Creating Relational Stability

Relational stability after a failed relationship, or a painful loss of any kind, can seem like a lofty goal. As single parents, we may find ourselves bringing our hurts, fears, or mistrust into new relationships. So how do we create relational stability as we move forward?

Robert Beeson and Kimberley Mitchell were single parents for eight years. Elizabeth Cole and Marissa Lee are both single moms. Robert asked Kim, “How long did it take for you to believe that you were able to have a new relationship and how could  you tell?”
“When God doesn’t bring someone, that’s a good way to tell”, says Kimberley. After her divorce, Kim dated someone for a while but quickly realized it wasn’t going to work out and that she needed to focus on her kids and her relationship with God. It’s easy to react out of loneliness and jump into something quickly but Kim says she is glad she ended up having to wait for another relationship, but the waiting wasn’t easy. She had meltdowns with God asking what was wrong with her and if she would ever have a significant other in her life again, but it wasn’t time. IF she had jumped into things much sooner, she would have missed out on a whole lot of blessings she experienced with her kids, and seeing God shine on them in ways they would have missed. Waiting was hard but she’s grateful now.

How do you handle the loneliness of not having a relationship?
Elizabeth says. “I don’t. I’m not very good at it.” She knows that this is a weak spot for her. Loneliness is one of the hardest emotions for her to sit in, so she finds ways to distract herself,  so she doesn’t have to struggle with it like Netflix, phone calls, going out with friends for dinner, or, in the past, jumping into relationships. “I actually want to write a book called “Loneliness makes you do crazy things”, she says, “because it does”.
Marissa says, “I accept and face loneliness, but I don’t know what to do with it.” Being raised in a family of introverts, it was foreign for her to think she could walk over to a friend’s house to make intentional connections. She’s had to train herself on how to build a community and how to strengthen friendships. But she sees the importance of learning how to develop healthy stable relationships and pursue people correctly
Elizabeth shares that she wonders if people handle loneliness differently based on how they are wired. She learns by doing so she’s willing to strike out and try things without shrinking back. Other people may learn by introspection and approaching things more slowly. These factors can impact how we pursue relationships but so can life circumstances, past experiences with creating friendships, like moving around a lot, or false beliefs we have formed about ourselves. Identifying those things and then dealing with them in new ways is essential as we move toward creating healthy relationships.

How do we get ourselves to a place where we can enter a relationship from a place of wholeness without looking for someone to complete or fix us?
This can be a difficult place to get to especially for people who have been traumatized or hurt relationally. Kim shares that in the early days of being a single mom, when she was lonely, she would go to bed early to protect and guard her heart, and her time with kids. Angela Thomas talks about this in her book “My Single Mom Life” – using the time wisely and avoiding situations where loneliness can make you do crazy things.
Elizabeth shares that, in the past, loneliness led her to date people that weren’t right for her. In one case, she stayed in a relationship longer than she should have because she was lonely. What’s been helpful for her since then is having the courage to stand on her own, something that isn’t easy after being hurt, not just from past relationships but even from childhood.
Knowing how to build a healthy relationship is hard. “It’s clunky and you just don’t get it right every time”, she says. And,  wherever you find yourself in building relationships, friendships or with family even, as you get healthier, those may begin to trickle off or change. “It takes a lot of courage to dip your toe in the water and then go a little deeper with people to find out who is safe and who will be with you in the struggle.” We all need safe people we can call and say, “I’m really lonely today.” Having authentic relationships where you are accepted and can be yourself offers good protection from going into a dating relationship and looking for someone to “complete you”. When you have a lot of strong relationships, you won’t “put all your eggs in one basket.” Having your tank filled from a lot of people helps prevent another person from becoming an idol. We need to put God first and then our kids and then our other relationships.

Elizabeth shares that Solo Parent Society Zoom groups are a great source for support and developing healthy community. “We need safe places to explore what we’re feeling and why we’re feeling it.” Being able to share that with others helps the loneliness dissipate. That kind of support is pivotal. When our tanks are full, we can go into new relationships with confidence in who we are and what our values our without being in a place of desperation or compromise. We can seek out someone honestly and discover who they are and how you might be able to walk with them in a relationship without being codependent. The healthier you get, the more you can develop healthy connections.

What are some practical things you do to be the best you and what is keeping you from dating?
Being in a strong healthy place ourselves allows us to consider dating with a better long-term perspective of what we really want in a partner. We won’t just consider short term relief from loneliness. Instead, we can really think about if that person is someone we will want to go on vacation with and spend time with fifteen years from now. We can date without looking for someone to solve our problems.
One of the things that Marissa is doing is focusing on how to be a better friend and companion to other people. Being healthier herself will allow her to attract healthier people.
One of the other things we can be careful about is not leaning too much on one person at a time and burning them out. Rather, develop a collective of people for support and find a community of many people to lean on, not a single person. One friend can’t handle all our needs. Even when we have a significant other, we can’t lean on them for everything, or we will develop a codependent relationship.
Marissa is also paying attention to how she listens to other people and how present she is with them. Part of creating relational stability is learning how to commune well with other people. There is so much healing that can happen when we start to learn about other people.  And from that place of healing and security, we have more to give to a future relationship.
Robert shares, “Don’t be in a rush to get into a relationship for loneliness sakes.” Waiting and being open to what God has for us as we wait transforms us. Going through the “kiln of time” changes us and helps us grow.
Being in another serious relationship is hard. As single parents, we develop a culture and way of doing things with our kids that can be challenging to merge with someone else. A second marriage, while a blessing, is also a disruption, so it’s not something to rush into or go into with ideas that everything will be easy and perfect.

Second marriages can be healthier and stronger when we are healthier and stronger, but even so, marriage is a lot of work.  Kim shares how important it was for her to take the time to sit with Jesus and find completeness in Him. That has allowed her to enter her new marriage in a different way, as a different person than she was before. When we are stable and secure in Jesus, we can love our partner well without unhealthy dependency. We won’t look to our spouse to fix us. Instead, we can enjoy doing life together as partners and friends.

Elizabeth mentions, “It’s really important for us to have a safety net so we come to a relationship healthy and whole. “ And we also need to look at whoever we might be dating to see if they have that safety net and support too. Both partners need healthy relationships in their lives and to have done the work to develop new patterns too. We can’t be everything to our partner any more than they can be for us.

A final question to ask ourselves as we are learning to create relational stability is “How do I experience love?” We can sometimes have a wrong idea of love and misconceived notions of how to fill that hole in our hearts. We may think a significant other will fill that spot but, when we have other healthy relationships and a safety net around us, we can feel loved in a broader sense. From that place of stability, through a community of healthy relationships, we can go through life without feeling like we need to place all that weight on one person. Having relational stability before we consider dating keeps us from doing the crazy things loneliness can lead us to do.
Marissa shares that even in the wait, single parents can work on their next relationship by working on themselves now. As we get healthier as individuals, we bring that into a future relationship. We can figure out how to love and treat others well and how do I lean on God first to share the rest of life with them. From that place, we will be happier and more fulfilled and be able to be a powerful, connected presence for ourselves and for our kids and for our community overall. This allows us to walk into a relationship full already.

Elizabeth says, “Don’t run from the loneliness. Recognize it. Understand it’s there and let it push you toward a deeper relationship with God. And let it lead you to a healthy place where you can build relationships in a healthy way.” Dr. Chip Dodd shares that loneliness can lead us to apathy. If you feel that sense of apathy, ask yourself if you’re lonely and let it propel you to have that need filled through God and then reaching out to others. We are built to cry out for connection from infancy. Loneliness that is not dealt with can lead us toward evil, so we need to pay attention to our needs so it

Kim says, “Don’t waste your wilderness. The single mom and single dad season can feel dry and parched and lonely.” We can let this season lead us to God and who He is in us. “We can feel whole because of Jesus. Don’t waste this time.” The years of being a single parent is precious even when it doesn’t feel like it. We can learn so much.
Robert says, “When we are not defined by a relationship but know we are enough with God, it equips us to have stability in another healthy relationship. I don’t think there is a place that is lonelier than being in a bad marriage.  Don’t let loneliness lead you to a quick fix because it will likely lead you into another bad relationship and there’s nothing lonelier.”
Single parents, if you feel lonely and like nobody understands you and you don’t have someone to walk with, come to any of our groups, meeting seven days a week. Download the Solo Parent app and get connected. You do not have to walk this Solo path alone!
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Single parents, we invite you to join one of our groups. No sign up, RSVP or commitment needed. Just join via Zoom from wherever you are. Check out our Thursday and Saturday game nights too, for casual fun and a time of sharing afterward.
As you walk the journey of single parenting, we want you to know you are not alone! Solo Parent Society’s mission is to offer encouragement and hope through our weekly groups,  our communities on Facebook and Instagram (@soloparentsociety), and our weekly podcast. Subscribe here on AccessMore or wherever you get your podcasts. You can access all of this and more using the free Solo Parent app. Don’t miss “Sound Mind Set”, the daily reflection tool we created to connect single parents to God in just ten minutes every day.
We love to connect single parents to resources that offer hope and help. We want to help single parents raise healthy kids. To learn more or to donate, go to www.soloparentsociety.com. Questions? Email us at info@spsociety.com.
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