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The Dented Fender: Single Parent Edition

Hey Folks! As promised, the last entry of each month will be one devoted to the single parents in our lives. A different topic will be addressed each month. For our first post, I tapped my good friend Elizabeth Lewis. She is a life and dating coach, a teacher and speaker, and the author of First Date Next Mate: Perspectives in “Dating” the Next Time Around. Elizabeth is this bubbly little fireball of a lady who lights up a room with her smile. Though she was widowed a few years back, she has come to a place of healing, grace and strength, and she has a lot of wisdom and insight to share. Below is a brief excerpt from her book, updated just for our Dented Fender community. Whether or not you’re a single parent, I believe her insight will help you to help yourself and/or others. Happy reading!

What? Dating? How Do I Know I’m Ready?

How do I know when I’m ready to date? Great question. We’re all in different places with dating: newly divorced and feeling like a kid in the candy store; widowed, or divorced for years and ready to settle down; never married and out of a serious, long term relationship, or never wanting to remarry, and every place in between. In fact, one week you might think you’re ready and the next you’re sure you’re nowhere near it. What to do?

First, it’s best that you heal emotionally from your breakup/divorce/death of a loved one before jumping back in. Why? Because you’re not emotionally ready to give 100% to someone else. You’ll THINK you are ready. You’ll find yourself missing physical touch and you’ll look in all the wrong places to find it (it’s not hard to find, by the way!) I’m talking here about being emotionally ready to jump into a relationship.

Does that mean if you’re not emotionally ready, you can’t date casually? No. You can. But, be clear that that’s where you are. If two people are in the same place with dating, it won’t be a problem. But, if you have one emotionally healed person dating someone who is just starting to heal, you won’t be in the same place. Don’t pretend to be healed/over your ex if you’re really not. More people get hurt when that happens and you may have to deal with another break up (and back to spiraling to that dark, negative place).

Some ask, “What does it mean to be emotionally available?” It means being over your ex/old girl/boyfriend/deceased spouse to the point thinking of him/her doesn’t evoke tears, anger, resentment, or any negative emotion. There are many ways to heal: therapy (always a good option), pray, go to church, read a self-help book (so many good ones out there), go out with your girlfriends/guy friends, pamper yourself, reflect, write, meditate, take a class (like one on dating), or consider hiring a life coach or a dating consultant.

You might be thinking how do I heal?

First, I know it sounds cliché, but do you love yourself? You need to be sure you’re grounded in yourself (have taken a long enough break between relationships) and have a healthy perspective for dating. Do you think you’re a desirable, positive, happy person? If you said yes, you may be ready. If you answered no, here a few suggestions (these are also good when you are trying to get over someone):

· Go to church—get spiritual healthy. Ask God to heal you from the inside out, and to help lead and guide you along the way. Consider joining a bible study.

· Examine your values and decide WHO you want to be in the dating world—then become that person. Andy Stanley (minister at North Point Community Church) says, “Are you who the one you’re looking for is looking for?” This is such great advice. If you’re a party girl and sleeping with every man in sight (or party boy doing the same), yet you don’t want to marry someone like that, the person you want won’t even see you or look your way. Be the person you’re looking for. Stanley says, “Instead of searching for the right person, become the right person.”

· Don’t date to fill an empty heart or get over your ex, or to feel better about a dreadful life. You won’t find dating fun if you’re in this place and you won’t be a good partner to the other person. You need to find ways to become WHOLE on your own first before you can give yourself to someone else.

· Read some dating books—there are so many good ones out there. (Check out my book! First Date Next Mate: Perspectives in Dating the “Next” Time Around). Read self-help books or the Bible.

· Spend time with positive people. Catch yourself when you’re being negative and turn negative statements into positives.

· Hit the gym. Get physically healthy. Spend time away from your computer by going outdoors. Nothing clears a mind like being in nature.

· Start a new project. Do activities that bring you joy.

· Go to therapy to clear things from your past. A lot of times we don’t even know we are “stuck” so it’s important to explore and get a “check up” from the “neck up.”

· Volunteer/serve in your community, or take your nieces and nephews out to the zoo or park. Enjoy laughing with young minds. Travel some place you’ve never been.

· Some people say make a list of what you’re looking for. You can do this, but know that your list may very well change again and again. We all want someone who is loyal, honest, has good character, but don’t make your list so constrictive that no one can match it (i.e. I only want to date someone who is 6’-6’2” with blonde hair, likes music and makes $150,000+). It’s more about the way you FEEL when you’re with this person. I’m not talking crazy chemistry/infatuation/lustful feelings. I’m talking about through a lot of conversation you can see this person would be a good match for you (no matter what your list says).

A Quick List of 10 Ways to Know If You’re Ready to Date Again

1. You’ve Rediscovered Who You Are – You know who you are outside of a relationship and have found activities you like to do without a partner by your side.

2. Guilty Feelings are Gone – Widow/ers might feel this more because you didn’t ask to be single. We are all wired for connection, but it might feel funny going out again so soon. As soon as the guilty feelings are gone, it’s a sign you’re ready.

3. You Feel Like the Rest of Your Life is Stable – It’s important (and responsible) to not feel shaky about other areas of your life (finances, job, kids, etc.). This doesn’t mean you have to wait until life is perfect (that’ll never happen), but you should not be treading water each day keeping up with your responsibilities.

4. No More Negative Feelings or Fear – If you had a tough divorce, this is especially true! You should be past the hurt, bitterness and anger most days, and more excited than fearful.

5. No Comparisons to the Past – It’s probably not a good idea to talk often about how wonderful your deceased husband was or how great your marriage was when it was good. A little bit of that is OK, but if you’re talking a lot about your past (especially early on), then you may not be over it. You should be ready to look for the uniqueness of the one you’re with.

6. Ready to Be Vulnerable Again – If you were cheated on or hurt in a past relationship, it might be hard to trust again. You will get better at setting boundaries (defining boundaries as well as protecting them), but you should be ready to be vulnerable and trust someone again. It is a big risk to put yourself out there again, but that is part of the process, knowing each relationship makes you stronger for the next.

7. Dating for the Right Reasons– You won’t be dating for the kids, to find a step-parent, out of remorse or to fill a lonely heart. You’ll be ready to date to enhance your life; not to “complete you,” but to “complement” you.

8. You’re Past Grieving & Excited to Date – Widow/ers obviously will grieve, but divorced people will, too. It’s still a loss. But you’re past it and excited to move forward! It’ll just feel like it’s the right time. You might not meet the right person initially, but the process will feel right.

So, if that’s where you are, you’re ready! If it’s not, you will get there in time. Be patient and work through what you need to work through. “Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is [for you] – his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

For further thought:

After reading this, do you think you’re ready? Why or why not? Trusting God’s timing can be tough. Proverbs tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding and He will make your path straight,” (Proverbs 3:5). Look for ways you can tie into God so He can keep you heading in the right direction!

You can find more from Elizabeth at

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