Sex, Dating, and Love for Single Moms

Whether one is a single mom by chance or choice, life and love have gotten very complicated. There is a lot of conflicting advice out there about dating and sex as a single mom.

By Kate Double, MSW, LCSW

Many years ago now, I left my husband and became a custodial parent to an infant and preschooler.  Having been a stay-at-home mom for the three previous years, I had to quickly go back to work full-time, navigate the legal system, and cope with an emotionally daunting transition.  On top of it all, there was a sense that I had missed my chance at love.


Whether one is a single mom by chance or choice, life and love have gotten very complicated.  There is a lot of conflicting advice out there about dating and sex as a single mom and no real consensus.  There is a lot of fear, shame, and confusion around this subject.


Should I date?  When is it okay to introduce a significant other to my children?  Is it okay to have someone spend the night?  What will other people think?  What if I introduce my children to a significant other and the relationship doesn’t work out?  What if I don’t introduce them and later find out that my significant other is not a good fit for my children?


Dating, sex and love are beautiful and complex – they are emotional, physical, spiritual, cultural, social, political, and interpersonal.  We bring our past experiences, desires, joys, hurts, expectations, beliefs, and hopes.  It does get more complicated as we get older, have more experiences, and are raising children.  We no longer have just ourselves to consider, but instead also the needs of our children.  We have limited time and energy; and hiring babysitters can be both guilt-inducing and expensive.  One mother from Single Mommas of the Triangle summed it up well when she said, “Living our best life, sexually and beyond, is challenging.”  It can also be worth the effort.


Although there are no “one size fits all” rules for dating, love, and sex as a single parent, here is some basic tips for those just starting out.

It does get more complicated as we get older, have more experiences, and are raising children. We no longer have just ourselves to consider, but instead also the needs of our children.

10 Tips for Successful Dating as a Single Mother

  • Allow yourself time to heal before you start dating.  Healing from prior relationships is important and will enhance your chances of moving on to a new healthy relationship.  If needed, seek professional help in healing.  Put the focus on making friends and community building over dating, at least initially.  Continue to maintain social support even after you enter a romantic relationship.


  • When online dating with limited time, make it a habit to only meet those that you specifically think you might want to get to know, such as enjoying their correspondence or sense of humor; having something in common, being intrigued by their profession, or sharing common interests. 


  • Understand attachment theory so that you can identify your own attachment style and relationship patterns; as well as developing a better ability to understand what a healthy relationship looks like.  Understanding yourself helps you to make healthy choices and positive decisions.


  • Our brains are pre-programmed to be attracted to things that are familiar.  Often this is helpful in promoting compatibility, but it is worth thinking about what that familiarity surrounds – especially if you have come out of an abusive relationship or have a history of involvement with those with other destructive behaviors.  Let your motto be, “Make thoughtful and healthy relationship choices.”


  • The limerence period – you know… that exciting period at the start of a relationship?  It lasts six months to two years.  FAR longer than most of us believe while in the midst of it.  During this time, you don’t even know what your problems will be yet, much less if they will be deal-breakers.  Enjoy the romance, desire, and excitement to the fullest, but give relationships time to unfold before making permanent decisions, or decisions that may negatively affect your children if the relationship does not work out.


  • Many of the single mothers that I polled reported that they felt more confident in their bodies and sex post-divorce, and more focused on their own pleasure.  For some, this might be a time to explore what you want to get out of your sex life.  


  • Be careful to know – really know – someone that you bring into your children’s lives.  Even then, be very careful who you leave your children alone with.


  • Be intentional when introducing your significant other to your children.  Even once your significant other has started to be in the presence of your children, whether or not they need to bond with them will depend on the stage of the relationship.  When a breakup occurs, children may experience this as a loss – and let’s face it… this could end up being a lot of losses if we aren’t careful.


  • Consider what you are modeling about relationships with your children.  Think about the relationship that you would like your children to have as adults and behave accordingly.  They are watching.


  • Finally, be present, have fun and explore relationships, romance, sensuality, and yourself.  Date without an agenda and see where the journey takes you. Take your time and be intentional.  If you are thoughtful in your approach, the kids will not only be okay, but they will thrive.

Kate is a fully licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) with Relationship Restoration and provides weekly clinical supervision to licensed clinical social work associates (LCSWA).

Focusing primarily on relationships, sexuality, and trauma, Kate seeks to meet ALL clients where they are. She has a range of experience in couple’s counseling, sex therapy, trauma work, and mental health treatment. She has a strong focus on issues related to relationship patterns and transitions; improvement in marital satisfaction; affair recovery; trauma; mismatched libido; and sexual pain and dysfunction. Clients with diverse gender expressions and sexual identities are welcomed and embraced. Kate is currently working on advanced sex therapy training through the Institute for Sexuality and Enlightenment’s Holistic Sex Therapy Certificate Program in Northampton, MA. She has completed training for EMDR and is currently working toward EMDR certification.

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