Kat Seney-Williams, our Single Parent Support Coordinator, shares some questions we can ask ourselves and things to consider before deciding whether to start dating again.
Some of us will dismiss the question immediately. Some will put it on the back burner for the time being but remain open to the possibility in the future. And some of us will be ready to give it a go.
There are many reasons for starting to date again. We may be lonely. We may want to feel loved. We could be looking for someone to fill a void. Perhaps we’re under pressure from family or friends or feel that we ‘should’ be dating because our ex or our friends are. It is important that when we make the decision to date again, we do it for the right reasons and don’t start until we are ready. If we have been hurt in the past or our self-esteem has been knocked, moving into a new relationship too soon can short circuit the healing process. We need time to rebuild our confidence, rediscover our identity, to heal and work through any past feelings, hurts or issues.
Reflection and self-awareness are important keys to growth and breaking old habits and patterns. Learning from past relationships can be a good for us. We can gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, of what a healthy relationship and good communication looks like, what we are looking for in a partner, what we will and won’t tolerate, and what we would do differently in a new relationship. By asking such questions we can re-enter the dating scene feeling much more prepared.
Only we know if we are mentally and emotionally ready to date again. Asking some of the following questions may help us gauge where we are on the journey:
- Have I given myself time to grieve?
- Am I fully healed from my past relationship? Am I truly over my ex?
- Do I often think about my previous relationship? When I do think about my last relationship, do I have any strong feelings – positive or negative?
- Am I content being single?
Dating can be complicated, but now we have children it’s a different scenario to when we were footloose and child-free. As well as our own needs and wants, we have those of our children to consider. One of the most frequent questions we will ask ourselves is, ‘Are my children ready for me to date?’ Children whose parents have broken up often hold fast to the hope that they will get back together again, and so when we start to date it can disappoint them. This shouldn’t deter us from dating again, but it should make us consider whether it’s the best thing for our children at this point. If it’s not, we may have to make the difficult decision to put our romantic life on hold, at least for a little while.
When we do decide that it’s right to date, communication is key, along with honesty and maintaining trust. Consider when the best time would be to tell the children that you are dating and who you are dating. Most experts agree not to introduce children until it is serious, and we are sure they’re going to be around for a while. Children can quickly get attached to someone and it can be very painful when that person leaves.
If children suspect that you are seeing someone before you have told them, be honest with them. Allow them to ask questions and share their feelings, worries and concerns. It’s important to remember that asking questions may not mean that they want or are ready to meet your new partner yet, but it will help you gauge where they are at with it all.
It is common for parents re-entering the dating scene to feel guilty. If that’s you, it’s important to explore why. There is nothing wrong in wanting some adult company, and taking care of our emotional well-being helps our children too – they have a happier mum or dad! So acknowledge that you are doing the best you can and try to let go of that guilt.
Ask the tough questions
When a relationship is starting to get serious, it can be helpful to ask ourselves the following questions:
- Is my new love interest a good fit for my family?
- What hopes and dreams do they have for the future? Do these hopes and dreams fit with a family?
We may really like them, and the chemistry could be great, but they may not be the right fit for the family. The most important thing is to be honest with ourselves and the people we meet about where we are at and what we are looking for.
Dating again is not for everyone, and there is certainly no rule that states we must start within a set time frame. Whatever you decide, hold on to an important truth: your past doesn’t have to dictate your future.
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