Dr. Donald Partridge
Part 1 of a series for single parents who are dating or planning to date in the future.
Certain forces exist that impact, even control, who single parents date, how they will date, and when they will remarry.
One of these forces comes from the single parent extreme environment.
Single parents live in an environment completely different from that of single adults who have never married or had children. The time of separation and loss of a loving relationship can be compared to being blindfolded and driven to the top of a high, snow-covered mountain—frequently without warning, without preparation, without protection from the elements, without any knowledge of the environment—then flung off into a frozen ditch and abandoned. The unspeakable has happened; following divorce you’re forced to live on this ice-covered mountain alone, often without your children.
There you remain, living in an environment different from anything you have ever imagined—cold, windy, and miserable. And you cannot leave. You cannot walk away. You cannot turn back the clock. You are forced to cope with incredibly harsh conditions and figure out some way to survive. And all you see are more storms on the horizon.
For the recently divorced, life on the mountaintop is not just difficult—it’s dreadfully difficult. Not just rocky but extremely rugged. Not a world of rolling hills and gentle valleys but one of towering peaks and deep gorges. During your first couple of years as a single parent it doesn’t just (figuratively) rain—the water thunders down. It doesn’t just snow—blizzards rage relentlessly. The climate isn’t just cool or warm—it is bitterly cold or stiflingly hot.
Single parents live somewhere on the mountain in their own extreme environment—some recently abandoned there, still unprotected from the bitter elements, others having found ways to insulate themselves, and some over the months and years having managed to find their way out of the harshness and down the mountain. However, the weather and changeable conditions on the mountain don’t really go away.
Moving down off the mountain means that your personal difficulties have diminished. You have settled your lawsuits and custody battles, the living arrangements for your children are beginning to work, you’re less at odds with your former spouse and you’re achieving some sort of an agreeable life at home.
Yet, things continue to happen that remind you that you have not escaped the mountain. An argument occurs with your ex over some child issue. You’re frustrated at your lack of full control over raising your children. Sometimes you find it difficult to handle all your personal, medical, household, and automobile responsibilities by yourself. You might find holidays and vacation days especially difficult. And certain things your ex-spouse does (or refuses to do) can adversely affect you for days. The ever present reminder of that extreme environment is always lurking just around the next corner or the next conversation. And when problems occur, you realize you are still on the mountain.
Another of the forces that affect dating and engagement patterns is the trauma of separation and divorce. Divorce itself makes the single parent a different person mentally and emotionally, unlike other single adults.
As if the difficulties of living as a single parent aren’t tough enough, read the gruesome Biblical description of divorce or widowhood, which is not for the faint of heart. Because the Scriptures say that the union of a couple is one flesh—which it does in Genesis 2:24—then separation is viewed not just as the separation of two individuals but as the wholesale tearing of one body into two parts, leaving gaping holes, torn flesh, blood, and body parts lying around. A figure of speech, true, but divorce according to Biblical thought is certainly not pretty. It is the commission of violent and horrendous acts of treachery and physical damage by one (or both) partner against the other.
With the death of your spouse or a divorce, you may have felt literally torn in half. This is why it takes years to heal (if you ever fully do) from the wounds of separation. And if you do heal, you and your children may continue to experience some disabilities. You continue to feel an emotional reaction when speaking about your former spouse or when observing your children’s connection with the other side. This is why single parents must not think they are typical of other single adults. After being joined together in a one-flesh relationship and then torn in half, you can’t just walk away and think you are still the same person.
Therefore, it is the force of this terrible internal trauma you have experienced, together with the pressures of your ongoing extreme environment, that seriously affect how you choose whom to date, how to date, and when to remarry. And it is these decisions that will affect for good or evil not only the lives of you as a single parent but the lives of your children as well.
Next: Dating as a single parent--off the mountain and into the warm meadow.
Dr. Donald Partridge’s first marriage lasted thirteen years. Divorced, and with two very young children, he lived as a single parent with his children. Later Don remarried and has been in a highly successful stepfamily with seven children for the past 22 years.
Dr. Partridge has committed himself to working full time with single parents and stepfamilies and has written some very helpful books and pamphlets on how to date and remarry successfully, how to build and enjoy a thriving stepfamily, and how to insulate your children and raise them to be stable emotionally healthy kids in the midst of calamity and shifting family systems. Find his resources at available at www.blendingfamily.com.