Learning to love again

Re-entering the dating world can be difficult for single parents, but with the right mindset and approach, the payoff can be huge

just-for-parents-fall2013Gee Raso’s first date after his divorce didn’t exactly go well. The father of three young children, he was used to using simple language, or “babyspeak,” as he calls it.

During his date, however, he unconsciously used babyspeak throughout the dinner conversation. And then he called his date by his daughter’s name.

“There was no second date,” he says, laughing heartily before adding, “I was still in dad mode.”

It had been almost two years since his divorce, and most of that time had been spent taking care of his children.

“There really wasn’t much time to do anything else but work.”

Single-parent families have been on the rise over the past decade. According to the 2011 census, the amount of single-parent families has risen eight per cent since 2006. In Ottawa alone, there are 38,540 single-parent families.

“Dating can be hard with kids,” says Ottawa therapist, author and radio personality Sue McGarvie. But there are things a single parent can do to make dating easier.

She recommends people take some time for themselves before wading back into the dating scene. This allows time to not only heal, but also to identify what may have gone wrong in the previous relationship.

Raso agrees. “You really need a grace period to deal with your anger and grief,” he says. When single parents start dating again, their outlooks tend to be extreme, says McGarvie. Some may think every potential partner will be just like their ex, while others believe potential partners will be their knight in shining armor.

So just take it slow. McGarvie recommends starting off with something simple, like just going out for coffee.

“Don’t be afraid,” she says. “Be prudent, but don’t be paranoid.”

“If you have been out of the dating scene for many years, you will most likely notice that it has changed dramatically, so don’t be alarmed or discouraged,” says Raso. “Be fully aware that you too have changed significantly as well.”

A great place to meet people is throughout social groups, like the Single Parents Club of Ottawa, a Meetup group that organizes fun activities for children and their parents. Raso runs the Ottawa chapter.

And don’t feel guilty about wanting to search for someone to share your life with.

“You don’t have to put your life on hold for your kids,” she says. “Kids are healthiest when their parents are happy.”

That said, she also suggests keeping any budding romance at arm’s length from their children, at least in the beginning.

In the seven years since his divorce, Raso has only introduced his children to two of his girlfriends. He waits until he’s certain the relationship is going somewhere because he doesn’t want his children to become attached in case it doesn’t work out.

When you do decide to introduce your potential significant other to your children, casual and fun is a good way to go. Raso brought his kids to a

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family entertainment centre to introduce them to his last girlfriend.

And listen to your kids’ opinions, as they can be intuitive, says McGarvie, but realize they can’t dictate who you choose to date. It’s up to the adults to be patient and help the little ones with the adjustment period.

And the payoff, a healthy relationship, is worth it.

“Life is hard at times,” says McGarvie. “Having someone to watch your back, that’s important. You have the right to be happy, to have sex. You have the right to have an adult relationship.”


Photo: depositphotos.com © ridofranz