I was recently given the opportunity to write an article for Arise Ministries, an organization that seeks to empower single moms. They suggested I address the following question:
How long should single divorced moms wait and get healthy before dating?
Firstly, I want to say that just asking those kind of questions is a good sign.
As far as the answer, I’m not sure I really have anything new to say. But that is perfectly ok, because I have learned that often we seek some new, life changing wisdom, when in reality we just need to do what we already know.
And chances are you have already heard this many times before:
You need to be ok alone before you can be healthy in a relationship.
So, I’m not telling you anything new, I just want to reiterate why everyone keeps saying this thing that you may so easily hear and ignore.
I believe most people have a God given desire to be in relationships. Your yearning to find someone to do life with is perfectly healthy. There are lots of benefits to being with someone and you probably think about how your kids would benefit. However, a desire can be good and healthy, but given the wrong priority it just doesn’t work. Most houses need roofs, but that doesn’t mean you build that first.
So, let’s explore why being ok alone is a necessary foundation.
If you are not ok being alone, then essentially you fear being alone. You will fear whether you can make ends meet. You will fear the pain of loneliness and the empty times where you have to face all the things you do not want to think about. You will fear the uncertainty. You will fear finding out who you really are. And so on and so forth.
Given more time, I could explain in greater detail, but just trust me on these two principles about fear:
Fear is the opposite of love.
When you act in fear, you often cause what you fear to happen.
If you are not ok being alone, then when you are with someone, fear they will leave you will prevent you from expressing that you matter. It will keep you from setting boundaries, being assertive and requiring that the relationship be healthy. Most people will treat you how you allow them to treat you.
Furthermore, even if the relationship is good and healthy, if you do not know that being alone is an option, then will you ever really know if you are in the relationship because you want to be?
Oddly enough, it was a teenage boy who said something to me once that I feel exemplifies how everyone should treat the dating process:
“I will do everything that I am ok with to keep the relationship.”
While this may seem simple and straightforward enough, it is fear that breaks the rule and causes you to do things you are not ok with. And that is how relationships are allowed to become unhealthy.
So, to answer the original question, everyone is different. I don’t believe in any set time. And even the concept of waiting until you are ok being alone is pretty gray. As you pursue that place of personal well being you will fall down, make mistakes and uncover whole new realizations about your issues and vulnerabilities. And, even when you still have work to do, exploring the dating world is ok because the bumps and bruises that come with it will just give you more experiences and insights on where you are in the process.
But first, you have to be alone until you are not afraid of it anymore. And only you can be the judge of that.