The last time I was single and dating was 14 years ago. Yep, 2003 was the last time that I was interested in meeting men and going on dates, so finding myself divorced and back in the dating game was a shock to the system. Now admittedly, life has changed since 2003 – I’m older, wiser, have better eyebrows and nicer handbags but the idea of dating now feels even more difficult then it did years ago.
Then, I was at university, had a part-time job in a huge shopping centre and was off out with friends several nights a week. It was easy to meet people. Now, I work in a female-dominated environment and my social life consists of soft play centres and trips to the local park. Which, let me just say, is not the ideal place to meet someone over the age of 3.5. So from that point of view, I can completely understand why people have turned to online dating, but even so, I find it bizarre.
Firstly, let me admit that I haven’t tried every single site going, and I haven’t been on masses of offline dates. Let’s remember, I’m a working single mama and that takes up a lot of my time. (As does blogging, shopping, seeing friends, soft play…. maybe I am not as committed to the idea of meeting someone as I claim to be…)
Just in case my most recent ex is reading this, (hopefully he isn’t!) I did meet a nice man online. We clicked online and when we met up offline, we got on really well and it was lovely. In fact, it was the nicest first date that I have ever had, we had an amazing time. The thing is though, we were completely different and apart from the fact the we were the same age and both had children, we had absolutely nothing in common. The more time that we spent together, the more apparent that became. Honestly, there is no way in God’s earth that we would’ve met in real life. That is how polar opposite our interests were, and as much as people say opposites attract, there has to be a common interest. What would you talk about? We quickly ran out of things to say.
Despite my experiences of divorce and online dating, my romantic nature really still believes that there is someone out there for everyone, but given my disdain for technology, I am unlikely to find a connection with someone who is an expert. What would they talk to me about? Plus, I like the connection of meeting someone in real life. Seeing straight away if the spark is there rather than waste time chatting via WhatsApp, only to find out that there isn’t a connection. But for the more realistic and less cynical among you, if you are going to try online dating, here are my top 5 tips.
1: Make the time
This is a strange one, but I find it hard to find the time for dates. I work full-time. I have my little ones with me pretty much all of the time that I am not working, which leaves me very limited on when I was able to meet people. Last time I was single, I was also child-free so if I wanted to meet someone, I could do it that day. Now, it’s a logistical nightmare to arrange a date around childcare and work and this only gets magnified if the person you are meeting also has children.
People say that you will find love when you least expect it. I’m guessing that my soul mate probably isn’t the postman, I’ve never met him for one. I take that to mean that you have to put yourself out there and date. I just can’t be bothered! If I have child-free time, I am using it to browse Selfridges.com, watch anything other than Nick Jr on the tv or to eat a whole meal in peace whilst it is hot. I don’t really fancy sharing a few drinks with a stranger and have awkward silences. I like my silence by myself. Clearly, if I am not really wanting to spare my time for a date, I am not going to want to share my time and space in a relationship. However, let’s be honest, if it was a priority, I’d make time, so if dating is important to you, make the time.
2: Be honest
Honesty is always important. Be honest about what you are looking for. If you are sure that you want a relationship, don’t settle for anything less. Post up to date pictures of yourself, and make sure that you are teling the truth about your interests and life. I was always open about the fact that I am a workaholic single mama. Although I did keep the nature of my divorce, the true extent of my makeup collection and my bra size a secret. No-one needs to know everything about me. However, the fact that I have young children is a huge part of my life so I refused to hide it.
A few times I was asked if my profile picture was recent. I explained that of course it was. Obviously, it was an extremely flattering picture with my nicest shoes and best make up but it is a recent picture. It makes sense really as what’s the point in posting a drastically different picture, you’ll be found out on a date! Be proud of who you are.
3: Take a risk
Now, I don’t mean inviting strangers to your home or sharing your bank details. I mean taking a risk and dating someone different to your usual ‘type’. Though after 14 years, I’m not sure I can remember what my type is. I am a bit focussed on what my type isn’t! Online dating is such a visual way of looking for a partner, but actually, if you were to lock eyes with a stranger across a crowded room, any attraction would be based purely on a physical appearance until you got to speak to them. And again, this is my point. It is hard to know exactly what to do.
I do however draw the line at much younger men, and I mean 21,22 year olds who I am convinced must think I am a wealthy divorcee. Firstly, I was married to a teacher and secondly, I am a teacher. Teaching is not the profession to go into in order to become rich. I’m a poor divorcee. Joking aside, it is ok to have an ideal partner in mind, just approach dating with an open mind.
As a single parent, I appreciate that it isn’t the easiest to arrange dates when you are reliant on the availability of friends, family and babysitters. Also, money can be an issue if you are paying the babysitter. The thought of spending £50 before you even get out of the door can make you reluctant to go on many dates. However, I would recommend, where possible, getting out and meeting people in real life as soon as possible to see if there is a spark. Communicating only by WhatsApp for weeks on end doesn’t tell you as much as a phone conversation or a chat in person. Often, you end up meeting people and realising that they aren’t for you, which in my experience is a good thing because at least then your time isn’t being wasted.
However, whilst I advocate meeting new people and going on dates, this really doesn’t apply to your children. This sounds obvious but children of separated parents have already had enough upheaval and change because no matter how hard we try, separation and divorce does have an impact on them. Introducing a range of new people into a child’s life can be unsettling for them. I even know of one single father who introduced a date to his children after a week. That to me is insane. Especially as he then wondered why his children asked about the new ‘friend’ on the next visit… Don’t rush to introduce dates to your children. Wait until you’re sure.
5: Have fun
Obviously, when meeting people online, you need to stay safe, but also remember it is fun. Enjoy meeting people. Enjoy getting out and about and making new friends. Enjoy getting dressed up. Enjoy wearing nice jewellery and make up. But most of all enjoy having an adult conversation, with an actual adult in the evening rather than in depth discussion about why the family are taking their little baby on a bear hunt at midday, whilst shovelling carrot sticks down your throat.