Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
One item that seems to be prevalent on most single parent web sites is a link or an entire section dedicated to single parent dating. It seems that the general opinion is that if you are not with someone, then you are not someone. To the other extreme, you have individuals who dispense advice in columns, on the radio or on television, who tell you that you absolutely should not date until your children are grown and have families of their own. I completely believe in protecting the children and in minimizing the trauma, but I really don’t think that this is the answer, anymore than dating services are.
[I must make a note here that there is often a link on my own Bella site for Single Parents to a dating service. I did not place it there and I have never even checked it out, to be honest. Just wanted to be sure that my readers know that I was not being hypocritical.]
I am not a fan of dating services - internet, telephone, video, or in-person - for anyone, especially single parents. Dating services are risky and unwise at best, and those are two qualities in which single parents cannot afford to indulge. After all, it is not just our own happiness and well-being that is at stake. I believe that a single parent should be dedicating themselves to the well-being of their children and the healing and development of self. A high percentage of “couples” fail because the two individuals are trying to be a couple before they even know how to be their own person. If you are developing yourself, then you are going to be in the right places where a compatible person to whom you may be attracted will be. But that should not be your reason for developing self. People really are someone, even if they are not with someone.
If you are going to date, I believe that it is important that the children not be exposed to every person you choose. Some may last one date, some may last two months - the children do not need different men or women spinning through their lives on a revolving door. The only time children should meet your date is if-and-when the relationship gets to the point where marriage is being discussed. Then it is time to introduce everyone and begin the process of getting to know the entire family. While long engagements are generally not the rule of thumb for second marriages, in the case where children are involved, they should be. The marriage will not be a union between two people, but rather a union of many relationships that need to be carefully considered before walking down the aisle. Unless you are a fan of divorce court, it is better to work these out in advance.
In the event that you do enter into a serious relationship and realize that the children should be involved, then you also must prepare yourself for the possibility that once the entire clan is thrown into the mix, one or more parties may be of the opinion that it just will not work. Once the children are involved, there is the possibility of more than two broken hearts. You, as the single parent, will be responsible for the majority of those. These relationships and their break-ups can be every bit as difficult as the original marriage. Be sure to consider that as you are helping your children through yet another difficult time.
As for the issue of whether or not single parents should date - I don’t believe that there is any right or wrong answer to that question. It is dependent upon those involved, their levels of maturity, their emotional health, and their ability to cope in difficult situations - for all relationships are difficult at best. For those of you who choose to date, I wish you the best of life, love, and happiness. For those of you who choose to concentrate on children and self, I admire you and wish you much happiness, as well. My only words of advice to either will be - carefully consider all the possible consequences and never leave your children out of the equation. They are your most important responsibility.