Your dating life is divided into two eras: BC and AC.
Before Children and After Children.
And it’s not the same.
“It’s a whole different ball of wax after children,” Dr. Duana Welch says , “because you can’t do anything spontaneous anymore.”
When you think about how you met new people before you had children, it was so much easier. You could go out, you could stay up late, you could bring someone home, and you didn’t have to consider what anyone else thought of your new guy but you.
Now, you come as a package deal. He’s not just dating you; he’s interviewing for a part in your family.
How can you make sure you pick someone worthy of the role? What if you don’t trust men—or even yourself? Is there any point in getting married another time around?
Dr. Duana Welch tackles those difficult questions in this week’s YBTV interview.
Her new book, Love Factually for Single Parents (& Those Dating Them), is out now.
What You’ll Learn
When I was single parenting, I really wanted a resource that would not only help me date, but help me date based on facts, based on science instead of opinion. And there was nothing at all for ordinary people.”
Dr. Welch only writes books she could have used in her own life, and she needed this one.
She became a single mother over a decade ago when her husband’s issues with addiction began to spiral out of control. Their child had been born with a life-threatening condition, and she realized she couldn’t trust her husband to administer the medication.
That realization sparked a sobering truth. “This isn’t about whether you love this guy or whether you can wait it out for him to get sober,” she told herself. “This is about whether your child is going to survive.”
So she told him she was going on vacation to visit her family, and she never returned.
She had her child but nothing else. She’d left everything behind: her job, her home, her friends, and the person she thought was the love of her life. “It was awful,” she says.
Four years later, her life would transform again. That’s when she met and married the man she’s been with for 11 years now. She got her happy ending, but she knows just how hard it was.
“If you look at dating advice books … they all pretend that you don’t have kids,” she says. “And yet we know that right now about half of American children are growing up in some scenario other than Mom, Dad and the kids.”
That’s why she decided to write her second book: Love Factually for Single Parents (& Those Dating Them).
Dating as a single parent is exponentially harder than dating before you had children. Not just practically, but emotionally, too.
“Most of us don’t just feel that we can’t trust men anymore. We really feel that we can’t trust ourselves,” Dr. Welch says. We feel responsible for our failed relationship. “If I chose this person, I’m the one who did it; nobody made me.”
Even if you know you left your past relationship for the right reasons, other people may not be so supportive. You can feel as if you’re completely alone.
“You need to pat yourself on the back for your journey,” Dr. Welch says. “You walked through the fire, and you came through.”
To start feeling better about yourself, she recommends a strategy called “notice and redirect.” Notice what you’re saying to yourself, and compare that with reality.
So, in my case, I might have said to myself, ‘Yeah, I made a pretty big mistake. I chose someone who had severe addiction issues…. But love is not necessarily enough, and I did the right thing—and in many ways the heroic thing—by giving up everything to save our child and start a new life.'”
You might think that maybe getting into another relationship again isn’t such a good idea, given how things turned out last time. But Dr. Welch says that view isn’t supported by the research.
The Virginia Longitudinal Study of Divorce and Remarriage conducted by Dr. Mavis Hetherington found that “there was only one thing that successfully reintegrated men and women post-divorce, that helped them feel whole, healthy, and happy again: getting into another relationship.”
Dr. Welch is quick to add, “Not just any relationship: a GOOD one.”
“Think of all the stuff you do now as a single parent, which is everything,” she says. “Now imagine that there’s someone who loves you, who takes a lot of that load off. Even if your self-esteem doesn’t improve by virtue of being loved, it will improve because you now don’t feel the weight of the world all by yourself.”
So it’s simply not true that “you have to get all your ducks in a row before you can be in another happy relationship,” she says. A new relationship can make you happy, even if life is still a struggle.
She offers practical dating tips, including organizing your dates in one block of time so you don’t have to constantly search for childcare.
But she offers a word of caution for single mothers hoping to find a father figure for their kids.
If you’re hoping for another father figure, you’re probably not going to get that. What you are going to get is to be a mom on your terms. You get to spend way more time with your kids. You get to be a much bigger influence in their lives, if you want to be, and you get to have the kind of relationship with them that you want to have.”
So don’t expect your new partner “to step in and be a real dad.” She adds, “Blended families exist on the Brady Bunch, and that’s it.”
There are very real challenges in embarking on a new relationship when you have kids and the man you’re dating has kids, too. But you’re not as vulnerable to those challenges if you’re informed and prepared.
“The odds that [my current husband] and I would have wound up divorced were actually closer to 95% when you consider every variable,” Dr. Welch admits. “But there’s one variable that those stats never account for, and that is: Do you understand the facts? and Do you know how to leverage those to your advantage?”
“That’s why I wrote this book,” she concludes. “It puts the odds firmly on your side.”
Visit Dr. Welch’s website now to read the first chapter of Love Factually for Single Parents for free. You can also download the free the workbook that goes along with the book.
Jump to Topics of Interest
03:58 The inspiration behind Love Factually for Single Parents
05:50 How Dr. Welch became a single parent
07:41 Rebuilding confidence by noticing and redirecting
10:00 The value of getting into another relationship
11:54 How being in a good relationship helps you feel better about yourself
13:08 Dr. Welch’s happy ending
13:58 How having children affects how you date
16:52 Remarriage and its complications
21:00 Free gifts on Dr. Welch’s website
21:39 Don’t lose hope
Another Interview with Dr. Welch
Dr. Welch discusses just how high your standards should be with men in her first interview with us.
Dr. Welch is known for using social science to solve real-life relationship issues. She’s a professor whose work has been featured in Psychology Today, Time, Redbook, and the Huffington Post. She went on her own journey to find Mr Right, and the result was a happy marriage AND her first book, Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do. Discover Love Factually.