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Single Parents: Are You Ready to Date?

Learning how to juggle all of your responsibilities and still fall in love... again.
Single Parents: Are You Ready to Date?

Pre-dating preparation usually begins with single parents having to recover from something: a death, a divorce (or relationship breakup), or some other significant loss. But you are deceived if you think that once you've "recovered," you've moved past that pain forever.

Tragedy changes us forever. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse, but do not be mistaken, it changes us forever. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen countless singles make is assuming that because they or their dating partner graduated from a support ministry, there no longer exists a residue of pain in their heart. Because the intensity of pain has lifted does not mean that you have learned everything you needed to learn or have moved past your pain. Sadness, pain, and doubt will coexist with faith, at some level, throughout life. You are forever different—in both positive and negative ways.

If you are a single parent who has been through a death or divorce, as you ponder how your life has changed, here are three points to chew on.

Humble yourself enough to admit that you are changed. Real recovery does not transport you back to being the person you were before the tragedy; it incorporates who you were with who you have had to become. Be open to discovering this and integrating these various parts of you.

Keep in mind that your kids are different, too. As I've written in each of my other books, children never recover from the death of a parent or parental divorce. They live the rest of their lives in the shadow of that event. Yes, they are resilient and quite capable of adapting to the new normal of their family, but no, they don't stop wondering about what might have been, wishing that broken relationships would mend, or grieving the multitude of losses that keep accumulating since the death or divorce.

Be ready for new pain. Dating has a way of showing you that the growth you gained from your recovery work was sufficient to being single, but not sufficient for contributing to an "us." Just because you have done some recovery work doesn't mean you or your children are ready for new relationships. Take one step at a time, and don't be surprised if dating reveals a hurt or pain you didn't know existed.

Here is something worth considering: A parent who has turned a blind eye to how they or their children have been changed by the past will make repeated dating mistakes. They will run over dating partners, fall short in caring for their children, and make foolish decisions about remarriage. A buried past is usually buried alive—and easily resurrected. Better to carry the past with you, reflect, and humbly listen.

Slow Your Gaze

Here are what I consider to be the two most important facets of readiness: (1) the impact loss has had on you, and (2) your willingness to surrender to God's direction regarding divorce and remarriage. Both of these are vital and should not be quickly passed by. If you are divorced and already in a dating relationship with someone you really like, you may have skipped the last section. You don't want anyone suggesting you might need to reconsider the relationship for spiritual reasons (and if you do feel that irritation right now, it might be your conscience telling you to do just that). Or perhaps you are running so fast from your past, you have never taken the time to reflect on how it has changed you or your children. You must stop. Slow your gaze in front of the mirror and take a good long look at yourself. You won't be able to outrun these two facets of your life.

Let me put it another way—you can pay now or pay later. For over a decade I have specialized in stepfamily therapy and working with remarried couples, and one thing experience has taught me is that people who ignore these components of their life often pay a price for them later when they have a new marriage, new family, and much more on the line. Had they dealt with it before dating, they might not have even married who they married. Now they and their kids are paying the price. Pray through these aspects of your life. Ask for insight and be open to what the mirror—and the Holy Spirit—shows you.

Adapted from Ron L. Deal's Dating and the Single Parent, copyright 2012. Used by permission of Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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