Category Archives: Adventures in Single Parent Dating

Relationship dealbreaker

This last week was overrun with an influx of celebrity breakups, making it kind of a sad week in the land of romance. There was some silence in the ‘whys’ of the break ups, but a few of them are speaking out on the cause.

Seal and Heidi Klum: Apparently Seal has quite the temper. And Heidi decided enough was enough and headed for the door. But Seal was still caught wearing his wedding ring on the Ellen show, prompting me to believe he still has hope things can turn around.

Simon Cowell and Mezhgan Hussainy: There is no reason being given, though it’s been reported they haven’t seen each other for over a month in this “break” from their relationship. However, when it took Simon 6 years to actually propose only to have him waffling again, I can only wonder if it’s actually Mezhgan whose tired of waiting around.

Aretha Franklin and Willie Wilkerson: The reason was they were “moving too fast”, though the diva is also battling some very serious health issues.

Dooce and Jon Armstrong: This one kind of hurt, because it’s like reading about my own sister. The infamous mom blogger and her husband are going through a trial separation. She hasn’t said much about the hows and whys, but he’s admitted it has to do with the battle of depression Dooce has battled for years – the very battle she made public and became such a household name over.

For me, the dealbreaker is breaking my trust. Having allowed too many lies, broken promises, hurts, and wrongdoings to be forgiven before finally being done, I have realized life is too short to be not treated respectfully and honestly. If I can’t trust someone with my love, what can I trust them with?

What are your dealbreakers in relationships?

Merging families without marriage

Sound off: Is an unmarried merge of families setting a bad example for the kids?

Two weeks ago I wrote about moving in with my boyfriend, Mr. W.  This was a decision we did not take lightly in our 2 ½ years of being in a relationship with each other, and I’ll be moved out of my own place and into his by this weekend.  By moving in with each other, we are each giving up our total independence of having a space to call all our own – something that became very sacred in each of our single lives.  We’re giving up the separateness of our families as we combine them into something new.  But these are no longer sacrifices as we gain so much more – more time with each other, a shared life, a break in the financial obligations, and all the other perks of living with the one you love.

There was plenty of discussion before we finally came to this stage of feeling confident enough (and out of shellshock from our previous divorces) to be able to live with someone we love once again, plus going through the complicated process of combining families.  We’re making a bunch of decisions that are solidifying the permanent status of our relationship – but without yet being married.

Understandably so, several readers took issue with this – questioning the example that is being set for the kids, as well as feeling that “it’s a slap in the face” to those who are married.  I had originally written this article as a story of hope for those just starting their single parent adventure, feeling pulled apart by the financial hardships and lack of time that go along with that role.  But I realized there is a whole other issue at hand that needs to be discussed –

Merging families without marriage.

According to a survey conducted by the Census Bureau in 2007, 6.4 million couples chose to cohabitate before marriage – making up roughly 10% of all opposite sex coupled Americans, and rising almost 1.5 million since 2006.  And of that number, 45% of them had children living in the household that were related to at least one of the cohabitating adults.  And while past research showed a higher percentage of failed marriages in those who chose to live together before marriage, the present research shows there’s virtually no difference.

I have several friends who chose to live together before marriage.  One couple in particular just recently tied the knot, and is now in the final stages of an adoption process that will make their unified family complete.  Another couple, who has no children, is showing no interest in ever getting married.  And yet it’s unthinkable that they would ever split up despite their lack of marriage license.  My sister (also no kids) is in the process of planning a wedding with her fiancée while also living with him.  And one couple that swore off marriage yet raised a whole family together for 30+ years finally bit the bullet and exchanged rings a few years back – after their kids were raised, finished college, and making lives of their own.  Heck, even the royal couple, William and Kate, are setting their own cohabitation example for the world while in the spotlight by “living in sin”.  And another couple I know are raising their two children together and are unmarried.  In fact, they weren’t even allowed to marry until recently, being that they are also lesbian.

I have friends who did not move in together at all until their wedding night – planning a life together in separate homes, yet letting the reality of it be a mystery until they were legally joined. One I wrote about here, her marriage 6 months ago also symbolizing a sacred promise to her new husband.  My own parents just celebrated 34 years of marriage last week, starting their new life together on their wedding night.  And another couple I know who waited until marriage to cohabitate has been married for 40 years – yet are now living in, not only separate beds, but separate homes, just so that they can remain happily married without killing each other. 

And then there are my single mom friends who choose NOT to live with someone else while raising kids.  One in particular has only been divorced for 4 or so years, has a steady boyfriend, and promises she will never marry nor cohabitate again.  She enjoys her personal living space too much, and she’s adamant in her unwillingness to ever give it up – especially while raising her kids.  This same mom lived with her ex-husband before they got married and had children, and shared a wonderful marriage with him before they grew apart and divorced.  

So here’s your chance to sound off – no judgment.  I’d love to hear your point of view about living together before marriage in general.  Do you see a problem with it?  Does your view change if there are no kids involved?  Do you think relationships suffer from living together before marriage, or suffer if a couple does NOT live together before marriage?  Do you have a personal story to share?  Let me know.  And as always, anonymous comments are welcome, but mean comments are not.

Adventures in Single Parent Dating

A love letter to all newly single moms and dads out there.

Dating as a single parent is definitely hard. You not only have your own heart to contend with, you have your children’s too. They’ve already been through so much, and you don’t want to shatter what’s already being patched together with time. And as for your own heart, it’s been transformed into something a bit more sensitive as you search for that person that will fit all your lives. And it’s bound to get broken so much easier than ever before.

I know. I’ve kissed a lot of toads on the way to my prince. I’ve made bad choices, and some ok choices. I’ve chosen guys that I should have walked away from, and I managed to fall hard for them. And as a result, my heart has been crushed and repaired more times than I can count. Along the way, I learned more and more about myself and what I’d put up with, and what was absolutely a deal breaker. And I became stronger in that. I also learned the fine art of being single and loving it. And just when being single became most comfortable, I was swept off my feet by the man I am supposed to be with. He’s wonderful, kind to my kids, responsible, and someone who fits into my life perfectly. We have similar ideals, work well together, and even fight fair – something foreign to me from the past. And even if things don’t work out (doubtful, but let’s be realistic – I can’t say “forever” till there’s a ring on my finger…), I have a true example of what a good man looks like, and what I expect in a relationship.

When you’re ready to date, you’ll make mistakes. You’ll kiss some toads. You might even introduce your kids to someone only to have them say goodbye. You may even compromise your ideals or exhibit behavior you swore you never would. It happens. It can feel shameful. And it’s life, get over it. It’s also a learning experience for growing. So pay attention to what works, and what doesn’t, what feels good and what feels totally uncomfortable. Keep an eye out for red flags…they only become clearer with time. Get to a place where your heart and your head say the same thing. Embrace your singleness whenever you find yourself without a partner. Discover the very things that make YOU tick. And when your Wonderful Someone comes along, and things start progressing towards that very scary space of a relationship with someone who is actually perfect for you – let go. Fall helplessly, hopelessly, exquisitely in love.

And enjoy every minute of it.

Dating sucks

“I don’t think I said or did anything wrong but I am curious to know why I feel like I am being ignored. How do I ask without sounding like a total idiot? One second everything is way cool, and now emails/text go unanswered….”

Sound familiar? This was the lament I heard from one of my friends recently, having been confused yet again by the gender that claims to be so simple, yet are, in actuality, highly perplexing. And it was a common lament I felt in my dating life before I was happily coupled with Mr. W. It is also a time that I swear I will never go through again. If (God forbid, and yes, we are doing just fine) something happens to my relationship with Mr. W, I am swearing off relationships altogether, getting myself a couple cats, wearing muumuus, and throwing out my razors.

I am through with the actual act of dating.

The biggest reason dating sucked were the games. Things would be awesome in the beginning. We’d be spending time together, getting to know each other through dates, phone calls, emails, and the like. In the beginning I was inundated with their contact. But I didn’t mind. After all, I dug him. And all this newness was incredibly exciting. In those first few weeks, we both were totally revolving our worlds around each other as we figured out if we just liked each other, like-liked each other, or if there was a possibility for love to eventually enter the picture.

And then, all of a sudden, communication stops.

There is nothing out there that will entice a little dating mental illness more than a mutually smitten relationship suddenly becoming very one sided. He stops calling. I text to see what’s up. No answer. I keep phone near me at all times in case he does text. Still nothing. Next day I send a lighthearted, witty remark like “What, you got run over by a car? Call me, goof!”. Nothing. I worry that he may actually have gotten run over by a car. I check the police report. Phew, no car accidents anywhere close to where he might be driving. Put the phone down and go do something to keep my mind off the lack of conversation. Rush to it two hours later to see if there are any missed calls. Only one, but not him. I mentally promise to call that person later. Check the computer to see if he’s signed on to Facebook. Nothing. Oh wait, something! He’s alive! That jackass, he’s alive and not calling me! What gives? Put a witty little comment on his Facebook page, just to say hi. In fact, that’s what I write. “Hey there, just saying hi!” Hope it doesn’t sound too desperate. Does it? Oh jeez, I have texted him twice and then left him a Facebook message in 48 hours time. He’s going to think I’m a stalker. Erase message. Continue to go back and forth over it. Realize that we used to text each other 20 or more times a day, and leave multiple comments on each other Facebook pages. One little FB message isn’t too much. Put the comment back on his page. Realize that he just got emailed twice with the same message from his FB profile, making it painfully obvious that I just second-guessed myself on his FB page. Call up a friend and make them drop everything they are doing to look at his page and reassure me that I’m not a stalker. Am told by friend I’m not a stalker. Ask friend to now drive by his house and check to see if he’s there, or at least call him to see if he’ll answer but hang up as soon as he picks up the phone. Phone conversation is suddenly interrupted by dial tone…

BTW, if you’re reading this Mr. W, I have no idea who this neurotic “I” person is. 

Truth is, if it doesn’t feel wonderful, it’s not meant to be.  If a guy, who once took the time out of his day to touch bases with you in some way or another, is suddenly too busy to contact you, he’s not interested. If he doesn’t answer your texts, he’s not interested. If he’s not jumping at the chance for a commitment with you, HE’S NOT INTERESTED. But instead of just telling you this so you no longer waste your time on him, he instead says NOTHING, hoping that you’ll just go away so he won’t have to hurt your feelings. And as a result, your feelings are hurt even more as you wonder what’s wrong with him, what’s wrong with you, and feeling a little out of control while you try to sort out what just happened in this whirlwind of a dating tempest.

How to deal when the guy you like suddenly disappears from the face of the planet?  Stop calling him. Stop texting him.  Stop checking his Facebook or doing anything that is centered around him, and busy yourself with other interests to keep yourself from getting lonely….and feeling neurotic.  Just stop all communication with him until he contacts you. If he doesn’t, he isn’t interested. I know….you don’t want to hear that, but it’s something I wish I had paid attention to more when I was dating. It would have saved me a lot of heartache and embarassment.

Anyone else hate dating? Or do you have positive dating stories to share?

Post-divorce families

‘He is eating to fill the hole in his life you created when you left him fatherless (except for two weeks a year).’

This was only part of the comment that sat in my inbox all night long regarding a blog that had nothing to do with divorce. And while the comment was completely off-base in what they considered the gospel truth (my kids being fatherless, only seeing their dad two weeks out of the year, screwed up family life…), I found issue with it – that someone would look at the tiny window I have posted about my life and make such an unfair judgment of it. I considered deleting the comment, but then I decided it was better not to. And I thought that maybe this was a good time to say a thing or two about marriage, and about divorce.

A marriage is meant to unite two people for life. It’s something that must be worked at every single day with all your heart to ensure that it stays strong. It’s not a covenant made with the stipulation that if things don’t work out, you can just break it. It’s a promise that two people make when they have found their future in another person. And it’s what those same two people count on as they create a life together, create children together, plan a future together. So when the cookie cutter dream of growing old together doesn’t work out as planned, the result is something more than painful. No one goes into marriage planning their demise (and if they are, maybe the marriage should be seriously thought through some more). But life happens. People change. Situations arise.

Thing is, I get what the poster is saying about divorce. I am also of the belief that if divorce can be avoided, it should. But sometimes divorce is the answer, and there is no way around it. Sometimes things are so toxic that to NOT divorce would be cruel to not only the parents, but to the kids as well. If I’d done things over again, I never would have allowed divorce to be a part of my life. Divorce was, hands down, the worst thing that ever happened to me – and I’ve gone through some pretty traumatic experiences. But the only way I could have avoided divorcing was by never meeting my ex in the first place. And that would mean there would be no DQ, and there would be no Taz.

My kids’ dad and I were never what you would consider compatible. We, in all honesty, should never have married. But we were young and in love. And a year and a half into our relationship, we were pregnant. When DQ was 18 months old, we married in a beautiful and quiet ceremony in my parents’ backyard. 18 more months, and DQ was a big sister. And a year later, we were pregnant with our third. But that pregnancy ended 7 months in. We, for the first time, came face to face with mortality as we picked up the pieces of our lives after our son’s stillbirth.

We didn’t handle it well.

There are too many other personal events that happened in our relationship before and during our marriage that I will fail in mentioning out of respect for my family and my ex. The stillbirth was only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the demise of our marriage. The simple truth is, we became toxic. And our home was no place to raise a healthy family. And so we ended our marriage, and went through the very long process of putting our lives back together.

Let me tell you what happens when you get a divorce. Your souls, that were intertwined when you made that covenant together, are ripped apart. Unlike a clean cut, it is a jagged edge. Some pieces of their soul still reside with yours, and some pieces of your soul still reside with theirs. It is so much more than the dividing of property, money, and time with the children. It is setting fire to all your hopes and dreams that were once a for sure thing, and watching it go up in smoke. Mourning a divorce is much like mourning the death of a loved one. And that is exactly what is happening. That person, whose eyes you saw your whole life in, has died. And the person that is left is someone strange who you just don’t know anymore. They look different. They sound different. They even smell different.

The person you loved is gone.

And once the smoke settles and all is said and done, a divorced person must pick themselves up and get on with their lives. Life doesn’t end with divorce, even when it feels like it. For some people it’s a stop on the path they are traveling. For a few, it’s a fork in the road. And for others, like me, it’s when the journey truly begins.

And what about the kids? I can’t speak for everyone’s children regarding divorce. I can only speak for mine. And in the beginning stages of the divorce, my kids were understandably devastated. Regardless of what our family life looked like, it’s what they knew. They loved (love) their dad. And they loved (love) me. And they wanted all of us in one house under one roof creating one life together. And if we had done that, my kids would have used our poisonous marriage as a model for their own relationships. They would have taken on the venomous way that we spoke to each other. Their future would have been bleak as they absorbed the ghosts of mine and their dad’s downfalls.

But what about today? Today, having two single parent homes is a way of life for the kids, their reality. And they accept it because it has become their norm. Today my ex and I are able to carry a conversation. We are able to discuss different things regarding parenting our children. We are able to team up when something is going on with either of the kids, and talk about it with them together. This last year my kids were with their father every single weekend. And during the summer they were with him just about every other week. He was there at many of our son’s baseball games, and will be there for many of our daughter’s soccer games this fall. Are things perfect? No. There are times when bitterness rises up in either one of us. But do we yell at each other or talk poorly about each other to our kids? Absolutely not. After 6 years of being divorced, both of us have matured enough to honor the relationship our kids have with the other parent. And I can honestly say that we promote that wholeheartedly. 

And finally, dating after divorce – ‘I will bet if you offer him this “i’ll give up dating and only focus on you untill your 18.” You may find he would be willing to exercise more and might be able to give up eating to fill a hole in his life for love.’ (from said blog) There are so many different aspects to post-divorce dating that I couldn’t possibly do it justice in one paragraph. Would the kids be better off if their mom or dad never dated again after divorce? Sure. Then they don’t have to deal with change, or another person entering the family dynamic. Of course, they would also be happy if you never had any kids after them, never moved to a different house or had them change schools, they never went through puberty, and the weather always stayed perfectly spring-like every single day. But life happens. And so does change. And kids are much more resilient than us stubborn old adults are. And while some people do choose to wait to date until after their kids have left the house, and my hat goes off to them for making that sacrifice, I just don’t believe that this is required of a parent. We are human. We have needs too. I’m not just talking physical needs, though those are important too. I’m talking the need to have someone accountable to every single day of our life. We want that person to create a life together with. We want companionship, someone to hold our hand in the times that are tough and to laugh with us when life is good. We want someone to go to sleep with every night and to wake up to every morning. We want someone to grow old with, who will be there once the kids do move away. Basically, we want that dream back that we let go of when, through divorce, we severed the toxicity that was overtaking our vitality. And more than our own needs, I truly believe it’s vital for a kid to see their parent taking care of their own needs while they are taking care of the kid.  After all, wouldn’t we want the same for our children?  We are still our children’s role models, and taking care of ourselves is just one of many lessons we can offer our kids.

Note:  With that said, a parent shouldn’t introduce a date until they are sure that this person has a future with them. That means that first, second, tenth dates should happen away from the house. The biggest reason for this, besides getting to know the person well enough to ensure they aren’t a child molester, is to avoid your child growing attached to this person only to force them to say goodbye. A child’s heart is not a revolving door.  End note.

Finally, post-divorce relationships, and sometimes, eventually, second marriages, can be a godsend to children of divorce. They have the opportunity (hopefully) to witness what a healthy relationship looks like. And they have something to model their own future relationships after. This is one of my joys with Mr. W – my kids get to see what a loving relationship looks like. Not only that, here is this man who has accepted my children, and loves them for who they are. He is not their father – they already have a dad. But when they enter his home, they are treated no differently than his own son. We are still two separate families. We are still families that are restructuring our lives after divorce. But we are now cautiously including each other’s families in that plan.

So, I’m sorry to disappoint this dear poster who is insistent that my family is going down the drain because of my divorce and my insistence to carry on a relationship with a wonderful man (going on 2 years come September!). My more educated opinion to my life is that we’re only getting better every single day.

Surviving Single Parenthood

In the beginning of the end, I left my husband. I had known I was leaving for over a year by the time that I actually made the move, but it took a lot of strength and decision making on my part to actually make the jump and leave behind the future we had planned out together. And in the first couple of weeks, I relished in my decision. I was free, and could taste that freedom in everything – the air, the night, my time, and how I raised my kids. I was the epitome of the strong, independent divorced woman, ready to become a spokesperson for any human being that was suffering from a bad marriage.

Of course, reality hit a few weeks in when a case of loneliness hit, bringing along his best friend – Doubt. I doubted that leaving him was the best decision. I doubted I could survive on my own. I doubted my kids would be healthy without two parents in the house. I doubted I would ever meet someone who would love me.

And of course, Doubt also has an evil twin named Bad Choices. Namely, I started dating again way too early. A month after I split, my ex moved on. And rather than be the lonely single one who had no one to love her, I was determined to match my ex and find someone else too. Healthy, right? I tried to live my life as a young, free chick interested in finding that next Mr. Right (or Mr. Wrong…whatever worked) instead of putting the majority of my focus on my kids at home.

It took years for me to conquer the overwhelming feelings of loneliness and doubt, and to overcome making Bad Choices in the name of trying to band-aid the hurt. But I admit to all of you that it’s an everyday struggle. Loneliness and doubt never go away. I still have sleepless nights when I question my little family’s future, and whether I can financially survive till the end of the month. And focusing on my kids when feelings of bitterness well up inside can sometimes be extremely difficult. But the deep-seeded fears have taken root and grown into plants of hope, seeing how far I’ve come from those first few months of being a new single parent.

Along the years, I have learned several survival tips that I wish I had known from the beginning.

First – counseling is vital! I owe my life to the counselor that helped me through those first couple years. She not only helped me to see what was wrong with my broken People Picker, she helped me in strides to become more confident and set realistic goals for myself. She also met with my kids regularly, letting them get out all their feelings of hurt and anger. She helped all of us transform our broken family to become a healthy family that worked together.

Second – budgeting is key. Being on a single income is extremely rough in this day and age. Over the years I have transformed my budget to something extremely solid. I know exactly how much is coming in each month, and how much is going out. I don’t live on credit, and work only with what I actually have. I don’t have luxuries like cable, beauty treatments like hair or nails, expensive clothing, nights out on the town, or anything extra like that. I do allow for a little fun in my budget, but I never go overboard. My kids and our survival is more important than spending money I can’t afford to spend.  And frankly, I’d rather have a roof over my head and food on the table than to get my hair did or wear expensive clothing.

Third – it’s ok to ask for help. Raising a family with one pair of hands is a difficult task. But that’s why we have friends and family. My parents helped me out the first couple of years by letting me live with them. They helped my transition into single parenthood by being my second pair of hands with the kids. And it helped me to go from a stay-at-home mom to a mom who worked outside of the home and supported her family. I also made an alliance with one of my other single mommy friends, trading off weekends with each other’s kids so that we could get a day to ourselves. During that time I was free to get out of the house unencumbered by kids, was able to get my house back in order before they came home again, or just spend a few hours enjoying the silence.

Last – I wish someone had told me to take my time in the dating world. Or rather, I wish I had listened when I was told to wait. Because I started dating a couple months into my divorce, it was a disaster. First off, I was still healing from a bad marriage. And any relationship I started, I brought in that extra baggage. Also, my assumptions were that all guys were the same. So I was on the lookout for any little sign that would prove me right that they were all like my ex. And not only that, I really was choosing guys just like my ex, and each relationship would deepen that original hurt a little bit more until I was ready to swear off dating altogether.

Being a single parent is delicate balancing act. In the world of exes, split parent households, tighter budgeting, single parent dating, and balancing a family with only one pair of hands, it can be a stressful, confusing, hectic life.

What are some things you are struggling with now?
What are some things you have learned along the way?
And if there was any advice you wish you had known when you started this journey, what would it be?