WTF Wednesday: I’m a single mom and my friends shut down when I talk about dating

single mom advice

 

Dear Emma, 

WTF?! I’m a single mom of three kids, ages 7, 11 and 15. I’ve been divorced for four years. A couple years after my split, my friends urged me to start dating again — and despite my reluctance (I told myself I was too fat! Men won’t want to date a mom! How can I tell my kids that I’m going out with men!?), I did. A couple of friends set me up on blind dates, and another one actually sat at my computer and helped me fill out a Match.com profile. 

After some false starts, minor and major heartbreaks and awkward moments I started dating in earnest. I love reading your blog because you are the only person who talks about what I am experiencing: this amazing/new/horrifying/fascinating time in post-divorce dating. For the first year or so, these same friends were all ears about my antics–happy to go for brunch and listen to my funny stories, and picking up the phone when I needed to cry or sort out the minutia of a texting correspondence with a dude du jour.

But now, I get a chilly silence whenever I bring up my personal life. None of these same friends asks if I’m seeing anyone, and a couple have made passive-aggressive comments that make me think they find me to be slutty/too picky/a bad role model for my kids — yet not so long ago they were convincing me to put down the Ben and Jerry’s and go out with a human man on Saturday nights!

What is up with these bitches, and am I doing something wrong? 

Hurt and confused in Huntsville

Dear Hurt,

Our friends and family love us. They want the best for us. But we are all on our own lives journeys and none of us really ever fully understands one another.

Like you, before I started my post-divorce dating extravaganza I had all kinds of hangups about what it meant to date at this phase of life. And like you, I am still working through it — one OKCupid encounter at a time. While it is not their experience, your friends have their own ideas and prejudices about what it means for a divorced mom of three to have romantic liaisons with men who are not the father of her children.

To you and me, each date is like money in your pocket: Full of hope, promise and a brighter future. Our friends, however, can get tired of listening to what to them sounds like the same story time and again – dates full of promise that end in flames/hot sex/unreturned morning-after texts. To them, this can sound like high school redux. Something in your antics might make them reflect on their own relationships — if you feel you can be so picky in your dating, are they settling in their own ho-hum marriages? Or: They make compromises to make their marriages work — why don’t you calm down already and stop being so uncompromising? Or maybe they think you are shortchanging your kids by foregoing serious relationships with potential step-fathers en lieu of personal development and fun hookups.

In the silence and deflected conversation you sense all these judgements. It hurts especially bad because part of you has these own doubts and self-judgements as you go along your post-divorce dating journey. One-hundred percent of which is totally, absolutely normal and healthy.

On one hand, their experiences and attitudes are their own, and none of this matters. Like I said, everyone is on her own path, and you may not concern yourself with their judgements and silence treatments. But, perhaps, you may find some insight in their thoughts. It is not healthy to live in a bubble of ideas. So, if you are inclined, just ask them outright: “What do you think of all these dating stories?” And be prepared to listen with open ears.

Alternatively, you may simply respect that you and these friends do not need to understand one another on this front, and respect these conversation boundaries they have created. I certainly have done this in relationships.

In either scenario, you must find a couple of friends who do understand. I currently have several such people in my life: My friend Marc, a fellow single parent who is actively dating and on whom I rely on to exchange play-by-plays of our romantic lives, and Sasha, a friend who is 20 years older than me and married for the first time in her 40s and shares with me a similar libido and open-mindedness about men; and Kimberly, a single mom who lives in Chicago who I met on vacation there last year and is also stepping out. Not only are these friends of similar sensibilities when it comes to romance, they both find my experiences in this realm to be be interesting and relevant.

In short: no one person in your life can be your everything. Which is actually great advice to apply to all those Match.com dates.

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