the well-being and future of your children into the mix as an additional concern and the whole thing is even trickier. Because truly–for children who may struggle to feel secure or like their lives are stable after a divorce–nothing could be worse.
We’ve put together some dating do’s and don’ts for single moms that can help you find Mr. Right without allowing the search to negatively impact your children. Some of our guidelines might seem too restrictive or like too much trouble, but is there really anything that’s “too much trouble” when your kids’ best interests are on the line?
1. DO make passing the “Shared Core Values Test” a must for even one date.
This is good advice for any single person but becomes even more essential for moms. You don’t have time to waste on someone who isn’t a potential spouse. If you don’t share the same faith and basic values from the start, trust us: This relationship is going nowhere good. Don’t allow yourself to become entangled in a relationship that simply can’t be what you need for it to be and will require the awkward, icky task of disentangling. Don’t waste precious hours that could be spent with your kids on a guy who’s not for you. And don’t allow your child to become attached to someone who won’t be around in a few months. Which brings us to…
If you don’t share the same faith and basic values from the start, trust us: This relationship is going nowhere good.
2. DON’T introduce your date/boyfriend to your kids until you’re certain it has real potential.
If your child is craving a male figure in his or her life, this is even more important. You know how painful it is for you to get comfortable and attached to a guy only to have it end? It’s even harder on your kids–especially young children. Don’t even introduce them until you feel like the relationship has real potential to result in marriage. Explain to your boyfriend that this is a significant thing to you (this is sort of the single mom’s version of the DTR: Define the Relationship). If he isn’t comfortable with the added responsibility of becoming involved in your kids’ lives, take that as a red flag and slow down.
3. DO let your kids know where you are and what you’re doing.
Just because your children haven’t met your date yet doesn’t mean you have to be mysterious and let them feel in the dark about where you go and what you do on date night. Tell them you are going to a restaurant, to a movie, or to a social gathering. Give them a little review of what you ate, who you met, and how your evening went later on so they don’t feel shut out of this portion of your life altogether. This can help them to feel secure and at ease with things when you walk out the door.
4. DON’T date with different values than you expect your children to date with.
If you wouldn’t be okay with your daughter spending the night with her high school boyfriend, you can’t indulge in that kind of behavior in your own dating relationships. Values are values and wisdom is wisdom at any age. Don’t shred your moral credibility with your children while you look for mister right, no matter how tempting it may be. If your children are young, you may be tempted to think you can get away with bending the rules. We’re here to tell you that you can’t–they remember everything, and it will come back to haunt you in a few years.
5. DO pay attention to the dynamics of your boyfriend’s relationships with your kids.
Once you allow your love interest into the same space where you do life with your kids, keep your eyes wide open. Some guys are great boyfriends, some are great husbands, and some are even great dads. You need all three, or the deal is off. Not perfect, mind you, because no one is. But pretty strong across the board. Is he patient with your kids, even when they’re not lovable? Is he genuinely concerned with their welfare and happiness? Does he enjoy spending time with them? The answer needs to be yes. If the dynamics between your boyfriend and your children aren’t pretty good in the honeymoon phase of their relationships, they won’t be any better down the road. Remember, you’re essentially asking your kids to marry this guy, too. How they feel matters–a lot.
Overwhelmed with the idea of trying to find someone who’s a good match for you and your kids? You might want to give online dating a second look! It’s come a long way since the early days and might just help you to sift through the world of single men based on real mutual interests and values from the beginning.
What is one dating guideline you would add to the list?
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.