“Wait a year AFTER the finalized divorce papers are in your hands before you start dating” was the most received advice I got when I made the decision to initiate the divorce process.
I didn’t listen. At all.
I thought I had processed all that I needed to process and knew better so I jumped right back into the dating pool as SOON as I could while coming out as a part of the LGBTQ community.
Yea… It was a lot and I wish I would have handled things differently.
Well, I didn’t know what I know now so it’s easier for me to extend myself some grace today but I fully admit that I didn’t handle that well. Separation/divorce is a painful experience. All the shared visions, dreams, ideas are now gone. Done. Lost. Those moments after the kids have gone to bed were now spent alone. Not to mention people who were once close were now not talking to me.
Grief and emotions after divorce is a complex experience; not only for me, but for my kids. They barely had enough time to process that “mom” and “dad” weren’t going to be living together anymore before I hopped into a relationship.
I know why I jumped into dating so quickly; I was hurting and desired closeness. It’s a human need after all and raising kids alone can be an isolating experience.
Dating as a single parent was a whole new world. After being off the market for 10+ years, dating as I knew before partnering up had changed drastically. Apps like Tinder and OkCupid, meeting new people as an adult, and the dating pool after the age of 30 can make anyone’s head spin.
Now that I have almost a decade of dating as a single parent under my belt (with a second divorce to boot), I understand the advice that was first given to me.
Here are my top 3 suggestions I give to anyone who is facing an impending separation or is early in the process:
- Keep your kids in the forefront. They experienced a tremendous amount of change and loss. It’s a traumatic event for them, even if they seem like they’re handling things well. Allow some time for them to adjust to the thought that both parents will no longer be in the household together (if that is the arrangement). I tried getting my kids into therapy and keeping them busy with activities but what I’ve found is that there is no replacement for quality time with a parent. My kids wanted to feel safe and I could do that by being with them.
- Invest in friendships and relationships that aren’t romantic. Relationships are more than just romance. Knowing that the people who surround me with love and compassion during the difficult (and great) times of single parenting is huge. Find your tribe. Foster your tribe. Love on your tribe. (I love you, tribe!)
- If you messed up like I did, it’s OK to take a break. The divorce was final in August 2012 and I didn’t take an intentional break until 2020. Until I felt, accepted, and experienced all the emotions that I needed to, I knew I couldn’t consciously date. While time has a way of healing, intentional inner work was necessary for me to step into who I am authentically in a romantic relationship.
If you’d like to hear more about my dating experiences or topics such as “unconventional dating as a Single Parent in Central PA in the middle of a pandemic,” drop me a line. You can find me on the socials and at www.singleparentsproject.com.
And as always, whether or not you’re single or partnered, know that you’re doing a great job. I’m proud of you and you are loved more than you know.