The period immediately after one’s divorce/separation/death of a partner is a challenging time. I would compare my own experience to a plotline straight out of the American horror story. You know, utterly horrific and inexplicably crazy.
Even before filing for a divorce, I had completely departed from my usual self, and I was spewing pure venom on everyone and everything that crossed my path.
Even small talk with strangers would set me off, and I’d find myself blubbering and crying to them about my ex, the state of my life, and how badly I wanted to burn the world down. I was triggered continuously, and my mouth had a life of its own.
It was as though I had no grip on myself anymore, and as time passed, I could no longer recognize the person that I had become. And of course, like any perfectly (un)reasonable person, I wanted to feel something again- warmth, validation, affection. Or at least have someone that I could shift the blame on, or have angry sex with.
But as it turns out, the person I became in the aftermath of my divorce made me persona non-grata to even the guys on Tinder looking for a quick hookup.
Yup, that’s how pathetic I was.
By this point, I was so exhausted with myself and so utterly lonely that I had no choice but to try and walk down a different path.
I started a complete clean up of my life by first withdrawing myself from all Tinder temptations, multiple attempts at setups by friends, social media, and from life itself. I realized that while I needed someone to hold me and tell me how amazing I still was, deep down, even I knew that I was not ready for normal human interaction, and especially not for dating.
It was also during this period that two realizations hit me like thunderbolts:
Not only had I not been single for (almost) the entire duration of my adult life, but I was also highly out of practice with all matters relating to sex and dating. I was like a dated relic trying to manoeuver among the younger and better-looking competition in this modern-day and age of dating.
To add to that, I now came with the accessory of a child. This immediately put me in a smaller bracket of eligibility. I felt that now only the divorced, other single parents, too old, too young, slightly off, and desperate people were up for grabs.
The dating world is a cruel, cruel one, especially when you are a single parent.
So the golden question is- When the world seems set against you, but you wish to date anyway, how do you know that you are ready to get back in the game?
To answer this question, I have put together a few hard questions that you need to ask yourself when you feel the itch to put your best-dressed self out the door again.
Am I free from the trauma of my breakup?
Your reasons to start dating again could be anything- Maybe you crave sex, a spiritual connection, adult companionship, conversation, a man or lady about the house, security, a father, or a mother figure for the kids.
Whatever the reason, ask yourself if you are undoubtedly free from the trauma and the memories of your ex? Are you able to function for days on end without having a breakdown, or do people still cross the street when they see you? Do you feel normal and grounded within yourself again?
Says Hashiq, a single father to a four-year-old daughter (with only visitation rights), “As soon as my divorce came through, my parents were out to get me married again, and I agreed, but sadly that too ended in separation within months.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, do not be Hashiq.
Do I have a grip on my reality, and am I in acceptance of it?
Many single parents fall into the trap of entitlement; they believe that because they have made many sacrifices for the well-being of their kids, they are allowed to feel young and flighty again. Some of us are also frequently tempted by dreams of running away and never coming back.
However, your reality is that you are a single parent. Even if Brad Pitt himself turns up at your doorstep, you still have to pick yourself up after that date, come back home, and realign yourself to your responsibilities, your kids, and your life.
So, before you let yourself fly, ask yourself if you are completely cognizant of your life situation, and if you aren’t, have Alexa remind you every hour of every day that you are not ready to date.
Are your expectations in check?
As a single parent, you have to set your expectations right. What is it that you seek from dating? Is it purely sex? Or are you on a mission to find your soulmate?
Whatever it is, do not make the mistake of spreading yourself thin to cover all bases, as this will only lead to pressure cooker dates, disappointments, and more heartbreak. Go on a date with your expectations clear, be flexible, and do not push your needs on the other person. For example, you’re looking for sex, but your date is seeking commitment, be an adult and call it a night on the date.
Remember, that love will come to you, funnily enough when you least expect it.
Says A, a single parent to three, “I was just about to delete Tinder when I got a match, and I thought, ‘Ok, last one’ and swiped right. After having been on only disappointing dates, I had no expectations other than having a nice dinner. But when I met Antony, I was swept right from the first second. It was probably because I had such low expectations from the date that it took all the pressure off me, and I enjoyed it. We have been together for two years now, and it’s been good. So my advice to single parents would be to relax, enjoy yourself, and don’t take yourself too seriously.”
When hit with a bad day or hard questions, do I still get mad?
A seasoned single parent learns not only to heal, but also to accept their issues, and the part that they played in their breakup, however minor it might be.
Explosive rants and uncontrolled emotions in the face of new and old problems are a dead giveaway that you are still profoundly triggered and angry, and this will lead to the world’s most disappointing dates.
So step back, seek counsel, or spiritual guidance, and accept that you are not ready to date. I took a full year off to heal.
During that period, I traveled with my son, learned yoga, cut down on toxic friends, learned my boundaries, sought therapy. Most importantly, I learned to love myself and my son to a point where I am largely unaffected by my past issues and am fully aware that only a man of godlike qualities can ever distract me from my purpose. And for that, I am willing to wait.
Am I ready to give myself and my vulnerability to a new relationship?
A new relationship means having to open up parts of yourself that your ex left severely damaged. It means having to trust again, to have some fun, and create a new world with someone entirely new for you.
Are you ready to do this? Are you ready to make a place in your already time-pressed life for someone else and their needs?
Says Kavya, a single parent to a girl, “My emotions were all over the place, and I would keep wondering why I never got a second date. It took me a while to realize that I was unconsciously holding back a lot, and I wasn’t much fun to hang out with.”
Am I ok with being by myself, or am I looking for someone to fill a void?
I saved the hardest question of them all for the last, and here it is.
Do you still tremble from boredom or self-hatred when you are left by yourself, or are you secure in the knowledge that you are alone, but not lonely?
Have you broken your old dating patterns, and built yourself up with enough self-love to fill all voids that exist within you? Therapy can play a huge role in such situations.
Finding a good counselor, like I did, who will understand your predicament and guide you towards understanding yourself and your voids, will help you to get back on the right path towards healing. Sometimes even we are unaware of the toxicity that we lend to our relationship, and a good healer/counselor can help us with acknowledging that.
So dear single parent, I know that it’s hard. I know that you want the whole package. And I know that you spend sleepless nights worrying about how you might just have missed the glorious love you truly deserve.
Here’s my suggestion- All that energy you spend worrying about your future, why not invest that into something else? I mean, you have tried relationships and marriage, and it has only got you up to this point. So why not consider this as your chance at a second innings in life?
A grand re-entry, if you will, and instead of focusing the floodlights of your attention on your ex, your broken relationships, refocus it on the things that do matter.
Like your children, for instance, who still think the world of you, no matter how much you screw up.
Like on healing yourself, by whatever means you think necessary (short of unhealthy and addictive behaviours).
Breathe and live each day as it comes to you.
Regardless of what society says and those rom-coms on Netflix force you to think of yourself, start by looking for peace in your own home by celebrating yourself. And forgive me for sounding like Oprah, but trust me, love will come to you, and if it doesn’t, and this is the main point here, you will and should be ok with that too.