Or you don’t.
Let’s not kid ourselves, if we’re interested in having a relationship with someone, we are going to have to make the time to be with them. If we don’t have the time, we’re either going to make more time (prioritize) or we’re not going to make time. It’s the biggest indicator of relationship success or failure. And it even shows up in the earliest interactions as we’re starting to date.
“Why can’t we make time to get together?”
If this question is on your lips, you’ve got a problem. Early in a dating relationship, there are going to be a million opportunities to do something OTHER than make time for this new person. If you are struggling to find that time, that’s an answer. If they are struggling to find the time, that is a different answer. And, if you are both single parents, there are going to be a ton of REASONS it is so hard to get together. AND… Here’s the truth: if it’s hard to find the time now, it’s not going to get better. If you are not making your relationship a priority, even in the early courtship phase, you are giving a powerful message. And perhaps, you are receiving a powerful message from your inner self as well. If you can’t make the time for someone, you may not be ready. Or, they may not be worth it. Or… You fill in the blank.
Let’s see how this shows up in the earliest relationship experience, the “hello” date.
- Was your date on time?
- Did you both share smiles and laughs during the date?
- At the end, were you BOTH interested in scheduling a “next time?”
1 and 3 are about time. And simple misses in these areas can signal a deeper meaning. The person may not even be aware that they are late. They may always be 10 minutes late. They may have given you a text a few minutes before they were expected, giving you a reasonable explanation and expected ETA. AND, they were late. No mistaking that message. Something (sure, it’s too early to tell anything, at this point) is putting your potential relationship on the back burner, physically, emotionally, and perhaps, spiritually. If they were really excited they would’ve shown up early to get a seat for both of you. But they did not show up late. Just, make a note of this kind of behavior.
Let’s Say You Do Start Dating
Being a single parent brings an exponential challenge to finding time and energy to date. But, guess what? ALL SINGLE PARENTS are dealing with the same thing. Your situation may seem unique to you. Your case may feel extreme and out of control, to you. And it doesn’t matter to your potential partner. In fact, those signals (“Oh, my schedule is out of control this weekend!”) are actually very important messages.
There is no doubt, a lot of things take priority over your new dating life. Most things involving your kid, in fact, will always take priority. However, if you don’t give any space for the new person in your life, if you keep putting the couple’s vacation off due to scheduling problems, you are showing your new partner, by your actions, that they are not very high on your priority list. It’s okay, but let’s be real about it. If you are asked to go to the coast three times by your new partner, and you can’t find the time to look at a calendar and pick one of the potential dates, you’re actually saying, “No, I don’t want to go to the beach with you.” Yes, I understand, you are saying, “Oh, my goodness, my life is so crazy right now…” But in reality you are saying, “I have no bandwidth to be dating at all.” You are saying, “I don’t have time for you.”
Let’s Make Time To Be Together
So the challenges exist for all of us single parents. Making time for another person is hard. It might be easier if we didn’t have to make plans, if we just stayed focused on our parenting duties. It might be less stressful to not be in a relationship. I know a lot of people who are stuck in this mode, single parents, and non-parents a like.
Relationships take work. They take consideration and negotiation. They can add stress to your already stressful life.
Relationships can also provide comfort, support, and love at a time when we’re all seeking more of that. A loving partner might offer a way to take the “what’s for dinner” load off your plate for an entire week. A loving partner might take your plans and needs into consideration BEFORE scheduling another non-couple recurring responsibility. What we are looking for, is a partner who considers the WE before making major scheduling decisions. If it’s about time, both partners in the relationship, must take responsibility to MAKE THE TIME.
I love the idea of date night as a frame for couples to start carving out time together. But what if only one of the partners is making the date plans? Sure, you’ve both stated it would be nice, you’ve agreed that each of you should alternate taking “date night” as a project. And… Only one of you is able to put in the time to make the date night happen. What message does that give the other partner? Is it better to just continue to schedule all of the date nights, or is there a point where the question has to be asked, “Why are you not putting in the time?”
Relationships Are Like Stretch Goals
When we are well into our dating relationship, we might begin to have larger goals for where things might be going. For some people, this might be marriage, having kids, moving in together. As we start trusting more, sharing more time together, we begin to aspire for even more commitment, even more love, even more vulnerability. And if time is the currency of a relationship, and I believe it is, both partners will be offering stretch goals for the relationship experiences in the future. We stretch to grow. We acknowledge our scheduling hardships, and we stretch to make the time anyway.
If the basics of time management keep crushing your aspirational goals for the relationship, you need to take a step back and reset your expectations. If time is becoming harder to manage, perhaps it’s the relationship that needs to be examined. When time together is always a problem, guess what… It’s going to be a problem until someone makes some major changes in their priorities. When they aren’t willing to reshuffle their deck to include you in it, they are giving you a clear message: you are in a different deck. You may be the boyfriend, but you’re not yet a priority. Or, you may be important, but there are so many other things that are overwhelming your partner, that it’s better to let them go.
If We Break
Continuing to share loving-kindness for your former partner is the high road when things need to change. Certainly, there will be anger, sadness, and frustration mixed in with your feelings of compassion and caring. If possible, give those energies some outlet that is not directed at your former partner. Once you have decided to move on, you must understand that your former partner owes you nothing. Closure is a myth we like to “go for” in our breakups, but closure is up to us as individuals.
My ex-partner cannot forgive me. My ex-partner cannot make me feel better about breaking up. My ex-partner cannot love me the way I want to be loved by them. And still, we love them. Trying to frame a friendship out of the ashes of an intimate relationship is tricky business. Often, it is better to make a clean and complete break. Our loving-kindness can continue without any closure between us.
Late in the movie, Eat Pray Love, the woman was speaking to her ex-husband.
He was telling her how much he still loved her.
“If you’re going to love me, then love me,” she said. “I’m moving on with my life.”
That’s how we want to leave our former lovers. I love you. And I will continue to love you in a special way. But our love has moved into a different category now. What was once a treasure map with hopes and dreams, is now a feeling of warmth and friendship that does not involve finding and exploring time together. In fact, it is the exploration of no time together, that is closure you might be looking for. Let them go live their best lives. You are no longer an integral part of it.
Time is the currency of a relationship. Let’s spend and share it wisely.
As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling relationships. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your post-divorce challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.
More articles from The Whole Parent:
- Getting Good At Blameless Breakups: Online Dating Challenges
- The Dating Journey: From the Break Up to the Pre-Dating Checklist
- Navigating Difficult Conversations in a Romantic Relationship w Grace
- Heal Your Heart from the Fear and Loss by Opening with Vulnerability
- 3 Required Traits for Building a Lasting Relationship
- Our Response to Someone Else is 100% Up to Us: Choose the Positive