Help! I’m Single for Fear of Putting My Kid Through Breakup

Dear GoodTherapy.org,

I am single and the mother of a 7-year-old girl (her father is not in the picture). For nearly three years I was in a serious relationship with someone my daughter adored, but we broke up six months ago. I did not see the breakup coming, and it was tough on me, but it was also tough on my daughter. She still asks when we can see my ex again and frequently says she misses her.

I’ve accepted the relationship is really over and have been trying to date again, but I am finding it really difficult to do so. Dating with a child is tough already, but now I’m really anxious about her bonding with someone new, only to have the relationship end again. I want a relationship and don’t want to date someone with the expectation of the relationship ending, but I feel like I have to prepare for that and prepare her for that! It took a long time before I was comfortable introducing my daughter to my last partner, and I only did so when I knew the relationship was stable and that I could trust my partner.

I was happy in my last relationship, but now I feel like my perspective on dating has become somewhat pessimistic. I’m too nervous to try and afraid of being hurt (both for my sake and my daughter’s), but then I regret not trying and feel lonely and sad. I don’t know how to work past this! —Doubtful of Dating

Submit Your Own Question to a Therapist

Dear Doubtful,

You are describing a very real challenge faced by so many single parents: How do you attend to your own need for affiliation, connection, and relationship while navigating your responsibilities to your child? As you can imagine, there are no easy answers, but the fact you are struggling with this issue tells me that you may have a better handle on how to do this than you might think.

It is such a natural instinct as a parent to want to insulate our children from pain, loss, and struggle, but this isn’t realistic. They will experience pain. They will experience loss. They will struggle.

It is natural after a relationship ends unexpectedly to grapple with trust issues and to worry about being hurt. If, however, you are waiting for a guarantee that any future relationship will last, you will likely wait a very long time. Unfortunately, no relationship comes with guarantees. Feelings change and partners leave—sometimes by choice, sometimes through illness, but all relationships end at some point. You have the opportunity to teach your daughter how to manage the end of relationships with grace, courage, and hope for the future. You can honor your shared feelings of loss while modeling resilience.

It is such a natural instinct as a parent to want to insulate our children from pain, loss, and struggle, but this isn’t realistic. They will experience pain. They will experience loss. They will struggle. What we can do is help them navigate these experiences by giving them the space to talk about their feelings, by being safe places for them to grieve, and by showing them that we recover. What children need most to feel safe when unexpected things happen is for the caring adults in their world to show, in word and deed, that things will be okay—that we can be sad or scared, and yet still believe we will heal and things will get better.

I think I hear your fear that another loss will damage your daughter in some way. Your instincts about waiting to introduce your daughter to your previous partner are solid, and listening to those instincts again will likely serve you well. By doing so, you are showing her that relationships are important and intentional, and even if the next one ends sooner than you’d like, it doesn’t have to be damaging.

As for your own fears, doubts, and loss, it might be helpful to talk with a counselor about how to heal from your past relationship and open yourself up to future relationships. It’s not easy to be open and vulnerable after being hurt, disappointed, or betrayed. Doing so requires a leap of faith—not only in the other person or relationship, but in yourself and your ability to handle whatever may come.

Best of luck,

Erika Myers

Erika Myers
Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC is a licensed psychotherapist and former educator specializing in working with families in transition (often due to separation or divorce) as well as individuals seeking support with relationship issues, parenting, depression, anxiety, grief/loss/bereavement, and managing major life changes. Although her theoretical orientation is eclectic, she most frequently uses a person-centered, strengths-based approach and cognitive behavioral therapy in her practice.
  • 6 comments
  • Leave a Comment
  • Kim

    Kim

    June 17th, 2016 at 12:55 PM

    It is tough. I say stay single til she is out of the house

  • Lora

    Lora

    June 20th, 2016 at 9:21 AM

    It could be that you are not yet ready for another relationship and this is why you are single. And it is perfectly fine to admit that you want to be alone and hey, this could be a great way to spend even more time with your child. I know that there has to be a great fear of both of you getting hurt, but it could be a time to also talk to kids about the fact that not every relationship is always going to work out and that there can be a pain that can go along with that. You just have to be ready to them the positive ways of goign through a breakup like that, things to do and not to do.

  • Henry

    Henry

    June 21st, 2016 at 2:27 PM

    Most of us who are single with kids are kind of scared of bringing home the wrong person or making them experience that loss of getting to know someone and then having them gone. Such is life. There is always going to be loss and pain. Choose wisely and maybe you would never have to go through this again. Or you make the choice to be alone and that is not always the healthiest thing to see either. Just I think that when the right person comes along you will know it and you will see it with how they interact with your children. Trust that you are making all the right decisions.

  • catrina

    catrina

    June 21st, 2016 at 5:49 PM

    I would say to go into the dating with no preconceived notions of what it will become, just let it evolve naturally over time.

  • Tee

    Tee

    June 22nd, 2016 at 4:20 PM

    I know that it can be hard to be a single parent but it can also be very rewarding in so many ways. I think that instead of focusing on the ways that you think that the child could hurt why not look at the ways that they are benefiting with you obviously being a great and caring parent? You are doing something right so give yourself a past on the back for that. I think that as singles we spend way too much time tearing ourselves down. Let’s build ourselves up for a moment and see how good that actually feels.

  • roxie

    roxie

    June 23rd, 2016 at 3:03 PM

    Just because you break up doesn’t mean that it has to be about anything bad. There are actually good things that can come out of a breakup. You could very well develop a friendship with this person that will long outlast the romantic feelings that you may have once had fr him or her. Don’t look at it as always losing something but instead look at it as what you could gain from that experience.

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

GoodTherapy uses cookies to personalize content and ads to provide better services for our users and to analyze our traffic. By continuing to use this site you consent to our cookies.