I've heard every bit of dating advice imaginable:
"Don't date until your daughter, Sam, is grown and out of the house."
"Definitely date so you can find a father figure for your girl."
"I found the love of my life using online dating. You should try it!"
"Online dating is of the Devil!"
"Don't ever date. Courting — now, that's the ticket."
At different times I tried to follow the different counsel. I swore off dating altogether, I attempted courting (which felt a lot like dating), and finally I considered the online option. While I was trying to figure it all out, I met the man of my dreams at a ministry conference, and we eventually married.
Throughout my 12 years of dating haphazardly, dating strategically or not dating at all, I learned a few things. Here are some bits of wisdom I gleaned from my experiences:
It's important to consider the needs of you and your child. There is no one-size-fits-all rule that applies to kids and single parents. Perhaps you need to take some time alone to heal from previous relationships, or your child may need your undivided attention for a season. Listen to God and close friends to discern what is best.
Your child needs you to guard her heart from further loss. Your child has already lost the chance to live with one parent — whether through death, divorce or abandonment. Her heart is wounded, so be diligent in protecting her from further pain. When I decided to date, it was my duty to protect Sam. That meant really knowing a man before letting him into her life and being cautious by allowing the relationship to build slowly. I found the best way to achieve that safety was to introduce her in a group setting.
You get to model purity. God calls all of us to purity because it's for our best. What a unique opportunity single parents have to model purity for their children. When they see us saying "no," it ultimately gives us more credibility when telling them to say "no." We can also teach our kids by example how remaining pure builds trust in a relationship and keeps the focus on true compatibility.
There's a peace that comes by trusting God. As you live life fully and wait on God, He is more than able to bring a companion into your world. My husband, Brian, came into my life as both he and I were pursuing ministry. My daughter watched that unfold, and now she has the foundation to believe that God can do the same for her.
Patience makes a difference. Sam loved having Brian in our lives — until the wedding day arrived. On that day, she started crying, certain that my love for Brian would change everything about my love for her. I wrapped her in my arms and reminded her that my love was unending, that we would still be mother and daughter with special moments just for the two of us. Be patient if your child shares similar fears. Don't dismiss his or her feelings, and offer plenty of reassurance.
God is the author of romance. He created the most fabulous love story in His pursuit of our hearts. Although dating as a single parent is not without its risks, it's also an opportunity to reflect the joy that comes from a godly relationship. If your child has been hurt by death or divorce, modeling healthy romance is an opportunity to build her romantic dreams for the future. You can help her see that, under God's covering and in God's timing, romance can still be a beautiful thing.
This article first appeared in the August/September 2011 issue of Thriving Family magazine. Copyright © 2011 by Elsa Kok Colopy. Used by permission. ThrivingFamily.com.
Single Parent Toolboxby Dr. Juli Slattery
Dating after a divorce? Ask yourself these questions:
- Are you biblically free to remarry? Although Christian leaders disagree about interpretation, there are several passages in the Gospels and Paul's epistles that relate directly to this question. Research them and ask your pastor for guidance before even thinking about dating.
- Have you healed from your divorce? Experts generally agree that it takes a minimum of two years to process the many emotions and ramifications of divorce.
- Do you have a covering? Even though you are not a teenager, you need accountability, especially in matters of the heart. Do you have a wise friend or mentor who can speak truth into your life? Are you willing to listen?
This article first appeared in the August/September 2011 issue of Thriving
Family magazine. Copyright © 2011 by Focus on the Family.
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