Dating After Divorce: The Challenges Single Moms Face

Courtesy of Camdiluv ♥

Courtesy of Camdiluv ♥

Going through a divorce is grueling. It’s one of the most difficult, devastating events a woman can  experience. In many cases, it takes not months but years to recover from the death of a marriage. At  first, every ounce of energy is put into just functioning and going through the motions of life; when  children are involved, there is also a lot of time spent making sure they are handling the transition as  well as possible. Eventually the dust settles and the reality sets in. We are once again….single.

Being single after years of being married is an incredibly strange experience. On one hand, the world is  our oyster. The slate is clean and we can start over fresh, using what we’ve learned from our experience  as we look to build a new relationship. On the other hand, it can be depressing, honestly. We never  expected to be single again; we expected to be hitting our stride in our marriages, raising our children  together under one roof, a team taking on life’s challenges. Instead, we find ourselves alone.

February makes four years since my divorce. Kind of ironic that my marriage officially ended during the  month dedicated to love and relationships. I was separated for over a year before the divorce, so I’ve  spent a little over five years on my own. For years I had no interest in dating; I was focused on my job  and my kids and making sure their lives weren’t thrown into any more upheaval than was absolutely  necessary. I did meet one nice guy and we went out a handful of times, but that was it. For the most  part I’ve spent five years being mom, teacher, writer and (occasional) runner, and that was enough.

Recently I started contemplating what would make dating worth the effort for me. My friend Holly sent  me a piece about dating as a single mom that was spot-on, and I couldn’t resist sharing it and expanding  on what the prospect of dating is like as a divorced woman with children.

This scene from Enough Said captures that semi-awkward first date experience between two divorced parents.

The piece, Mr. Right, touches on a few of the obstacles single moms face when they look to re-enter the dating world. The first of these is the passage of time. The last time I was truly single, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch were heating up the charts with their hit, “Good Vibrations”. Seriously. I was a size 3/5–fit and strong despite eating whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, and the biggest concern I had outside of dating was getting my homework done and remembering which cheerleading uniform I was supposed to wear for the game that night. The single me I am today carries extra weight, not from bearing children but from the emotional eating I did to cope during and after my divorce. I’ve finally started focusing on my fitness again and I am slowly seeing progress, but I’ll never be 16 again. The me I see in the mirror is not the me that I am in my head. As the author states, “I can’t help sometimes feeling like I’m shortchanging someone, giving them the less-optimal, second-hand version of myself.” It helps to remember that the men out there my age aren’t their former selves, either, but it’s still pretty daunting.

Besides self-image, kids are an issue when dating as a single mom. No, they aren’t baggage, they aren’t a problem–they are the priority. My kids have come first for me since they were born and that doesn’t change just because I’m single now. However, that does make dating a bigger challenge. Like the author of Mr. Right, I will never let anyone meet my kids unless or until I think we have a future together. This means any dates have to be arranged for days when I don’t have my kids (I refuse to get a sitter on my nights with my kids because I already miss out on time with them when they’re at their dad’s). At my age, many of the men I meet are also parents. This is a good thing to have in common, but makes scheduling even harder as we have to find common, kid-free times to get together. One reason it didn’t work out with the guy I dated a handful of times a couple of years ago was because, with our opposing kid schedules, we could get only get together 2-3 times a month, and we lived 40 minutes apart. Ultimately it wasn’t worth it.

Photo courtesy of Gareth Williams

Photo courtesy of Gareth Williams

While I agree with the author that sex is an issue when dating after divorce, we have different reasons  for our misgivings. In her case, it’s the worry of sexual compatibility and finding the time to have sex. For  me, I’ve decided that I won’t have sex again until I remarry someday. It’s one less thing to worry about,  which is nice, but it also weeds out a large section of the dating pool who do not share my commitment.  Some men presume that “no sex” means frumpy, uptight and boring. I am none of these things; I just  want to save sex for marriage. That isn’t a bad thing; it just makes things more challenging.

Despite some self-consciousness, despite the hassles of a busy schedule, despite dealing with issues of  sex and intimacy with someone new, single moms all over the world have chosen to give dating again  a chance. Why? Plenty of reasons. For me, it’s the little things: the smile, the wink, the face lighting up  because he’s happy to see me. Having a hand to hold walking down the street, a shoulder to lean on at  the movies. Flirting, joking and laughing together–I absolutely love to laugh and make someone else  laugh. There are plenty of reasons to open up to the possibility of a new relationship. While we women  know that we are more than capable of being on our own, like the author, I believe life is better spent