Dating As A Single Mother Means Setting Boundaries

The Importance Of Having Boundaries In Your Relationship As A Single Mother

Mother taking kids to school
Scary Mommy and damircudic/Getty

When I started dating again, I realized very quickly I had to feel really comfortable before I introduced anyone to my children. Now, this is different for everyone, and we all feel ready for this step at different stages with different people. Had I started dating someone I already knew, or they already knew, the game would have been different.

However, I know myself, and I really wanted to make sure the person I introduced them to was going to not only be someone I wanted to be around for a while (I realize we have zero control over this, but I didn’t want to introduce them to anyone I was casual with), and someone who was going to be good for us and our life.

The way I see it is, this person isn’t their father. He is a guest in their home, and because I have three children it is important to me to be very clear about my expectations and what I’d like to have in my relationship. 

When you marry someone and have children, there are things you get used to; things you live with; and things you decide to keep the peace about.

However, when you start dating again and you’re thinking about having a partnership with that person, it is more than okay (in fact, I can’t recommend it enough) to be very clear about what you will and will not tolerate. 

This was something I had to work very hard at. Women are told over and over they are ‘bitchy’ ‘controlling’ ‘bossy’ or ‘high-maintenance’ if they have certain standards when it comes to their partner. 

Bring on the name calling because I’ll tell you right now any man who tells you that you are high-maintenance because you expect them to do what they tell you they’re going to do isn’t worth an ounce of their time. 

I’ve talked to a lot of divorced women who sit in silence because they’re afraid they’re going to scare men away. They have been made to feel that having kids and expectations is baggage and too much to bring to a relationship but, it’s not.

There is a way for you to have your expectations met, and I now know that any partner worth having will respect your boundaries without you having to twist yourself into a pretzel to make things comfortable for them all the time. It’s called setting them and letting your partner know they have a choice: They can leave if they want. Because I’m telling you right now, it will hurt if they leave, but it will hurt more if you stay in a relationship that repeatedly makes you unhappy and you don’t speak up. That will kill your soul.

Of course there are compromises and times when you do something for them or with them you don’t love— that’s part of any relationship. However, if you find it’s always you who is making the sacrifices, and you are tired and miserable, it’s time to firm up the bubble around you that they know they can’t cross.

I can say this now because I was someone who didn’t speak up at the beginning of my relationship like I should have. After meeting a great man, falling in love, and getting to know him for a few months, I introduced him to my kids. They all get along great and it was an easy transition, which makes me happy.

However, after about a year of being together he started drinking quite a bit more. I’m not a drinker at all, and it made me uncomfortable. I wondered if I was judging him or maybe I was just boring. But there was something about it that never left me — the uneasiness wouldn’t go away. Everyone else I’ve ever been with had a few drinks now and again but he was different. 

He wasn’t someone who drank often, yet when he did, he drank a lot. I didn’t like it because it was so obvious he wasn’t able to make good decisions. 

Instead of saying, “Let’s go, you’ve had enough,” I’d stay out late with him to make sure he got home safely. I was his driver one too many nights, and I became tired and resentful. 

I still didn’t say much, but instead of going out with him, I took care of myself and stayed home. 

It wasn’t long after that he was arrested for driving under the influence.

We’d been dating for over two years when it happened, and I was ready to leave him. 

He was devastated at what he’d done and realized the story could have ended very differently. He got lucky and started counseling right away and hasn’t had a drop to drink in three months and says he is done and will never drink again.

A few of his friends have called me controlling since he decided to stay sober. They think I am the reason he quit drinking and that if he wasn’t with me, he’d be back to his “fun self” again. They can think what they want. 

I’m glad he has decided to quit drinking and I have told him if he starts again I won’t be in his life. He has a choice in the matter though — he can do what he wants. I am not making him do anything. I’ve told him my stance on it, I’ve set my boundary, and he can take it from there.

Had he been the father of my children and if we’d been together for almost twenty years like me and my ex-husband were, I wouldn’t be so fast to say this. 

But he isn’t my kids’ dad. We have not been together since college, and I don’t have time as a single mother for anyone else’s bullshit. 

Second chances, yes. Bullshit, no.

I refuse to have a partner who causes more work and worries for me. And I think a lot of single moms who are dating feel that sentiment.

So, I want to say to all the women who have kids and are dating don’t ever be afraid to set boundaries. Who cares if you others think you’re controlling. This is your life you are living, you and your kids have to be happy, and you are allowed to filter what comes in and out of your life. 

Don’t let anyone ever tell you different.