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Dating as a Single Mom (When Your Co-Parent is Crazy)

by | Feb 21, 2024 | 0 comments

The term “narcissism” on this blog is used to describe a specific set of personality traits. It is not intended to be used as a professional diagnosis.

single mom datingAs a single mom, it’s hard enough to meet new people and get yourself into a dating situation.

Then your narcissistic ex has to come along and mess it all up.

I remember being terrified of dating in my early days of co-parenting.

As much as I wanted to get out there and meet someone, I was scared of how my ex would react when he found out.

Even before I officially left him during the pregnancy, he was threatening future partners!

But as I grew resilient in my co-parenting, I learned how not to let potential conflicts ruin my fun.

And you shouldn’t either!

Even if your ex is narcissistic or just an asshole, you shouldn’t let their behavior and issues stop you from having fun.

So if you are entering the world of dating as a single mom and you’re not sure how to deal with your crazy co-parent, I have you covered!

Let’s go!

Finding a Partner That Respects Your Situation

When you’re a single mom dating, finding someone who respects and understands your situation is important.

The last thing you want is to develop feelings for someone who dips as soon as your ex starts drama.

I find that being upfront and honest about it near the beginning of dating is important – but you don’t have to give dirty details.

I usually say something like, “I have a less-than-perfect relationship with my co-parent but I’ve learned how to keep the drama under control.”

And then I leave it at that. I don’t complain about my ex or unload on the person I’m dating when my ex pisses me off.

If you connect with someone who is empathetic, patient, and flexible, then they will likely have no problem getting to know you despite your co-parenting situation.

And anyone who respects your role as a parent and is willing to stick around despite the complexities of co-parenting is a keeper!

Red Flags While Dating (To Avoid Another Narcissist)

Okay, so before we get into dating as a single mother when your ex is crazy, we need to talk about how to avoid getting involved with another narcissist.

It happened once because they are charming and manipulative, so it could happen again.

I just don’t want you to get obsessed with red flags and become paranoid when you date. Dating should be fun! It’s an opportunity to get out there and get to know people.

It’s just that while you are getting to know them, there are some obvious signs that can easily be overlooked when you’re all goo-goo-eyed.

So here are some things to keep in mind (but not obsess over):

Grandiose Behavior

Be wary of people who constantly boast about their achievements.

I know, dating is a time to show off and be impressive, but you’ll know when it’s over the top.

Plus, watch out for someone who belittles others in order to make themselves look better.

Playing the Victim

When you are starting to get to know someone while dating, pay attention to how they talk about their past.

If someone has had nothing but bad relationships with horrible exes, that can be a sign of narcissism.

Real-Life Example: I was chatting with a guy on a dating site. We were sharing our war stories and he mentioned around 3 or 4 horrible relationships he had.

In each one, he was a caring boyfriend who treated the woman’s children as his own, but each and every one of them cheated on him.

To me, that’s suspicious. Three or four relationships that all ended the same?

Came to find out through one of his exes that he is an abusive manipulator who hates kids.

Narcissists are always the victims and don’t take responsibility for anything bad that happens in their lives. You can usually spot a narcissist by the way they talk about past relationships.

Boundary Violations

Narcissists will try to push your boundaries, and this can happen very early on in dating.

At first, it may seem innocent, like they just can’t wait to be with you, near you, in you, because you are such an amazing person.

The boundary violations start small, like, “Oh, come on, just do this one thing for me this one time?” And then when you do, they start to push them further.

“No” is a complete sentence. If they can’t respect that, no matter what the situation is, then they are not going to respect ANY of your boundaries – especially the serious and important ones.

Love Bombing

Narcissists are master manipulators and they know how to lay on the charm to reel you in. You probably experienced this when you first started dating your ex.

This is called “love bombing” and they use it to make you feel amazing! You are the coolest person ever, they love you so much, and you’re perfect for them.

It’s a way to get you attached to those awesome feelings so that, when they start to treat you like shit, they can use that charm to keep you around.

It’s a disgusting pattern of emotional abuse and it all starts with love bombing.

But how can you tell the difference between love bombing and twitterpation/early days magical happy feelings?

Here are some signs:

  • Intensity and rapid progression
  • Excessive flattery and attention
  • Lack of boundaries (especially privacy and personal space)
  • Unrealistic promises and future plans (watch Bad Surgeon on Netflix ????)

If you want to learn more about what narcissism looks like in a relationship, check out my post here!

Telling Your Narcissistic Co-Parent About Your New Partner

First of all, do you have to tell them?

Legally, no. You do not have to inform your ex about your new relationship or dating life. However, being transparent with your co-parent gives you control over the information they receive and how they receive it.

Before you do, though, it’s important to weigh the potential risks and benefits of telling them. Consider the dynamics of your relationship with your co-parent and their potential reaction.

Are they going to throw a tantrum? Or are they going to do something more severe? The thing that makes your ex knowing about a new partner complicated is the fact that they may find out through your children.

Staying Ahead of the Conflict

So, do you get ahead of that and tell them so you can control what they know? Or do you keep it to yourself and hope your kiddos don’t let anything slip?

Personally, I would inform your ex around the same time you introduce your new partner to your children. That way, your ex can’t grill them for information right away because they won’t have any.

Otherwise, once your children know you’re dating, they may innocently tell your ex – and they may blow their top in front of the kids and start interrogating them.

Introducing a New Partner to Your Kids

This brings up a good point I should mention about when to introduce your new partner to your kids.

Everyone has a different opinion on this, but when you’re dealing with a narcissistic co-parent who is already making things difficult for your kids, it’s important to maintain stability in their lives.

Introducing them to everyone you date can affect that stability, especially if things don’t work out.

When you’re dating or entering a new relationship, establish some stability with a potential partner before you include your children.

You don’t want your ex freaking out about everyone you date and the less your children know, the better.

What To Do If Your Ex Threatens You or Your New Partner

Before we talk about how to deal with threats, it’s important to know what is a legitimate threat and what is just your ex being an asshole.

Example:

Threat: I’m going to kick the crap out of your new boyfriend.

Asshole: Your boyfriend sucks and I hope he makes you unhappy.

If your ex is just being an asshole, your best bet is to ignore it. Don’t engage, don’t respond, and don’t try to prove your ex wrong or set them straight.

If they do threaten you or your new partner, then something has to be done. Here’s what you can do:

Document Everything

Make sure you keep detailed records of what is said and when it was said. If you haven’t already, you may need to limit your communication to writing.

This way, you’ll have evidence of what your ex is saying in case you need to pursue this in court or with law enforcement.

Set Boundaries

Establish firm boundaries with your ex and communicate them assertively. Even though your ex will likely overstep them, it’s important that you explain clearly what the consequences of their actions are.

For instance, you can tell your ex that you will not engage in confrontations or arguments. You can tell them that if they continue to threaten you, you will call the police.

Again, your ex is probably not going to respect your boundaries, but setting them is important because:

  • There’s a slight chance they might and that makes it worth it.
  • In court, you can show that you addressed the issue civilly and they chose to be an asshat.
  • Every time you set and follow through with a boundary, you level up as a strong and resilient person.

Just make sure you do follow through with your boundaries! Don’t try to bluff your ex – if they continue to threaten you or your new partner, call the police.

This is about protecting you and your new partner, but, most importantly, it’s protecting your child from a toxic environment.

Emotional Detachment

The whole point of threatening you or your new partner is to make you guys miserable.

Narcissists are vengeful and it’s likely that your ex will do anything to make sure you are not happy.

Plus, they know that once you are in a new relationship, they can’t control you as easily – and they like to see you upset.

So the best thing you can do is emotionally detach yourself from the situation. Look at what your ex says about you or your new partner and tell yourself that their opinion doesn’t matter.

And, really, it doesn’t.

They’re already making your life stressful by being a shitty co-parent. Don’t let them make your dating life stressful.

Legal Options

If threats persist or escalate, you can talk to the police or a lawyer about getting a restraining order or peace bond against your ex.

Restraining orders are tricky when you’re co-parenting since you have to exchange your children at some points – but this can always be done by a third party.

Peace bonds are great because they legally limit communication from your ex to topics regarding the children and nothing else.

Ultimately, you can also use these threats to modify an existing court order. Like a peace bond, the court order can stipulate what your ex talks to you about.

How to Keep Your Children Out of the Conflict

Even though dating as a single parent is a you thing that you get to enjoy, your children are still part of the equation.

Once your ex knows that you are dating or have a new partner, you need to stay ahead of damage control to make sure your kids don’t get caught up in the shitstorm.

Here are some ways you can keep them out of the conflict:

Keep Things Neutral

Create a safe and supportive environment for your children by not speaking badly about your ex in front of them.

Even if you’re not talking directly to your kiddos, it’s not good if they overhear you complaining about your ex.

Focus on Co-Parenting

Focus on co-parenting as peacefully as possible. Prioritize your children’s feelings and well-being in the situation.

Only communicate with your ex about practical matters related to parenting. Avoid arguments and say what you need to say in a business-like matter.

Discourage “Spying”

At some point, if your ex finds out that you are dating, they may start to use your children as spies. 

If you suspect that they are, address the behavior directly and assertively and document instances that this happens.

You can also use this as an opportunity to teach your children about boundaries. Empower them to tell their other parent that they are not going to share information about your life.

Don’t Overshare Your Dating Life With Your Kids

Overall, the best way to keep your kiddos out of the conflict is to refrain from sharing information with them that they don’t need to know.

Your ex can’t use them as spies or involve them in arguments if they don’t know anything.

Again, this harkens back to what I said about taking your time before introducing your kids to a new romantic relationship.

The hope here is that if you have to deal with narcissistic co-parenting and dating, you only have to deal with it once.

Co-Parenting and Dating: How to Make It Work

Dating as a single mom while dealing with a narcissistic co-parent can definitely be challenging.

But with patience and resilience, you can make it work!

Just stop caring about what your ex thinks and do what you need to do to proactively protect yourself and your children.

Implement parallel parenting strategies like limited communication, get a court order, and set your boundaries.

And then go have fun! You can create a healthy and fulfilling dating life while co-parenting with a crazy ex.

How do you handle co-parenting and dating? Any advice you can share? Let us know in the comments below! ⬇️⬇️⬇️

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