Editor’s Note: Babble and ABC are both a part of The Walt Disney Company. This post may also contain spoilers from Season 1 of Single Parents.
I just recently hit the point in my post-divorce life where I finally felt ready to date again. Or make that, ever-so-carefully dip my toe back into the dating pond.
I wish I could say that getting back in the swing of things has felt pretty natural so far — like riding a bike. But good LORD, would that be a lie.
Let’s just say the struggle has been so, so real, people. And I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the awkwardness of it articulated quite as well as it is on ABC’s new hit comedy, Single Parents. In it, a group of parents try to navigate the choppy waters of single parenthood, while learning to co-parent and also get “back out there” themselves.
It’s hilarious, it’s cringeworthy, and it’s … kind of my life right now.
Don’t get me wrong, though. Being back on the market after a failed marriage isn’t all bad. But there are definitely some new hurdles to lumber over this time around. Hurdles that I might have sprinted past the last time I was dating — which was, ahem, 18 years ago.
And then there are all the questions that keep swirling around through my mind. Things like …
1. Do I give this online dating thing a whirl, or test my fate in the real world?
The last time I dated, not only was Bill Clinton our president, but the Internet was still barely a thing. (Yeah; just think about that one for a hot sec.)
If you wanted to meet a decent guy, you had to hope it happened the old-fashioned way — at a bar or through a friend. Now there’s Match, Bumble, Tinder, and Hinge (just to name a few), and you basically have to advertise yourself like a used car on eBay.
How many guys will swipe right on me if my profile says, “I like to eat ice cream from the carton and fall asleep on my couch in my underwear?”
Also, will it look cute if I tell them how loud I snore now? Because the lucky guy’s going to need noise-cancelling headphones if he spends the night, so maybe we should just get that out of the way.
2. Am I screwing up my kids if I start dating too soon?
I’m not the only one affected by my extra-curricular activities now, and just like this is all new to me, it’s also new to my kids.
The question of how soon is too soon to get back out there has definitely been on my mind a lot. But so has this one: How long is too long to wait? (I mean, I have cobwebs in places there shouldn’t be cobwebs, ya get me?)
In Single Parents, Will (played by Taran Killam) has been out of the game so long that he’s become that PTA dad. His entire focus is his daughter Sophie, and while we can all understand how that happens, there has to be some balance and time for reconnecting with your new identity as a single parent.
So far, I’ve learned that dating with kids demands honesty. Let your kids know that you’re ready and ask them how they feel about it. Then go from there.
3. Um, excuse me, whose boobs are these?!
Dating in your 40s means bringing a whole lot of new (and potentially weird) things with you into a relationship.
The last first time a man saw my boobs, it was 1998 and my body had not yet been ravaged by childbirth and breastfeeding. Oh yeah, and I didn’t have wrinkles. Or saddlebags. Or FACIAL HAIR.
I can just see it now … I’m on a romantic date at a chic restaurant. I think things are going well; we’re hitting it off. Then he leans in for what I think is a sweet first kiss, but instead he hands me a napkin and whispers, “You have some mashed potatoes in your beard.”
4. Are there even any decent men out there, or are they all damaged goods?
My therapist actually suggested that I don’t date anyone who has never been married or hasn’t been in a serious relationship in the past five years. And based on what I’ve learned from the dating scene so far, that’s some very sound advice.
I’ve also learned that lots of men and women who are re-entering the dating scene are in a similar boat as me. Their marriages simply didn’t work out.
But I’ve also come across others who have never been able to commit or are divorced and not looking to get tied down again. Take it from me: BEWARE of the latter two. There are good men (and women) out there, but it’s going to take a bit of searching to find them.
5. Wait … am I damaged goods?
There is nothing about divorce that’s easy; especially when you’re a parent. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year mourning my marriage, questioning my parenting, and trying to move forward into a new role as a single mom. All while trying to create a healthy mindset for myself.
As Angie (Leighton Meester) learns, getting back on the dating scene may not be so hard at first, but being able to commit again sure is — especially after getting hurt. As a result, she finds herself stalling on what could be a great relationship.
So how can you be sure if you’re really ready to get back out there? The short answer is basically what they told you when you first fell in love: When you know, you know. That said, everyone’s timeline is different, so go easy on yourself if you’re moving at a slower pace than your friends seem to think is “normal.” Just try to move forward — even if it’s by taking baby steps.
6. What if everything really does happen for a reason?
After a divorce, there’s a good chance you heard the ‘ole “everything happens for a reason” line from friends and family more than a few times. Or how about my personal fave: When one door closes, another one opens.
The thing is, they’re kinda true.
In the beginning, it’s too painful and complicated to even begin to see the shore through the storm. But as time passes and you begin to heal, you’ll start to realize that there’s a glimmer of truth in the idea that maybe, just maybe, something better really does lie ahead for you.
Just hang in there, and have a little faith — and some humor — in the meantime. And know that I’ll be doing the same.
Don’t miss episodes of Single Parents, airing every Wednesday at 9:30|8:30c on ABC.