In theory, dating should be perfectly simple – but in reality, little difficulties almost always rear their heads.
These might be conflicting schedules, or physical distance, or, perhaps more worryingly, radically different views on crunchy versus smooth peanut butter.
While some dating complications are easily overcome, others require ongoing navigation – and being, or dating, a single parent easily falls into this category.
Just ask any of the parents in this year’s season of Married at First Sight, including brides Tracey and Jo.
In the premiere episode, Tracey dropped her single mum ‘bombshell’ to groom Dean following their wedding.
Tracey and Jo are among the single parents on MAFS this year. (Image: Channel 9)
“I would rather put it all out there, so I have a daughter,” she told him.
A clearly stunned Dean later admitted the admission had “thrown” him.
“That is a bit of a shock… as for dynamic, it has definitely freaked me out a little bit,” he told the cameras.
Obviously, the situation isn’t always going to be quite as theatrical as it is on TV.
However, adding kids to the dating equation does present some challenges for all involved, not least finding a free moment in which to schedule a rendezvous.
Getting back out there as a single parent can be quite a shock to the system, particularly if it’s been a while since your last experience of dating.
Mel Schilling has some simple tips for dating as a single parent – and dating a single parent. (Image: 9Honey)
“You’ll probably need your training wheels on for a little while – the rules have changed,” Married at First Sight relationship expert Mel Schilling explains.
Along with the rules, it goes without saying that your priorities have shifted too.
Your children are going to be number one on the list, so it’s important to communicate this to the person you’re seeing and help them understand.
“They’re not mind readers. Let them know where your boundaries are, and ask them to respect this,” Mel recommends.
On the other side of the coin, dating someone who has kids presents some challenges non-parents might not be conscious of, at least initially.
“They won’t necessarily be as available as you might be,” Mel says.
Offspring fans will remember Nina navigating the world of dating as a single mum. (Image: Channel 10)
Again, having an open discussion about boundaries – particularly how your date’s kids factor into their life and how you might also fit – is key to getting things off the ground.
If things progress nicely past the dating zone, and a relationship develops, the inevitable question of when to introduce kids to a new partner will arise.
Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all evidence-backed answer here; the ‘right time’ will be different for every couple and every family.
“What I recommend here is having a really honest discussion with your new partner, and depending on their age, also with your kids,” Mel says.
“These are little humans in your life with opinions and perspectives and emotions and preferences, and they count too.”
LISTEN: The Honey Mums podcast explores the phenomenon of ‘single parent guilt’. (Post continues.)
Getting through the first meeting is one thing; partners navigating a comfortable relationship with the kid/s and a role in their lives as the relationship progresses can be quite another.
If you’re dating a single mum or dad, Mel says it’s important to remember you’re not going to become their children’s stand-in parent – at least not at first.
“Your role, really, is to be a friend, perhaps a trusted advisor, maybe even a mentor, definitely a role model,” she says.
“Try to be their friend without overstepping the boundaries in terms of parenting and discipline.
“If issues come up, speak to your partner about it.”
Melanie Schilling is a dating & relationship coach, speaker and consultant, and the creator of the Date Ready Project – click the button below to join her:
For more on Married At First Sight, including behind-the-scenes clips, head to 9Now and catch up on exclusive interviews at 9TheFIX. MAFS obsessed? Tune into 9Honey’s weekly chat show, Talking Married, where you’ll get the inside scoop on every episode.