Deal with your fears. Since fear is incompatible with love (it prevents you from doing what love leads you to do), you need to identify your fears and pray for God to help you overcome them in order to enjoy a successful dating relationship. Some common fears for single parents who are dating are: losing their connections to their kids, causing their kids pain, not being able to blend their families well, choosing a poor candidate for a new spouse, having their ex-spouses make their lives miserable, and being spiritually judged. Confess whatever your own fears are to God and ask for His help to move beyond them, through the power of love. Don’t give into fear-based practices such as living with the person you’re dating before marriage (or staying over at each other’s houses). Instead, trust God to give you the courage to either truly commit to each other through marriage or walk away if you’re not right for each other.

Help your kids overcome their fears. Reassure your kids that your dating won’t diminish your love, presence, and commitment in your relationships with them. Engage in conversations about how your lives may change in the future, and listen to the thoughts and feelings they express. Acknowledge and label their fears. Stay patient with them, and don’t push them to accept your dating relationships before they’re truly ready to do so.

Date only people who have strong character and are emotionally stable. Refuse to date others, since they will only damage your relationships with God and your children. Look for traits like these: submissive to God, humble, self-controlled (especially with sexual purity), someone who challenges and encourages you to walk closely with God, and someone who demonstrates good parenting attitudes and behaviors. In addition, consider the attitudes and behaviors of the person’s children, and the entire package of that person’s life (such as the state of his or her finances and relationships with extended family).

Pay attention to caution and stop signals. Noticing certain issues in your dating relationship should get your attention. You need to put a stop to your dating relationship if the person you’re dating: doesn’t have a relationship with Christ, is pressuring you to get married before you’re ready to do so, has an extremely different approach to parenting than you do, is addicted to alcohol or drugs, demands to be the center of attention all the time, can’t stop his or her ex-spouse from interfering in your life in damaging ways, or wants to live with you before marriage. You should proceed with caution and thoroughly check out issues such as pornography use, a short temper, or other character issues that concern you.

Make a wise decision about marriage. Ask God to help you decide whether or not to marry if you reach a point where: you have confidence in your dating relationship; trust that both you and your boyfriend or girlfriend is completely committed to sacrificially loving each other and each other’s children; all the children involved are reasonably open to your union and new family; and the children’s emotional, psychological, and spiritual health will be well-served by your marriage. If not, have the courage to end your dating relationship and move on, to best serve yourself and your family.

Adapted from Dating and the Single Parent, copyright 2012 by Ron L. Deal. Published by Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Minneapolis, Mn., www.bethanyhouse.com

Ron L. Deal is founder of Smart Stepfamilies, Director of Blended Family Ministries at FamilyLife, the author of The Smart Stepfamily and The Smart Stepdad, and coauthor of The Smart Stepmom and The Remarriage Checkup. Ron is a licensed marriage and family therapist who frequently appears in the national media, including FamilyLife Today, Focus on the Family, and The 700 Club. Ron and his wife, Nan, and their sons live in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Whitney Hopler is a freelance writer and editor who serves as both a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and the editor of About.com’s site on angels and miracles. Contact Whitney at: angels@aboutguide.com to send in a true story of an angelic encounter or a miraculous experience like an answered prayer. 

Publication date: January 3, 2013