Dating as a single mom can be intimidating, to say the least. If you rush in too soon, before your heart has had a chance to heal, you may find yourself repeating familiar patterns. Here are three mistakes to avoid and three truths to hold onto as you seek a new partner.
Will I ever find love again?
Will the kids be okay with him?
How do I do this dating thing again?
Am I ready for this?
Will I make the same mistake I made last time?
As a newly divorced, single mom, I was desperate to discover the answers to all these questions. The fear of ending up permanently single plagued me, and I didn’t want to grow old alone.
I’m fully aware of how dramatic that sounds now—then I was only 30 years old—but if you’ve ever been a single mom—you know. Whatever your age, being single with children invites new levels of insecurities and doubts.
I’ve never met a single mom who planned on becoming one. Even for women like me, who end up finding themselves choosing single motherhood as a better alternative to staying in an unhealthy marriage, it is earth-shattering, nonetheless.
As much as I believed I was walking with the Lord and surrounding myself with wise counsel at the time, I now know that there were major blind spots and places I left myself wide open to the enemy. I was more vulnerable than I knew, and much to my surprise, even deceived by subtle lies I was believing—about myself, and even about the goodness of God.
The redemption from my ‘learning the hard way’, is in sharing my lessons learned with you, in the hope that you can avoid some of the pain. If you are a single mama who’s asking all those same questions, you are not alone. Lean in to hear the Holy Spirit’s voice as you read my words. I trust He will speak.
LESSONS I LEARNED THE HARD WAY | MISTAKES TO AVOID
Mistake #1: I Jumped Immediately into a Relationship
I know that seems like an obvious ‘no-no’, but the opportunity came dressed like a Hallmark movie. I was waitressing on weekends to make ends meet, and in comes this farmer (flannel shirt, boots, and all) with a nice smile and a little twinkle in his eye. He came to dinner with his parents (which means he MUST be a great guy, right?!) and after discovering we had a few mutual friends, I received a Facebook message from him after my shift.
I justified the ill timing with things we had in common—he was also a Christian, also had two little girls, also had been through a divorce, etc. What I didn’t realize was that you can’t skip or rush healing from deep wounds. Fast-forwarding through the ‘hard parts’ simply doesn’t work, and because I tried to do that, I had major blind spots and areas of insecurity that needed attention.
Mistake #2: I Made a Decision to Be (and Stay) in a Relationship Based on Fear of Being Alone
Now, at the time, I would have never admitted to being desperate. I wasn’t plastering my bio all over dating sites or begging my friends to set me up. I wasn’t spending my Friday nights at the bar, hoping someone would buy me a drink.
But desperation is not always displayed outwardly. Sometimes, it’s an internal settling—making excuses, and justifying things you know aren’t God’s best for you.
When you’re desperate, you aren’t objective. I wasn’t looking at the quality of the relationship. Instead of making judgements based on reality, I was judging the relationship based on avoiding pain.
It was easier to stay in a relationship that was growing unhealthier by the day than go through the pain of a break up. It was easier to try to make it work than go through the pain of starting over again. It was easier to make excuses for the big issues like manipulation, jealousy, control, etc. than to face that I had ended up in a relationship just like the one I had left.
Never make decisions out of pain.
In hindsight, I could see major similarities between my first marriage and the rebound relationship that immediately followed. Shockingly, I was totally oblivious at the time.
Maybe you remember the famous clip from the movie “Jerry Maguire” when Dorothy (played by Renee Zellweger) proclaims to her sister, “I love him! I love him! For the man he wants to be. And I love him… for the man he almost is.”
That last sentence sums up my biggest mistake in a nutshell.
Mistake #3: I Overlooked Red Flags and Dated Based On Who I Believed Someone Could Be.
I was aware of some pretty big problems right upfront that should have stopped me dead in my tracks. But I didn’t pay any attention to them. I dwelt on what was good and minimized what was bad.
Call me an optimist (everyone always has). But in reality, those rose-colored goggles fog up pretty easily. They’re not to be worn all the time. It’s one of my greatest attributes that God allows me to highlight the gold in people and call it out. But any strength over-exerted can become a weakness—maybe even a kryptonite.
I learned the importance of not ignoring red flags. If something seems off, it is. Be curious about discovering all you can about a man as early as possible, and if you find yourself hiding little details or making excuses—be brave enough to step back and really evaluate what your future could look like if none of these red flags disappear.
Don’t let your desire to get married push out common sense.
You can’t marry someone for the person they almost are. There is no promise in the potential you think you see. If there are qualities today that you’re hoping will disappear or improve over time, that’s a good indicator you may need to really examine your own heart.
THE TURNING POINT | DISCOVERING I NEEDED TO HEAL
After two devastating break-ups that involved not just me, but also little broken hearts, I knew I had to do some heart work myself.
At the root of my three major mistakes was one common deficiency: Knowing my worth and completeness in Christ. The foundation for entering any healthy dating relationship starts there.
I didn’t have my identity solidified in who God says I am. I didn’t know my value, simply as a daughter of God.
I spent two years healing my heart, learning to hear God’s voice, and renewing my mind in the Truth of His Word.
I dug deep and realized how afraid I was of being alone forever. I felt unworthy of God’s best because I had a past full of mistakes, regret, and ‘mess’. I had guilt over the baggage I came with, and even though I would never in a million years view my children as baggage, I was fearful someone else might. I allowed loneliness and the fear of missing out to motivate me to prematurely enter relationships.
After re-calibrating my heart with God’s and really starting to dream again about what He put inside me—not just wife-and-mom me, but me me—my expectations leveled up.
What happened with the next man I decided to date was very different from the times before.
The questions were still there:
Will he really be the one?
Will the kids be okay with him?
Will his kids be okay with me?
Am I really ready for this?
But the answers were now different. I was okay either way.
I had such a high value on my children, our family, and the culture we had created in our home, I was unwilling to settle and perfectly content to carry on as we were.
After much persuasion from a dear friend, I agreed to join an online dating platform for a month. Certain it would be a waste of my time, I mostly just wanted her to leave me alone about it and this was my only hope of silencing her.
I posted one picture and two sentences: “I love Jesus and I love kids. If you want to know more, you’ll have to ask.” I definitely wasn’t trying very hard.
As expected, I received a number of shallow messages that barely elicited a response, and considering this was my ‘last resort,’ I actually started getting a little discouraged. And then I received a message unlike the rest…
THE FINAL ROUND | TRUTHS THAT MADE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
Truth #1: You Attract Who You Are
When I was insecure and desperate, I attracted insecure and desperate men. When I became confident and mature, I attracted a confident and mature man.
Of course, David (now, my husband!) wasn’t perfect. But I was shocked to discover that I didn’t find myself having to overlook major red flags or justify things I knew weren’t in line with what I truly wanted in a relationship.
It was worth the time and effort invested in myself on the front end to experience this on the other side. Because I valued myself, I now had the privilege of getting to know a man who truly valued me, too.
Truth #2: You Can Afford to Be Picky
I started out with a scarcity mindset: believing there weren’t any ‘good men’ left, or that it would be hard to find someone who would appreciate me, love my children, and share my faith and beliefs. This mindset led to settling, because deep down, I believed the lie that I better just take what I could get.
The truth is, there is no shortage of good Christian men. They are looking for confident, mature, and joyful Christian women who know who they are and are secure in what they want. I had to become this woman to attract this man.
During the time leading up to meeting David, I chose not to date anyone else, but that’s not because there weren’t other opportunities. I was picky on purpose, because I believed I could be. If I had settled prior to meeting him, I may not be with him now. So it’s always worth it to hold out for the man of your dreams, and your children’s dreams too!
Truth #3: God (Really, Really) Wants to Bless You With His Best.
“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
I’ll never forget, at a time when I was doubting if God really wanted to bless me with a husband again, someone said this to me: “God wants a husband for you more than you even want one for yourself. And He will bring you just the right man, at just the right time.”
Those words touched my heart in such a deep way, I was instantly moved to tears. It almost seemed too good to be true, because I still had threads of believing I was unworthy of such a blessing. Could it really be true that God wanted a happy marriage for me more than I wanted it for myself?
IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT YOU
Being on the other side of dating and marrying the man God truly had prepared for me, I can say with 100% confidence that it is true. It is true because He saw all of the details of my life that would be better with a marriage and family centered around Him. It wasn’t just about making me happy; it was about fulfilling the plans and purposes He had for all our lives. He knew we would be better together.
He saw the ways I would impact Dave’s children and the ways Dave would impact mine. He saw the love these un-biological siblings would have for each other that would be a picture of grace and redemption. He saw the ways Dave would cheer me on and encourage me to step into the fullness of my calling. He saw the lives we would impact as a couple, and how much more effective we would be as a team. He saw Charlotte—child #7 in our family—who joined us about two years into our marriage.
GET CLEAR ON WHAT YOU REALLY WANT
Mama, if you are single and in a place of longing for companionship again, wishing you had someone to fall asleep talking to at night, and dreaming of the days when you aren’t raising kids on your own, I completely understand.
I wish I would have had someone telling me, “It’s completely normal to feel this way. And also— there’s nothing wrong with you if you aren’t dating.”
If you haven’t lately, dream with God about your future and what He wants for you. Rediscover the dreams in His heart for you—who you are to become, the impact you’re called to make, and the type of man who would complement your calling.
Know the difference between things you won’t tolerate and things you’d appreciate. Write down your wishes and your deal-breakers, so that when an opportunity comes and you’re tempted to be swept away in emotion, you’ll have something objective upon which you can refer back.
Most of us never expected to be single moms. The loneliness can feel heavy and the fear about the unknown future can be paralyzing at times. But dating as a single mom is a bigger deal than just finding a good guy to spend time with. When the waiting gets hard and time seems to be moving slowly, remember that finding the right man to share your life, future, and children with is worth taking your time.
God’s best is worth waiting for, and while you’re waiting, you’re also becoming! Becoming the right woman for the man of your dreams is not passive and it doesn’t happen on its own.
Allow God to search your heart and reveal areas that need to be healed. Allow Him to uproot lies and renew your mind according to His Truth. This became my prayer: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
Believe that you are worthy of His very best. You are. The more you believe this and step into your true identity and wholeness in Him, the more prepared you will be to steward the next relationship with wisdom.
Hold on to the promise that His best is for you, and then it will come.
Which of the beautiful truths Elizabeth shared in this article did your heart need to hear today as you navigate the rocky world of dating as a single mom?
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