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A Special Note for Single Parents
EDITORíS NOTE: The following is an excerpt from Single Men Are Like Waffles - Single Women Are Like Spaghetti by Bill and Pam Farrel (Harvest House Publishers).
Single parents have all kinds of stories, all kinds of pressures, and all kinds of issues. How do you know if and when you are ready to date when you have kids to raise and the memory of a broken relationship to live with? Itís common for people to compound the hurt in their lives by getting into new relationships before settling the issues of old ones. Here are some questions that are vital to ask yourself if youíre trying to balance parenthood and a personal social life.
1. Are you completely finished with all court hearings of any kind? In other words, is your divorce really final?
2. Have you completed divorce recovery counseling or been in a divorce recovery group?
3. Have you and the children settled into a new routine?
4. Do you have at least one group of single friends, or are you a part of at least one organization where single parents can socialize as a group?
5. Have you forgiven your former spouse?
6. Are you attending a church that has programs for single parents, divorce recovery, and counseling that help single parents heal so they can integrate into the general congregation?
7. Do you have a childcare system in place so that your children are encouraged and ministered to when you socialize?
8. Have you talked with the children about their feelings of you dating again?
9. Have you determined what you might have done to contribute to the end of the last relationship?
10. Have you created a list of qualities you are looking for in the next person you marry?
If you canít answer yes to all ten, then you are not ready to date yet. Letís take a look at each.
Are you completely finished with all court hearings of any kind? In other words, is your divorce really final?
The biggest mistake we see individuals make is getting involved in another relationship too soon. (In many cases, getting involved with another person is what ended the first marriageóthatís definitely too soon!) Divorce is traumaticóto yourself and to your children. Give God time to heal you and your children. Too often, the wounded parties think they are okay because the immediate shock and turbulence is overóuntrue. After both the Vietnam War and the Gulf War, veterans who came home soon discovered many harmful side effects from what theyíd been exposed to in the war. Divorce carries its own ďagent orangeĒ and you are probably shell-shocked, so give yourself some time to recover. As a basic minimum rule of thumb, for every year you were married, you should take a month off from dating. This formula goes into effect only after the divorce is finalónot just after the papers are filed. Itís not fair to another person, nor to your children, to expose them to the whole divorce process and a new relationship at the same time. Bob Burns and Tom Whiteman, in The Divorce Recovery Handbook, say this:
Go slow. That will be frustrating, but be patient. Research shows that it takes three to five years to learn to trust again, to fully reenter society. Thatís how long you can expect to be recovering from the grief of divorce, attaining a level of acceptance. But itís usually another year or more before you can really turn your attention outward again, restoring relationships and overcoming vulnerability. Itís a long slow road.
Have you completed divorce recovery counseling or been in a divorce recovery group?
If the divorce was a mutual decision, then you have some sorting out to do. Why didnít the first relationship work? Are there new skills to learn? If you left your mate, why? Was it their unhealthy choicesóor yours? If your mate left you, you are going through grief just as real as if you lost someone to deathóor maybe worse because in divorce, the person chose to leave you. Rejection often feels worse than bereavement.
Any new relationship will have plenty of issues of its own. And there will be issues you canít help but carry forward such as custody and parenting with your ex. Why compound the problem by carrying unnecessary baggage forward? Many issues can be effectively dealt with in a counseling office or small group setting. An added benefit of counseling and small groups is that your life will be very stressful as you navigate the divorce and the recovery. You will want to talk out these issues (women really want to talk them out), and your friends may get tired of hearing them. Counseling and small group settings are a safe haven for your feelings. The worst thing you can do is put your child in the place of a counselor! Commit early on that you wonít vent your emotions when youíre with your children. As much as possible, try to help your child have a normal, happy childhood. They are grieving too, so they really donít need adult-level problems added to their already hurting hearts and minds.