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Love & Relationships

6 Things To Discuss On The Second Date. If Either Of You Is A Single Parent.

So, if you didn’t know, March 21, 2024, is National Single Parents Day. And since, reportedly, around 25 percent of children who are under the age of 18 live with only one of their parents, I thought that it was beyond necessary and relevant to tackle the topic of what it’s like to date as a single parent; especially since, contrary to the popular belief of some, they are absolutely not a monolith.


What I mean by that is, that a teen parent is not the same thing as a divorced parent who is not the same thing as a widowed parent who is not the same thing as someone who intentionally became a single parent. And because all of those backstories are different, to a certain extent, so are the needs that they have when it comes to whom they choose to spend intimate/romantic time with. Honestly, that kind of means that they each could have their own article when it comes to this type of topic.

What To Discuss When Dating As A Single Parent

Today, though, after someone asked me to broach this particular dating lane, I thought about the single parents in my own space and came up with six things that I think should be discussed very early in the initial dating process, no matter how you became a single parent personally.

Because if you’re a single parent reading this, if there’s one thing that you know is a precious commodity, it’s your time. Right?

1. The Kind of Relationship You’re Looking For

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Social media is an interesting place — and that’s putting it mildly. And while I’ve gotta be real and say that I do see my fair share of women who try and find a stepfather for their kids damn near after date one, it’s a grossly inaccurate assumption to say that is a representation of all single mothers. Besides, let’s not act like being a single parent automatically means that kids don’t have their other parent in their lives (goodness). And that’s why I think that one of the first things that should come up on the second date (because if you already made it past the first one, some level of chemistry has already been established) is the kind of relationship that you’re looking for.

Do you want something serious and long-term? Are you simply interested in spending some adult time with an individual who shares some of your interests? Let’s not act like “exclusive sex partners” (folks who are exclusive with someone sexually yet may see other people recreationally) aren’t on the rise as well.

Listen, the divorced people with kids I know? For many of them, the last thing that’s on their mind is jumping another broom. On the other hand, some single parents I know who’ve never been married are dating solely for that purpose. The moral of the story? Single parents may not be on the same page about what their ultimate relational goals are. The only way the person who is dating them is gonna know is if the question is asked.

2. What Your Schedule Is Like

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Chile…LISTEN. I’m single with no kids and I don’t know where the day goes. The single parents in my world? It’s like they are working with a third of the time that I seem to have. And here’s the thing: because of my relational (and parental) status, I can pretty much up and go on a dime. Single parents? Eh. Not so much. They have to factor in things like their kids’ schedules and needs, if they are co-parenting, when their children are with the other parent, what they need to get done outside of their kids’ stuff, etc. And if you’re dating a single parent who is also an entrepreneur? Whew, chile.

I can’t tell you how many single parents have told me that they don’t date — or make it past the first or second date — and it’s simply because they can’t seem to find the time when it’s convenient for them and other people. So, definitely, something else that needs to be discussed, off the rip, is what both of your schedules are like and if it’s feasible to get on some common ground. Otherwise, your relationship can end up feeling like a long-distance relationship, even if you’re both in the same city — and that can bring about its own complications and issues. And when you’re a single parent, who wants to volunteer for more stress? Yeah…exactly.

3. What Your Needs Are

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One definition of need is “essential.” One definition of essential is “absolutely necessary.” As a single parent who is dating someone new, what do you need? Do you need space? Do you need flexibility? Do you need patience? Do you need someone who is proactive in communication? Do you need someone who is willing to take things slow? Do you need someone who gets that sometimes plans might change at the last minute? Do you need someone who is willing to understand that you are still healing when it comes to your ex? Do you need someone who isn’t threatened by or jealous of your dynamic with your child’s father? I could go on and on with this; however, the main takeaway is, before the second date, it’s a good idea to jot down 5-7 concrete needs that are pretty much non-negotiable for you — and then be open to expressing them.

Now, before some of you say, “Isn’t the second date too soon?” ABSOLUTELY NOT. Listen, single parent or not, there is nothing worse than finding yourself emotionally attached to and invested in someone, only to discover that while they like you, they either aren’t in the position to or aren’t willing to give you what you need — and when you’re not getting what you need in a relationship, it’s gonna have an expiration date on it, one way or another.

Someone who thinks that stating your needs is “doing the most” is someone who has the potential to gaslight you throughout the entire relationship. Best to share your needs now and hear their thoughts (as you do the same for them). If you can meet each other’s needs, cool. If you can meet some and, so you’re meant to be friends, awesome. If it’s just a nice second date, and you two should leave it at that — ain’t nothin’ wrong with that. It’s really not.

4. What Your Triggers Are

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As someone who works in mental health to some degree, I really wish that all single parents were offered a couple of months of free therapy when they first find themselves in that position. Why? Because although some people are single parents by choice, many aren’t (meaning, they didn’t plan to not raise their kids in a two-parent dynamic), and some time to process, grieve, and heal in a professionally trained setting is wise. Otherwise, you could find yourself reacting to triggers that really aren’t so much “dating standards;” they’re more like areas of your life that you haven’t fully addressed.

Example. Say that you found yourself doing most of the work when it came to dating your child’s father. Now that you’re not together, while he’s a pretty decent parent (at least a B- on the old-school report card), you still have to initiate the conversation about him doing certain things that come very naturally to you. If that bothers you, it’s residual from dating him, and you haven’t really dealt with all of this from both a mental and emotional standpoint, you could “come in hot” when it comes to guys who you date, moving forward. Meaning, what you deem as standards are more like demands — and it’s all because you are projecting the stuff from your ex onto someone new.

Another example. Say that it is hell to get your child’s father to financially contribute on a regular basis, and you don’t want to put him on child support (y’all should research the racist history and current-day agenda of child support to this day because y’all know that you don’t get all of the money…right?) yet you’re sick of him mistaking your kindness for weakness. As a result, you are sensitive to men who are careful with their coins, and so a part of you is quick to classify them as being stingy or broke. See how that could be more about an unhealed trigger and less about them?

No one is perfect, and honestly, all of us have some sort of trigger somewhere (check out “How To Handle Folks Who ‘Trigger’ You”). To that, I will say this: with the help of a therapist and/or life coach, certain triggers can actually get deactivated. That’s why it’s not good enough to simply be on some “these are my triggers, deal with it.” On the flip, though, because being a single parent automatically means that you’ve been through some things, it’s wise to share what a few of your triggers are early on — even if you want to pose them as deal-breakers with a bit of a backstory as to why.

Why? Because experiences are typically what create triggers and it’s not fair to assume that your experiences are someone else’s or that folks should automatically think that your triggers should make sense just because they do in your eyes. As I tell people often, boundaries are disrespected once boundaries are articulated. Please don’t expect someone to read your mind. Share where you’re at as soon as possible.

5. An “Intro” to the Dynamic You Have with Your Child’s Parent

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Information is privileged and no one is saying that you have to share your entire life story in under three dates. However, giving a little deeper than a “kiddie pool” perspective on how things are with your child’s other parent can reveal more than you might realize. For instance, someone in my world? Her ex likes to gaslight her and definitely is manipulative. Something that we joke around about (although it’s not exactly funny) is it’s going to take a really special man to deal with all of the mind games that her ex likes to play. I know both of them pretty well, so from where I’m sitting, the next man is going to need to be very firm with his boundaries and not engage in “last word syndrome” whenever her ex tries to “bait him in” because something else that her ex is? He’s a know-it-all.

Okay, so what if the first thing that comes to your mind is, “Chile, I don’t plan on anyone meeting my child’s father or my children any time soon?” I hear you. That really isn’t the point here, though. When you learn about someone’s dynamic with their child’s other parent, it can give insight into how they communicate, negotiate, and compromise. It can also let you know if there are some things going on that you’d prefer to not engage in — because, again, it would suck to really dig someone and then have them tap out because they felt caught off guard by some intel that probably should’ve been shared with them sooner than later. If you don’t agree with me, simply put their shoe onto your foot.

6. What You’ve Learned About Yourself As a Single Parent (Thus Far)

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It’s almost like people have forgotten that dating needs to be about learning about someone to see if the two of you truly complement each other — and when it comes to life lessons, I don’t know if anyone is a better teacher than children and very few things are more impacting than parenting. So, be open to sharing on the second date the things that you have learned about yourself, how single parenting has changed you, what you require in a relationship now that you didn’t necessarily before becoming a single parent, and where you’d like to see yourself, as far as dating goes, in six-month increments.

Why increments? Because saying, “I want to be married in 16 months” is actually kind of overwhelming in a new dating dynamic. What isn’t is saying, “What my past relationships have taught me is that I don’t like to be unclear. The first six months, I’d like to see if there’s real potential with someone. The next six, I’d like to talk about if there’s a future and if they are ready for our families to meet.”

Something else that’s dope about this particular talking point is the fact that sharing what you’ve learned shows a side of graciousness and humility. After all, folks are good for talking about all of the things that they expect from someone else or all of what their ex did wrong on dates; however, sharing what you see about yourself shows that you’ve done some self-reflecting and have real self-awareness — and trust me, that is hella attractive because it’s becoming something that is rarer and rarer to see.

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Single parents who date? In many ways, they are no different than anyone else. At the same time, though, it’s okay to admit that you’ve got some specialized needs, concerns, and expectations that anyone who chooses to date you should certainly be aware of.

By discussing these six talking points, hopefully, it’ll be easier to see who can be truly realistic, supportive, and understanding…because, if anyone especially needs it and is deserving of it, as a single parent…it’s you.

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Featured image by LaylaBird/Getty Images

 

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