Yes, ladies and gentlemen (especially the divorcés): Although this may not be an ideal life scenario—and I’m not advocating divorces or break-ups—there is indeed life after divorce.
Given that my first marriage ended five years back, I have several dating experiences as a single father. I realise that it’s not as easy as dating as a regular single guy—there are a lot of different considerations. So think very carefully when considering marriage, so you won’t divorce. Period.
Here are five key things to keep in mind before you jump into your next relationship:
1. The Common Mistake
I jumped into a relationship soon after my marriage ended. Call this a rebound phase, if you will: I didn’t think about all the things that I wanted in someone, what’s important and what’s not—I just jumped in because I was lonely.
This is a pretty common mistake. I didn’t give myself enough time to heal and to first learn how to make myself happy. I was scared of being alone, of not being able to find someone who would accept my past and my additional responsibilities.
Consequently, I didn’t know what I was doing, and went into a new relationship for the wrong reason. I was dependent on my then-girlfriend for my happiness, and I was still dealing with personal issues from my past. Surely enough, this new relationship didn’t last long.
2. The Two Great Challenges
This is the biggest struggle of dating as a single dad. I have a daughter in pre-school, and I don’t compromise my time with her. I can understand why this could be difficult for some girls.
It was stressful trying to manage my time—ensuring that the weekends were for my daughter and me, while the other days were for my then-girlfriend. After a while, this wasn’t enough. That’s when I started sacrificing my time with my daughter for my girlfriend. It felt like I was letting my daughter down.
On the other hand, if I didn’t spend enough of the free, non-working hours with my girlfriend, I felt that I wasn’t doing enough for her.
b) The right time to merge both worlds
When is the right time to introduce my daughter to my girlfriend? I never felt comfortable doing it because I had always wanted to be entirely sure the new relationship would last forever. I got a lot of pressure from my then-girlfriend to do it so we could all spend time together on the weekends. After more than a year and a half, I finally told my daughter I had a girlfriend (after her mom met my then-girlfriend and begrudgingly gave her blessing).
Unfortunately, going back to Point Number 1, about six months later we broke up. (I won’t get into the reason why, but I’m happy about the decision!) Thankfully, my daughter took it all in stride: she just wanted her daddy to be happy.
But, seriously: Don’t make the same mistake I did, as mentioned above. First know exactly what you want in your next partner!
3. Priorities Matter
Now, when it comes to dating, my priorities are different from the time I was just a regular single guy. Of course, I have matured over time. But the fact I have a daughter to think about definitely influences what qualities I want in a future life partner.
I learnt that I need someone who is mature, stable, friendly, kind, fun, patient, and who loves kids (of course)—a lot of the same things which most guys look for.
Most significantly, she has to be someone who will be a good role model for my daughter. If the relationship turns out to be for the long haul, I definitely want my daughter to look up to this woman, and see her as a positive influence.
4. Learn To Be Happy First
It’s not the easiest thing to learn, yet this kind of self-awareness comes hand-in-hand with learning to love myself. Over time, I have learned to be comfortable with my vulnerability, to not be afraid to talk to someone and ask for help.
Men tend to keep things to themselves. I was no different, at first. After the divorce and at certain times during my last relationship, I was not in a good place, mentally speaking. It was affecting my ability as a dad.
However, what pushed me forward was my strong desire to be the best dad in the world, so I sought people to talk to. I have even found some great single dad blogs to read (such as ChopperPapa.com)—I’m not afraid to admit it. You wouldn’t believe how much all this has helped.
5. It’s Not About You
Nothing speeds up the adulting process for anyone than parenthood. Being a dad, you’d want to (hopefully) do everything in your power to make sure your kid is healthy and happy with a bright future. A lot of times this takes sacrifice from the parents, but, trust me: as long as your intention is pure, it’s not a hard sacrifice to make.
Having a kid has taught me how deep love can truly be. Post-divorce, my daughter and I have become very close and have developed an amazing bond—this is true love! Most of all, I’ve learned that to love someone else fully, I have to love myself first (refer to Point Number 4). Through this experience, I also know exactly what I am looking for in my next partner (refer to Point Number 3), and what real love looks like.
Ultimately, single dads are used to taking care of someone else and themselves simultaneously. I feel that this virtue of selflessness and self-care will translate well into my future relationship and the community at large.
For the newly single dads reading this…
I hope you can learn something from my story, and not make the same mistakes I did.
- What not to do:
- Don’t jump into a relationship before making sure you are fully healed.
- What to do:
- Seek out people to talk to. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Love yourself. Embrace your one-on-one time with your kid—kids grow up fast, so remember how blessed you are to have this opportunity to nurture a special and unique bond with them now!
- Once you’re ready to date, list down exactly what you want in your next partner. And when you start dating, be honest and upfront: Set clear expectations about your time commitments, as well as how long it may take before you introduce your kid, and how big of a deal this occasion is for the both of you.
For the single ladies thinking about dating a single dad…
I hope you can come to appreciate some of the struggles we face. It’s not always easy to date us, especially with our time commitments.
But let’s instead concentrate on the many positives: We tend to be patient with the whole dating process, we know how to love someone other than ourselves fully, and we are loyal for we are looking for something to last a lifetime.
I’m happy to say that I have come far in my healing process, and I’m now in a new, healthy relationship (which is going really well so far). So have faith that happily-ever-after’s do exist for and with the single dads. Just keep living in the moment and hope for the best!
About Mr. B
Mr. B is a man in his late 30s from the West. He has been working and living in Malaysia since 2010. Proud winner of Best Dad In The World since 2009.