While every dating relationship has its own challenges and benefits, dating a single parent or as a single parent is perhaps the most difficult relationship to navigate. By following a few simple guidelines, you can help ensure your success.
DO Be Flexible
When you are a single parent, time is a precious commodity. Between parenting responsibilities, school activities, work and life's myriad demands, most single parents feel stretched very thin. Flexibility for both partners is crucial for the relationship's success. If you are pursuing a dating relationship with someone that has a child, realise that you may have to reschedule plans from time to time. Children get sick, childcare providers cancel at the last minute and other unexpected issues may arise. A rescheduled date does not mean that your partner is not committed to the relationship; it simply means that his or her life has different dynamics that must be accommodated.
DON'T Involve the Children Until the Relationship is Serious
For a child, a parent's love life can cause a great deal of confusion and insecurity. As fun and comforting as it may be to "play house," a child that becomes bonded to their parent's significant other can be deeply hurt if the relationship comes to an abrupt end. In addition to this, quickly falling into a co-parenting role can hinder the couple from dealing with any problems that the relationship may have, potentially dooming it to failure.
DO Treat the Other Parent with Respect
Perhaps the other parent was abusive, negligent or difficult to please. Maybe your significant other and his/her ex remain close friends that simply couldn't sustain a healthy romantic relationship. Either way, for the sake of the children, resist the urge to criticise the other parent.
It's also important to recognise that the man or woman you're dating needs to maintain a relationship with their ex. From coordinating childcare responsibilities, school functions and family events, regular communication will likely be a reality. Don't let this cause you to feel insecure; that romantic relationship ended for a reason.
DON'T Rush Long Term Plans
Many people wrestle with the hurt, disappointment and frustration from past relationships, but in time they are able to move forward. An old relationship can become a distant memory, and a new, healthier relationship can take its place. For a single parent, the process of moving on can be more difficult. Because of their responsibilities to their children, they may be forced to continue to face the issues and hurts that ruined their relationship with their ex.
For this reason, recovering from a bad relationship may take more time. Attempting to make long term plans may cause your partner to panic, and may result in your dating relationship coming to an end.
DO Think Outside the Box
Once the dating relationship becomes serious and the children are involved, traditional dinner-and-a-movie dates may not always work. This is the perfect time to have fun and get creative. Plan outings that can involve the children and adapt to accommodate the interests of everyone involved in the relationship. By planning activities that will allow you to get to know your date and his or her children, and give them the opportunity to get to know you, you can set the relationship up for long term success.
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