Since becoming a single mom more than five years ago, I’ve gone through a lot of changes – especially in my dating life. I’m sure many single parents can relate.
For awhile I bounced back and forth between playing the field and not dating at all to focus on my son and myself. At the time, seeing a man one or two times and then moving on to the next was easier for me than anything committal. Casually dating meant I didn’t have to worry about getting my heart broken, giving up my freedom or introducing anyone to my son.
At a certain point though I grew bored of all the me-time and hook-ups. Without even realizing it, the desire to fall in love again had crept back into my life. I no longer wanted to be alone, and found myself wanting something more serious than my usual flings, but just because I was ready to seriously date didn’t mean I was ready for a serious relationship.
In my single mom world, there’s a difference.
To me, seriously dating someone means I’m not sleeping, making out with, or seeing anyone else. We’re exclusive – but the relationship part needs to evolve slowly.
What’s wrong with dating exclusively for a while and getting to know one another before slapping that girlfriend label across my ass?
As a single parent in my 30s, I don’t feel I can be as carefree about falling in love or getting into a relationship as I was in my teens and twenties. It’s no longer just about feelings and lust – there are so many other factors involved in my choosing a partner because my son’s future is at stake too.
Though I’ve been completely open to investing my heart and time in quality men that I meet, my first reaction to hearing the word “girlfriend” too soon is to cringe – or even worse, RUN. I’ve seen other women get giddy over being in a serious relationship, but for me, as a single mom, that’s where things get complicated.
Making a commitment like that means our lives are beginning to intertwine and I’m planning some type of a future with you – which means introducing you to my kid. It also probably means there’s an expectation that someday we’re going to take things to the next level – like moving in together or even getting married. Deciding if I want to share my life with someone takes me way more than a handful of dates.
I’ve rushed into relationships many times before and that’s obviously never ended well. This time around I made a promise to myself to slow things down and go at my own pace – though that’s not always easy for me to speak up about and communicate to the men that come into my life.
Recently a man I’d been dating asked me to be his girlfriend, and at the time I had to say no. Was he disappointed? A little bit. But I couldn’t put his feelings above my own and end up in relationship I was not truly ready for.
As awkward as the conversation was to have, I explained to him my current fears about labels and seriously serious commitments. I told him how I felt about him and reassured him that I was dating him exclusively, but I was also honest about the fact that I needed more time to get to know him before I was going to be comfortable enough to enter into a full-blown relationship.
Don’t be afraid to express how you feel. Be honest with the person you are dating about what you are comfortable with.
Despite my thinking he’d end things, my hesitation didn’t scare him off. He wasn’t hurt or pissed off either. He was willing to continue being exclusive without being able to call me his girlfriend yet.
A funny thing happened after we had that exchange; because I was able to be completely candid about my feelings and also listen to his, my fears about labels subsided. His willingness to stick around, despite my reservations, made me realize he was worth taking the leap into girlfriend territory.
I think this is the first time I’ve ever entered into a relationship 100% authentically me – and it feels pretty damn amazing.
Moral of the story? Don’t be afraid to express how you feel. Be honest with the person you are dating about what you are comfortable with. Lasting relationships are built on trust and communication, and we all want a lasting relationship, right?
Be proud of who you are. Be your quirky, baggage-ridden, AMAZING self. Anyone who can’t deal shouldn’t be in your life anyway. The right kind of partner will accept your imperfections and help carry your bags, so you both can enjoy the ride.