Do you struggle with dating as a single parent? Want to get back into dating but no idea where to start? We asked Natalie Ferrigno to share her tips for single parent dating after a break up.
Dating can be a bit of a minefield at the best of times and if you are approaching it after a relationship breakdown and as a single parent it’s a whole different dynamic.
As a divorced mum of two I’ve done the whole spectrum of single parent dating since my marriage breakdown. Serious partners, casual flings, and periods of complete solitude. I can honestly say I have a healthy relationship with myself from it and it means I have really high standards about who I choose to spend my time with.
As Steve Bartlett says “A healthy self esteem will stop you being instantly impressed by, moving in with, and trying to settle down with the first person that pays you some attention. Until you have a healthy relationship with yourself, you won’t have a healthy relationship with someone else.”
Maybe you are reading this after being single a while and feel ready to dip your toe back into the dating world. Or you might be emotionally unavailable or so time poor right now that finding a romantic partner feels like another added pressure that you can’t fit in. In which case save this post for future use when it may resonate more!
A healthy self esteem will stop you being instantly impressed by, moving in with, and trying to settle down with the first person that pays you some attention
Whichever scenario best describes you, both are perfectly okay – the key is accepting things just as they are and being in the right headspace.
If you are considering romance firstly make sure you are emotionally ready and over heartache. Sometimes this is a really difficult hurdle to overcome. There’s no getting around it, break ups are horrid, and there’s a grieving period to go through regardless of the circumstances of the split. But it’s worth remembering no relationship is a waste of time. Even when it doesn’t work out, every relationship teaches you something. Even if it’s what you don’t want or want differently next time.
You don’t need to be in a relationship just because society dictates it’s the norm. If you’ve never spent a period alone it’s a good matrix for learning what makes you feel happy without any outside factors. Relying on other people to be your source of happiness and strength will always leave you disappointed.
Every relationship teaches you something. Even if it’s what you don’t want or want differently next time.
There is no shame in being single, in fact there are lots of advantages. You can work on yourself, take time to really work out what you want from a partner, write lists of what’s important to you and get specific about what’s negotiable and what isn’t (E.g. are you firm on a non-smoker but flexible on distance or if they have children?) Arm yourself for when you are ready to date so that you know what you want and don’t settle for less.
If you do get child free time, spend that time doing the things you have less time for when you are with someone. Read books you’ve been meaning to for a while, catch up with friends you haven’t seen, give yourself some vital self-care. Enjoy sleeping alone. (Cuddling in bed is nice but the upsides of sleeping alone – more space, having all the covers and no snoring partner usually equals better quality sleep!)
Flirt with who you want to and play the field. If you’ve been with one partner a while then have fun meeting lots of different people. Take a leaf out of the American style of dating. Dating culture in the US is more ‘plenty of fish in the sea’. Americans start with dating multiple people to test the waters before they label it ‘exclusive’ once a mutual connection between two people who just want to date each other is found. You wouldn’t make other big life decisions like buying a home or car or changing career paths without exploring a few options so have fun getting to know a wide variety of potential suitors.
If you are using dating apps take some time to research which one’s right for you as there are many to choose from these days with a plethora of different options. Frolo actually has a dating app launching soon, exclusively for single parents! Join the waitlist here.
Find one that resonates most with you and build a profile that’s honest, says what you want and uses a natural picture of you smiling – photos with sunglasses on, large friendships groups (which one will I be dating?) and men holding a fish don’t tend to be successful profile pictures!
Be positive. This might seem obvious to most but there’s still so many people that list what they don’t want in a profile. I honestly saw one that said “I’ve been on here a year not one single match, nobody is interested.” Sell yourself, be clear about what you want and keep it upbeat!
Once you’ve established a connection with someone it’s worth taking the time to arrange a phone call or Facetime before you agree to meet up. If like me, your time is precious, you don’t want to waste what may be the one child free night you have on someone who isn’t right. There’s nothing more annoying than getting to a date realising they aren’t right and spending the evening thinking of all the other things you could be doing. Protect your valuable time and put the homework in first.
Remember that self care I talked about earlier and take some time to put in the work on yourself and be filled with self-confidence before you meet anyone. Our mental health may have taken a bit of a battering in lockdown and if you haven’t dated in a while, it can feel a bit daunting. Remember your worth, say some positive affirmations to yourself and think about what you can bring to a relationship. Writing down a list of your qualities and talents can really help to give you that dating confidence.
Once you’ve arranged a date give yourself plenty of time to get ready. If you have young children get the babysitter to arrive to give you time to get ready, not for when you leave, that way you won’t be going out the door stressed and rushed.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and the more you date the easier it will become.
When you feel good you look good so make the effort to wear clothes that are comfortable, but you feel confident in. There’s nothing more distracting when you are out than pants riding up your behind or a belt digging in your waistline! Don’t underestimate smelling good – there’s plenty of research to suggest that scent is linked to sexual attraction so be shower fresh and put your favourite perfume or aftershave on.
Once you are on the date just remember that even if you are nervous just be yourself. Even the most confident people get nervous in some situations, be it a social or professional situation, they often just fake it until they make it.
Get comfortable with being uncomfortable and the more you date the easier it will become. Smile lots, be positive, don’t talk about exes or bad experiences and enjoy the process. Even if it doesn’t go well, it’s always a great anecdote for a worst date tale. I’ve had a few but I think the most memorable was the guy who went to kiss me and fell asleep. Turns out he was a narcoleptic and the unfortunate timing meant I helped him reach a diagnosis!
Lastly you may not feel like dating at all and that’s equally okay. There’s lots of joy in single life and no pressure to be with anyone just to say you have someone. Often the strongest relationships come from a period of being alone, these are the people who’ve taken the time to find out what they really want and date from a perspective of wanting someone in their life not because they need them to feel complete.
Natalie is health coach specialising in working with stressed and overwhelmed parents. If you feel you may be out of balance in some or all areas of your life and are interested in working with Natalie you can email her or find her on Instagram.