“I still long for a partner”

by singlemomseeking on January 21, 2010

woman dancingI love hearing from readers who’ve never commented here before. Thank you! This week, so many of you chimed in with incredible honesty. Wow.

I’ve asked one new single mom if I could share her comment on my blog: that’s because she’s asking for some advice, and I know that you’ve got some. Here’s her story:

She’s a 39-year-old divorced mom of a toddler who’s doing her best to co-parent with her ex.

“It’s not exactly my dream of having a ‘family,’ ” she writes.

“I still long for a partner, but it’s kind of hard when you come home tired every night. And it can be hard to find evening sitters — oh, and the extra cash to go out.”

Fortunately, she does get some time off ever other weekend when her ex has their son. But she still wonders how she can possibly do it all.

She asks: “So, how DOES a single mother parent, date, meet financial needs… and everything else?”

Great question! I wish I had the magic answer. I also wish I’d asked another single mom this question when I was on my own with a toddler. Looking back, I started to date again when I was too fragile, when what I really needed was ME, not a man.

If I could go back and speak to a younger me, I’d tell her:

Maybe you’re not ready, it’s okay to put a hold on dating.

If you’re still hashing out custody issues, it might not be the best time to jump back into dating. Emotionally, you might need some time to grieve and heal.

Granted, time alone can feel, well, lonely. So, be proactive and plan ahead. But instead of planning a date, however, think about doing something for YOU. Have girlfriends over for dinner. Sign up for a writing class. Join a “pick up” volleyball league.

But really, I’m sure that all of YOU have a lot more advice to offer. Let’s hear it. Thanks.


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Nicki January 21, 2010 at 4:33 am

meetup.com

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon it. The concept is this: fill out your interests. Find groups to join. Membership to the site is free, some of the groups ask for a negligible amount of money to cover the cost of hosting a group on the site. (The most I saw here in Charlotte was $5.) And the cool thing is that it isn’t all about dating. There are singles groups on the site, but it’s also about finding people to scrapbook with or travel with or book clubs or writing groups or networking or any number of things related to hobbies or activities.

I found some groups to join in my area. I get periodic emails to introduce new groups that relate to my interests. And while I have yet to actually participate in anything…I feel less alone because I know I have options. Right now I need to work on me more than I need to work on finding a man. And these activities can fill the void, expand my horizons, give me the adult contact I crave without the pressure of dating.

Check it out and let me know what you think!

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T January 21, 2010 at 6:20 am

Yep, I definitely agree about meetup.com. I have a few groups on there myself.

That time away from dating is the time you discover yourself again. Remember things you always wanted to do but couldn’t before. Think of something you wanted to learn but never took the time to follow through. It will make YOU happier and feel better.

Me? I dove right into yoga. It was such a supportive community that I would even cry during class and no one would say a word… just offer hugs and a shoulder. It was amazing. I also began studying spirituality more. It helped me to remember my CORE, my STRENGTH.

It seems impossible because it is still new. Before too long, you’ll be doing what needs to be done without even thinking about it. Then others will be asking YOU, “How do you do that alone?!?”

You’ll be rockin’ it in no time!

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singlemomseeking January 21, 2010 at 8:23 am

@Nicki and @T: Oh, yes, Meetup! Great tip!… And yoga has helped me a lot along the way, too!!

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BigLittleWolf January 21, 2010 at 8:31 am

Every divorce is unique, and so re-entry into the dating world is dependent on so many factors, different for each individual. With young children, if you have a decent co-parenting situation, you have a shot at dating and a relationship, when you’re ready.

If you’re a solo parent, or more challenging – a solo parent with ex issues, dating is far more complicated than finding the dollars for a babysitter.

I believe that it takes some single moms longer to get back out there, because we put our children first, making sure they are on solid ground emotionally. And then we take care of ourselves. Healing. Putting a toe in the dating pool. And eventually, if we’re fortunate, opening our hearts to another again.

This particular mom sounds like she’ll have an arrangement that permits her to re-establish a dating life. And good for her. We’re happier and better parents when we have a social life ourselves.
.-= BigLittleWolf´s last blog ..An apple for the teacher =-.

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Katherine SOLO dot MOM January 21, 2010 at 8:39 am

This is great advice. I too jumped back into dating way too soon after my separation and divorce. I wasn’t ready – but longed for that partner as well. Now I have realized five years later… it’s ok to put that all on hold (especially when your attempts fail and provide for more than you have the energy to deal with). Allow yourself some time to breathe before pushing that issue. Also using that time to find out who you are again is a huge enlightenment when you do start dating again.
.-= Katherine SOLO dot MOM´s last blog ..Making Plans for V-Day? =-.

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Dr.Leah www.singlemommyhood.com January 21, 2010 at 9:04 am

Dating can be just for you, if you’re able to manage expectations. If you’re longing for a partner, that neediness can lead to poor choices and unnecessary heart break. Try to approach your first forays into dating as adventures/new experiences rather than focused quests to find “Mr. Right”.

Try especially hard not to project so far ahead. Worrying about whether this new guy is a good kid role model, for example, should NOT be on your mind until you’re both talking about commitment. Of course, they’ll be many “frogs to kiss” before a keeper comes along. If you’re still in the “frog stage”, it’s always a relief that your kids never met the guy.
.-= Dr.Leah http://www.singlemommyhood.com´s last blog ..Is your ex getting remarried? =-.

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Honey January 21, 2010 at 9:24 am

I think it’s really important to remember that even if you found the perfect person for you TODAY, you wouldn’t have a PARTNER until you’d been dating for at least a year. So if the reason she’s looking is because she wants a partner, maybe now’s not the time to be looking. She should concentrate on other areas and wait until she feels like she is looking forward to, and can enjoy, the PROCESS of IDENTIFYING a POTENTIAL partner. That will free up a lot of mental space for her so she’s not carrying the Samsonite around with her on dates ;-)
.-= Honey´s last blog ..Microsoft Store Dancing Is Like Watching A Car Accident In Slow Motion =-.

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Canadian Bald Guy January 21, 2010 at 9:28 am

I went through a period after my separation where I’d go to online dating websites because I didn’t think I’d find anybody and continue to be alone.

I only ended up more depressed because when I couldn’t find “the one”, it only increased my loneliness.

I only found someone when I fully came to terms with where my life was and who I was as a person.

It’s cliche, but for me true love only happened when I least expected it.

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Ali January 21, 2010 at 9:34 am

There is one line that really jumped off the page for me in this post and it’s this: “I still long for a partner.”

Still. Still?

Still is such a simple word and perhaps I am taking it out of context here, but it appears to me that there is ‘still’ a longing for what used to be, or maybe a creation in this woman’s mind of what “should” have been.

Likely, with some reflection, she’d decide that the construct of the past is not as peachy as it might sound today when things are new and uncomfortable because, well, it wound up with the current situation which is separation/divorce/co-parenting.

Until this idea of longing for another to complete something is wholly gone and she can find for herself in a space where there is happiness and fulfillment alone, I don’t believe that there will be true and lasting happiness in a partnership.

What moves YOU? What makes your heart patter? How can you find time to fill all your needs and your child’s needs in the near term.

These are the questions she should be asking, not how am I going to manage him and all the logistics of something that is merely a notion at this moment? There is no HIM. If you don’t take care of you first, including what gives you fire for life…no one else will, no matter how it may appear/come to you at first.

When you learn to construct your life of the stuff of your dreams…all on your own, my belief is THAT is when the prince charming appears, and it’s almost always when you least expect because your life is so full of richness and goodness other things that you are not “hunting,” or needy, you are simply offering up your best self to the world.

You are stronger than you think.
.-= Ali´s last blog ..US Census Brief: Children of Single Parents, How They Fare =-.

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Monique January 21, 2010 at 10:50 am

Take it from someone who is still trying to figure out if they are still together with their son’s father or not: take your time. I thought I was ready to date until my son’s father found out I went on a date and blew up. Maybe it wasn’t time. I do long for companionship ( I would prefer it with him) but I know I also need to make sure I’m 100%. Do some stuff for you. Spend more time with friends. Pick up a new hobby. When its time, it will come knocking atyour door.

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debra January 21, 2010 at 11:19 am

Assuming that maybe this single Mom has decided she’s ready, and is just trying to figure out the how, here are a few suggestions. I use Match.com and have met some AMAZING men. Really good people, professionals, sincere. Match, for me, makes the meeting people part more efficient. You can read cues in a few emails, a phone call or two, their profile, to let you know if you think the effort of getting together in person is worth it. Once you start seeing someone, you may initially be limited to a date every other weekend. Sometimes a lunch date here and there works, and you don’t need to pay a babysitter. This can actually be a blessing, it really forces you to take your time getting to know someone, and enjoy the getting to know them part. Once you’ve known someone longer, it gets easier to make time together. You can have a friend over to watch movies, or have a late dinner after the little one goes to bed. (Wait until you know it is safe to have this person in your home, obviously). Pay for a babysitter once in a while, but I reserve these for special events, like a concert, or party we want to attend together, not just a regular date night.

Like anything else in single parenting, you’ll figure it out as you go along. Good luck!

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bad mummy January 21, 2010 at 12:14 pm

I joined Parents w/o Partners about 1 1/2 yrs ago. The events are a good mix of family events and adult events so I’ve made adult friends (who understand what it is to be a single parent) and it’s nice to do family things with other parents and kids w/o feeling like the odd one out

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Andrea January 21, 2010 at 1:20 pm

One of the best things I did when I left my ex-husband was promise myself that I would be single for two years. Not no-dating, and not even no-boyfriend–I figured I couldn’t really control that part–but no commitment. No living together, no getting engaged, no getting married, for at least two years. That promise stopped me from making some stupid decisions because, let me tell you, no one makes good decisions the first year after a separation or divorce. Thank goodness I gave myself enough time to get my head pointed the right way again before doing anything seriously stupid!

So I would say if this is fresh, consider giving yourself the gift of a period without a partner. A year or two. Work on being lonely and/or alone. It’s hard, but very worth it. Become a better person. Court your friends. Spend time volunteering for a cause you believe in. Learn a new hobby.

If you’ve been through that period and you’re coming out the other side and longing for a partner (and I think it is only human to feel that way), then I would say to give some serious thought to those situations and occasions where you feel most comfortable and at ease. Online dating worked for me because I like to write and I’m comfortable ‘meeting’ people on the internet–several of my closest friendships began online. Going to bars or meetup events would not have been as good because I am very shy; it’s easier if I’ve broken the ice in an email or phonecall first.

And then try very hard to make the first dates babysitter-free, because you don’t want to be spending a fortune on some guy until you think he might be worth it. Coffee dates, lunch dates, every-other-weekend relationships–go slowly. Keep yourself and your little one safe and you will be a lot better off in the end.

And, as my friends continually remind me, have fun too, or what’s the point?
.-= Andrea´s last blog ..Altamont Wind Pass and Bird Mortality =-.

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Andrea January 21, 2010 at 1:25 pm

And I should have said too that I dated for those two years, of course, and even fell in love once or twice–but I tried to approach the dates like practice. Not, “is this guy the perfect guy for me who I will spend the rest of my life blissfully in love with?” But, “Do I like him enough to spend a few hours chatting over coffee? Are we having enough fun to go out and see a movie next weekend? What am I learning about myself? Do I like the person I am when I am with him?” That sort of thing. I hadn’t actually been ‘dating’ since highschool and so much had changed that I figured I was better off approaching it as a skill I needed to practice rather than a happily-ever-after I needed to bag.

Most of the time. It didn’t always work, but it helped to try to think that way, I think. It kept the pressure down.

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singlemomseeking January 21, 2010 at 1:25 pm

You all continue to blow me away. Thank you for your honesty.

@Andrea and @Ali, you have written your own posts here — maybe you’ll publish them on your own blogs? So real and helpful!

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Lance January 21, 2010 at 3:40 pm

Yeah. But what about the sex? Dating is more than about companionship seeking, obviously.
.-= Lance´s last blog ..Microsoft Store Dancing Is Like Watching A Car Accident In Slow Motion =-.

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Crazy Computer Dad January 21, 2010 at 7:47 pm

I wholeheartedly second Nicki and T, meetup.com is awesome for finding groups of people that like things you like. I belong to meetups for camping, hiking, kayaking, scuba diving, and most importantly a local Asperger’s Support group that allows me to connect with other parents of Asperger’s children.

I recommend meetin.org also as a social group. Through meetin.org I always have friends to go to wine tastings, movies, dinner, happy hour, etc. Through them I also got connected into a lot of coed sports leagues around the area.

I like Andrea’s suggestion of just doing lunch or coffee dates if you do an online dating service like match.com. Remain available, but meet people and talk openly, being yourself. The price of a cup of coffee is small for the opportunity to meet someone, flirt, and decide if is in both your interests to spend more time together. There is little to no pressure for either of you, and no one should feel too slighted if there isn’t a follow on meeting.

Also, keep an eye on the local paper for events of interest happening in your area on the weekends you child is away. Listening to bands, seeing an indie film, taking a weekend class, and other things are generally low cost and fun. Some areas have web sites that show what bands are playing around the town and you can plan to go see a few. Go sing karaoke with some friends, or better yet, family. :-)

I am also quite draconian about my son’s bed time and carving out time for me. I don’t compromise on when he should be in bed. From the time I get home until his bed time we do things, and recently we argue about his homework, but depending on the day between 8pm and 9pm he is in bed, lights out, and I better not see him until morning. When he is asleep I do things that I want to do, and I get to talk to my girlfriend without little ears listening or feeling guilty that I was taking time away from him.

I try not to be inundated with tasks around the house when he goes to his mom’s (long breaks and the whole summer). I try to get out and do the things that he just isn’t capable of or just doesn’t like. Starting around this time of year, we’ve been around each other enough that we are really starting to get on each others nerves.

Parenting is hard work and it doesn’t get easier. Take time to recharge and just be yourself before you have to be full time thinker and caretaker for two people after your short break.

I tell everyone that there are four areas of my life I need to balance. My son, my relationships, my work, and myself. It is hard work. An imbalance in one affects all the others, and they all know it when it happens.

Joseph Campbell said “Follow your bliss.” Find what makes you happiest and do it. You are your most attractive then anyway. Then remain available, don’t compromise, and be patient.

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Legal Editor Mom January 21, 2010 at 10:14 pm

I belong to Meetup.com in my city, but have yet to go on an outing because my life is so darn busy with other things! But I do agree that that’s a great first step as one ventures out attempting to meet people and have a social life. My chapter offers all kinds of great activities!

After my disastrous marriage I had no desire for another mate…for a long time. I threw myself into being a new mom to my only child, and I knew when the time was right, I would feel ready. Sure enough, my daughter just turned six and I now have a wonderful man in my life. Everyone is different, but everyone newly divorced or separated should take time for themselves FIRST. You have to be happy with yourself before you can be happy with someone else!

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MC January 22, 2010 at 5:54 am

This is a cool discussion! I like how everyone approaches “taking care of me” differently.

For me, dating was very helpful after my divorce. Dating provided me with a huge ego boost and I really needed one after living for years with my emo-abusive & serially-cheating ex. (There’s something so healing about a man pampering and really focusing on you, even if you think he’s just trying to get you into bed, and/or he’s just trying to get to know you!) Dating also helped me to define what I wanted from a relationship, because I had to talk about it with the guys I dated, and set limits or decide where the relationship was going next, or if it was going anywhere, at various points in the relationships, etc. I found some men I liked better as friends, and that sometimes the friend thing worked out after we broke up and sometimes it didn’t.

Anyway, I’m now seeing a man who I think I could really go long-term with, and I think our current relationship benefits from all my recent experiences figuring out what’s really important and what I really want. One great thing I’ve learned for example is that I’m fine with living by myself (together with my kids of course–I mean, not living with a man), and in fact I’d prefer to do that for some time to come even though I’d like a LTR. I’m focusing more on the relationship that on getting it to some kind of fairy-tale conclusion, which is a big thing for me.

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Suzie January 22, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Hi There. I’ve been reading your blog daily since June (when I found out I was pregnant and the man I was with pretty much left me). Now I found myself 8 months pregnant, about to be a single mom. One line of your blog really stuck out at me-
“If I could go back and speak to a younger me, I’d tell her:

“Maybe you’re not ready, it’s okay to put a hold on dating.”

I’m afraid to start dating again. I don’t even know when I’ll be ready, and in some aspects I think that is okay. I really just want the first few months with my daughter to be special and something I’ll carry with me for eternity. I think dating might cloud that up for me. The past 8 months feel lonely sometimes…especially on Friday nights. But that’s how I’m healing I think. When I’m ready to date, I’ll know or just feel it (I hope).

Thanks for your blog. It’s really a pick-me-up on my down days. :)

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singlemomseeking January 23, 2010 at 10:53 am

@Suzie: I’m honored to hear from you. Please stay in touch — and, yes, take the time to focus on yourself and your daughter.

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Anna January 22, 2010 at 5:29 pm

I agree with Honey and Dr. Leah. I dated less than 6 months after my divorce was final (my marriage was long-dead before the papers were signed), and treated it like an experience. I knew I wasn’t going to meet the next love of my life, but I had to learn how to date again after 10 years!! In my personal experience, online dating was more of a negative experience, and I’ve gone with a more organic approach (and recently turned a friendship into a more romantic relationship, quite by accident). I took a fencing class, joined a book club, and started realizing I could do whatever I wanted to do.

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lovebabz January 22, 2010 at 5:34 pm

DO YOU! Leave desperation on the curb. Have a good time with yourself and with the folks you call family and friends. Laugh all the time and romance yourself.
.-= lovebabz´s last blog ..FAITH FORWARD: NOW IS AS GOOD A TIME AS ANY… =-.

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Travis January 23, 2010 at 10:33 am

I was told to take a year off, regroup. Get your rhythm back, and make sure you are on top of your life.

I know this is really easier said than done… but it was I’m doing, and in doing so, I’m finding who I really want to be in a relationship. It also gives me the confidence to find someone who will be compatible with me. And not, just to date someone because they are a warm body, and that there will be “someone” there when I call.

It gives you time to be introspective.

It is lonely. It is necessary to be lonely. You will grow from it, and you will thank yourself when you are with someone who really fits you, and you will be happier, healthier and will give you the foundations you need to be in a successful relationship.
.-= Travis´s last blog ..The Way You Move Ain’t Fair You Know =-.

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Swati Bharteey January 23, 2010 at 10:42 am

Hi –

I think it is important to figure out what makes you happy and complete, and dating may be one of things – but there’s probably a few others things you should focus on to feel whole again (and then you’ll be more ready to be in a positive relationship). I re-established bonds with old friends and I got myself into new groups through art classes, yoga, social events at city clubs, single mom groups, and volunteer events. It felt SO good – that feeling of utter freedom, post-divorce. Cherish it – don’t wish it away.

The funny thing about dating is that you’ll probably find yourself wanting to take one step forward, one step back. It’s all normal. I needed lots and lots of couch time, and I watched every episode of Sex and City a thousand times.

In terms of balancing :”everything else”, just know you will get it done, but it may be one week when you make it to a social event, and another week when you figure out where your bank account is and still another month before you catch up with laundry (i.e. you probably won’t have a day when your universe is perfectly zen :-) ) – but that would be boring anyway, wouldn’t it? Don;t try to do everything on the same time line as when you were single or married – single plus a mini is a whole new ballgame!

It took me just over 5 years to feel totally healed, happy and jazzed about finding myself again. 6 years after my divorce, I met my boyfriend – and this is a relationship I can fully cherish and appreciate because I am whole.

You’ll get through it – just remember to have fun!
Swati
.-= Swati Bharteey´s last blog ..Are You Ready to Date? =-.

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singlemomseeking January 23, 2010 at 10:50 am

@Swati: thanks so much for sharing your own journey as “a single plus a mini.”

How true re: “wanting to take one step forward, one step back. It’s all normal.”

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Kat Wilder January 26, 2010 at 8:03 am

Lots of good advice here.

My take — you do need to get yourself in a healthy place. If you’re not viewing what you have as “family,” you really need to. Your first priority has to be your kid, and he/she deserves to feel that you’re a family … because you are!

And, then you have to discover “you” independent of a “him,” by learning how to be good to yourself, have interests/passions, feel sexual, and learning how to, yes, “do it all” because no one is going to come to rescue you.

If you’re not in an OK place about all that, you bring nothing to the table of a relationship except need and want — and what man will you attract? Uh, not many you’d actually want as a partner.

And, even when you do find someone to love (and get love back from), having children — maybe his, too — in the mix adds many other layers of complications (and, sure, joys). But it will never be like a relationship/dating you knew when you were younger, single and not a mom. You’re not the same, so you have to figure out who you are now.

As daunting as all of that may seem, it isn’t. It’s one step at a time.
.-= Kat Wilder´s last blog ..The days of wine and dating =-.

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Sabine February 2, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Wow, I had never heard of meetup.com and assumed it’s an american thing. I just found that it is not and there are 50 pages of groups within 10 miles of me – spent the last 2 hours joining a whole bunch of them – thanks for that hint

I am no longer single, but have been through divorce and have kids, so I can relate. I enjoy reading your blog and seeing where life takes you

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singlemomseeking February 2, 2010 at 11:06 pm

Thanks for commenting Sabine. Congrats on getting remarried!

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