Parenting is lifelong like a marathon. Dating is fast like F1 racing. Being a dating parent is like changing your underwear while skydiving. Scary, humiliating and merciful if brief. It doesn't have to be. The right mindset, healthy self confidence, and a bit of time to prepare will make it exhilarating fun and breathing slower when it's over--well, like skydiving.
1. GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION
You're single. You have little time; and energy wains long before your head hits the pillow. You'll get to finding someone when you have time. All excuses. You can disappear into your kids lives and feel perfectly fulfilled. Only to resurface years later feeling deprived and bitter that life has given you a raw deal.
2. BAG THE GUILT!
Now is the time to iron out the emotional wrinkles keeping you from having healthy adult relationships. Romantic and sexual relationships that help you grow and become the best version of yourself. In the end, what matters to your kids is all you've really got to give--you.
3. KNOW YOUR WANTS
Let's be clear. You're looking for love. Whether you settled or not the last time; that's not what you want to do now. The guy you want needs to be in love with you. Why? Because you are already in love--with your kids. That's forever. He must love all of you or it's no deal. When a man's in love, he will love your kids completely and without question because he's in love with you. They're an extension of you and so he loves them as he loves you. Unless he's in love, that won't happen.
4. GAME FACE ON
One chance. One chance only to make that first impression. It really isn't fair, but true. If you put the kids in the car and run out to the grecery store for a pint of cookie dough in your sweats, you'll run into the guy of your dreams. You don't look your best and you won't get another chance to make that first impression. So you must first accept the fact of human evolution.
Be prepared for first impressions and take the time to make the best of your physical and personality strengths and minimize the inevitable anatomical and psychological weaknesses. Nobody's perfect so don't go out into the world unprepared for the unexpected while dating.
5. LEND A HAND
Your guy will need help transitioning into your family circle. He found the courage to ask you out and risked rejection. Paid for the first date. It's been three dates and you're ready to tell him about the kids. If he has any bit of maturity and also very interested in you, he'll be great with this piece of news. Expect him to be excited and want to know them.
Help him make that work. He's just as nervous your kids won't like him as you. Make this easier by giving him a leg up on their likes and dislikes. Make him feel comfortable--give him encouragement as he makes his first attempts at getting to know your children.
If you're saying to yourself, "He's not talking about the guy I'm dating". Move directly to #6.
6. KNOW THE EXITS
Don't force the fit. It's not a pair of jeans. Your relationship is more a tailored fit. A little taking in or letting out is fine. If you find yourself always looking for a fixer-upper, be kind to yourself and find a therapist you feel safe enough to explore this need and redirect that energy into taking care of yourself.
When your ready, start dating only those guys that challenge you. That make you a better person while you're spurring them on to be their best selves. It's scary being alone. Countless others refuse to find better relationships because of it. You need to let the process of opening up to love work; allowing your efforts to yield healthy results--not just any one will do.
Find this boundary and honor it with your full commitment. The unexpected happens when moving in valued directions with your life.
0.8 ENJOY THE MOMENT
Being the center of attention can make you squirm. Your kids hold that place in your heart. You'll worry if you have enough energy or love to include one more person in your life. Love has a way of creating more than it gives. You know this and this person between you and the lighted candles may want to create a new life with you. Or not. Maybe its a good dinner and conversation with a grown up. Either way be in the moment and enjoy the adventure--well, like skydiving.
How has finding a loving partner changed you as a parent? Have you regretted dating with kids?