I did not want to go out on dates after my wife and I separated. The annulment of our 13-year-long marriage was then underway, and I was not ready to even think of starting another relationship.
The mental and emotional turmoil of the split had me in such a state of confusion and fatigue, I just wanted some peace and quiet—alone.
Most newly single men (and women) are not ready to get into a new relationship right away. Whether separated or widowed, they are usually too depressed, angry or scared to be involved with someone new.
But they can change their mind sooner or later. I want to share my own insights.
First, do not start dating until you really feel ready. Dating involves preparation, grooming and being on your best behavior.
This can be a frightening thought, because you do not feel so good about your looks and intelligence after a bad breakup or the death of your partner.
In most instances, friends and family will try to set you up for a date. This happens sooner when you are a widower. It is assumed that a new relationship would get you back on your feet.
But it is also fine to be by yourself or with people you have no romantic interest in. You’ve been through a rough time, and you need to take a break.
Take this as a chance to reflect if you want to be in a new relationship. What do you want from it, and why?
Stanford University senior research scientist Shirley Feldman says that, for most men, fatherhood and fathering are linked with marriage (or being in a committed relationship). They think that if they are single, they are not capable of being good fathers and their children will suffer.
But a man may not need a woman to make him feel whole again, or to be a good father or to give his kids a real family.
When you do not realize this, you end up entering a new relationship too soon and for the wrong reasons. Author Armin Brott muses this could explain why 60 percent of second relationships also end in divorce or separation.
If you think you are ready to start dating again, do it slowly. You might want to be active in church and community groups which hold regular events for single parents—opportunities to mingle with other people who have a good idea of what you are also going through.
There is a difference between interacting with single people with children as opposed to those without kids.
For single dads who are getting into dating, there are some do’s and don’ts offered by experts:
Keep separate your children and your dates. Do not meet your date in your house if your kids live with you. Do your dating when you do not have the kids with you.
You should not introduce your date to your kids unless it is clear that you are actually starting a long-term relationship. The kids will be confused if you are going out with different people. If you cannot avoid having one of your dates to your kids, introduce her only as a friend.
Take it slow
Variety is good. It is not a good idea to get into a serious relationship with the first woman you go out with. Being with her may make you feel loved and needed, maybe for the first time in a long while; but you may not be truly ready to make a serious move yet. This is how many “rebound” relationships start (and they usually end in confusion). Take it slow.
Tell her you have kids. From the start, make it clear that you are a single dad and not simply a single man. Keeping your kids a “secret” can have a bad effect on your relationship with this woman. Maybe she does not like kids and will be angry about your omission if she finds out after you have been dating for a while. If she likes kids, she will wonder what kind of father you are if you do not even mention your children.
It is said that the way a single father relates to his kids is the way he will relate to a new woman in his life. So, talk about your kids—but not too much. Your date needs to know you are interested in her, too.
Do not talk (too much) about the other women in your life. Tell your date if you are a widower or divorced. Do not intimidate your date by continuously talking about your ex or your deceased wife.
If you talk about how well you are now getting along with your ex, your date may think you are headed for reconciliation. And if you talk badly about your ex, your date will be on your side and join in. But you do not want a relationship based on mutual dislike for someone else.
Your dates have a right to know about your past, but remember to concentrate on the present.
Perhaps you are not really after a long-term relationship now, but rather just a casual dating relationship. This may be good to help you rediscover yourself and regain some of your lost self-confidence—as long as the direction is clear to both parties. But keep short-term relationships away from your kids.
Remember your responsibilities as a dad. You want your kids to have a good view of relationships. Children need consistency and security in their lives, and exposure to different women coming and going will leave a bad impression.
If you introduce someone who will be in your children’s lives only temporarily, make sure that your kids will understand the difference between being a good friend and being a part of the family.
As Mary Mattis, author of “Sex and the Single Parent,” says: “Friends can visit. Family lives there.”