Date Like a Single Mom: 3 Relationship Guidelines for Newly-Single Moms
1. Make Like Elsa (Let it Go, Let it Go…)
No matter what it was that ended your relationship, it’s over now. Whatever happened can only affect you as long as you let it.
I spent the first few months of my newfound singledom still doing a lot of what I did when my ex and I were together. I still fought with him. Just as I tried to keep up our image as a happy, functioning family when he and I were together, I tried to convince myself and the world that we were coparenting in a functional way. Really, I was still angry and he was still caught up in the same self-destructive behavior that played a role in our breakup.
Finally, I stopped trying to control everything. I dropped the ideas I had about how things “should” be, and I let them be what they were. I let myself feel sad about the way things happened without trying to “fix” things. I acknowledged my fears. There were plenty, mostly centered around my ability to do it all on my own, with plenty of unfounded worry about what an absent or inconsistent father would mean for my daughter’s psychological development. I worried about my ex, terrified that the self-destructive path he was on would mean he never fulfilled his potential.
Sitting with my cousin in his friend’s Chelsea apartment one night, going over all of the above and more with him, I wondered what I could do to prevent my fears from coming to fruition. “You can’t,” he told me, in the most empowering way the phrase has ever been used.
2. Stay Single Until You Can Stay Present
If I couldn’t control for the future, I could control for my own thoughts in the present. In each moment, I could choose the reality I wanted. I made a conscious effort to enjoy my daughter, my family, my friends, my work. I bought a toddler seat for the front of my bike. Phi and I spent hours- we still spend hours- riding “our” bike on trails together. Whenever we do, I’m sure I already have everything I need.
If like attracts like, better to find someone happy later than another codependent relationship now. I know there will be relationships in my future, but I needed to get happy on my own, rather than looking for another person who could make me happy.
3. Find Someone As Happy As You Are
That feeling of fulfillment own is what will help attract a healthy relationship down the road (or down the bike path, in my case). Like attracts like. Once we've found our happy place, we'll attract other people who have found theirs.
I knew that if I waited too long to date again, I knew I would start holding myself to an impossible standard before deeming myself “worthy” of the right person, so after about a year of singledom I reopened the possibility of being in a relationship again. The guys coming out of the woodwork now are interesting, with jobs and hobbies of their own to keep them fulfilled without me constantly affirming their worth. I haven't found the right one yet, but I'm holding out for the right one.