Musings from outside the mainstream.
LONELY BY DESIGN writes DEAR ABBY sharing that he took on the responsibility of his young niece three years ago and hasn’t dated since. He says he was pretty active in the dating scene but isn’t sure how to go about it now. ABBY recommends explaining the situation to would be romantic interests and says “any mature woman who is worth her salt will respect” what he’s done. And not to look in the bar scene as he might have done in the past. I can’t fault ABBY’s advice, as far as it goes.
However, what she says is only partly true. There are “mature” childless women who may respect a guy that takes his responsibilities to his children seriously, but that doesn’t mean they will seriously consider him has a romantic interest. In my experience, they’re happy to receive attention, but not share it. Or, happy to spend time with you, but not create something with guy, gal and kids.
So, Dear LONELY,
While ABBY suggests you look for more mature women. I suggest that perhaps you’ve matured. But you might need a more conscious shift to realize this. I suggest that you examine your past dating habits and compare them to what you want now. Do you want a life partner or are you still imagining a more carefree time of your life?
Can you imagine creating some kind of blended family? The child is 8; she’ll be in your home for another 10 years. If you haven’t considered family in this manner before, maybe it’s time you did. But, you might also start by acknowledging what you took on.
Three years ago you took in a 5 year old and became an instant parent. You had no run up to this. There was no sweet single time with a life mate, no prep time to get used to the idea of being a parent during a pregnancy, and no gradual moving through the phases of the young child’s life. I commend you for curtailing your romantic pursuits to provide stability to your niece.
What you want now is reasonable; you want adult company. But what does that look like?
I recommend you to look specifically for women your age with a child or children. There are plenty of women out there with children who would like help and still hold out hope of creating some new version of a family.
While many people have no trouble jumping into bed with a new person and bringing the kids along, there are many others out there who will understand your reluctance to move to fast on that front. A single parent will know how hard it can be to schedule time.
From personal experience, I made a few mistakes. One, I dated childless women. Part of this was a fear of taking on another responsibility in their children. And two, I tried to protect my children from temporary relationships. So I was loath to introduce them to women, even if they were nice and commitment minded.
Well, childless women have got more discretionary income and generally more freedom, they aren’t willing to give that up, for the most part. And I realize now that I erred on thinking I was protecting my children, when I would have been a lot more relaxed, and perhaps a lot healthier and happier in the long run to simply be a little more transparent.
For example, it’s ok to tell your children “Dad has a date.” But I operate on a, ‘only tell if they ask’ policy, especially at the beginning of a relationship. And, I also think its ok to be brief on the details; “I’ll let you know if I think they’re someone I want you to meet,” and “we’re just getting to know each other.”
This is a great opportunity to model behavior for children. You are an adult seeking adult company. And at the same time your child is not your confidant. Simply maintaining good boundaries, such as not exposing your child to intimacy (even hand holding or a peck on the cheek) until the adults have figured some things out, goes a long way in protecting children from witnessing adult failures. While they may be curious, they aren’t troubled or risk any attachment in getting to know someone who may only be briefly in your life, much less theirs.
So go slow. Acknowledge what you’ve taken on and examine what you want in life now. And maybe, just maybe, go on a few dates with women who have kids. Talk to them about what you want in life and listen to what they want. You might be surprised in what you find out about yourself.