10 Dating ‘Mistakes’ Single Moms Make

As a reader, I tend to scoff at these types of articles. They’re very generally written, don’t take into account everyone’s personal experiences, and make a very hard thing sound so easy. So when I was researching this particular article, I decided to write it from a more personal space. Dating is hard, and dating as a single parent is even harder. Are there dating mistakes single moms make? Of course! Is following these “rules” going to end in happily ever after for most of us? Absolutely unlikely! So here are some dating “mistakes” you may make as a single mom, plus my own experience or perspective on each one. I know for me, personal anecdotes are really helpful when it comes to “self-help” type shit like this, and I hope my own spin helps you, too.

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1. In my opinion, one of the biggest dating mistakes single moms make is introducing their kids to a new person too soon.

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Point: Introducing your kids to a new partner (or even potential partner) raises the stakes immensely, and can end badly for you, your partner, and especially your kids.

YEP: This one I agree with, 100%. I’ve dated off and on since the end of my marriage almost two years ago, and I have never come close to being ready for my kids to enter the mix. In fact, the thought never once entered my mind. For me, that’s the BIGGEST step you can take, and I don’t play willy-nilly with my kids’ feelings. So when is the best time to make the introduction? No idea. It’s difficult, because it’s nearly impossible to determine how serious you should be about someone before you know how they mesh with your children. Personally, I wouldn’t even broach the subject unless/until we were in an exclusive relationship for SEVERAL months, and the conversations about future plans, dreams, etc. have happened.

2. Waiting too long before getting back out there.

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Point: Keeping yourself off the market for too long makes it harder to start dating. If you become too accustomed to being single, being in a relationship feels uncomfortable.

Counterpoint: Nope. This one doesn’t agree with me, at all. Here’s the thing: depending on what sort of relationship you just got out of, you very well may NEED a lot of time to get yourself right before trying again. For me, leaving a toxic marriage meant I had A LOT of work to do on myself. Work that is still ongoing, to be honest. Habits needed to be unlearned, expectations needed to be adjusted, gaslighting recovery needed to happen. I needed to find me again. It took nearly 10 years for that person to disappear, and I don’t expect her to reappear overnight. What’s that saccharine saying, you have to love yourself before you can love someone else? TRITE BUT TRUE. Take as much time as you need, is my advice.

3. Next up in dating mistakes single moms make: feeling guilty about dating again.

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Point: Some moms feel guilt over dating after the end of their marriage and relationship. Maybe as it relates to their hang-ups about their last relationship, maybe as it relates to their kids. We need to get over that.

YEP: Get over it, moms. Which is WAY easier said than done. And honestly, it’s something I’m still very much working on. So much of parenthood is wrapped up in feeling guilty: guilt over working outside the home, guilt over what you can’t provide, etc. Yes, we’re moms. But we’re also human, and we want love and affection and attention, too. Don’t feel bad for one second when you’re trying to meet YOUR OWN needs. Happy moms mean happy kids.

4. Having sex too soon.

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Point: being sexually intimate too soon reinforces the concept that sex is part of dating, and having sex will bond you emotionally to that person.

Counterpoint: LOL no. Just no. If I wasn’t down for sex-shaming before I entered into a long-term monogamous relationship that failed, I sure as shit am not down for it now. Do you want to have sex on the first date? Do it! If you want to wait, wait. Women are absolutely capable of separating sexual satisfaction from emotional intimacy. Hell, many of us did just that during our failed marriages and relationships! Honestly, sometimes you just need to get laid. So get it.

5. More dating mistakes single moms make: badmouthing your ex.

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Point: Badmouthing your ex will make a potential partner think you’re not quite over that relationship.

Counterpoint: I’m torn on this one. I certainly don’t advocate talking shit about your ex on a first date, or spending all of your time detailing their every fault to your new person. But, when you’re getting to know someone, especially in the context of starting a romantic relationship with them, honesty and transparency is key. Sure, I could say, “Things just didn’t work out”. But some details about who my ex was and his conduct during our marriage helps explain a lot of who I am now, and why I have the expectations that I do. So I personally believe in telling your story, even the bad parts, when the relationship reaches that stage.

6. Having expectations that are too high.

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Point: Having expectations that are too high can severely limit your dating pool. You should cast a wide net, and sort through the detris that you catch with an open mind.

Counterpoint: How about … no. Listen, having low expectations is what got me divorced and raising two kids on my own shortly after I turned 35. Aim high, ladies! Will it limit your dating pool? Probably. But honestly, who has time to weed through the undesirables? Don’t lower your expectations in order to find a partner.

7. More dating mistakes single moms make: dating too soon.

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Point: Getting back out there too soon may hurt you in the long-run, since you’re not emotionally ready to handle a new relationship.

Counterpoint: Christ, we can’t win for trying, can we? Again, date as soon or as long after the end of your relationship as you want. I’m two years out, and I’ve dabbled. I know women who started dating immediately after their separation and found the love of their lives before the ink was even dry on the decree. There is no hard and fast rule. Only you know when you’re ready, and if that’s two weeks or two years after your last relationship, that is just fucking fine.

8. Dating mistakes single moms make: not being flexible enough.

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Point: Life gets in the way, for everyone. If you want your partner to be flexible, you need to be flexible.

YEP: So the gif isn’t the kind of flexibility we’re talking about (although that kind could also come in very handy when you start dating, LOL), but I find it soothing to watch. Anyway, I agree here! And I sort of apply this to my life in general, with friends, coworkers, family, everyone. There will be times you have to cancel or reschedule because mom life comes first, and I’m sure you expect your partners to understand. Extend that same flexibility to them, as well. It might mean a lot of two ships passing quietly in the night and whatnot, but it is what it is!

9. Looking for someone to save or rescue you.

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Point: Expecting your new partner to right all of your wrongs and ride in on a white horse to rescue you from life puts A LOT of pressure on them. And they will probably fail, which could fuel resentment on your part.

YEP: Listen, I want more than anything for someone to swoop in and fix my life. But my life is not a Disney movie. I can fix my own life (it’s just harder and sometimes I don’t wanna!). I wouldn’t put that sort of pressure on someone else, and honestly, I don’t ever want to feel like I am dependent on another person again. Be your own superhero, and just look for your sidekick.

10. Another of the biggest dating mistakes single moms make: forcing it with your kids.

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Point: Your kids are going to need lots of time to adjust, no matter when you introduce them to your new partner. Don’t force them to play a part in the happy family game until they’re ready.

YEP: My first and only concern in this whole dating thing is how my kids will be affected. That’s it! When the time comes that I meet someone and eventually introduce them to my girls, I expect there to be some resistance, and I am 100% fine with that. Their lives look nothing like they did two years ago, and nothing like what they expected. And if it’s taken me this long to get to a place where I’m ready to take the next step? I can only extend that same grace period to them.

I do not envy anyone who is re-entering the dating pool after years in a relationship or marriage. Sure, it can be exciting and fun! But it’s also so hard.

And once you have kids, there is SO MUCH MORE to take into consideration. So whether or not these dating mistakes single moms make apply to you (or anyone) is sort of beside the point. I’ve made mistakes, you’ll make some, too. Just keep doing what you need to do in order to get to a place where YOU are ready. There are no “rules” here, which is both awesome and overwhelmingly terrifying.

(Image: iStock/LuckyBusiness)

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