I used to hide the fact I listened to podcasts loaded with dating and relationship advice. But the truth is, after my divorce, I was starting from scratch in the relationship world. I wanted a fresh start. I wanted to change old habits. I needed to heal childhood wounds that kept creeping up and getting in the way of me having the relationship I truly wanted.
When I took a hard look in the mirror, I realized I’d been repeating the same patterns since I started having relationships in high school, and really, things weren’t working out for me thus far.
I have a tendency to be a distancer when I’m upset or hurt and hold back my feelings. Then, I get angry at my partner for not being what I need them to be or not doing what I need them to do when I have not even communicated it to them.
Throw being a single mother who is trying to put herself into the dating world for the first time in two decades into the mix and you have one every vulnerable person who is scared shitless. I’m pretty sure that’s not relationship material.
So, a few months ago as I was running along with a podcast in my ears, I listened to a dating coach who is a big believer in having a “bench” while you are dating. I’ll admit, I was thrown off guard a little bit.
Basically, a bench is what it sounds like — people waiting in the wings to be up to bat. This dating coach believes single women should be talking to about three potential partners at a time, instead of focusing on just one at a time, because it helps us spot red flags sooner.
It made so much sense to me. She wasn’t saying you should be humping three at a time (but proceed if that’s what you want to do), and she wasn’t saying you have to be dishonest, sneak around, or hide the fact you are dating three men. What she was saying was that when we focus on only one person, especially if we are just getting back out there, without opening our minds a bit to see what else is out there, we are setting ourselves up to ignore some behaviors that might not be acceptable to us because we like someone. There’s no greater tool than comparison, and we owe it to ourselves to take our time to see what’s out there instead of giving one person a lot of our valuable attention right away.
I took her advice to heart, and this little shift has worked really well for me. It has made me feel more confident and, really, it has made me better at dating.
After talking with other mothers who were treading through the muck in the dating world, I realized we needed more advice and tips like this. In fact, divorced moms are starving for it — it’s a whole different world to date as a mother, so Scary Mommy called in some expert advice from Psychotherapist and Certified Divorce Coach, Catharine Blake to help any divorced mother out there get her head right before she decides to date, or if she’s dating right now wondering what the hell is going on. And if you are her, believe me, you are not alone.
1. Have a quick first date.
A cup of coffee, walk, or a drink is plenty of time to decide if you’d like to see the person again. You can tell pretty quickly if you want a second date with this person. Also, you are limited for time with your busy life and a quick date takes the pressure off of both people to make it amazing. I often have another commitment or appointment lined up after a date. That way, I have a legit excuse to make an exit if it’s not great, and if it is great, keeping it short ensures it will end on a positive note.
2. Pay attention to how you feel when you are sitting with the person.
Take a mental note of how you felt sitting and chatting with the person. Blake says, “Our bodies give us clues to how we feel about the person sitting in front of us faster than our conscience mind do.” Did you feel confident, calm, anxious? It’s very important to notice if you did feel anxious and to ask yourself why. “Often we mistake anxiety for fireworks and connection,” says Blake. “Don’t mistake the two.”
3. Have a clear set of expectations for what you want in a relationship.
If you want to find The One, don’t hold back and act like you are okay with a casual hookup. Also realize before you want to lock down a relationship that it takes time to get to know someone. It’s good to see how they handle sickness, stress, how they interact with children, what their lifestyle is like. Ask yourself if it is really in line with what you see for your future — no matter how attracted to them you are.
“These markers are more likely to lead you to your ideal match vs. their salary and looks,” says Blake.
4. Do not go into dating looking for someone to save you.
Basically, have your shit together, but do it for you. Love yourself. Do the work so you feel happy with yourself because as soon as you start searching someone out to fix or save you, you are going to be so disappointed. Blake says you need to ask yourself if you have “fantasies about your partner standing up to your ex, providing for you financially, or parenting your child.” If you are, what you are essentially doing is looking for someone else to fill a hole you could fill yourself, and that’s exactly what you need to do before you start dating again. Believe me, your experience will be so much healthier.
5. Go in with an open heart.
Oh, I know this is a tough one. You are wearing so many hats, you have limited time, and your break up did a number on you even if it did end on good terms. If you go into dating and you are still angry and upset, you could miss out on the love of your life who is sitting right in front of you.
“It’s hard to meet an ideal mate when your guard is up. Don’t be afraid of vulnerability. Yes, you might get hurt — but it’s worth the risk,” says Blake.
6. Know your worth.
Remember, you are the one doing the choosing, not sitting there hoping some random person (who you barely know) will choose you. Too many people get clouded because they want to be liked, they don’t even bother asking themselves if they even like the person. Remember, you have a lot to bring to this person and to a relationship. Think of your positive traits, “and then feel confident in that with every cell of your being,” says Blake.
Now, I’m no expert, but I have to add my biggest piece of advice I give to anyone that asks me: Take your time people. TAKE YOUR TIME. There is no rush, no reason to force something that you know deep down isn’t what you want. You can ignore that piece of them now, but it will come back to haunt you and be so much harder to deal with as time goes on.
If you are simply staying with someone because you think there’s isn’t anyone else better, that’s not a reason to stay. And honestly, if you come from a lack mindset instead of waiting for the real deal, you will be disappointed in yourself and your partner 100% of the time
Oh, and please, please, don’t forget dating is supposed to be fun, and you are the one in charge of making it a good experience for yourself, no matter what that looks like to others.