Throw out everything you ever learned about dating when it comes to single parents dating. Everything changes. Catapulting down from the mountain of personal difficulty, loneliness, and doing everything alone into sudden happiness, sudden hope, and sudden fulfillment with a dating partner, becomes an intoxicant close to overwhelming. If a dating parent and partner have a meadow experience, which happens with most couples, they will find themselves caught up in an environment that can go out of their control, an environment with a force that simply takes over. Life in the meadow drives couples together with a vengeance. Adults without children are drawn into relationships. Single parents dating are rammed into relationships.
Here are some of the common dating practices found in the meadow:
Forgetting who you are. In the meadow we tend to forget who we are. We forget that we have suffered huge emotional injury and catastrophic loss. We forget or do not fully realize the extraordinarily destructive influence of separation and divorce upon us. We get all out of kilter and now, suddenly immersed in blissful emotion and intense happiness, we feel completely confident about making lifelong decisions for ourselves and our children. The reality is that we are not at all equipped to act sensibly when we are so blinded by heady emotions. Yet, we allow ourselves to be swept forward by these powerful feelings and experiences. We quickly discard any idea of accountability. We trust ourselves and in our own intuitions and believe that we alone possess a special knowledge about our partner that is unknown to others. Thus, blinded by newfound happiness and unaware of reality, we become immersed in relationships without preparation, without foresight, and without discernment.
Glorifying your partner. After a few days of dating, we believe we know everything we need to know about other. We are so enjoying the meadow and thoughts of future bliss that little can tarnish the image. If any doubts arise about our partner, these concerns are quickly dismissed. Potentially troublesome issues are minimized in light of our glorious life together.
Thomas thinks about Karen, “Sure, I can see some problems, but once we’re together everything will be different. And if changes don’t come about, who cares? Life with her as she is right now is exceedingly better than life without her.”
And when Karen observes some traits in Thomas that may not be to her liking, she is apt to overlook them, saying things like, “It’s not that important,” or, “Nobody’s perfect.” Just like Thomas said about her she will say about him, “Life with Thomas as he is right now is exceedingly better than life without him.”
Plus, we are convinced that nobody really knows or understands our partner the way we do and we object when other people are not supportive or seem to have some doubts. We scoff at the warnings of counselors or pastors who voice any concerns. And we override any correctives or suggestions offered by well-intentioned friends.
We think to ourselves, “Sure, problems are bound to arise, maybe big problems, but my partner’s care and love for me will rise to any challenge or demand. Why don’t people understand how much we love each other? Why all this opposition?”
“Look, we as dating parents all acknowledge that everyone has faults but this is incidental to what is really important. The joy and relief we bring to each other and the love we feel for each other so outweigh all these problems and issues that there cannot possibly be anything but a future of wonderment and happiness for us and our children.”
Forgetting how to date. As single parents we feel we are no longer part of the singles dating clique and certainly don’t intend to join in again. We have children, we have our own established homes and families, and we are unwilling to behave or act like kids out on our first date. Dating is not something we necessarily look forward to with all the ebb and flow of youthful connections. We are looking for life partners, not brief good times out on the town with just anybody.
And now that we have found someone, we’d like to get out of the dating scene as quickly as possible. For us to continue to date for a long period of time when we already know whom we want as a life partner just doesn’t make sense. “After all,” we think to ourselves, “the months and years are rolling along and we don’t want to waste any more time in isolation and loneliness. Wouldn’t it be far better for us to get settled and stable and make a home for our children with some permanency of relationships? Plus, won’t it be an incredible relief to have some help with raising the children, to combine our finances, and to realize the comfort that comes when sharing normal daily responsibilities?”
Backing away from morality. Single parents think, “Since we know who we are going to spend the rest of our lives with and since we know we are both thoroughly committed to each other, why can’t we indulge ourselves?”
Yet, unknown to us is the reality that physical intimacy becomes a severe roadblock to preparation and true knowledge about the partner. Physical intimacy stops preparation dead in its tracks. It blocks out all negatives, exalts the emotions, and makes the couple feel that everything’s wonderful about the relationship. Physical intimacy is supposed to occur after thorough preparation, after thorough discussion, after time for partners to prove themselves to each other, and after the vow to legally bind the relationship together. Then physical intimacy maintains what has already been thoroughly proven to be wonderful, as wonderful.
Physical intimacy is designed to maximize emotion, maximize agreement, and maximizes feelings of joy but minimizes knowledge and discovery and smothers the need for important—sometimes difficult—conversations. Intimacy is not designed, nor cannot, build a relationship. The purpose of intimacy is to maximize the strong feelings of togetherness in a relationship after the creation of a strong foundation. There is no structure in intimacy. No relationship can exist based on intimacy alone. If the relationship has been built properly, intimacy will continue. If not, intimacy will be lost and so will the relationship.
Physical intimacy creates “pillow talk,” the kind of dialogue that keeps couples fully connected, fully in sync, and fully enveloped in one another. Physical intimacy makes couples believe everything is, and will be, wonderful and that it’s okay to just concentrate on the moment. Intimacy persuades couples that they are very connected, very together, very understanding, and very knowledgeable about each other. With it couples can make the claim that they have never talked like this with anyone before, that they are so connected and so close that they are bonded forever (and that their children will eventually share in this incredible bond). Yet, the belief that everything’s wonderful and the reality that everything truly is wonderful are two different things. It is this reason why, when intimacy is added to a non-developed relationship, the relationship will begin to suffer breakdown and why couples will not maintain the closeness and intensity they once had.
Meadows are all about emotion. Meadows propel emotion and therefore drive couples into intimacy. After all, reality isn’t always fun. Too much reality can hinder the intensity of, or even threaten, the relationship. To couples immersed in the meadow, for the moment, ignorance is not only bliss, it’s sexy.
Backing away from God. Failure to attend church often follows immersion in the meadow. Interesting how this works: immersion in water baptism symbolizes the putting away of the flesh, immersion in the meadow seems to put it back on. The message of the meadow is acceleration of the relationship and pleasure now. Messages in the church stress accountability and responsibility and morality, messages that do not align with intensities of the meadow.
Plus, from the standpoint of we who are in the meadow, God is with us. In fact, we find God throughout the meadow. And we object to any idea that we have forgotten God. Didn’t we pray for relief and for a life-partner? Didn’t we trust God to banish our loneliness? Didn’t we wait patiently for God’s help? And didn’t God miraculously answer our prayers? Wasn’t it a God thing how we met each other? And isn’t God revealing every day, every hour, every minute how we are so right together?
For couples in the meadow, visions and voices and signs from God are everywhere. Both partners like and dislike the same things, they have the same viewpoints and beliefs, they like the same architecture and automobiles and the same style of clothes. Isn’t all this from the Hand of God? We dating partners even know what the other is thinking. We complete each other’s sentences, we have the same desires, and we even like the same flavor of ice-cream. Confirmations from God are all over our relationship with God anointing and blessing us and everything we do together.
Because we absolutely know we are destined to be life partners, and because we know God’s will and desires for our lives, we think, “Why go through a year or two more of dating? In fact, since we know we are going to be partners for life, it becomes downright immoral to remain apart. By living apart we actually are doing a disservice to ourselves, our children, our family and friends, and God. And, anyone opposing our viewpoint is actually opposing God Himself. We are in the right, we have God’s blessings, and are going to do what we believe is the right thing to do.”
Forgetting your kids. When in the meadow, kids become inconvenient. Partners tend to forget about their kids. Particularly in the beginning stages of the meadow, parents change their focus on thoughts and concerns about their children to their partner.
In the meadow children become interruptions. They are what keep the partners from freely enjoying exciting days and evenings together. Children are passion-breakers in relationships. With them come huge responsibilities and concerns that dominate good parents. And, a real drawback, the children are links to the other parent. With them come connections with former relatives, financial issues, school and social responsibilities, and time obligations.
It is easy, therefore, for children to become targets of frustration, criticism, and dislike by the non-biological partner because they stand as barriers between the dating couple and the life they want to enjoy.
Furthermore, children exist on their own mountaintops of difficulties, in their own extreme environments, and have desperate needs for connection. Meadows, however, teach the parents to look to their own needs first (uh, setting the example), before the needs of the children.
Conclusion. In Matthew 5:17 Jesus said these words, Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.
Jesus is saying in effect that He isn’t willing to follow any shortcuts, cut any corners, speed things up, or make things happen out of sequence or out of time. He is committed to taking the long road, do what is right, and live responsibly and obediently, with longsuffering and patience. Not only is He saying this of Himself, but He is also setting the example for all of us, requiring that we run our own Christian race by His Spirit with patience, slowly and methodically fulfilling all the law and the prophets.
And for all dating parents, this verse is in direct opposition to the speed and intensity of the meadow. Quick and decisive relationships resulting from the fascinating and deceptive lure of the meadow are not His will. Even if this is indeed your true life partner, God still wants your relationship to mature gradually, slowly, and methodically. And if you are dating your true life’s partner, what’s the hurry? God is asking you to allow time for yourself and your children to grow into your new relationship until it becomes proven beyond any doubt that you and your partner are bringing, and will continue to bring, wonderful emotional health and stability into the lives of every member of your future family.
Continued in the next issue: Why responsible, stable, steady single parents who are way down the mountain can suddenly find themselves caught up in the intoxications of the meadow.
Dr. Donald Partridge’s first marriage lasted thirteen years. Once divorced, and with two very young children, Don 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 single parents can date and remarry successfully, how to build great stepparent/stepchild relationships, and how to insulate your children and raise them to be stable, emotionally healthy kids in the midst of calamity and shifting family systems. Available at www.blendingfamily.com.