When it comes to dating, it's good to have a support structure in place. Your family and friends have, no doubt, given you plenty of advice - what to do, what not to do, where to go, how to act, what to wear, who to talk to....
The list will be endless because everyone means well. The thing is ... lots of people will want to be involved because they want to live vicariously through you (as a single person) as you try your best to navigate the dating world.
Some friends will find it exciting that you're dating again – they get the thrill of the date without any of the headaches or complications! Don't lose sight of why you're dating. It's for you, and you alone, so always go with your instincts.
So ... you've decided that the time is as right as it's ever going to be to date again. You've waited long enough right? Oh God, now what?! Remember the common questions I said you'll find yourself asking? I bet they're all rushing through your head at 100mph now! I'll try and answer a few to put your mind at rest before you make your first move:
• Where do I find potential (normal) dates?
This is a question I still find myself asking. I work full time, I'm of a certain age (early 40s) and going to clubs and bars just isn't my style anymore. There's a distinct gap in the market for professional 40-somethings.
Online dating sites are probably the easiest and quickest way of finding dates but a word or warning: you pay peanuts, you get monkeys – the free sites are free for a reason.
You'll spend a lot of time having to sort the wheat from the chaff, the chancers from the few serious daters, and you may want to consider, if you can afford it, paying a monthly fee to a more 'credible' paid dating site.
If that's not your thing, how about singles' holidays, speed dating, the gym or, dare I say it, social media? I 'may' have been lucky enough to date someone I met from Twitter once so you just never know!
• When should I tell a potential date I'm a parent?
If you do decide to go on a dating site, telling potential dates you're a parent is as simple as ticking a box. It's not something that I'd suggest making a big deal out of when making that first connection with someone, it's all about you after all. So I wouldn't start a conversation by telling someone about how amazing your children are (although I'm sure they are!).
I find that mentioning my children just naturally crops up in conversations, no matter how I've met someone, and no one has ever been phased by it. After all, at my age, the chances of me having children are pretty high, so it's no real surprise.
One word of advice, and I'm sure no one ever would, but don't lie about having children. Either a potential date accepts you're a parent, or they're just not right for you and it's time to move onto the next.
Which brings me onto this question:
• Are there men out there that target women with children because they're weird? (Or am I weird for even thinking that?)
First of all, you're not weird in worrying – it's natural. We all know there are some weird people out there ... whether they would deliberately target single parents looking for love, I honestly couldn't tell you. But what I can say is that it's never happened to me, nor to any of my single friends.
I've only ever introduced one man to my nine-year-old in the last two years and it was someone I'd already known for a long time, and I think that's the key – make sure you trust someone (as much as you can) before you introduce a date to your children. It just doesn't make sense to do otherwise.
• I'm so out of practice, how will I even know what to do on a date?
I'm trying hard to steer clear of the 'it's like riding a bike' analogy, but it really is. Trust me, you'll be fine. He (or she) will be just as nervous as you so try not to put yourself under too much pressure.
Don't think of the other person as the potential 'One' ... just see it as a drink with a new friend. Steer clear of minefield topics, be yourself, smile a lot and if you like each other, the flirting will come naturally. Before you know it, you'll be the last 2 in the pub and planning your next date!
• What if he doesn't turn up?
I've been stood up before and it wasn't one of my finest moments. However, it saved me hassle in the long run and I ended up inviting someone else out I'd been chatting to and we had a great evening. If a potential date doesn't turn up, believe me, the issue is with him, not you. Don't give him another second of your time thinking about.
Don't forget, dating is meant to be fun - I could write entire chapters about the first kiss alone! Don't be too hard on yourself, take your time and as my mum always used to say, you've got to be in it to win it. A faint heart never won a fair maiden ... or hot man.
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