If you’re looking to date as a single parent but are concerned about things like staying safe, how to meet someone, or when to introduce a new partner to your kids, then we’ve got you covered in the Frolo ultimate guide to single parent dating.
Your phone pings with a notification. It’s from Bumble. ‘You have a new message!’ it declares optimistically. You unlock your phone and open the app to find a message from Dan. (Why are they all called Dan?)
‘Thanks for your message,’ says Dan, ‘but I don’t think it’s going to work. I see you’ve got kids and honestly I’m not looking for any drama or baggage. Have a nice life.’
Have a nice life?? Cheers Dan.
To say that dating as a single parent can be gruelling is putting it mildly, (and we’re not blaming men here – the message could equally have been from Danielle). It can take a lot of confidence and determination, not to mention actual time, to sift through the dating apps and find a potential match, let alone get as far as a first date.
In our single parent dating survey a whopping 91% of people said they thought that being a single parent made it harder to meet people.
We’re not suggesting you ditch the single parent dating scene before you even get started, we’re just saying we appreciate that there’s a lot more to it than just uploading a profile picture and skipping off into the sunset.
In this guide we’re going to explore some of the common concerns that single parents have when it comes to dating, and offer expert advice and real life stories to help you navigate the world of online dating as a single parent. We want to empower and reassure you, so that if you do decide you want to have a go at meeting single people near you, that you feel confident and safe in the process.
Let’s get straight into it shall we?
How do I know if I’m ready to date?
Dating again after a divorce or separation is a huge step. You’ll likely be worried about repeating past mistakes, or getting hurt or seeing your children hurt, and your confidence may have taken a knock. For a lot of single parents dating again after a break, the myriad dating app options available can feel daunting in itself, let alone the prospect of having to start a conversation or go on a real life date.
Here at Frolo we recently surveyed over 400 community members about single parent dating and found that 60% hadn’t been in a relationship since being a single parent. Clearly it’s a huge step, and one that a lot of parents feel anxious about. How do you know though if your anxiety is the result of normal nerves and excitement, or if it’s a sign that you’re not yet ready to get back to dating?
Maxine Clancy is a Relationship Coach, specialising in divorce and finding love.
‘One of the best ways to know if you are ready to date is to look at the current relationship you have with yourself,’ says Maxine. ‘Do you truly love and appreciate yourself, nurture and keep your commitments to yourself? If you don’t then you will have difficulty sustaining a loving, nurturing relationship with someone else. Our inner world gets reflected back to us, and so to be relationship ready, we need to change the way we relate to ourselves.’
Maxine suggests looking out for these signs that you might not be ready to date:
– Lack of personal boundaries and people pleasing – saying yes when you mean no.
– Low self-worth or lack of belief that love can be whole and healthy – e.g. limiting believes such as ‘I can’t trust men/women’.
– You still have an emotional charge about a previous relationship – this shows up as overreacting, talking excessively about your ex, ‘falling in love’ quickly and over fantasising about the potential of a future partner, before you have got to know them.
If these sound familiar, chances are you have a little way to go before you’re ready to get into a new relationship. Take the time instead to work on yourself and to develop your confidence and self-esteem – a good level of self-awareness and an understanding of your own needs and wants are both key in laying the foundations for a new relationship.
Do you truly love and appreciate yourself, nurture and keep your commitments to yourself? If you don’t then you will have difficulty sustaining a loving, nurturing relationship with someone else.
How do I build my confidence for dating?
‘First, it’s important to set appropriate personal standards,’ explains Sam Nabil, psychotherapist and marriage counsellor at Naya Clinics. ‘Most people are not only afraid of failure in a new relationship, they are also afraid of being unworthy of loving. If you’re suffering from a negative self-image, it’s vital you take steps to create a positive, healthy self-concept.’
Good advice, but what does this look like in practice?
‘Spend some time loving yourself,’ says Sam, ‘and filling up your own love container before exhausting all the contents of your love tank on someone else. Take some time to do something you enjoy. Take a walk in nature by yourself. Treat yourself to something special. Indulge yourself. Be vocal about what your needs are. The first person you should date is yourself.’
Okay, so we’ve worked on ourselves, and have a clearer idea of what’s important to us and what we’re looking for in a partner, but what about the fear of rejection? How do we open our hearts in the face of potential hurt and loss?
Rejection is not necessarily a reflection of personal failures or flaws, but often simply reflects a mismatch.
The important thing to remember when it comes to dating is that it’s hardly ever personal. If someone ghosts you for instance, that says way more about them than it does about you. If you go on a first date and it doesn’t work out then hey, you know what? They just weren’t the right person for you and that’s okay.
‘Rejection is not necessarily a reflection of personal failures or flaws,’ reminds Sam, ‘but often simply reflects a mismatch. Incompatibility does not mean you will never meet the right person. Repeating to yourself what you’re really seeking in a partner can help you work through rejection fears. It can also set you on a path to finding someone who’s a great fit from the start.’
What’s the best way to meet someone new as a single parent?
Our lives as single parents can often feel like a constant juggling act, and so when it comes to dating apps we’re normally looking for convenience – something quick, easy and cheap. That’s why in our single parent dating survey the majority of people said that dating apps like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge were their go-to.
Dating apps like these do have their place, espcieally during the current pandemic when options for meeting people are more limited, but they have downsides too, not least the fact that you’re forced to make snap decisions based on just a few pictures or a line about how much someone loves ‘walks on the beach and cosy nights in with a film and a bottle of red.’
So what are the alternatives?
Keeping an open mind is key, as often you’ll find a potential partner springing up in the unlikeliest of places. (Remember Adele getting together with her boss at the beginning of the pandemic?) You could also take some time to think more carefully about what you’re really looking for, rather than just swiping left and right.
Michelle Begy is founder of dating agency Ignite Dating.
‘If you are considering the online dating route,’ says Michelle, ‘think about yourself and the type of person that you are looking for. Consider whether you would like a platform that focuses on interests, lifestyles or even political or religious views, as each platform will attract different types of people.
‘If the thought of labour-intensive scrolling through profiles does not appeal to you, matchmakers and introduction agencies, like Ignite Dating, are seeing a resurgence in the UK, with the matchmaker doing the hard work of screening and choosing your matches. Matchmakers can also run ID and address checks to make sure every individual you meet is legitimate and who they say they are. This gives you an increased sense of security and also means you aren’t going to end up meeting someone who isn’t at all what you expected.’
Which leads neatly on to another important question for single parents looking to date…
How do I stay safe dating online?
Just as you would protect yourself and you personal information generally online, if you’re embarking on a single parent dating journey then your safety is paramount.
Trust your gut. If you have a bad feeling about someone, listen to it.
Some apps give you a head start e.g. the blue tick verification system on Tinder, but it’s still virtually impossible to know for sure if someone really is genuine without taking some time to get to know them.
In the first instance, keep communications within the app. This avoids you having to hand over any personal information, and keeps that extra layer of protection in place. It also means in Tinder for example that you can’t receive any unwanted pictures! A quick video call can be a good way to check that someone is at least who their pictures say they are.
Trust your gut. If you have a bad feeling about someone, listen to it. Don’t try to brush it off – your instincts are there for a reason and if you see a red flag, chances are there are dozens more just waiting to pop up.
If and when you decide to meet in person – this is usually better sooner rather than later – meet in a public place rather than giving your address details, and be sure to tell someone else where you’re going and how long you expect to be. Coronavirus has actually done us a favour here, as the pressure is off to invite people into our homes or rush the early stages of a new relationship. It means that while you do have to be creative, things are forced to go at a slower pace, which can be really positive thing.
‘Technology has introduced us to a multitude of apps and platforms that allow you to bring the excitement and laughter into dating, despite the restrictions,’ agrees Michelle. ‘From video calls to virtual cooking classes and Netflix Party movie nights, when it comes to dating the landscape may have changed but the opportunity to make memories with a potential partner has increased massively. By bringing a little creativity into the mix and spending time talking on the phone, you are laying the foundations for a stronger relationship and it will give you plenty to talk about when you do finally get to meet in person.’
How do you find the time to date as a single parent?
Single parent dating can be tricky enough at the best of times without a global pandemic to contend with. In fact, in our single parent dating survey a whopping 91% of people said they thought that being a single parent made it harder to meet people. 76% said they lacked the physical time and 72% felt they didn’t have the emotional capacity.
So exactly how do single parents date when they have to prioritise so many other commitments? As unromantic as it may seem, it may come down to being ruthlessly efficient with time management and your filtering process.
Evelyn is 42 and a single mum to two boys. ‘I work full time,’ explains Evelyn, ‘and I’m the primary carer, so I just don’t have time to mess about with time wasters. I apply the same principles to dating as I do to work and I get organised. I keep a spreadsheet of my promising matches to keep track of key information about them and I don’t get involved in messaging for any longer than it takes me to decide whether someone has potential.’
It might feel a little brutal, but it makes sense if your time is limited to get right to the point. ‘As soon as I think someone might be a good match,’ says Evelyn, ‘I suggest a quick FaceTime, just to see if there’s any initial chemistry. I’m a big believer in knowing within about ten minutes whether there’s potential so if I’m chatting via message I’ll suggest a video call. To keep things short I’ll say something like ‘I have a meeting in 20 minutes, but do you fancy a quick chat now, just to say hi?’ That way you’ve already set up your exit plan and you’ve not wasted time messaging, or committed to a time consuming and potentially drawn out face to face meeting. Try it – it works!’
The early throes of love or lust are similar to taking drugs – literally. When researchers compared the brains of people who‘d either taken cocaine or opioids or recently ‘fallen in love’, they found many of the same areas were activated.
How do I know if someone is right for me?
So you’ve met someone online, you’ve chatted a bit, you’ve done the video call and the walk round the park, so what now? How do you know if someone is really the right person for you?
‘Asking whether someone is the right person for you puts a lot of the emphasis on the other’, says Laura Mucha, author of Love Factually and We Need To Talk About Love,’ without necessarily taking responsibility for the way you are in relationships or the way you and your new partner interact. For example, you might be adept at finding flaws in the people you date and as a result decide that no one is right for you. This might be a subconscious way of protecting yourself against loss by rejecting someone first.’
‘If the question is how do you and your partner work well together, I think it’s partly about examining whether you both share values, (not necessarily interests), beliefs in commitment and the ability to commit. Most relationship academics believe that the foundation of long-term romantic relationships is friendship, so figuring out whether this person has your and your child(ren)’s best interests at heart is essential.’
Being ready for love, recovered from past trauma and willing to take things slow are all important when discovering if someone is a good match.
‘Figuring out whether you work well with someone means a lot of digging deep into your internal world and theirs,’ says Laura. ‘I’d argue you’re less likely to be able to see clearly into anyone’s internal world if you’re in the midst of acute grief following bereavement or break up and/or the highs of early lust or love.’
How long should I wait to introduce a new partner to my children?
When we conducted our single parent dating survey, we asked people how long they thought it best to wait before introducing a new partner to their children. The answers varied enormously, from one month up to over a year.
Timings depend a lot of course on personal circumstances and on the age of your children. It’s easier for example to introduce a new partner to young children in a relaxed, ‘meet my new friend’ kind of way whereas if you have teenagers, this approach isn’t going to wash! Our experts agree however that it’s best to wait to make the introductions, both for the sake of security and consistency for your children and because in those early stages, your brain may simply not be as reliable as usual.
‘The research on early romantic love or lust is pretty clear,’ says Laura Mucha, ‘it’s obsessive, dominating, unseeing and idealizing. The early throes of love or lust are similar to taking drugs – literally. When researchers compared the brains of people who‘d either taken cocaine or opioids or recently ‘fallen in love’, they found many of the same areas were activated. Our brain basically tells us to repeat whatever we did to get that high. It doesn’t matter who or what caused the high – it just wants more. And that doesn’t always lead to the best long-term decisions.’
‘It may be that this all-consuming love will result in the sort of calmer love that is the basis for long-term relationships, but it may not, and you will only know with time. In the interim, I would avoid making big decisions until the drugs wear off as this could help avoid unnecessary transitions for your children, e.g. if you end up moving in with someone when you’re in the idealising phase then breaking up when you start to see them more realistically.’
What we discovered from our dating and love experts was that while single parent dating can be difficult, time consuming and sometimes downright terrifying, there are things that you can do to equip yourself with the skills and resilience to find love.
Not least of these is self-awareness – understanding your needs and wants, trusting your instincts, and not being afraid to walk away when something isn’t right.
Dating as a single parent can be tough, but if you genuinely want to find love again, we hope this dating guide has given you the extra confidence and knowledge you need to turn that dream into a reality.
We’re currently developing a brand new dating app for single parents – Frolo Dating. You can sign up to the waiting list here and be the first to find out when we have news!