Dating and Relationships Expert, Madeleine Mason, gives single parents her advice on getting back into dating ahead of her ‘Starting Over’ Seminar at UCL on April 13th.
So there you are… again. Single. Only this time with a child or four. Maybe you broke up with your ex or maybe your ex did. It may have been fairly recently or what feels like a life time ago. Maybe you have your children full time, maybe you see them sporadically. Either way, you have reached a point where you are thinking about ‘going back out there’ again, only this time you have children and potentially ‘toxic’ exes to think about too.
The first thing I want you to know is, that you are not the only one, you are not alone. As daunting and confusing as dating ‘with children’ can appear, find comfort in the fact that it can be done. People have gone on to find love. My aunt had three small children when she met her second husband, with whom she celebrated 40 years of marriage with not so long ago. One of my best childhood friends had two small sons when she remarried and started a new family…now with four sons and going on 12 years or so of marriage. I have endless examples. The point is, it is possible. Remember this when you feel you have met the umpteenth no-no.
The second thing I’d like you to consider is your mindset. Do you see yourself as someone who has (the ghastly term) ‘baggage’ or more favourable ‘bonus’? Are you coming from a place of pity and shame or from growth and inspiration? Needless to say, the former is less likely to get you what you want. Have a think about WHY you want to start dating again – and why now? It may sound like a stupid question, but try and answer it for yourself. There is no right or wrong answer, however it may help clarify for yourself where your mindset is at. You are more likely to be more attractive if you see yourself as someone who has something to offer – this may or may not include your offspring. (Some singles can’t have children, or are past the age where they can have any, and would relish the opportunity to be bonus parent).
This leads me on to the next thing I’d like to share with you. The messiness of dating. Regardless of whether you have children or not, many people struggle to find the love of their life for a whole host of valid reasons. My clients come to me with issues like, how to know whether someone is serious, what to talk about on dates, how to write an online dating profile, why they can’t get second dates – clients with and without children. I don’t mean to scare you, but I would like to manage your expectations. Many people find dating difficult, but then so are relationships. It’s just a different kind of mess. The best way to go about the mess of dating is to make sure you have a good time. The moment it feels like drama (your messages don’t get replied, you get cancelled on all the time, you are made to feel horrid) call it quits and move on to the next open door. Your gut feeling is never wrong. Please do listen to it.
Lastly, a big concern when you start dating again is when to tell people you have children and at what point do you introduce them to your new squeeze. With online dating, it’s up to your personal preference whether you want to state it on the profile. I know some mums feel uneasy putting that up on a profile, while others flaunt the fact they have kids. Think of how you want to be viewed. If you don’t mention kids until the fourth date, your date may likely feel betrayed and wonder what else you have ‘lied’ about. Age, marital status, any children, your job, where your are from or where you live are considered ‘things you need to know within the first 1 or 2 dates’ (or equivalent in number of hours spent). Beyond that, any new information may be construed as having been lied to.
Conversely if you flaunt the fact you have children, think about whether you are indicating that you in fact have no time for a partner or they will never be a first priority. Of course children come first, but for a healthy relationship, you may have to consider you AND your partner. Remember what they say on aeroplanes? Put the oxygen mask on first before you give them to your children. In other words, in order for you to be the best parent in a new relationship, you may want to consider how to make it a good relationship and that typically involves involving the new partner.
As for when to introduce your kids to a new person, there is no right or wrong answer, except for when it feels right. If you are an outgoing person who schleps their children along to everything, then a causal encounter early on may be fine. If you are more reserved and don’t normally meet new people, it may be more conspicuous and awkward on your behalf for the children. However, I would say the moment you feel the relationship is getting serious, you owe it to both parties to be introduced to one another. You are after all creating a new life that involves them.
About the Author:
Madeleine Mason is a psychologist and director of dating and relationship experts company PassionSmiths. She is one of the best dating coaches in the world, coming third at the 2016 iDate Awards. She is in-house dating expert blogger at psychologies magazine and editor of romance section of Vialucci magazine. She is a founding member of the Dating Industry Professionals Network (DIPN) and the British Psychological Society (BPS)
If you are London based, perhaps come along to her next seminar on Starting Over (13th April at UCL- see website)