6 Tips for Single Moms Who Are Ready to Date Again
Jennifer is a single mom. She has never been married and has spent a few years completely focused on her daughter. Recently, she has felt ready to reenter the dating scene but finds herself confused about how to proceed. “I want to date, but with Madeline in the house, I don’t know how. Plus, do guys really want to date someone with a preschooler?”
Samantha became a single mom after her divorce two years ago. Her two boys are still in elementary school, and she would like to start dating again. Like Jennifer, she needs some advice and is primarily concerned with making the transition into dating easy on her children.
Christina’s husband died a few years ago, and she has raised her four children alone. She’d like to date again, and some of her friends say she should start looking now before all her kids are out of the house. She’s afraid her kids will feel like she’s replacing their dad, but she feels increasingly lonely and thinks she’s ready to date again.
Jennifer, Samantha, and Christina have familiar stories and concerns among the moms we serve at Shepherd’s Village. Perhaps you share their concerns, as you may also be wondering how you can reenter the dating world as a single mother. You have more to consider than whether the relationship has the potential to lead to marriage.
Will your children approve of him and like him?
Will he be a good father who is sensitive to your children?
Can you form a healthy stepfamily together?
If you’re ready to date again, start with our six practical tips to guide you through the process.
Your Healing Comes First
Many single moms feel like they’ve ceased dreaming about their future. This is probably not the life you had imagined for yourself, and time is needed to grieve the dreams you’ve lost and reassess who you are, where you’ve been, and where God wants you to go. Healing is necessary.
Understandably, you are lonely, but dating too soon will almost inevitably lead to heartache, since you’re not yet emotionally available. It’s important to take time to seek God and pursue emotional and spiritual healing. If you start dating prematurely, you could end up hurting — rather than honoring — the person you date. Until you heal, you won’t be able to relax and commit your heart to a new partner the way God intends.
As you’re healing, it’s essential to confess your fears. Since fear is incompatible with love, it’s important to identify your fears and pray for God to help you overcome them. Some common fears for single parents who are dating are:
- Losing their connections to their kids
- Causing their kids pain
- Not being able to blend their families well
- Choosing a poor candidate for a new spouse
- Having their ex-spouses make their lives miserable
- Being judged
Confess whatever your own fears are to God and ask for His help to move beyond them, through the power of love. Don’t give into fear-based practices such as living with the person you’re dating before marriage or staying over at each other’s houses. Instead, trust God to give you the courage to either truly commit to each other through marriage or walk away if you’re not right for each other.
While you’re working through your healing and fears, develop relationships with other women who can support you and affirm that you are ready to put yourself out there again. Seek counseling from an expert who is willing to walk through the process with you. This may look like reaching out to a pastor for support, joining a Divorce Recovery group, or visiting a counselor.
Single Mom Tip: It’s best to wait at least two years after a divorce or the death of a spouse to start dating again, and then to wait at least another two years after dating before deciding to get married. It’s worthwhile to invest the time now so you can hopefully prevent heartbreak and damage to your family later.
Know Your Motivation
It’s important to date with the right purposes and goals. What’s motivating you to date now, and what goals do you have for your dating relationships?
God’s goals for dating include healthy marriages and families.
These motives are all tempting reasons to date, but don’t align with God’s purposes for dating:
- To reduce your lonely feelings
- To find a replacement spouse
- To get help with parenting and financial responsibilities
- To just have fun
God’s purposes for single moms dating involve discerning if:
- You both share common values
- You can both love each other sacrificially with your whole hearts
- The children involved will truly be blessed by combining your families.
If your purposes and goals are anything less than God’s, stop dating and wait until you’re fully ready to embrace dating in a way that can lead to the best outcomes for you and your family. The decisions you make now are about much more than just whether you and your date have a good time together. Your dating choices will have a spiritual, emotional, and psychological impact for many years to come, so take them seriously.
Guard Your Sexual Integrity
Understandably, many single moms feel lonely and miss having physical intimacy with a partner. God designed marriage and sex to address the deepest needs of the human soul —companionship and intimacy. We instinctively want to be fully seen, fully known, and fully loved.
Hooked: The Brain Science on How Casual Sex Affects Human Development is a book written by two board-certified obstetrician/gynecologists. Scientific research shows how sexual activity releases brain chemicals that trigger emotional bonding between partners. In the book, they say casual sex or multiple sexual encounters rewires your brain in a way that makes genuine, lasting, selfless relationships much more difficult. Breaking these bonds can have damaging effects on the brain, such as depression and difficulty bonding with someone else in the future.
The authors say, “You can no more ‘try out’ sex than you can ‘try out’ birth. The very act of sex produces a new reality that cannot be undone.”
Don’t wait to put practical boundaries in place, such as not staying at your date’s home overnight. You can also establish an accountability group made up of those who know and love you. That way, when you feel tempted, you can call on them for prayer and support.
You may date someone who tries to convince you that you are unreasonable. If a date pressures you, don’t compromise. Instead, run the other direction and resolve to date only men who share your convictions.
Wait to Involve Your Kids
It can be tempting to focus on romance when you’re in love, but when children are involved, you have a sacred responsibility to make wise dating decisions that reflect God’s best for all of you.
Angie was a single mom for many years. During that time, several men came and went from her life. Each new boyfriend developed a relationship with Angie’s son, Dillan. Unfortunately, Dillan’s father abandoned him, so it’s understandable that he always longed for a relationship with a father figure. Whenever Angie met someone new, she hoped that he would be “the one.” Dillian was hopeful, too. Sadly, when Angie’s relationships didn’t work out, not only was her heartbroken but so was her son’s.
Scripture says, “guard your heart” (Proverbs 4:23). For the single mom, this means that you also need to do some “guarding” for your children. Don’t involve them in your relationship too soon.
While you’re waiting to introduce your children, help your kids overcome their fears. Reassure them that if you date someone, it will never diminish your love, presence, and commitment in your relationships with them. Engage in conversations about how your lives may change in the future, and listen to the thoughts and feelings they express. Acknowledge and label their fears. Stay patient with them.
Be patient. Rushing into dating or marriage can harm your relationships. Take the time necessary to truly get to know a potential spouse and his or her family thoroughly before making decisions that will significantly affect the lives of your children (and possibly his).
Become the Right Person
Rather than looking for the right person, become the right person. Instead of looking for the right person to date, focus on becoming the spiritually and emotionally healthy person that God wants you to be before entering into another romantic relationship.
Pray for wisdom. Ask God every day to give you the wisdom you need to make the very best dating decisions, and choose to follow the guidance God gives you, even when doing so is difficult. Keep in mind that your perspective on your relationships is limited, whereas God’s perspective is complete – so it makes sense to trust God’s guidance.
Choose Character First
Make a commitment to yourself and your children that you will only date men who have strong character and are emotionally stable. Look for traits like these:
- Submits to God
- Humility and kindness
- Self-controlled (especially with sexual purity)
- Positively challenges and encourages you
- Demonstrates good parenting attitudes and behaviors
In addition, consider the attitudes and behaviors of the person’s children and the entire package of that person’s life, such as the state of his finances and his relationships with extended family.
Pay attention to caution and stop-signals. Noticing certain issues in your dating relationship should get your attention. You need to put a stop to your dating relationship if the person you’re dating:
- Is pressuring you to get married before you’re ready to do so
- Has an extremely different approach to parenting than you do
- Is addicted to alcohol or drugs
- Demands to be the center of attention all the time
- Can’t stop his or her ex-spouse from interfering in your life in damaging ways
- Wants to live with you before marriage
You should proceed with caution and thoroughly check out issues such as pornography use, a short temper, or other character issues that concern you.
We’re Here for You!
Shepherd’s Village was started by a single mother. Our staff has been in your shoes. You can talk to us. We would love to pray with you and offer you resources to help you as you navigate the challenges of being a single mom. We help single moms and children face their future with confidence.