Finding love again as a single parent – Adele’s story

Lots of single parents dream of finding love again, but sometimes it can feel impossible. In this post not-so-single parent Adele tells us why you should never give up on love.

Single parent dating

I got divorced on July 4, 2018 – Independence Day. My ex-husband is American so it really was Independence Day. Two and a half years later I’m buying a house with my new boyfriend, who was my boss until a few months ago, so yes 2020 was QUITE THE YEAR! We had our first date in March, our first house viewing in July and we completed a week before Christmas nearly exactly 9 months after our first date and first kiss. In 2020, anything really can happen…

So what’s my story? I got married in June 2012, my daughter was born in November 2014 and my husband moved out in February 2017. I won’t go into the “why” because I’ve agreed to keep it confidential but let’s just say that some relationships don’t cope with going from couple to parents. 2017 was my annus horribilis: my dad died, my marriage broke down and I became a single mum.

Nobody can prepare you for the mental and physical load of being a single parent. Suddenly you have to decide everything on your own, and while it’s great to be able to choose what you want on telly, sometimes all you want is for somebody else to organise something, for somebody to plan something, somebody to cook you dinner and most importantly for someone else to take the bins out!

Why I say there is always hope though is because three and a half years later I’m moving in with my boyfriend, I’m more in love than ever and it’s clear that you must never give up on love, nor on yourself.

However, life is never simple. I’m not only moving in with my boyfriend but also his two teenage sons, one of whom will live with us full time. I really underestimated the complexity of suddenly becoming a step mum to teenage boys – who knew an intense 6-year-old was NOTHING compared to teenagers!

I’m also leaving North London to move to South London out of love and if you’re a Londoner you’ll know that says a lot!

So when did I introduce my daughter to this boyfriend? Literally the second time we met up after our first date because I knew straightaway that this was not a short-term thing, that this really could be it. I know it sounds crazy to be that sure after a first date but we had no doubts. We had known each other for a couple of years previously so he was not a stranger, which makes a massive difference. He already had two children and I knew what he’d done for his sons, so I knew that not only did I find him super sexy but he was also a great dad.

Let’s rewind to this first date – how did I even come up with the concept of asking my boss out for a date?! Two things: my aunt telling me “just ask him out of you fancy him!” and realising that we might not be in the office much over the coming weeks. I panicked at the idea of not seeing him anymore and had a feeling he might be feeling the same. So on a Tuesday evening, off we go to The Ned (my favourite bar in The City), have two drinks, and as he said to me “do you want a last drink” this happened:

Me: “This might be the most embarrassing moment of my life but I have to tell you that I really like you and I think you might like me”

Him: “I have been dreaming you would say that, I feel exactly the same”.

No, you’re crying 😊

At first I introduced him as my friend and my daughter, being quite inquisitive and clever, quickly asked if my friend was going to have another sleepover… I don’t remember exactly when I told her he was my boyfriend, but it didn’t take me long. This might seem crazy but I just knew that he was going to be in our lives for a long time and now I know he’ll be in our lives forever.

What also happened quickly is that my boyfriend and I came to the same conclusion – that we were meant to be together and that we wanted to live together as soon as possible. Once it was allowed we started viewing houses together and he put his flat on the market at the beginning of the summer. We had made a list of what we wanted in a house about six weeks after our first date and somehow, in a twist of 2020 crazy fate, we now live in  a house that ticks all the boxes – it even has a palm tree in the garden which is always been one of my dreams. It’s completely surreal. I’ve gone from living alone with my daughter in a flat I bought with my ex-husband when I was pregnant to living in a house with three men south of the river.

We got lucky that’s for sure… when you want XYZ and you meet another person that wants XYZ and you’re super attracted to each other and they have all the characteristics and values that you look for in someone, it just fits together straight away, it just clicks, it just works, it just makes sense and there is no doubt. We still can’t believe our luck to be honest.

So my life as a single mum officially ended on the 17th of December when I started owning a house with a man who wasn’t even my boyfriend at the beginning of 2020.

People have said to me “Are you still a frolo?” in my mind, “once a frolo, always a frolo”. I’ve made amazing friends from Frolo and had I not become a single mum I wouldn’t have met these people and I would’ve had the fun times we had. Divorce was not fun nor easy, it’s been pretty difficult and it still is in some ways, but that was my path and now I know I’m really one of the lucky ones who’s hopefully found an amazing second husband.

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Healing from narcissistic abuse – Q&A with Annie Kaszina

Getting over a narcissist is something a lot of single parents find themselves having to do. It’s not easy for anybody, but if you have children together it’s even harder as you can never completely sever ties. So how do you co-parent with a narcissist, and what can you do to help yourself move on from narcissistic abuse?

Getting over a narcissist

Annie Kaszina PhD is an Abuse Recovery Coach and joined us recently for a Q&A with the Frolo community. We had such a lot of questions in advance from single parents struggling to deal with the aftermath of narcissistic abuse on a variety of topics such as co-parenting with a narcissistic ex, learning to trust again and rebuilding confidence after a narcissistic relationship.

Here we’ve pulled together some of the discussion highlights to give you a starting point if you’re wondering ‘how do you get over a narcissistic relationship?’

How do you know if your ex is a narcissist?

Whether they are on whether they aren’t a narcissist in the end probably doesn’t really matter. The fact is that you have come up against a brick wall in your relationship and it had to end. You felt rejected, betrayed, disregarded, invalidated. It was a relationship that was dead in the water because you were working at it and they weren’t.

They may be able to read your feelings really well, but they don’t actually care about your feelings and if they know something hurts you they will do it again and again.

If you are a normal loving parent you do not walk away from a relationship with your child’s other parent without a great deal of soul searching. You leave someone because they are toxic for you. You don’t have to pin the narcissist label on it to be able to say it was a relationship that wasn’t working.

There are some signs however that you can look for to help you identify a narcissist:

  • They have an exaggerated sense of their own importance and can be very rude to people they think don’t matter. Notice how they behave when you go out to dinner and how they interact with waiting staff.
  • They tend to have a good ‘hero’ story or a good ‘victim’ story – sometimes both.
  • They have a huge sense of entitlement and that your life is there to serve them.
  • They will always tell you what a wonderful and special person they are, just for doing something that everyone does.
  • They may be able to read your feelings really well, but they don’t actually care about your feelings and if they know something hurts you they will do it again and again.

Can a narcissist ever change and do they even know what they are?

Yes, they absolutely can change their behaviour, but only when for as long as it serves them. Is this fundamental change? Absolutely not. 

A narcissist can pull it out of the bag for a while but they DO NOT CHANGE. Even if they are showing their ‘good boy’ or ‘good girl’ behaviour they do not change. Being a narcissist feels to them like a super power. They can understand and charm and manipulate people.

How do you move forward with co-parenting when your ex is a narcissist?

I’ll start by saying that you will never truly co-parent with a narcissist. Yes, they are the other parent in one sense, but they don’t parent. Narcissists will use their children to get your attention, to exercise power and control over you, and their children will really be more of a public prop. In public they will appear to be the perfect parent, but they will never properly parent. You have to let go of the belief that they will do their part effectively.

This brings you onto the next questions – how do I manage damage limitation with my children, and how I do manage my own feelings about the narcissist?

You may hate them and still be struggling with the feelings of gross injustice. You may also feel intimidated by them. In both cases you have to work on your own healing and rebuilding your sense of self, which you have lost, and stop reading the narcissist’s subtext. Shut down all communication with them that you don’t need to have, aside from the essential communication about your child.

A narcissist will use every opportunity that they can to manipulate you. Keep communication to text or email if you can rather than phone calls or face to face. Do not engage with them and give them the opportunity to make you feel bad. Focus on the fact that they are out of your life and you can start to heal.

Understand that they will play you every way they can. This might involve them seeming almost reasonable for a time, but it’s never going to be lasting. It’s part of setting you up and knocking you down again. The more you limit your communication and the less attached you can be, the better it will be for you. Keep communications factual and don’t show emotions – simply grey rock them.

What is grey rocking?

Grey rocking is a technique that’s really useful when you’re getting over a narcissist, where you give them as little emotional feedback as you can. Narcissists feed on your emotions, particularly stress, so keep essential communications as unemotional as possible.

An almost idiotic seeming response is effective. Completely shut them down and give them nothing that they can engage with. The art is to bore them so much that they don’t even bother to engage with you! Change the subject, let things bounce off you, refuse to acknowledge any feeling.

Once you get into the knack of grey rocking it can even be quite amusing for you! Understand that you have complete freedom – you don’t have to engage, you have the power over how you choose to react. 

Narcissists feed on your emotions, particularly stress, so keep essential communications as unemotional as possible.

How do you emotionally deal with everything when even after leaving them they appear to have control over your life?

Firstly, consider – is this actually true or is it the narrative you are telling yourself? You may still feel that they are in control of your life and that you feel in their power but if you are separated, it’s unlikely that they actually have control over your life, it just feels that way. The work that you have to do therefore is how you challenge that belief in yourself and how you take back that power.

Of course they WANT to be controlling, but you have to make a space in your mind where they can’t do that. Redefine them – they are actually pathetic, spiteful, emotional toddlers. They are cunning in that they can use adult intellectual resources to get at you but they are still nasty little toddlers.

Here’s a technique to help you with this.

Close your eyes and visualse yourself with your narcissist. You’re behind a glass screen so you feel safe but you can see them and feel how intimidating they are. Keep your eyes closed and visualise shrinking them to about the size of a small dog. Realise that you can tower over them now. Now dress them in a different way – visualise them wearing something quite inappropriate, like an animal costume, underwear – something silly that will make them indignant. Then you visualise putting them on a shelf and changing their voice. Make them squeaky and high-pitched. Look at them ranting on the shelf and think ‘look at how pathetic you really are.’ See them for what they are – ranting, small and ridiculous.

And then let it go. They can’t harm you anymore.

My ex is favouring one child over another – how do I manage that?

Your narcissist will use your children against you because they know they are leverage. Grey rock initially to keep communication to a minimum and understand that they are not parenting. Your children will normally have to spend a certain amount of time with the other parent, which is difficult for you, but you have to do your best to manage that situation in whatever way you can.

Establish ground rules with your own children so that they don’t bring home to you the annoying aspects of your ex. You need to know they’ve been safe but you don’t need to hear anything they have talked about or things that have been said about you.

REMEMBER: You have to work on the basis that your narcissist is not parenting. You are the only competent parent. You have to trust that you are a good enough parent and that you can provide the safety and stability in your child’s life. That’s the best you can do. It may not be perfect, but children have grown up well without even one good parent. You can’t offer them two good parents but you can offer them one loving, supportive parent and that has to be enough.

You have to work on the basis that your narcissist is not parenting. You are the only competent parent.

If your child is old enough to articulate that the other parent is difficult, sometimes rejecting and problematic, you can’t deny it, because then you’re gaslighting your own child. Instead acknowledge that that is just how they are, and that you know it may not be what the child needs. You have to acknowledge the child’s truth but in a useful and compassionate way. If they have you rock solid behind them, they will come through this.

Are there any specific techniques to help with bringing down the walls, to learn to trust and love again?

The truth is that you can’t just go out and date again if you are still getting over a narcissist. If you start dating too soon, all the narcissists from miles around will smell blood and start circling like sharks. 

You have to get yourself relationship ready. That doesn’t mean a makeover, losing weight, or going to the gym. It means finding out what you really want from a partner. This doesn’t just mean the baseline ‘washes every day and dresses nicely’, it means what do you want to feel when you are with this person? What values are important to you? How do you want to be treated?

In order to do this you need to rebuild your self worth. 

When it comes to trust, don’t confuse building trust with needing to be more open and more vulnerable. You have been incredibly vulnerable already. Your first duty is to keep yourself safe. A partner has to earn your trust and they have to earn it incrementally. This time around you want to get it right, so rather than diving head first into falling in love, move forward slowly and make sure they are worthy of getting closer to you. Check that their actions match their words and take things slowly. Narcissist love speed – they love to fall in love quickly, knock you off kilter and commit you to a relationship before you know what’s going on.

A nice person is prepared to take the relationship at a pace to suit you if they think you’re someone special. You need to get into the headspace where you know you’re a special person.

REMEMBER: You have been completely programmed by a narcissist into thinking bad things about yourself and your value, so it takes time to unpick those toxic beliefs. 

A nice person is prepared to take the relationship at a pace to suit you.

You are incredibly resourceful, otherwise you wouldn’t have got out of the relationship. You are incredibly strong, otherwise you wouldn’t still be standing. You’re a valuable, loveable person with a lot ot give. You have to do the emotional work to believe that for yourself before you can go out dating.

How can I avoid being a victim of another narcissist?

First, spot the signs. A narcissist will likely come on too strong, too fast and push you that bit further than you want to be pushed. You feel just a little bit smothered by them, they don’t quite add up. They have collections of ‘crazy’ ex partners and few long term friends. 

You want someone who is gentle, sweet natured and generous hearted.

You also need to know about yourself. You need to trust yourself to abort the relationship at the very first red flag. So many of us see red flags and we choose to ignore them. Red flags do not come singly. When there is one red flag it is an outlier for hundreds of other red flags.

You also need to be able to trust that you will be able to pick yourself up again should you mess up. 

Annie Kaszina PhD is an Abuse Recovery Coach. Find out more about her here.

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3 things you must do to get ready for love

Maxine Clancy is a love and divorce coach who helps people to heal their heartache and move on after divorce or separation. Maxine recently hosted an expert Q&A for the Frolo community and here she shares some thoughts on how to be ready for love.

One of the things I most love about my work is helping men and women to have a transformation in their love relationships, especially the one they have with themselves. 

Whether you are still going through separation and divorce or on the other side of things and looking for love, one of the most important love relationships you will ever have is with yourself. This paves the way to easier dating and happier, healthier future relationships.

In our Q&A session we covered some common issues that arise when dating as a single parent after divorce or during separation. I’ve summed up some key themes below.

Dating Brings Up Our Issues

It’s important to acknowledge that if you haven’t done any inner work in between your divorce and dating, then the dating scene will trigger you. This might be experienced as disappointment, wondering why you’re bothering at all, feeling lost and disillusioned with finding love. Often clients who have been ‘trying to date’ come to me saying they think they will never find love again and they’d rather be on their own than risk getting hurt.

Love is a vibration… it’s energetic, infectious and contagious. 

Here are my 3 tips on How To Get Ready For Love:

Have You Healed The Past?

A clear sign that you haven’t healed past relationships is when you have limiting beliefs around love and relationships. These might sound like; ‘Men or women can’t be trusted’, ‘I always attract the wrong type’, ‘There’s no good men (or women) out there’. Or you might decide you would rather be alone as ‘relationships are too much trouble’.

TIP: Listen to what you’re saying inside your head. What do you believe? Will that belief stop you from attracting love? Do some inner work on transforming these beliefs.

Remember, ‘It’s Not Personal

Have you ever got upset when you messaged someone online and they didn’t respond? Do you find yourself thinking they don’t like you or your profile? It’s natural to think that way but it’s not true.  They haven’t met you yet, so how can they not like you? 

The only reason we make things personal is because our ego is designed to see the world in relation to ourselves, so we are constantly referring everything back to us, and personalising it.

TIP: Remember that someone’s behaviour is about them, and your response or reaction tells you about you.  A better question to ask yourself is; ‘What else could this mean?’

One of the most important love relationships you will ever have is with yourself.

Focus on Being Love Rather Than Finding Love

My observations when clients come to me, is that they are fixated on finding the right person or finding love, and this brings up a feeling of anxiety, worry and fear. They start to doubt themselves and often try to mould themselves into being what they think the other person wants. This leads to inauthenticity, a lack of dates, low self-esteem and disappointment.

TIP: Practice embodying love in your life. Be loving, be kind, (to yourself too). If you hate your life, your job or home, do something about it. Do things that you love to do, and experience more love in your life BEFORE you meet someone.

Love is a vibration… it’s energetic, infectious and contagious.  When you are being and living the substance of love, you will attract love to you.

Find out more about Maxine and how she can help you heal following divorce on her website.

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How to improve your relationship with your ex

Sara Davison – also known as The Divorce Coach – is on a mission to help people thrive after separation and divorce. In this blog post, she shares her tips for establishing a productive co-parenting relationship

Functionally Friendly

If you and your ex have children together, you’ll probably find yourself having more contact with them than you otherwise might want. 

The guiding idea to take forward if you’re in a situation like this is called being Functionally Friendly. Functionally Friendly is the strategy you need to use when you have to deal with your ex as a single parent, but are struggling to do so in a calm and productive way. Being Functionally Friendly will allow you to interact with your ex in a way that’s best for your children and create the smoothest possible encounters between the two of you.

The strategy is simple: in any encounter with your ex, or when you’re talking with your children about your ex, you set aside any issues between the two of you and focus on your ex’s positive attributes

Now, this doesn’t mean you forget about any problems you have experienced with them or your relationship. Nor does it mean that the two of you have to become good friends, or even that you have to forgive what’s happened. It’s simply about putting any issues to the side when you’re interacting with them or your children. This creates the foundation for a workable relationship, which is in the best interests of your children. 

Shifting from parenting children together to parenting children by yourself can be a daunting transition. Whether you and your ex are sharing custody, or whether you’ll be doing all of the parenting moving forward, single parenting can be a challenge – especially in the beginning. Focus on these three positive truths:

  • You now get to parent your children the way you choose, without anyone interfering while they’re with you.
  • You get quality one-on-one time with your kids.
  • Your children will inspire a strength in you that you never knew you had.

If you are sharing custody or co-parenting, there are some additional strategies for you to take on, to set yourself up for success and peace of mind:

  • Have clear communication with your ex about access times – avoid any ambiguity or confusion.
  • Don’t bad-mouth the other parent to your children.
  • Always do right by your children, and wherever possible, prioritize their needs and well-being. 

This advice sounds simple, but it can be very challenging to put into practice. If you can manage to implement the Functionally Friendly technique in your interactions with your ex it will improve your co-parenting relationship, reduce stress (because who needs more of that?), and have a positive impact on your children’s life too.

About Sara Davison

Sara Davison is a bestselling author and an award-winning authority on breakup and divorce, best known as ‘The Divorce Coach’. For a one to one coaching session with Sara or to book her online coaching course please visit:  www.saradavison.com

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Managing conflict with your ex

Sara Davison – also known as The Divorce Coach – is on a mission to help people survive and thrive after separation and divorce. In this blog post, she shares her secret weapon for managing conflict with your ex.

A woman who is managing conflict with her co-parent

 The Secret Weapon for Dissolving Conflict

Conflicts between people are always going to be part of life. Looking forward to a future relationship? There will be conflict at times. Navigating a co-parenting journey with your ex? There will be disagreements from time to time there so you need to learn about managing conflict. 

There is a technique I practice with my clients that’s incredibly powerful and transformative – it’s my secret weapon for dissolving conflict. Shoe Shifting, as I call it, is really a very simple idea. It requires you to step into the mindset of the person you are at loggerheads with and describe the conflict from their perspective. That means trying to look at the situation through their eyes. To whatever extent you can, you need to think about what this must be like for them, with that person’s limiting beliefs, their communication style, and their emotional baggage. 

I remember at one of my workshops, I was on stage teaching this exercise with a woman, Gillian. Gillian and her ex, Wade, had split earlier that year, when Wade left her for somebody else. He and Gillian had a son together and conflicts kept erupting between them as they navigated co-parenting. One particular issue had Gillian absolutely furious: a new desk. 

She was shaking with anger by the end of telling her version of events.

So what had happened with the desk? Well, as Gillian told it in her first step of the Shoe Shifting exercise, her son was in need of a new desk. She and Wade agreed that Wade would pay for it, as part of their splitting the costs of parenting. Gillian picked out a particular desk that would fit with their son’s décor, as well as physically fit perfectly into the spot she’d prepared for it. She sent the link to Wade for him to order. Weeks went by without any desk, and Gillian kept reaching out to Wade about it, asking him if he’d ordered it yet. Finally, weeks late, the new desk arrived at Gillian’s house – but it wasn’t the desk she’d picked out. It didn’t match the new furniture, and didn’t even fit where she’d planned to put it. When she called Wade to confront him about it, she found out that not only did he order a different desk – his new girlfriend had been the one to pick it out. 

Gillian was furious about this. When she told the story on stage at the workshop, over a month had passed, but she was still shaking with anger by the end of telling her version of events. Clearly, it was about more than just the desk. Gillian described how she felt completely belittled and ignored, how she felt that Wade was trying to make his new girlfriend the decision-maker when it came to her son, and how frustrated she was when she thought about having to deal with this kind of thing for years to come. 

On stage, I told Gillian to stand up from the chair she’d been sitting in. Then I told her that when she sat back down, she would be in Wade’s shoes, and would tell us what happened from his perspective. “Ugh, I don’t even want to be inside his head for a second,” Gillian groaned. But I urged her to give it a shot, and she relented.

So she sat back down, and started telling the story again.

“Well,” she said, slowly at first then picking up speed, “I’ve never been good about getting stuff like this handled. I have a bad habit of forgetting little tasks like ordering stuff we need. I know I do it, and it stresses me out, but I just procrastinate and forget things. So I kept forgetting to order the desk for weeks, and I felt really guilty about it. When I finally went online to order it, the desk that Gillian had picked out was out of stock. I felt awful. My girlfriend is good at interior design, she’s a real estate agent, and I’m no good at that stuff, so I asked her advice. She picked out one that she thought would work, and I ordered it. I thought Gillian would be happy that I ordered a good replacement, but she was just furious. Which only made me upset, because I always feel like nothing I do is good enough for her.”

When Gillian finished her retelling, she had a shocked look on her face.

“Ok great,” I said. “Now one more time, from a trusted third party.”

After just a few minutes, all of her anger evaporated.

Gillian started telling the story again, from the perspective of their son’s teacher. “It’s clear to me,” she said, “that both Gillian and Wade are making Seth a priority here. They both care about his schooling, and are both trying to do their best when it comes to this new co-parenting arrangement. But they’re both holding onto a lot of baggage from their relationship, and it makes it hard for them to communicate about things. I think it’s clear how much they love Seth though, and that he’s what matters most to them.”

By the end of the Shoe Shifting, Gillian was laughing at how angry she’d been. After just a few minutes, all of her anger evaporated – and that anger had been boiling for weeks. Right then and there, she texted Wade to apologize for being so upset, and thanked him for making the effort to get Seth a great desk. 

That’s the power of Shoe Shifting. It can take all of the negative energy around a conflict, even if that conflict and energy have been boiling for a long time, and just dissolve it all. 

So the next time you get stuck in a conflict, or start to feel those negative feelings building up around a conflict, just pull out this secret weapon and fire away. 

About Sara Davison

Sara Davison is a bestselling author and an award-winning authority on breakup and divorce, best known as ‘The Divorce Coach’. For a one to one coaching session with Sara or to book her online coaching course please visit:  www.saradavison.com

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Dating a single dad

Dating a single dad – not something I ever thought I’d be doing, having always imagined I’d be part of a traditional nuclear family.  Other than my own son, I’ve never felt that I’m particularly great with kids (and let’s face it, some days I’m not even that great with him) so the thought of dating someone who came complete with their own child would have been pretty daunting.

But the nuclear family dream went up in smoke a while ago now and I spent 2019 dating.  Single dads, child-free bachelors, nice guys, not-so-nice guys, younger guys, older guys – I met them all!  Dating a single parent seems to get more than its fair share of bad press, but it turned out that dating a single dad was the best decision I have made in a very long time.

I discovered early on that, when you date a single dad, you generally know what you’re getting.  You see what type of parent they are – and I’ve learnt that that can be a great indication of what type of man they are.  

You see what type of parent they are – and I’ve learnt that that can be a great indication of what type of man they are.

Brilliant fathers, who parent consistently rather than play Disney dad, can usually be relied on to stick around through the tough times.  Men who can be unashamedly silly, modelling pink bows styled by their young daughters, are the ones who will make an effort to keep things fun.  A man who scoops his child up, ready to kiss the tears away after a fall, will try to put the smile back on your face after a hard day.  A hero who chases away bad dreams will be the person you’ll want next to you on a cold night. And, of course, it works the other way too.  A man who is happy to cancel time with his child for the prospect of a date or will miss an important hospital appointment for a romantic weekend away, will almost certainly casually let you down too.  Parenthood is like a secret window into the soul, showing you just what someone is made of.

Dating a single dad, particularly as a single mum, is a huge responsibility.  The last time I dated, as a carefree girl in my twenties, the worst thing that could happen was a relationship not working out.  As a dating mum I’ve discovered something much more terrifying – the possibility that it could actually work out, because in doing so it opens my child up to the potential for more hurt.  There are four of us in this relationship and our children have already experienced enough change in their lives without having someone coming into it, only to leave shortly after.  It’s a sobering thought and one that I know my boyfriend is as aware of as I am.  Having said that, I truly believe that the benefits of this new relationship, for all of us, outweigh the risks.

It’s easy to overthink things when dating a fellow single parent and to jump ahead, envisaging problems before they arise.  But being open-minded and flexible can work wonders.  I was adamant that I would need to date someone for six months before introducing a partner to my son, but actually an early play date worked well for us.  We’re lucky that our children are close in age and that was a possibility – I’m not sure we would have gotten away with stolen kisses during a game of hide and seek if we’d each had a teenager to contend with!

There are of course certain tensions that come from two single parents dating.  We haven’t been without our problems and I’m sure we have many more ahead, but so far we’ve managed to resolve them together.  Our few arguments have been about our children, each of us rising to the defense of our own but we’re also realistic and don’t beat ourselves – or each other – up about it.  These things will happen but, as parents, we both know the importance of being able to say sorry.

As parents, we both know the importance of being able to say sorry.

Logistically, dating a single father can be more difficult.  In the past we’ve struggled to coordinate diaries taking into account two young children on different schedules, jobs in different locations, individual hobbies and keeping in touch with friends.  At the start of our relationship it took us 6 weeks to find a free weekend night for both of us.  It was frustrating but worth the wait.  Almost seven months in and we’ve just had our first child-free weekend away.  I couldn’t have been more excited if I’d been heading for two weeks in the Caribbean!

All of the above does however come with a caveat.  Dating a single dad doesn’t guarantee you’ve got a keeper (after all my ex-husband is one!)  While a single father can indeed ‘get it’, identifying with your parenting challenges, there will also be single dads who behave badly – just as there are plenty of single mothers who are no angels.

But it does mean there’s hope.  I used to moan to friends that the only available men my age were the ones that had been left on the shelf.  I’ve realised now that I had the wrong attitude.  

What I should have been doing was checking out the awesome ones that were just coming back on the market.  

About Emily

Emily is a frolo living in Bristol with her son Teddy. You can keep up with her on her blog Pop Goes Perfection.

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Moving in with a new partner

As I looked around my cute two-bed Nine Elms flat last week, surveying the piles of stuff (read: crap) I had accumulated over the last 18 months, it became increasingly difficult to swallow the lump in my throat. This wasn’t the flat I had been in when my partner left, but rather the place I’d moved in to shortly after, the home I’d built for myself and my son. It was the space in which I’d learned to love myself again, the place I had forged a beautiful relationship with my little boy and grappled with all those sanity-draining toddler issues solo. While trying to hold down a full-time job. And have a social life. And exercise. And date. 

So why was I so upset?

I haven’t been in this space much since lockdown started. In January of this year, despite putting myself firmly back on the shelf, I met someone

At Christmas, I had actively announced on Instagram that I was off dating for life, having had one too many self-esteem-shredding experiences in 2019. But then one of my most valued supporters, who only knew me in Frolo-dom, messaged to say, ‘So, I have a brother who is recently separated…’ 

My first response to the offer of a set up was a very polite, ‘No, thank you’. Which turned into, ‘Tell him to look me up in six months’. And then, once I’d seen his picture: ‘Ok, I’ll take his number but that doesn’t mean I’m going to do anything with it.’ Before I knew it a tall, dark and handsome man (wearing a jacket I still threaten to burn) met me under the clock at Waterloo. Though I don’t believe I had been living life as half a person waiting to be made whole by Mr or Ms Right, as soon as I saw him, I thought, ‘Oh, of course, it’s you.’

Fast forward six months and we had been through more than most couples in the honeymoon period. Contracting COVID-19 at the same time and isolating together, only to hear that fateful announcement about lockdown when I was only meant to be staying for two weeks. Two weeks has basically turned into forever. Paul met my son shortly before lockdown and the little dude was soon staying in a new house so that we had support when I was recovering from a milder case of the virus. Shortly after, I contracted a second virus, with symptoms that were much more severe: fevers, nausea, extreme fatigue – and being tested for diabetes. And just as that was on the wane, along came a chest infection. It goes without saying that during this time I was not the sex kitten you hope to be in those rose-tinted first months of a new relationship. But Paul couldn’t do enough for me. Even when my son had a bout of gastroenteritis and wanted to be glued to mummy and the sofa simultaneously, Paul went to the supermarket and came back with a care package of new pyjamas, a snuggly blanket and a monster truck. All while I worried that we were becoming too much of a burden. 

As the weeks have gone on, Paul has mitigated my trust issues, treated me better than I’ve ever been treated by any partner in my entire life and introduced me to the joys of Lego. He’s the first boyfriend who has wanted to talk things through when there’s an issue and who actually listens and adapts his behaviour where necessary. I loved him anyway, but knowing that desire to compromise and be better works both ways – that is truly priceless. Plus, he has overcome a severe aversion to bodily fluids to scrape my son’s wet turd from the carpet. If that’s not love, then, seriously…

Since lockdown my ex lost his job, I lost my child maintenance and had to take a pay cut. I’m very lucky to still have a job at all. Living in central London is no longer something I can afford and though I had plans to leave later this year to move closer to family, the longer I spent with Paul, the more I realised that he was my new home. My son – a dedicated Mummy’s boy – is still getting used to sharing me with the new person in his life, but for every not-so-accidental kick to the balls there have been ten times as many hugs and exclamations of ‘We’re a family’ and that’s what counts. This is not the romantic story they tell children in books. But it’s real. And that’s better.

So, as I closed the door on my South London sanctuary, it was emotional. I was scared. I do still worry about the future. But as this year has proven, you can really only do your best and take things one day at a time. 

My favourite movie, Garden State, discusses the notion of home and the point when the place you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore, it just becomes ‘some place where you put your shit’. Well, I did a hell of a lot of growing up in my London flat and it became so much more than just a place to store my (sizeable pile of) shit. But really to me, home is people. Home is my two boys sat with me on the sofa. And I’ve realised that’s all I really need. Forever.

About Sally

Sally McIlhone is a professional writer, editor, and a member of the Frolo community. She lives with her two-year-old son and her new partner.

You can follow her on Instagram @mcsalface

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Dating as a single parent

Lydia Davis is an experienced dating coach and matchmaker, and has even created her own dating app. She joined us to answer questions from the Frolo Community and share her insights on dating as a single parent.

Single parents dating

Should you make it clear that you have kids on your dating app profile or not?

Some people are very private about their children and some people aren’t. No matter what, if you’re online dating, your profile really needs to reflect you as a person – and I know that your children are a big part of your life – but it needs to encapsulate who you are and what you’re looking for. Your profile should reflect your personality and showcase the values that you’re looking for – for example, if you’re a sporty person, get some sports pictures up there. You also want your profile to be open and inviting to lots of people – you wouldn’t put that you only wanted to date someone with a specific hair colour or job, for example.

You can put a picture of your children up there, but you don’t have to. It doesn’t have to be mentioned on your profile, but I think you do need to mention it on the first date. Some people might not be open to the idea of meeting someone with a child, but then if they have chemistry with a parent in real life they might change their mind. I think it’s worth seeing what the situation is between you and that person first.

Are there any dating apps single parents should avoid?

It really depends what you want to get out of an app. Take Tinder for example – some people say it’s just for hookups but I know friends who have met people on Tinder and married them. It really depends on what you’re looking for and what you’re putting out there. They all have a niche.

Most people are on three apps – as single parents, you probably don’t have much time, so maybe you’re only on one or two. It’s a bit like a part-time job! You’ve got to set time aside to meet someone, be happy, confident and open with whoever you’re talking to. 

However, I think messaging for too long on an app is a huge mistake. You’ve got to meet someone in person to see if there’s chemistry and, if you chat for ages before you meet, you run the risk of building each other up and then being disappointed.

Try and schedule time for dating into your diary – you might decide that you’re going to go on a date with someone every two or three weeks. You can talk to lots of people online but you’ve got to meet them to see if that connection is there.

Apps are very gamified; it’s so easy to swipe and swipe and swipe. So you’ve got to set some rules: Is this person getting back to me promptly? Am I getting a good feeling about them? Your gut instinct is usually right. If someone comes across a bit creepy, they probably are. If you feel excited about them, you should feel confident about suggesting a date somewhere mutually convenient and seeing what’s there.

Any advice on boosting confidence before a date?

Firstly, no matter what, when you’re going on a date you need to feel good about yourself, who you are, and what you have to offer. You need to know that this is an opportunity for you both to get a feel for each other – it’s not just you trying to impress them.

Put some music on that removes you from the day that you’ve had. Make an effort – whether that’s brushing your hair and spritzing some perfume or getting a full blow dry.

If you’re really nervous, think about doing an activity. You’ve got a start and a finish, you’ve got an end point, it’s not as intense as just looking at each other across a table. Then, if you get on well you can go for drinks or dinner afterwards, but you have an out if the chemistry isn’t there. Sometimes short dates are better as they leave you wanting to see each other again.

My last relationship has left me with low self-esteem and very untrusting. I’m worried that my past will sabotage any future relationships. Any advice?

Low self-esteem is very common – especially as we get older and we’ve had some slightly rough experiences. I would really advise that you work on your self-esteem before you start dating because there will be some rejection along the way. Things will fizzle out not because of you, but because things aren’t working out between you and that other person – and that’s actually a good thing to know early on. You do need to have a relatively thick skin for dating!

You also need to feel good about yourself because that’s when you’re going to attract someone. If you’re sat opposite someone who is happy and confident then you come away thinking you’d like to be around them again. Whereas if you can see that a person is very nervous and has low self-esteem you’re not so likely to feel that way. 

A really good way to feel more confident is by doing a little bit of research into dating – which actually hardly anyone does. Reading books about dating will help you navigate your future dating path and settle your nerves. You can read about how to gain confidence and what to expect if you’ve not dated for a while. You need to think about what values you’re looking for in someone – what are you not prepared to put up with? How am I going to get to know someone, open myself up, and be vulnerable again? It could also be worth speaking to a professional about those trust issues because trust is so important when you want to meet someone new – especially as that person might not have been through the same experiences as you.

I’d also recommend just being honest with the person that you’re dating. If they’re the right person for you then they will be understanding. After a few dates, you can explain to them that you’ve been through a difficult separation or divorce, you’re very much ready to move on, but sometimes it comes up emotionally – just give them a heads up. This will help them to understand what makes you tick a bit better.

How do I avoid people just looking to hook up or have a casual thing? I’m ready for a relationship.

I think it’s very obvious if someone isn’t dating seriously. If all someone wants is to have some fun and sleep with you, you’re going to be getting messages late at night, they won’t try to make proper plans with you, and they won’t ask about other areas of your life. 

If they’re not organising to meet you and you’re not interested in something casual, just be up front and say thanks but no thanks. You’re not going to change them and continuing the conversation will just waste your time and your emotional energy.

How can I meet people if I don’t want to use dating apps?

I think so many people need to be more open in all areas of their life! You might think that you’re open to meeting someone, but you’re actually giving off a very closed impression. Be open and make small talk with people when you’re out and about. You can also try going to talks on a topic that interests you or joining clubs – running clubs, art courses, for example – places where you’ll meet like-minded people. Of course, it’s harder to know who’s single in these contexts but it will take the pressure off and allow you to see who you get along with first. Concentrate on coming across as a friendly and confident person – the rest will follow.

It’s also a good idea to find someone else who is single – a wingwoman or wingman – who can look at your profile, see how you’re coming across, and who’s also willing to come to events and to try new things with you.

You’ve got to take the plunge and really commit to dating – and just being on a dating app is not the same as being committed to dating in my opinion.

When would be a good time to start dating after lockdown?

Start now! Seriously, you can start chatting to people now. Lockdown rules are relaxing, so you can meet up for a socially-distanced walk around the park or even a drink soon. 

I’d also like to make it clear that, if you get a little burnt out by the apps, it’s fine to take a complete break for a while. It can be exhausting putting in the effort to chat to multiple people so it’s definitely ok to take breaks.

How can I meet someone if I have limited childcare?

It can be really difficult if you don’t have a lot of child-free time. If you have limited options or need to book childcare well in advance, opt for something with a fixed timetable – like a block of dance classes. Then you don’t run the risk of organising childcare for a drink that gets cancelled or rearranged.

It’s also worth considering where you can you meet like-minded people with children. Are there local meetups, classes, or activities where you might meet a fellow single parent?

Could you swap childcare with a friend in a way that would allow both of you to date?

You could even suggest that you do a Zoom first date! We’ve all got used to chatting this way during lockdown and it will help you see if there’s a bit of chemistry there and whether it’s worth setting up a face-to-face date.

Once you’ve been on a few dates and you want to see more of that person, when do you introduce them into your child’s life?

This is a very personal matter and hopefully, with the right person, you would know when the time was right. If in doubt, waiting a little longer is probably better than making the introduction too soon. I would advise you to be wary of the big displays, fireworks, and someone who’s really keen to move things along quickly. In my matchmaking experience, things that accelerate really rapidly can also collapse pretty quickly and if someone is really interested they’ll be happy to stick around.

Have you got any advice for avoiding cold feet before a date? I’ve chatted to a few people, arranged a date, then a couple of days beforehand they cancel or say they’re not ready to meet someone.

I think unfortunately this is part and parcel of dating – especially online dating. People can be so flaky and just ghost you. Maybe that’s when you think about dating someone who is also a single parent and understands what it means for you to put that time aside.

Remember that this is something that happens to everyone in dating and don’t let it knock your confidence too much. If I’d been chatting to someone and they had to rearrange last minute, I’d give them the benefit of the doubt and reschedule once – but if they cancelled again I’d drop it.

I feel like I’m interviewing people when I’m chatting to them! It’s always the same questions: where do you live, what do you do etc. How can I start conversations that are more interesting?

What are your interests? Can you chat to them about that? Unfortunately, especially when you’re chatting to multiple people, it can become a bit of a fact-finding mission, but I’d recommend that you include some information about your hobbies and interests on your profile and, if they do the same, you can ask them about their interests and that’s a great way to strike up a conversation. If they conversation still isn’t flowing – that might be a sign!

How much information should I include on a dating profile? What sort of thing do people want to know about me? Do people even read them or is it all about pictures?

I think people definitely do read them. Creating the best possible profile goes back to openness – you don’t want to start putting your requirements and what you’re looking for very specifically as that’s going to narrow your appeal and put people off.

Have at least three photos – one with some other people (so not all bathroom selfies!) – and write about your interests. You can specify that you’re looking for something serious and it’s really up to you whether you write a detailed introduction or just write a line or two. Ask a good friend who really knows you to read over it and give their opinions on the photos you’ve chosen too.

I always go to the same type of person – how do I break this cycle?

You need to ask yourself why you’re repeating these patterns – and that’s why reading up about love and dating is so helpful. look at your attachment style and see if that helps to shed some light on your patterns. Also, look at the values that you want in a partner – you might need someone spontaneous, or a planner, you might really value kindness and thoughtfulness – and look at the amount of effort they’re putting in too. It’s not all about looks. If someone seems to have those core values, then it could be worth meeting them even if they’re not your usual “type.” When you meet them in person they might look completely different to their pictures or there might be chemistry there that surprises you.

How long after your relationship ends is it ok to start dating?

I’ve seen so many different approaches to this situation. Some people are ready to commit and throw themselves into a new relationship quite quickly after a relationship ends, and some people take longer to heal and move on. You need to be very honest with yourself and how you feel about it – there’s no right answer and you will just know when you’re ready.

If it’s taking you a long time to move on, it could be worth talking to someone about it. It can be very scary putting yourself out there and dating again so don’t feel embarrassed to get some help with that.

I’d just like to say, you could meet someone next week, next month, next year who turns out to be the love of your life. You’ve got to remind yourself that it could happen at any point and stay excited about it.

Books about dating

Thanks for answering our questions Lydia!

You can check out Lydia’s dating coaching website here.

You can read more Frolo Q+As here

Frolo.com contains some affiliate links. If you purchase something via a link on the Frolo website we may receive a small revenue share.

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How to have an amicable separation or divorce

Separating amicably, isn’t easy but it is possible. There are a series of steps you can take to help the process run more smoothly and avoid some of the more dramatic outcomes you may have read about or seen on television.

The shift of emphasis could be neatly summed up as going from making small compromises for a harmonious life to an ongoing negotiation, hurdling points of principle and, sometimes, the feeling that the other parent is getting their own way.

It’s quite the adjustment – but defining a new way of communicating with your ex and talking to your children is crucial in giving them stability and maintaining a close relationship.

Here are some pointers for successful co-parenting:

1. Make sure it’s over

According to renowned therapist Dr John Gottman, there are four communication problems that signal if a relationship is failing – criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stone walling. An unpleasant cocktail of all of these suggests that it is over. A combination of the first two might be broken down by individual counselling, while the latter two could benefit from couples counselling. However, couples counselling only works if you both recognise that there are problems in the relationship and that there’s some hope or reconciliation. If there’s no hope of this, counselling may have a role in an amicable parting – but you have to be clear that’s what it’s for.

2. Breaking the news

Plan what you’re going to tell your partner and tell them at a time when you’re unlikely to be distracted by anything else, e.g. children, mealtimes, etc. Essentially, you are there to say: ‘it’s over, I’m sorry this is so hurtful, but I’m decided, and I won’t change my mind.’ Explain that you hope to discuss, as soon as is next convenient, how best to make arrangements as amicably as possible.

3. Allow a period of adjustment

Rushing things could cost you both time and money. Just because you are ready to move on, that doesn’t mean you partner will be. The person who didn’t make the initial decision to divorce is in a different place. They are still feeling raw emotions like shock, denial and anger. The more the person who started the separation gets impatient, the more their partner digs their heels in, and things grind to a halt. 

4. Don’t assume you need a lawyer

One way that people try and rush things is to immediately hire a solicitor. While you will need to be aware of legal procedure (see below), amicable believe that most people can and should do much of their divorce themselves. A solicitor’s advice tends to focus on what’s best for the individual who is seeking it. This can lead to unrealistic expectations, a lengthy and expensive court process and a toxic atmosphere.

5. Do your homework

Negotiating an amicable divorce or separation is best done from a position of knowledge than one of emotion. Understanding basic legal information (often, as with amicable, freely available) gives you every chance of coming to fair financial split, and also dramatically reduces the possibility that you’ll have to spend thousands of pounds in legal fees. 

6. Prepare for the asset split

The legal starting point for dividing assets is 50/50. This is then adjusted by taking into account a number of factors, including: children’s welfare; earning ability; financial needs; contributions made (both in terms of childcare and finances); marriage length and age and health.

You’ll need to list and agree the value of all the items you own, and you’ll also need to provide any financial commitments you each have. You can do this yourself – or use a tool such as amicable’s app

If you or your partner can’t agree a split the court will order you to fill in a long and complicated document known as a Form E.

7. Create a timeframe

amicable’s divorce coaches often tell us that the longer a divorce goes on the harder it becomes to reach an agreement. The person who asked for the divorce gets frustrated and angry, their ex is left feeling bullied and confused. It’s really important to try and control these strong emotions as they can very quickly derail an otherwise amicable process. An agreed timeline covering emotional, practical and legal tasks will help keep up the momentum.

8. Look to the future

Don’t spend your time, energy or money arguing over the past; look forward to enjoying positive futures apart. Change the conversation from ‘How do we split our stuff?’ to ‘What do we need to do to be happy in future?’ and ‘What we need to do to ensure our kids are happy?’. You can read the Frolo guide to co-parenting amicably here.

Final thoughts

When you prepare you feel happier and more confident about the way forward. This knowledge helps you manage your fear, uncertainty and emotions, as well as those of your partner and kids. 

amicable

This blog post was created for the Frolo Community by amicable.

amicable offer a straightforward, cost-effective and fair service to couples who are separating or divorcing.

If you’d like to learn more about amicable and what they could do for you, head to their website where they are offering frolos an exclusive 20 minutes of free advice over the phone.

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How to co-parent amicably

The process of separation and divorce is daunting, but it can be amicable. Perhaps the hardest part of it is embarking on the journey of co-parenting.

It’s not what you expected or hoped for, but you can make it work.

The shift of emphasis could be neatly summed up as going from making small compromises for a harmonious life to an ongoing negotiation, hurdling points of principle and, sometimes, the feeling that the other parent is getting their own way.

It’s quite the adjustment – but defining a new way of communicating with your ex and talking to your children is crucial in giving them stability and maintaining a close relationship.

Here are some pointers for successful co-parenting:

1. Put on your own oxygen mask first

This air travel analogy is particularly appropriate here. You can’t be effective in helping others – i.e. your children – unless you are in a place of security yourself. Make sure you have what you need. If this means therapy, get some professional support from a therapist who specialises in divorce.

2. Define the new co-parenting relationship

Your dealings with your partner have to transform from familiar and emotional to courteous, polite, calm and respectful. Make proposals not demands and start conversations positively by asking for your co-parent’s opinions.

3. Be flexible. Plan ahead. Be consistent

Total control is not an option. Your ex will do things differently to you. So, set aside some time to agree on some basic ‘house rules’ and shared hopes and visions, and find some consistency.

When you have agreed on a way forward, you’ll need to revisit arrangements every 6-12 months to make sure that your kids are getting the most out of them. It would also be useful to think about longer term plans too – how are things going to look in 10 or 20 years?

4. Technology is your friend

Anything minimising the possibility of miscommunication, and therefore conflict, should be embraced. Apps and communication tools, such as shared calendars, can be invaluable for time management: helping everyone to remember doctor’s appointments, piano lessons and so on.

5. Talk to your kids

Striking a balance in communicating with your children can seem challenging. If you keep things simple, age appropriate and avoid placing blame, you’re half-way there. Be truthful but not explicit (after all, your private life remains your private life) and, most importantly, listen. Giving your children your full attention while they express themselves is vital. They may not be making the final decisions, but they should know that they have been heard.

6. Have each others’ backs

Separated partners should always back each other up in front of their children, even when one of them might not understand the reason behind a decision their ex-partner has made. Children need and value consistency from both parents. Issues such as use of mobile phones, tablets and screen time generally are particularly challenging ones. Talk to each other to try and arrive at an approach that works.

7. Keep your children away from any conflict

Research shows that divorce is most damaging for children when they are caught up in conflict between their parents. If you do have disagreements or arguments, avoid discussing those with the children.

amicable

This blog post was created for the Frolo Community by amicable.

amicable offer a straightforward, cost-effective and fair service to couples who are separating or divorcing.

If you’d like to learn more about amicable and what they could do for you, head to their website where they are offering frolos an exclusive 20 minutes of free advice over the phone.

amicable.io

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