Dating after a toxic relationship for most of us is very scary and so many questions can come up. The following video replies to direct questions survivors have asked about dating again, friendships, trusting others, red flags and how to handle triggers that come up. Knowing how to be ready, when you are ready and how to protect yourself while dating, seeing things for what they are and many other topics were talked about in the video. If you are no where near ready to date you can take what is talked about and apply it to friendships, meeting new people, the work place or any other form of contact with others that may be what you want or need to begin engaging with alongside others. The following video is part one of two so be sure to subscribe and catch part two as well.
What questions do you have or what have you experienced dating again after being in a toxic relationship? Any tips that you would like to share with others to help find and form healthy attachment and safe relationships for our futures?
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Lise Colucci is a certified life coach, as well as a certified narcissistic abuse recovery coach. She is a long-time admin and mentor for the SPAN Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Group, actively helping survivors of narcissistic abuse in the expansive community to learn and heal. Lise is passionate about providing coaching services that help her clients feel heard and validated as she guides them along their healing journey. For information on coaching, group coaching or to contact Lise check out the links below.
“Do the one thing you think you cannot do. Fail at it. Try again. Do better the second time. The only people who never tumble are those who never mount the high wire. This is your moment. Own it.” ~Oprah Winfrey
In any situation, when you get a divorce or move on to a new relationship and you have kids, it makes dating a completely different experience. No longer are you just trying to find someone who’s right for you – you’re trying to find someone who’s right for your kids.
How to Know If You’re Ready to Date After Divorcing a Narcissist
Narcissists do a real number on our self-esteem and our self-image. It’s incredibly important to take the time you need to heal before jumping into a new relationship, because you don’t want to end up with another toxic person. Feeling lonely isn’t quite enough – nor is wanting to replace your ex. There are some subtle issues you need to understand and there’s a level of healing that’s required if you want your next relationship to be successful. In this video, you’ll learn exactly how to know if you’re ready to date after your divorce.
Finding Love After Divorcing a Narcissist
The fact is that you might find yourself looking for a “new dad” or someone to fill the void left in your life by your ex – but don’t fall into that trap! You might end up scaring away Mr. Right – because unlike most narcissists, Mr. Right is willing to take things slowly – and that’s what you should want to do as well – after all, you definitely don’t want to attract another narc, right?
So, before we continue – a bit of harsh truth for you.
Being a Mom doesn’t mean you have to be looking for a forever commitment – even though most women do seek out that stability for their children in these circumstances.
You don’t have to latch onto the first man who is willing to date a woman with children – you can take your time finding Mr. Right and vetting the prospects to see who would be the best fit for your family.
When I was a single mom, I’d ask myself “Is this guy someone I’d want my son to grow up and be like?” It is an incredible way to really get a good read on a guy, if you can be honest with yourself.
You never want to settle for someone who is right for you, but not your kids – or right for your kids, but not right for you. He needs to be the total package. That means you prioritize things a bit differently sometimes.
Added Challenges That Come with Dating After Divorcing a Narcissist
Dating after any divorce has its challenges, but when your ex is a narcissist, there are many additional things to consider. If you’ve healed after a relationship with someone who has narcissistic personality disorder and you’re feeling pretty comfortable in your codependency recovery, then you might be ready to date. But do you know what to expect?
How Soon Should You Start Dating After Divorce When You Have Kids?
This is going to be a different answer for every woman. Only you know your kids and your situation. But there are some guidelines you can use to figure out when the time is right.
Is your ex-narcissist influencing your kids against you? If there’s chaos in the post-divorce stage (and it’s likely when you’ve been involved with a narcissist), then he might disparage you and make the kids think less of you because you’re dating again.
This kind of thing happens frequently. You don’t have to wait forever, but it might be best to either postpone dating until the raw feelings fade away, or make sure that your kids are okay with it before you go there.
Some kids will be loyal and fierce to your ex no matter what – and no amount of time is going to make them okay with you dating again. You might have to get family counseling so that an unbiased third party can help them see that you’re an individual now, not a couple, and that you should be allowed to enjoy life, too.
When your kids are too small to understand, then you can begin dating as soon as you see fit. The older they get, the more resentment they may feel – but that all depends on the relationship they have with you and their father.
Many kids embrace the idea of their parents getting out on the dating scene because they like to see their parents happy. This is perfect – but don’t force yourself into it if you’re not ready.
What Type of Man Would Be Right for Your Family?
Like I mentioned, when you’re looking for a man who is right for you, you have to always be thinking in the back of your mind, “Is he right for my kids?” You might have your own criteria, but here are some things to consider.
Is he willing to take things slow? Some men will want to come right over and spend the night – practically moving in on week one – and be careful, because that’s a sign of love-bombing. You want a man who will respect your boundaries on when he should meet your kids, spend time at your home, and anything further than that.
Does he respect the role of their biological dad? Regardless of his flaws, the kids will already have a father – and you might have problems if he assumes that the two of you dating means he’ll be taking his place. Even if he’s a narcissist, he still may want to be involved in the kids’ lives. You want your new guy to be okay with this.
In some instances, the kids won’t have a father in their lives – and that means this new guy might be seen as a father figure. Is he okay with that position? Some men might feel uncomfortable.
What kind of parental role do you want him to have? Should he be like the fun uncle who comes over to play and act silly or eat dinner once in a while, or will he be stepping up to the plate to be “Dad” pretty soon?
These are things that you need to be open about and honest with yourself about – even though your heart (and other tingly bits) may not go along with at first – but you and I both know this MATTERS – you don’t want to fall into old traps and old habits. You need to make it clear to your new potential love how involved you want/expect him to be with your kids if at all.
Personally, I had a rule that no guy got to meet my son unless we were able to date consistently and monogamously for 3 to 6 months. Yes, it made life a bit more complicated, but it protected him from a lot of heartache in the end. This way, he didn’t develop attachments to people I dated who weren’t right for me.
Can/will he discipline the kids, and if so, how? Some families have it written into the parenting plan during a divorce that other people can’t punish the kids at all, or that no corporal punishment should be allowed. One friend of mine had a rule that her new guy didn’t do any parenting or discipline. To be honest, that doesn’t always work well in a marriage. Think balance and appropriate boundaries – and be sure to be transparent with both your new guy and your kids on what is expected (and what is acceptable).
Is he good to your kids? You want someone who is protective over them and wants everything in their best interest – even if he’s not leading the family as a father figure at all.
You want your kids to be excited about him coming over, not resent it or head off to their rooms when he arrives. This is where a sense of humor (which is different from biting sarcasm) comes in handy. It’s great to find a guy who will play ball with the kids, engage them with a video game, or just chat with them about their day.
Does he have kids of his own? This brings another layer to the relationship if you decide to date this man. The Brady Bunch makes it all look easy, but mixing families can be difficult.
If he does have kids, be sure you each meet each other’s kids and get to know them before you start introducing the kids to one another – this will help to take the edge off a bit. Take it slow and make sure each child feels adequately loved and important during this transition.
Uncomfortable but Necessary Warning: It’s a simple fact of life and you need to be aware of it so that you can protect our family. There are some dangerous men out there who seek out single Moms to date because in reality, they’re pedophiles.
These men will date you and even marry you – and you might have a thriving sexual relationship – but they’re doing all of it to gain your trust so that they can abuse your children. Educate yourself about this before you start dating because it’s a real issue with serious consequences.
First Date for You Versus First Meeting With the Kids
There are two different situations here. The first time you meet a man and the first time your kids do. Your first date should come quite a bit of time before your kids are introduced to him. For me, the 3 to 6-month rule worked, but that might be different for you – don’t get stuck on numbers.
For your own first date, keep yourself safe. You should do this anyway as a single woman, but as a Mom, you have a responsibility to your kids now, too. Don’t have anyone pick you up at your home.
Meet him somewhere else instead. If possible, take a friend along (have him bring one, too) and make it a double date. If not, that’s okay – just meet somewhere visible with other people around.
You want a place where good conversation can take root. Meals are great! You can talk while eating – and if you want to have a quick date, try doing brunch or lunch instead of dinner.
Sporting events are another great idea. You can really get to know each other if you’re sitting at a baseball game for your local team (if both of you enjoy it and are fans).
When should you introduce your kids to your new man?
When you have kids, it becomes difficult to decide when to introduce them. On one hand, you don’t want to go through man after man after man with your kids. They need stability and it doesn’t make them comfortable to see their Mom dating dozens of different men – and that was part of my reason for the 3-6 month rule.
On the other hand, you don’t want to get too serious with one man before introducing him to your children because you have to see how it works with your children first.
So sometime between “just met him” and “I’m ready to be exclusive with this person,” you should introduce him to your family. Start off by letting them get used to the idea.
You can initiate conversations about your new guy first. Don’t just spring him on them out of the blue one day. Mention him in passing as a friend who you’re having dinner with, etc.
Don’t bring him to your house to meet your kids – and don’t take them to his. Have all of you meet at a public, fun destination like the park where your kids can play and he can interact with them.
You might want to clue your new date in on some things your kids do and don’t like before he meets with them. For example, if they hate someone teasing them or can’t stand it when someone throws them in the pool, give him a heads up so that he doesn’t become public enemy #1 without warning.
How to Help Your Kids Cope With Your New Dating Life After Divorcing a Narcissist
Sometimes, no matter what you do to try to alleviate the strain of your new dating life, your kids will have a problem with it anyway. Sometimes their feelings are justified and you can help them by acknowledging that, so don’t dismiss it just because of their age. Especially when their father is a narcissist, they might really feel slighted when you start paying attention to someone else. Listen to them and validate their feelings. It matters more than you might think.
Let’s look at some common complaints kids have when their parents start dating and how you can address each one:
“You don’t spend time with me anymore.”
If dating starts to consume you, then it can get things started off on the wrong foot. It’s understandable that you want to spend lots of time with your new guy, but remember that your kids view him as an invader – and they’re going to dislike him if he is favored over them.
Make sure that you take each child and spend some one-on-one time with them throughout the day. Don’t text or take phone calls during this time – focus all of your attention on their needs.
It’s great if your kids can see you recognize a call from your new guy and say something like, “Oh that’s Bob – I’ll call him back later – right now, I’m playing with you!”
Though I got remarried 15 years ago, I still try to make at least an hour a day to spend with each of my kids (we’ve added two to the fold in that time) – the mornings are great for that in my case.
“He’s just not right for you, Mom!”
Sometimes we’re so desperate to get into another relationship that we forget about our list of deal-breakers. We fall into old patterns. Our kids may be able to see it – the way you become “different” around this new guy versus when you’re by yourself.
If they have concerns, make sure you give them the freedom to speak up and talk to you about it. If they say he puts you down, for instance – ask for examples and keep an open mind. Don’t excuse his behavior – address it with him. It’s important to know and enforce your deal-breakers. Learn more about healthy dating deal-breakers in this video.
“He doesn’t like us (or we don’t like him)!”
Some men may be right for you, but when it comes to your kids, he just doesn’t have the right mindset. Maybe he’s always grumpy or he comes off as “weird” to your kids.
You want your kids to enjoy the time they’re spending around him, so work with both your kids and your new man to see if things can get smoothed over to a better place. If not, then you may need to let him move on to someone else.
“We already have a dad and we are fiercely loyal to him!”
This is a normal reaction for kids to have, even if Dad is also a narcissist. If you’re on good terms with your ex, have him sit down with you and the kids and have a discussion about how it’s a positive thing that the two of you are dating new people.
But, in the rare case that he can or will work with you, remember that if they see that Dad’s okay with the new guy, they might be more open to accepting him, too. Invite both of them to something like your child’s birthday party and let your child see them shaking hands and being friendly to each other.
Tip: You can sometimes convince a narcissist to do what you want by convincing him that first, he’s the most amazing dad you know – and “how wonderful that he’s so secure in himself that he’s willing to be so selfless with his kids that he can at least pretend to like the new guy.”
Complications with the Ex – When the Narcissist Won’t Budge
If the ex is part of the problem, then you might need to have an honest discussion with your child about the situation. Don’t disparage their dad. Instead, explain to them how you just weren’t right for each other and that the new guy has nothing to do with the fact that you’re no longer a couple.
He may have believed that if the new guy wasn’t in the picture, then you and your child’s father might get back together. Explain to him that this isn’t a possibility even if you stay single forever so that he doesn’t sit there “wishful thinking” anymore – it will help you BOTH, even if the initial discussion is a little uncomfortable.
Finding Balance Between Your Dating and Parenting Lives
Parenting will always be your most important task in life. But you also need to take care of your own needs – and that includes forming meaningful relationships.
Put your needs and those of your children first. Then try to accommodate the new person you’re dating, because it will be difficult for him, too to come into an existing family and try to fit in while being judged. Dating with kids doesn’t have to be a struggle, even if you’ve been in a toxic or abusive relationship in the past. Just be mindful of everyone’s feelings and do the best you can!
Related Resources for Dating After Divorcing a Narcissist
“Love is like a virus. It can happen to anybody at any time.” ~Maya Angelou
Who doesn’t love love? You do, right? And, just maybe, you’e got a couple of friends or acquaintances who you just know would be perfect for each other.
They’re both single and you’re just dying to set them up. So what do you do? Where do you get started?
Start With the Set-Up: 7 No-Fail Steps to Successfully Hook Up Two Friends
Ask for permission. Find out whether your friend is interested in dating. She may be healing from a recent divorce or consumed with launching a new business. If the timing is off, maybe she’ll still appreciate your thoughtfulness and get back to you when her situation changes.
Rehearse your introduction. Explain why you think two people would be a good match. Do they share a love for opera or volley ball? Do they both want to marry and live outside the city?
Listen closely. One of the most effective ways to figure out what would make your friends click is to pay attention to them. The things they talk about could reveal what they want.
Share a photo. Your coworker’s definition of gorgeous could be very different from your own. Present a photograph to avoid misunderstandings.
Check your motives. If you’re secretly attracted to someone, it’s easy to let those feelings persuade you to pair them up with someone else. Ensure that you’ll be happy for the new couple if things work out.
Stand back. You’re probably going to be curious about whatever happens on the first date. Learning a few details is intriguing. Becoming too involved is disruptive.
Live and learn. If your first match fails to ignite, refine your strategy. Experience and practice makes you more insightful.
What do guys in their 20s really want from a woman? And what does any of that have to do with Craigslist?
You might not think of Craigslist as a scientific tool, but it really offers a certain amount of insight into the psychology of the people around us.
For example, ladies, if you’ve ever driven yourself crazy wondering what men really want, you’re not alone—but your answer could be right at your fingertips– all it might take to find out is a quick check of some Craigslist ads.
Wait, what? Find out what guys in their 20s want…on Craigslist?
So, being the big research geek I am, I just had to know if Craigslist ads could give me a good idea of what men, in general, want. I took a look at a cross-section of men-for-women (M4W) ads on Craigslist in my local area in their 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. Today, we’re looking at guys in their 20s want.
(Stay tuned for follow-up articles in this series to discuss the 30-60 somethings!)
What do guys in their 20s want in a woman?
While none of the men’s answers were identical, there were certain trends that could be noted, both across the board and within each age group, including, of course, our fearless 20-somethings.
Honest, Sincere and Must Love Bondage (Age 23)
A 23-year-old anonymous male posted this ad seeking “…that special woman that will respect and honor me. A woman that is honest, sincere, dedicated, good worker and loves to spend quality time with his man…family values and responsible. A woman that likes to enjoy the beautiful things of life, a woman that is willing to have one man in her life, a person I can trust…”
So far, so good, right?
The young man goes on to reiterate that he wants a decent-looking, active, fun-loving woman who shold also have a nice body, no criminal history, financial stability and must like to travel.
Finally, he ends his ad with a note on cleanliness, followed by a very…touching proclamation: “You must love SEX because I really do..I’m a very SUBMISSIVE MALE in bed..I LOVE BONDAGE PLAY.”
Yep. Don’t knock each over trying to get to that one, ladies. Moving on…
Lover, Best Friend, No Baggage Please—But I’ll Take a High Schooler (Age 25)
Our 25-year-old Craigslister offers a bit more hope in the male side of our species. He says he likes “a girl I can do everything with. Lover, best friend, most trusted person in life.”
He adds that he’s not looking for “someone who wants to be casual, still focus on their friends all the time,” but that he’d prefer “someone who wants and needs one man to make them happy, and wants to make a man happy.”
But then he adds a little something extra that makes me cringe a little. His age restrictions, specifically, include “someone who is either a high school senior, college student or college grad with a good career.”
That whole “high school senior” part that gives me pause. I mean, seriously?
I realize that 18 and 25 aren’t that far apart, technically. But let’s be honest—there’s a lot of maturing that happens between those ages.
Finally, he adds that he’d really prefer someone “with no baggage like kids, drugs issues, crazy exes etc. Someone who isn’t afraid of scary movies and roller coasters but also isn’t afraid of showing their emotions and professing a faith in some higher power. Someone who likes the man to take the lead, but knows how to take it when its time.”
So, there’s that. Do with it what you will, ladies. And if you’re in high school, please stay away!
Smart, Confident and Perpetually Barefoot (Age 28)
Thank goodness for this 28-year-old, who seems to be a decent guy looking for something real.
He made a very comprehensive list in his ad.
“1. My soul mate is faithful and honest.
2. She is confident in her own skin. Real women are beautiful regardless of her size.
3. She is perpetually barefoot or in flip flops.
4. She loves rocking jammies over getting dolled up. She also prefers an all natural look to wearing a bunch of makeup.
5. She is brash and bold, but in a loving way.
6. She is smart and witty.
7. She loves nature.
8. We share a ton of hobbies.
9. She is looking for her soul mate too.
10. She wants true love and will work hard for it.
11. She is African-American.” ~Anonymous Craigslister, Age 28
Can’t find too much wrong with that one, can ya?
No Barbies, No Fatties and Don’t Be Too Short (Age 28)
“I don’t want a Barbie or a stick woman, (but) I don’t want an obese woman either,” says another Craigslister, Age 28. “There are beautiful big women out there but it’s just not for me.”
He goes on to explain that he prefers Caucasian women, because he’s “never dated interracial and (has) no plans for it.”
“You don’t have to be 6 feet tall, but I don’t want to have to look to far down at you. I don’t mind if you’re divorced, but not looking to pay for your divorce either.”
And, in case you wondered, he ended the post by noting that “everyone has their own taste and what they like; I won’t be everyone’s ideal mate.” Good insight.
Drug-Free, Childless 1950s Housewife (Age 28)
So, there are guys like this in every generation. It doesn’t make them bad, per se, it just makes them specific.
The good thing here is that you have the choice–if you don’t think you can fit into this guy’s mold without becoming someone you hate, then you don’t date this guy.
He prefers, according to his Craigslist ad, “a woman that isn’t one of these feminist new age liberal types.”
She should also be thin or athletic, and intelligent–however, she should not have a child or a smoking or drug habit.”
He adds that his ideal woman “just wants to be a man’s princess. The 1950s lifestyle, house wife etc…. that is what I seek.”
So how about you? What qualities do you (or would you like to) see in an ideal woman? What do men in their 20s want in a woman, as far as you see it? Are these guys unusual? Share your thoughts in the comments section, below.