I was wondering if you could offer any guidance on dating for single mothers as well as for my specific situation.
Here's some background before I start: I have never been married, and I am repentant and in a growing relationship with the Lord, so it's OK, at least in theory, for me to get married. I'm 23, just started my first job out of college, and have a 3-year-old son. I have been baptized and attend church regularly.
It's really hard to know how to handle things — I feel on one hand like I have to be very choosey and make sure that I find someone who my family likes and who would be a good provider, a good husband, a great lover of the Lord, and a good father figure for my son. On the other hand, I have very few prospects, have gotten a little chubby (working on that), and seem to have a look that only appeals to a small subset of men. My character has greatly improved since I truly dedicated myself to serving Christ, but I think it's hard for people to see beyond my very obvious past transgressions. Realistically, I wonder how picky I can afford to be. I'm seeing someone who wants to marry me, and he's like a dream come true in some ways, but he also has some significant problems, including pronounced moodiness and an unwillingness to attend church or get baptized.
Additionally, my family does not want me to marry him, although they have thrown up their hands and said that it's my decision.
What is quite possibly a bigger problem is that I still feel something for my son's father. He had just started attending Harvard when we found out I was pregnant, and he bailed on me as soon as his parents said he could stay at school. The distance and the betrayal, as well as my unkind and foolish venting of my emotions, have pushed us apart. I feel a lot of anger and bitterness toward him sometimes. Still, I care for him deeply, and I would like more than anything else in this world to be his wife.
I am still shattered, and I am usually a mess for days before and after seeing him. I have started praying for God to put me back together (oddly, it just occurred to me a few weeks ago to do so) and to find me a husband, but often I pray for Him to reconcile us. I don't really mean to do it; I think that God has been pretty clear that this relationship isn't in the cards. It just wells up in me, and I can hardly help myself. Don't misunderstand — I don't think it's the Holy Spirit moving me. It's almost like feeling like I am going to sob, just it comes out as prayer instead of crying.
Anyway, I'm sorry that this is so long, but my basic questions were:
(a) Can I afford to be picky, or should I just find someone who meets the minimum requirements?
(b) Do you have any suggestions about dating for me as a single mother? I know some of the basics — be chaste, be discreet, etc., but I was wondering if you had any specific words of wisdom. Honestly, I would rather not date because my feelings for my son's dad make me feel like a fraud, but I want to get married, and there's always a chance that I'll meet someone even more wonderful than my son's father who displaces him in my affections.
(c) Am I a complete moron for holding on to hope about my son's dad? Is it reasonable and prudent to continue praying about it?
Thank you for your time. Your ministry has been very helpful to me.
Yes! Not only can you afford to be picky, for the sake of your son, you absolutely must be. There is much research that shows the dangers children face with stepparents and live-in boyfriends who are not their fathers. For your son's sake, you must proceed with caution. Certainly a boyfriend who is moody this side of marriage, when he's supposed to be putting his best face on, will only get worse on the other side. If your family is warning you not to marry him, I think you would be wise to heed their advice. They likely see things much more clearly than you do. They are not emotionally invested in the guy, you are.
Also, Your relationship with them as your son's grandparents is far more important than your relationship with a boyfriend. Based on what you've shared with me, I think it would be wise to break up with this guy and spend some time healing from all that you've been through. The last thing you need is a mediocre-to-bad marriage in an attempt to numb the feelings and pain you still feel for and about your son's father.
That brings me to my second point. It's understandable that you would still have feelings for your son's father. You bonded sexually with him and you see him in your son every day. However, it's not impossible for you to move on. While it's possible God could bring you back together, you must pray for healing and the ability to move on, whole without this man, for your sake and especially your son's sake. He needs a healthy, happy, patient, loving mommy. Not one who's mopey, grumpy, depressed and pining. Now is the time to be pressing into God and saturating your life with His Word. Read the Bible daily. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks and praise in all circumstances. He can and will heal your heart if you let him.
Your goal now should be to get healthy and to become the best mom you can be. Now is not the time to be dating. God may bring you a husband in the future. But this should not be something you're focusing on right now.
We ran an article on Boundless a while back that answers a question like yours (it follows my signature). I think (and hope and pray) you'll find this advice helpful and heed Theophilus' wisdom.
May God strengthen you for the road ahead. I will be praying He gives you the wisdom to do what's best for your son.
Should you be seeking a husband more aggressively? I'd be more concerned if you were. All other things being equal, yes, a child is better off with both a Mom and a Dad. But all other things are not equal. Not every man can become a husband and father at the same time, so giving your daughter a stepfather is not necessarily an improvement over single parenthood. Besides, it would be difficult for your child to bond even to a good stepfather at the age that she has reached.
So don't be desperate for a husband; you're doing fine. Don't leave your daughter alone to go on dates, don't take her along on dates, in fact, don't date. Should God bring a suitable husband into your life in His own way, thank Him, but be realistic. Your daughter may not have a father, so her grandfather will have to do double duty. The best thing you can do for her is make sure that her relationship with Grampa is close and good.
I wouldn't advise you to leave your small town, because you need your family's support. Stay far, far away from married men — for you will be tempted. Just remember that any man willing to desert his wife for you would desert you too. It's fine that you prefer traditional roles, because a man so passive that he can't take initiative is unlikely to be a good husband and father. You should also avoid men who fear responsibility — today they are all too common. I can't imagine an interesting life without responsibility; binding commitments to others are what God uses to stretch us into our adult shapes. You're being stretched now.
Accept that stretching. Let God attend to the man — if there is to be a man. But remember: Until your daughter is grown, your main job in life isn't to find a substitute father, but to be a good mother.
Peace be with you,
Copyright 2007 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.