Dating conflicts for single lesbian mothersBy Dave Singleton “My son can’t stand my new girlfriend. What should I do?”
Allison, a 44-year-old single lesbian mother of a son who was ruining her love life, asked me this question after a talk I gave recently on gay dating. Her son Sam, 13, clearly didn’t like her girlfriend Brenda. He was talking back and acting out on a regular basis.
“On the one hand, my dating life is my business, not his,” she said. “But, on the other, I want my son to like the woman I love and for all of us to get along.”
Allison faces a growing dilemma for many lesbian and gay parents: How to juggle the roles of parent and partner without all the balls crashing to the ground. Navigating the road between having lovers and kids is a major stress, high on the list with other challenges, such as coming out and legally protecting your rights as a gay parent.
A lesbian friend of mine said recently: “As I get older, I really appreciate low-maintenance women. You know the kind; no more than two cats, dead parents, and no kids.” Though she laughed when she said it, I’m not sure she was joking.Follow these six dating rules for single lesbian moms:
Know the woman well before bringing her into your home. Spontaneity, sadly, is now best when planned.
No kid needs a new “aunt” every week. It’s best to introduce your dates as friends (and nothing more) until you are seriously involved. Gradually make it clear to your child that your girlfriend is becoming more meaningful to you.
There’s a difference between appropriate behavior and real affection. Keep that in mind with all interactions between your date and your kid. You can enforce good manners but you can’t enforce affection, nor should you try.
Family “alone time” is sacred. Maintain your private time with your kids so they don’t feel your girlfriend is threatening their relationship with their mom.
Kids are part of your package. Find out sooner rather than later whether she wants the package, or if she’s only interested in you. If she doesn’t like kids, don’t get involved with her.
Kids are kids, not confidantes. No matter how tempting it might be to blur the roles with your child, don’t. Keep the details about your relationship strictly PG-rated.Keep your expectations in check.
A few months feels like no time at all when you are merging your girlfriend with your children. Corporate mergers sometimes take months or years of effort. Why should merging your partner and kids, which probably has more heated emotions attached to it, take less time? Despite the fact that you want to resolve all conflicts ASAP, life doesn’t work that way. Relationship conflicts take time to manage and overcome. There are no shortcuts. Your partner is well within her rights to find the role of “mom’s girlfriend” or “instant step-parent” daunting. Your children are well within their rights to feel nervous or upset at the thought of mom involved with anyone, let alone another woman. Remember this definition of fanaticism: “When you find you''re going in the wrong direction, you double your speed.
Focus on your feelings, not on what the child should do.
Make sure your child knows how you really feel about the woman in your life. That’s the advice from Shane, who’s seen his lesbian mom experience painful conflicts. “I’ve watched my brother and lesbian mother''s relationship dissolve largely because of a hated girlfriend,” he said. “The best advice for moms in that position is to make sure her son understands that he’s forcing her to make a terribly hard choice. How can she choose between him and the person she loves? That’s just so hard. He needs to understand it not in terms of what’s fair and unfair, because couching it on righteous grounds will only embolden the son more to stake out his position and not to deviate from it. Rather, he neto see how hard this is for his mom. Then, he will make up his own mind how he proceeds. And if he loves her, he will work hard to cope.”Reach out.
If you are facing dating conflicts as a single lesbian mom, at least you are not alone. In addition to private counseling, there are places you can turn to for information and support:
Organizations such as The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center in New York City offer support groups and resources for single lesbian moms at www.gaycenter.org. The goal of this group is for lesbian moms to support one another, share experiences, and develop strategies to meet the challenges of parenting and/or creating families.
Families Like Mine, www.familieslikemine.com, is a web site dedicated to decreasing isolation for people who have parents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, and bringing voice to the experiences of these families.
Finally, there are resources for the kids as well.