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Single Parent Dating: Finding Love After Heartbreak

by eharmony Editorial Team February 23, 2024

Single parent dating can sometimes feel like a minefield. Not only are there the worries that come with any new relationship – does she like me back, is he on the same page as I am about our relationship – there are those precious little souls to consider, too. Even if you don’t have kids yourself, the odds are that you’ll run into a single parent at least once in your dating journey. The Pew Research Center says that a quarter of all American children live in single parent households1, and the number will just keep rising. In this article, we’ll talk about dating for single parents, and offer you some single parent dating rules.

When should you start dating again as a single parent?

The timing of starting a new relationship varies based on individual factors such as personality, personal history, and the presence of children. A person with an amicable breakup may have a different timeline than someone experiencing a hard divorce, and both differ significantly from the journey of someone who has lost a spouse. The key is to assess one’s own circumstances thoughtfully, recognizing the unique dynamics of each situation before embarking on a new relationship.

Regardless of how your last relationship failed, it’s important to be thoughtful about any future forays into looking for love. Give yourself time – a year is a good option – before you start dating again. Not only will this help your children adjust, taking the time to be single lets you find out who you are and what you want outside of a relationship – both key factors in successful single parent dating!

Expert advice on how to find out when you should start dating again

Laurel House, an eharmony relationship, offers three key tips for single parents on determining when to start dating again.

1. Remember the 3Cs in identifying your dating purpose

People date for 3 purposes: Fun, Exploration/Expansion, and Committed Relationship. What’s your purpose? Make sure that your purpose and your style of dating align. Your life, your purpose, and possibly your identity may have shifted since becoming a parent. And that’s ok. Becoming a parent is a huge life change. You don’t need to be who you used to be. You might be in a place where you just want to have fun again and not feel like a parent all the time. Or maybe you are exploring this new identity and are exploring what type of partner is best for you within this new expanded identity. Or maybe you are truly in a place where you are ready to be in a relationship again. No matter which of the three purposes you are pursuing now, get clarity on your priorities to show up confidently and then communicate with clarity and confidence to your date as to what you are looking for now.

2. Are you ready to open your heart and life again?

Dating means that you are ready to add someone new to your life. Be honest with yourself: are you really ready to make time in your life and your heart?

3. Don’t wait too long.

It’s easy to get to a point of getting so comfortable being alone with your child that you are afraid to get out there again and risk getting hurt. This can lead to becoming jaded and building up walls that are hard to tear down.

Things to consider while dating as a single parent

While dating with kids can be very rewarding, it’s important to also keep in mind the challenges of single parent dating.

You might feel guilty about moving on too fast

The idea of finding love again can come with a lot of emotional weight. You might also worry about the effect of single parent dating on your children. While some guilt is to be expected, it’s important not to let it take over your life.

You might struggle to find enough time

Anyone who’s been there knows that the single parenting life is not easy. Adding dating is one more ball to all the ones you’re already juggling. It’s important to find a partner who understands this aspect of your life.

Your kids might not cope well

Give them grace; it’s a big change for a little one, no matter their ages. Take things slow and give your kids time to adjust to this new stage of their lives.

Why you should start dating a single parent

Navigating a relationship with another single parent has its advantages and disadvantages.

The positive aspect of dating another single dad or a single mom is the shared understanding and empathy. You don’t have to explain certain aspects, as they comprehend challenges unique to parenthood. Mutual experiences create a sense of grace and understanding, fostering a connection that may be challenging to establish with someone without children. This shared background allows for greater empathy in navigating the complexities of balancing work, parenting, and a dating life.

Single parent relationships challenges

While dating between two single parents has its merits, it’s not without challenges. Managing two sets of kid commitments and handling interactions with ex-partners adds complexity. Differing expectations, parenting styles, and the potential resistance from children who may not welcome sharing their parent further contribute to the intricacies. Additionally, the awareness that each person’s children rightfully take precedence can pose long-term challenges for the relationship.

It’s possible, as a single parent, to date another single parent, but it takes patience and a willingness to follow the single parent dating rules – take your time, communicate, and have good boundaries.

Three Dating Don’ts for Single Parents: Expert Advice to Navigate Love Again

We also asked our eharmony relationship expert Laurel House what you should consider when starting dating again.

1. Don’t go in with a list of wants, BUT be clear on your relationship partner needs

A list of wants tends to be superficial or cobbled together based on past bad and good relationship moments. Your true relationship partner needs are based on what you actually need in order for a relationship to endure, and how you relate to those needs may slightly shift as your life evolves. Identify your most important needs, then make sure that your choices, conversations, and actions align.

2. Don’t forget who you are.

It’s easy to fall back into the old dating habits that you had before becoming a single mom or single dad. After all, you may not have dated since embodying this evolved identity. Some of those habits may be unhealthy, like losing yourself in the relationship, trying to conform and change in order to be the person you think that the person you are dating wants you to be, or making yourself smaller in order to contain your quirks and the fullness of who you are. But now that you are a parent, there is another very important side of your identity that should not hide or minimize. Because the reality is that the dating process is about learning who you are and what life with you would look like. And life with you would include the fact that you are a parent. That doesn’t mean that you would include your child into the mix immediately, or at all, but sharing stories and being honest and upfront about what your parental life and responsibilities include are important to talk about so that the person who you are dating gets a sense of the fullness of who you are.

3. Don’t date like you’re married.

When you’re married or in a serious relationship, you get into a certain rhythm and develop habits that support it. Like having someone to say good morning and good night to, using terms of endearment like “honey” and ‘baby,” saying “I love you”- even when you aren’t really feeling it but you just say it because that’s what you do, saving your nights to be together, and checking in before making plans with anyone else… But dating is different. It takes time to develop that level of knowing and intimacy. People who are used to being in a relationship easily fall into a “Married Mindset” when dating someone new, and that can quickly be a turn off for many. In addition to turning others off, by activating those habitual motions and expectations, you can mislead your own heart and head, settling into a feeling of comfort, knowing, and intimacy, even though you have no idea what they are thinking, feeling, or doing on the other end.

Single parents dating symbolized by a single dad who is tossing his little son in the air on a playground

Navigate with finesse as you step back into the romantic arena with these insightful single parent dating tips.

Unpack your suitcases

Any relationship comes with baggage. It’s important to make sure you’re clear on what went wrong, how it affected you, and what you learned from it before you start a new relationship. Otherwise, you risk making the same mistakes you did previously.

Be upfront

There’s nothing to be gained by hiding the fact that you’re a single parent who’s dating. While you don’t want to give too many details – sadly, there are people who date single parents for access to their children – any partner worth having will respect and even appreciate the fact that you’re a parent.

Make time for self-care

As a single parent, you likely have too many things to do and too little time to do it in. Which is why it’s even more important to prioritize self-care when you’re in a relationship – after all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Go slow

This applies to any kind of relationship, but especially when you’re dating as a single parent. Take your time getting to know your date and make sure you’re both on the same page when it comes to your expectations, your parenting styles, and the future of your relationship.

Be flexible

The one constant thing about being a parent is that things change. Working around your kids’ schedules means being creative about spending time together – breakfast dates, running errands together, perhaps even family dates.

Let your kids go at their own pace

One of the worst things you can do when dating as a single mom or dad is to try and force a relationship between your partner and your kids. Encourage them to spend time together, and step in if things are bad, but on the whole, it’s best to let kids decide what kind of relationship they want.

Why to use eharmony as a dating website for single parents

At eharmony, we understand that as a single parent, your time is limited. Which is why we do things different than other dating sites for single parents. When you sign up for eharmony, you’ll be asked to fill in our Compatibility Quiz. Yes, it’ll take some time, since we ask you detailed questions about your likes, your preferences, and your relationship goals, but it’s worth it.

Example eharmony compatibility quiz question

Explore other single parents

You see, we use the information you give us to comb through our database of eligible singles for people who share your values and want the same things you do. Our Discover list shows you compatible singles. So sit back, relax, and let eharmony help make single parent dating a little bit easier.

Meet someone knew to find a deeper connection

Sure, you could try a traditional single parent dating site but eharmony has been helping couples find real love for over twenty years. Our users are looking for someone to make a connection with, who they can see themselves with long-term. Each member you see will display a Compatibility Score based on how likely you are to hit it off. 

Easy ways to start online dating for single parents

As a single parent, starting to date again can feel challenging. Not sure how to get the conversation started? We’ve made it easy: if something on a member’s profile catches your eye, just hit Like. You then have the option to add a personalized message. You can hit Like on their answers to profile questions, their hobbies, or anything you have in common. Once you get a Like back, it’s a Match. Congratulations! You can now swap messages to get to know each other better.

Jenny and Chris’ single parent dating success story

Concerned that being a single parent might hinder your chances of finding love? So was Jen. After the end of her twelve-year relationship, she turned to eharmony in search of someone special. Jen emphasizes the importance of recognizing that “deserving happiness is a significant first step” towards rediscovering love.

Dating as a single mom, it was crucial for Jen to find a partner comfortable with her prioritizing her children. In 2013, she connected with Chris, who also had a daughter. Their connection was immediate, initiated by an icebreaker from Jen, and they spent countless hours getting to know each other through eharmony’s messaging service. Discovering numerous commonalities and shared values, they both felt a sense of excitement.

Jen described meeting Chris as a reawakening, and Chris, too, sensed something extraordinary from their very first phone call, experiencing “goosebumps.” After a year of dating, they tied the knot in 2014 and welcomed a baby girl a year later.

“We were married a year after matching on eharmony and our daughter was born in 2015”

Jenny & Chris

Single parent dating doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think

Navigating romance with kids can be challenging, requiring resilience and adaptability. You may encounter a few bumps before discovering your ideal match. eharmony is an excellent choice for those seeking a serious relationship without the time or patience for conventional dating. Join now to embark on the journey towards genuine love.

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