The ultimate guide to making friends: how to meet other single parents

At school, making friends was easy – you ran over on the playground, waved your skipping rope and off you went. As an adult, meeting new people can be harder, so how do you meet other single parents and form those valuable connections? Frolo investigates…

meet other single parents

Do you remember the last time you made a new friend? Perhaps you were lucky enough to meet other single parents at the park and got chatting, or maybe you hit it off with someone in a Zoom meetup? How did it feel?

Our guess is pretty nerve wracking, but exciting too. Finding that connection with a potential new friend can be a thrill, but it can also be difficult to know how to turn that spark into a friendship. Where do you even go to meet other single parents? Once you’re there, how do you make the approach? How do you turn that playground connection into something more serious?

We’re going to answer all of these questions and more.

What kind of friendships are you looking for?

This might not be a question you’d think to ask yourself when you’re looking to make new friends, but it’s actually a really important one as it guides all of your next steps.

Our circumstances change and so it’s to be expected that friendships evolve and that our friendship needs change.

Nicky is a single mum to three kids and although she had a large circle of friends, she realised she still felt lonely. ‘I’d never really thought I needed to make new friends,’ explained Nicky, ‘because I felt like I had plenty – friends from college and uni, friends from work, plus mums that I met during NCT classes. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that I was missing a particular type of friend. My existing friends were either single or in childless couples, or happily married with families. I realised that since becoming a single parent I’d not made an effort to meet other single parents, I’d just assumed my existing friendship group was enough. They’re all great friends of course, but none of them quite get my life. I didn’t feel like I could intrude on their evenings or weekends for example, when I felt they’d be busy with their own families and relationships.’

Nicky’s experience is not uncommon. A lot of us will have a large number of friends that we’ve collected along the way, but how often do we actively seek out new relationships to play a particular role in our lives? Our circumstances change and so it’s to be expected that friendships evolve and that our friendship needs change too.

Where can you meet other single parents?

Now that you have a clearer idea of what you’re looking for from your new friends, you can be more strategic about where you look for them. If for example you want to make new friends who share a particular hobby or interest like books or painting, then a book group or an art class is the obvious way to go. If you want to meet other single parents near you then parks, play areas and kids’ music classes might be more relevant.

Don’t forget that there will be crossover between these groups – you might meet another single mum at book group, or a single dad at soft play with a love of watercolours, that’s part of the fun of making new friends!

David is a single parent to two daughters, whom he coparents with his ex-wife. ‘A couple of years ago I joined a football group for dads,’ says David. ‘It was one of these groups set up to help dads rediscover exercise and lose a few pounds, but chatting to one of the guys there after the session one day I discovered that he was a single parent too – a widower in fact, with one daughter. The football group was the first thing he’d done for himself in a long time and immediately we had this connection and a shared experience of parenting alone. We ended up becoming really good friends, and luckily our daughters get on well too! It’s made such a difference having him in my life.’

If you particularly want to meet other single parents though, where can you go to find them? Obviously at the time of writing this we’re mid lockdown, and making new friends in the real world is trickier, but we’ve put together some ideas that you can use now and as the world starts to open up again.

Immediately we had this connection and a shared experience of parenting alone.

Where to meet single parents online

First and foremost of course there’s the Frolo app. Frolo was created specifically to help single parents meet other single parents for friendship and support, both online and in real life, through group chats, community led meetups and a programme of expert events.

Zoë Desmond, Frolo’s founder, was desperate to meet other single parents when she first separated from her son’s father, but despite searching through social media and single parent Facebook groups she couldn’t find a community that had the right mix of supportive, positive and informative. Zoë created Frolo to fill this gap, creating a community that’s a safe space, an empowering and uplifting place to be, and a genuinely useful resource for single parents.

‘Zoom calls with fellow frolos and experts have been a real saviour for me during lockdown,’ explains Frolo user Vikas. ‘You meet fellow like-minded single parents who are going through what you are too and that makes you feel part of the community. Everyone in the Frolo team is so welcoming and approachable. As a single dad this app is brilliant and I would recommend it to any single parent.’

There are currently over 20,000 single parents throughout the UK and Ireland registered on the Frolo app and an ever growing programme of community and expert meetups. If you’re not using Frolo to meet other single parents yet then download it now.

Where to meet single parents offline

One of the easiest places to find a whole load of parents is at school or nursery. The downside is that it might not be obvious which ones are single parents, but with nearly 3million households in the UK headed by a lone parent, chances are you’ll run into at least one! Joining committees like the PTA or offering to volunteer at events can be a foot in the door.

Outside of school and nursery, there are still plenty of opportunities to meet other parents, even if it’s just hanging out at the park and getting chatting at the swings. Once the virus restrictions are lifted we’ll be able to enjoy baby and toddler groups, music classes, soft play – there really are a lot of options.

Let people know that you’re looking to meet new single parent friends and ask them to put you in touch with other single parents in the same boat who they think you’d get along with.

You could also check Gingerbread specifically for single parent groups, or search online for single parent groups near you. If you find there really isn’t anything in your area why not think about starting your own group?

Holidays for single parents could be an option if you like to travel and aren’t afraid of being thrown in the deep end and making friends fast, and sites like Single Parents on Holiday cater specifically for people wanting to go on group holidays with other single parents, both in the UK and abroad.

Frolo started as an outlet for me to find people who understood what I was going through and discuss that, but it’s evolved to encompass my whole family.

Frolo users can also use the Frolo app to organise community led meetups in their local area, and there have been loads of brilliant events to date, including a Frolo trip to Camp Bestival, playdates, parents’ nights out and much more.

‘Frolo was a game-changer for me,’ says Rita. ‘I found a lot of strength and power in the single parenthood community. Frolo started as an outlet for me to find people who understood what I was going through and discuss that, but it’s evolved to encompass my whole family. We go on playdates, we have BBQs, we meet up in the park – we have a group of frolos who are an extension of our family. My boys see those kids as their frolo siblings and I’m so grateful there’s this community that is reshaping what it means to grow up in a single parent family.’

And finally, don’t forget to ask existing friends, family and colleagues for introductions – let people know that you’re looking to meet new single parent friends and ask them to put you in touch with other single parents in the same boat who they think you’d get along with.

How do you develop a friendship?

When it comes to dating, there’s a pretty widely accepted formula about how things are meant to progress. With friendships though, there isn’t quite the same roadmap, and so turning that chance encounter at baby signing class into a genuine friendship can sometimes feel like quite a scary proposition.

So how do you really make friends? How do you evolve from a ‘hello’ at the school gates to sharing a bottle of wine in the garden?

Be brave

Often it’s as simple as just putting on your best brave face and making the first move. Remember that the other person is likely feeling just as nervous and will probably be grateful to you for taking the lead.

If you’re making contact with someone through social media then it’s as simple as reaching out to them via a message or a comment – most people absolutely love getting messages and compliments, so if you enjoy a post, let them know! Let the conversation develop naturally over time. If they aren’t local it may be that they remain as someone you can chat with online, or if they’re nearby and you’ve been messaging for a while, you could always suggest a coffee or a walk sometime. Many a friendship has been formed on social media and developed into something in real life and you’ve got very little to lose!

If you aren’t being your authentic self, how are you ever going to be able to form a genuine connection?

If you’re trying to develop a friendship with a single parent you’ve met in person, then just be honest. Saying something like ‘you know, I really enjoy chatting to you, do you fancy getting a coffee sometime?’ is actually a massive compliment and is a nice, simple way to start the journey of friendship.

Be yourself

This is such an important one when it comes to making new friends or forming romantic relationships, because if you aren’t being your authentic self, how are you ever going to be able to form a genuine connection?

Don’t be afraid to go deep and get personal quite quickly – sharing deeper and more intimate conversation is a great way to form a bond, and showing any sort of vulnerability can really help to fast track a friendship.

Be persistent

Making new friends takes times, and let’s face it, that’s something a lot of single parents don’t have. With this in mind, you may need to be a bit more persistent initially to keep the friendship ball rolling. Little things like following up with a message after a meet up can help.

Keep putting yourself out there and the friendships that are meant to stick will.

‘I started hanging out with a single mum I met at school,’ says Sandra, ‘and after every coffee she’d WhatsApp me a little message just to say that she’d had a great time and had particularly enjoyed chatting about X, Y and Z. It was a really small thing but it was so nice to know she’d really listened and been engaged – it made me feel special and kept her in my mind. Five years on and we’re really good friends now and speak most days.’

Don’t take it personally

Not everyone you take an initial shine to is going to turn out to be your new best friend. Often this is nothing at all to do with you – it might be that the other person just has too much going on in their lives, they’re distracted by something, or maybe you just don’t connect as well as you initially thought.

Try not to take any of this personally. If a friendship doesn’t work out and you stop hearing from someone, it’s okay. Keep putting yourself out there and the friendships that are meant to stick will.

We hope this has given you a bit of inspiration to get out and meet single parents near you and build yourself a single parent support network – making new friends can be so rewarding and open you up to all kinds of new experiences, so stick at it, keep an open mind and most importantly, have fun!

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The 10 things I wish I’d known when I left an abusive relationship

If you’re leaving an abusive relationship you’re likely feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do next, so we asked one single parent, Sophia*, to share the things she wished she’d known at the time.

How to leave an abusive relationship

If you are reading this, chances are you are finally at your wits end, fed up of pretending, even lying about your abusive relationship. Fed up of crumbs of kindness and affection, fed up of everything always being your fault. Fed up of questioning your own reality and decisions, fed up of being lonely despite being in a relationship. You may have been living in fear for some time, walking on eggshells, never knowing what would set off the rage you’d grown accustomed too.

Have you been dreading the weekends, or even worse, suffering tremendously through lockdown 1, 2 and 3? Feeling stuck like there’s no escape?

When I was married, I was convinced something was seriously wrong with my husband. Gone was the charming, attentive, loving man who’d chased me. In his place, cold as ice, he would barely flinch when I poured my heart out to him, detailing how he had once again hurt me.

It wasn’t until I caved and booked some time with a counsellor a few weeks after finally leaving him that, having sobbed wretchedly for an hour, she calmly told me he was a narcissist. The same counsellor would go on to tell me that during her supervisory sessions, her own therapist had told her it was the worst case of emotional abuse she had ever heard. When this information was relayed to me I was horrified, embarrassed, ashamed, and I would continue to hide what had happened for the pursuant years.

Sadly, I then went on to make a number of mistakes as I attempted to navigate life as a single parent, mostly due to years of abusive, manipulative behaviour – I still thought everything was my fault. I was still too easily manipulated by my abuser, leaving them hadn’t been enough.

Here are some of the things I wish I’d known:

Firstly, and most importantly things will get better.

The happiest days of your life are about to begin. For me there were elements of my life that improved dramatically immediately. You will certainly feel calmer and safer straight away, friends will rally round, people will open up to you, you won’t be afraid any more. You’re more valuable than you’ll ever know. You are important. You are a person too.

I suspect you’ve really sacrificed your own happiness over the years, you may feel you don’t even know yourself any more. Chances are you’ve lost contact with a lot of friends, maybe even family. I expect they will welcome you back with open arms, now your abuser has gone. Remember that the way your abuser behaves is their problem not yours. Healthy people don’t set out to destroy others.

You must instruct a good solicitor

And you must get everything stamped and sealed by the court. This will give you some protection, at a cost of course. Your ex may suggest they don’t need representation, that perhaps only liars need legal representation. Ignore and lawyer up. Straight away. I naively thought we didn’t need an access agreement and I am paying for that mistake now. He’s also claiming the children live with him despite extensive evidence to the contrary. He’s of course doing this to lessen the amount he pays. Get an agreement in place and stick to it. Your ex will undoubtedly suggest working things out yourselves to ‘avoid expensive legal fees,’ do not take any notice, protect yourself and take the advice of your solicitor.

Record EVERYTHING.

And I mean everything he /she says, suggests, does, doesn’t do – you may very well need this in court. They will probably be too arrogant and feel too important to keep records, so you will be able to calmly prove what they are saying is fantasy. If possible, only communicate by email, at a push text.

They will lie and they will discredit you. 

What they suggest will amaze you, horrify you and even make you laugh out loud. They will do anything to improve their own self-image, even if it means tarnishing yours. Don’t take any of this personally, this is their problem not yours.

Work out a way that you can support yourself financially outside of your abusive relationship.

If you rely on their money, they will use this to control you further. Consent orders are great but do not assume they will follow it. Do not assume it will stay in place for the term agreed. Expect great difficulty when asking them to disclose anything to back up their claims of poverty. Have a back-up plan yourself.

They will move on super quickly.

I spent a lot of wasted time resenting this. This is down to their insecurity, they need new supply. This is not a reflection of you and your failings as a partner. Use the time you are single wisely, get mentally fit, love yourself, appreciate your time away from the children to refresh and refuel. Think what you would like from a partner, write it down, stick to it. Don’t ignore red flags.

Use the grey rock method.

Do not rush to reply to their message no matter how inflammatory it is. This is precisely what they want from you. Wait, calm down, consider your response, or even better, if it’s not absolutely necessary don’t reply at all.

Don’t assume.

Don’t assume they will do the right thing. Don’t assume they think how you or I think – they don’t. They will only do something willingly if it benefits them. Set boundaries that work for you and stick to them. The right people will respect you more, the wrong people don’t deserve your time.

Arrange drop off and collection at school if possible.

Do you really need to see them? No. I hadn’t realised how anxious I felt when he was hammering on my door until I stopped him doing so with a solicitor’s letter. Protect yourself. I know, I know it is lockdown, but things will return to normal.

Things may start off civil.

In a separation from a normal, healthy individual they may well remain civil. Expect the worst from your bully ex. Be the parent that sets the example for your wonderful children. Expect them to deny promises made, to go back on agreements and to lie then lie some more. They’ll exaggerate any involvement they’ve had with the children and double costs of things they’ve paid for. Expect things to get messy. They rely on you remaining their victim.

You are nobody’s victim.

*Names have been changed. Read more about Sophia’s experiencing of leaving an abusive relationship. You can also read from expert Maxine Clancy about how to recover from narcissistic abuse.

If you need support with an abusive relationship you can all the Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk (access live chat Mon-Fri 3-10pm)
.

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Single parent dating – the ultimate guide

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.

single parent dating meet single mums near me

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.’

Conclusion

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!

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How to leave an abusive partner – Sophia’s story

How do you know when you should leave an abusive relationship and how do you go about breaking free from a controlling or abusive partner? Sophia shares her story with Frolo.

how to leave an abusive relationship

I’m ashamed to admit that I was very judgmental about single mums. In fact, I was so determined to never become one that I stayed far longer in an abusive marriage than I should have.

If I’m being honest, I knew even on my wedding day that I was making a huge mistake. My father even begged me to reconsider in the wedding car. My husband told me he didn’t like my dress.

So desperate was I not to remain on the shelf that I married the first man who asked me, the first who’d wanted to commit to me, (although his idea of commitment was questionable), despite the monstrous red flags. Determined to make it work I stayed for ten years and had two utterly amazing children, despite barely having a sex life, or indeed any life. In fact I was incredibly lonely, whilst keeping up appearances of course.

I knew even on my wedding day that I was making a huge mistake. My husband told me he didn’t like my dress.

On the day I left him it was snowing.

I loaded the car and told him calmly I was never coming back. He laughed until I put in his pin code into his phone – he’d no idea I knew it. I’ll never forget the colour draining from his face. It was easier to tell people he’d been cheating with his office junior rather than I was leaving a man who’d asked me to weigh myself every day, stopped me eating, isolated me from friends, ignored my family, screamed in my face, smashed things when he didn’t get his way, threw away my clothes… the list goes on and on.

I remember filling up with diesel on the way to Newcastle to my sister’s, both children, tiny babies, were sleeping and I sobbed at the pump, having realised despite packing the whole world, that I had forgotten my coat.

My parents finally sought me out, but it would be years before I revealed the true picture of what marriage had been like for me.

When I was ready to return to the family home, when my husband had left, Dad drove my car home, (I say mine but of course I hadn’t been allowed a car in my name, let alone my own insurance), and I felt safe for the first time in a long time. When I returned home I wondered if it would be weird. If it would feel like he was still there with all the negative memories, but how wrong I was. A quick trip to John Lewis with mum helped me make the house my own, I bought pink throws, cushions and motivational posters, I filled every corner with colour. I was ultra-proud when I finally managed to remove him from the mortgage a few years ago and the deeds arrived in my name. 

People also came to visit, both arranged and unannounced. My home became the home I’d always wanted but never had, a happy, sociable home where people were welcome. Mess was allowed, meals were eaten on laps, sleepovers were arranged. Friends rallied round for birthdays and special days like Valentines – they didn’t understand I’d never been spoilt before and I wasn’t missing anything. I remember telling a group of new school mum friends my sorry tale, (edited of course), and one bursting into tears at the thought of finding her husband cheating when she’d just given birth.

My home became the home I’d always wanted but never had, a happy, sociable home where people were welcome.

Life was so much better. I didn’t lie awake at night waiting for the key in the lock which may or may not come, wondering what sort of mood he’d be in. I didn’t wake up in the early hours with a smelly, drunk man on top of me, too intoxicated to rouse. Shopping for me became possible, not just following him around and watching him buy things for himself. I realised that people liked me and wanted to spend time with me, men found me attractive, my children were thriving and not asking daddy not to speak to mummy on drunken nights when he came home and screamed abuse in my face.

I found I developed closer friendships with my existing girlfriends and made many more. My colleagues looked after me, many friends confided they were deeply unhappy in their own relationships. My neighbours opened their doors to me, I asked for help and gave it happily in return. I bought a car and finally managed to get insurance and I drove it home beaming. I didn’t need him or indeed anyone, I set boundaries and stuck to them even if sometimes I spent time alone. I embraced this.

In 2017 I met someone very special- our dog Teddy. I decided to get us a puppy on a whim and he changed our lives. I’d never have been ‘allowed’ a dog before. Already happy in my own skin, I stopped partying, preferring to stay home with my dog. I renovated my home. Giving up drinking completely was the next step to bringing me peace of mind and finally the last piece of the puzzle came when I met my partner Steve two years ago.

Do I wish I’d met him sooner? Absolutely not, I have no regrets.

Names have been changed.

If you need support with an abusive relationship you can all the Freephone 24-Hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline: 0808 2000 247
or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk (access live chat Mon-Fri 3-10pm)
.

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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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