And how to avoid them.
I've spent the last four years adjusting to the single parent side of my divorce, but I haven't done much to address the single woman side of post-divorce life. I'm hoping to change all that, but the mere thought of entering the dating world in earnest is scary as can be.
To remedy my fears, I turned to seasoned dating coaches, Julianne Cantarella, MSW, and Elisabeth Lamotte, a licensed psychotherapist and relationship expert, to figure out the biggest dating mistakes single moms make (and the smart moves that should replace them).
1. Waiting too long to start dating again.
"Re-entering the dating world is easier when you haven't been alone for too long," says Cantarella. "Once you've taken the time to recover from your divorce, you might want to try getting your feet wet. I've seen clients get overly comfortable being single, so when they re-enter the dating world it brings on a whole set of complexities. Like being 'set in their ways,' which makes it even more difficult to be open to someone new to share their lives with," Cantarella says.
What to do instead: Start out slowly, Cantarella says. One safe, effective and time-efficient way to start out is to trying online dating. Here, you're in control. You are able to set the pace and decide who is right for you.
2. Being exclusive too soon.
"As a dating coach I encourage my clients to cast a wide net and date more than one person until talk of exclusivity arises," Cantarella says. "I've found that because my divorced clients come from long-term monogamous relationships, they feel they shouldn't date more than one person at a time," she adds.
Dating more than one person allows you to compare and contrast and see who rises to the top. It also gives you the opportunity to date until you're ready to commit, without becoming completely absorbed by one person.
What to do instead: The idea of monogamy should be introduced in a committed relationship, not forced on one. You should date more than one person, so that you have an opportunity to see who is an ideal match for you. Also, never assume that you are in a committed relationship until you have discussed it with the person you are dating.
3. Dating too soon.
There aren't always hard and fast rules regarding when to start dating. The circumstances surrounding your divorce or even the state of your marriage pre-divorce may play a part in whether a woman is emotionally ready to date.
LaMotte recommends that newly separated women give themselves a full year to get used to being single before they begin to date. "No matter what the circumstances, a woman needs time to reassess who she is and what she wants out of a future relationship, in order to prevent jumping back into a bad relationship," notes LaMotte. "She needs to move from being a we to a me."
What to do instead: "Ideally, a recently separated woman should wait until she feels adequately adjusted to the separation, and genuinely happy with her independent life before she brings someone else into the picture," LaMotte says. "This way, she'll bring someone into a happy, healthy scenario, rather than a traumatic one."
If you choose to ignore this advice, LaMotte says the best thing you can do is take things slowly.
4. Becoming sexually intimate too soon.
This a doozy, the experts tell me.
"Many of my clients have this false conception that sexual intimacy is part of dating and believe that no adult man would be willing to wait for sex. Or perhaps, it's been a long time since they've been intimate with someone and they are craving the connection. What they fail to realize is that the act of sex will bond them emotionally, making it difficult to leave the relationship if it's not a match," says Cantarella.
What to do instead: Don't get into bed with any of your suitors until you're ready. If you want to take the emotional connection to the next level, trust your judgment. A good match will wait for you, and you don't want to feel stuck, again, in a bad one.
5. Introducing kids too soon.
As a single mom, you want to know that a prospective boyfriend can interact well with your children — but making the introduction is a tricky situation.
"Introducing the children too soon can set the stage for a modern tragedy," says Cantarella. "It's not only the woman who can be hurt if the relationship ends, but the children as well." A savvy single mom should wait as long as possible before introducing her kids to the potential boyfriend and never make the intro around the holidays, the experts advise.
"Women should gain a sense of her boyfriend's interaction based on how he treats her and possibly his own children, if he has them," says Cantarella, who suggests erring on the side of caution. "Once the boyfriend is introduced there is no going back, and expectations are raised," she adds.
What to do instead: Time is the best measure of knowing when to introduce the children. Traditionally men view the introduction of children to be a big step. When you have talked about exclusivity and are both sure you share the same vision for the future of your relationship, then you can introduce the kids.