Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Double D

In the area of dating, anything goes. Isn't that what they say? People date to find a match, to have a one-night stand, to boost their ego, to find happiness, or to find a way out of reality for a while. People date for a barrel of reasons, non of which are wrong in my eyes, although lets be honest, some of them can cause serious heartache.

So, I found myself wondering...if anything goes, are there any exceptions to this? What about depression? Does depression and dating mix? Can they mix? Should they? Shouldn't they? With 1 in 4 people suffering from some sort of mental health problem (depression, anxiety etc.) over the course of a year, I found myself wondering how many people in the dating pool are currently also depressed?

I want to clarify that when I say 'depressed', I'm talking about actual depression. Not the sort that makes you feel down for a day when your goldfish dies, but the sort thats like living under a cloud, seemingly with no way out. Can this type of depression go hand in hand with dating?

I'm a firm believer that there is no black and white in life, it's not cut and dry. Things aren't one or the other, but varying degrees of in-between. So to me, saying someone with depression shouldn't be dating, isn't quite right. Don't get me wrong, if you're suffering on the extreme end then I would be inclined to say that dating wouldn't be a good idea for anyone involved. There are too many uncertainties in dating and without some foundation to start with, it seems like a concerning path to walk. Think of it like someone with wobbly legs trying to stay upright on a surf board - it's not going to work. You're likely to fall off in spectacular style, potentially with a belly flop (man, those things are painful!) and a mouth full of salty water. It's not exactly going to be a pleasant experience.

But what about the majority of people who suffer with some form of mental health problem? The ones I think of as 'middle of the road'. Who have their share of ups and downs but manage. Those who may or may not take a prescribed pill to help make getting up easier, or those who may have needed time off work in the past, but are now living a 'normal' life. What about those who live with depression and make the most of it? Can they be in the dating pool successfully? Should they?

To discriminate against someone with depression is as frustrating to me as discriminating against someone with a physical disability. But the trouble with mental health problems, means that the unseen is unheard. Mental health problems are treated with major social stigma, even in an era where it's so common. Which quite frankly, really pees me off. Yes, a person might struggle to find the motivation to get out of bed sometimes (but somehow they do) or they may sit and feel really crappy for no reason, but what about the times they go out with friends and make everyone laugh, let their hair down and really love life? Depression, like everything else, isn't black and white.

When I was with an ex, I went through a period of needing anti-depressants. I had post-natal depression and it was a really sucky time. My ex hated that I needed anti-depressants and was quite vocal about this. He thought that he should be enough to 'cure' me. It doesn't work like that. I knew I needed them because I would sit in the bath every night and cry. For no reason. I felt crap, I couldn't concentrate on anything for long enough to distract myself, so even watching a soap was tiresome as my brain tried to focus, and yet couldn't. I recognised the traits and asked for help. Within a few months, I was confident enough to get back on the surf board as I knew my legs weren't shaky anymore, and I didn't need the prozac either.

In a world where bills, pressure and stress are everyday occurrences, should we think that someone who's depressed shouldn't date? I know someone who's suffered with depression on/off for over a decade. She's intelligent, beautiful and confident, but sometimes she needs a bit of help. When she does, she visits the doctors and takes a pill a day until she feels strong enough to stop. She's never been addicted, she's never viewed anti-depressants as a permanent option, just a temporary aid. This friend is dating currently and she's happy trying dinner and drinks with different people. She's still on anti-depressants but she's happy. She gets dressed up, enjoys a good dance with her friends on a night out, and she likes to make memories. Does that mean that sometimes she doesn't come home from work and lay on her bed staring at the ceiling for an hour? Or that she doesn't have to sometimes disguise that she sits at her desk at work, staring at the screen wondering why she has such a low opinion of herself? No, but she rides the storm. Life only happens once and my friend says that she isn't prepared to waste more of her time letting the depression rule. Does she tell her dates she's on anti-depressants? Hell no! Would they know? No chance! If she's having a bad day she covers her tracks, makes excuses and does her thing to cope - goes to the gym, gets an early night, spends time with people who make her smile etc. Should she not date? I think she should! She enjoys it, she's able to and she's doing no harm. But I know not everyone agrees. If she felt like throwing herself off the multi-storey then I would think differently, but she doesn't.

My opinion is that dating and depression can work. Every case is individual, but overall I see no reason to say that the two can't be compatible. Although I have to acknowledge that this would throw up some difficulties.

So people of the world, take heed from my friend - if you're able, and you're doing no harm (to yourself, or anyone else) then go with it. Life is too short to live under the cloud.

*This is a sponsored post*

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Mr BoyToy #2

Mr BoyToy.

Oh how you've surprised me.

If I said I had been completely changed, that I had found the error of my dating ways, and that the key all along was to only date a younger man...well, then I'd be lying. BUT this younger man certainly has been a pleasant surprise.

Inbetween our dates there was a large amount of flirty communication, a very constant and exciting amount. And some very nice kissing, hand holding and sofa-sitting, film-watching cuddling. It's been a long time since someone's text me to say 'good morning' and 'good night', every night, and I realise I've missed it. It's nice.

He's funny, and makes me laugh constantly. He's motivated to work hard and he's the easiest person to be around. I feel so comfortable around him - but I'm wondering if that's actually a warning bell, because I want someone who gives me butterflies. He's affectionate and open, he doesn't play games or wait hours to return my texts. He's *dare i say it* great boyfriend material.

So what's the problem?

I've found this great guy, and all last week I was full of excitement. Then the long bank holiday happened and we spent a LOT of time together. With hindsight, probably too much. It's spooked me that he's just walked into my little world and tried to fit in. Like he's trying to slot into a gap that he thinks was waiting for him.

This is the problem.

My last relationship almost ruined my life. I say that without being the slightest bit overdramatic. (Okay, maybe a bit of overdramatising there, but not much) My wonderful, "perfect" boyfriend was the only man I've ever introduced to my son. He threw me surprise birthday parties, sent flowers, loved my son as much as I could have hoped...and when he told me he wanted me forever, he booked to take me to Tiffany's and pick my engagement ring.

Then two days later he dumped me - over the phone. And I never saw him again.

He had a wife.

I've never drunk as much Gin, eaten as little, or felt heartache like it. But in the midst of the blackness, something emerged...Me. A more educated me. A more cautious me. A more wary Lady Writes emerged from those ashes.

So taking the plunge into dating was a big step. And yes, I've kissed (well thankfully, not all of them) some frogs recently, but here's Mr BoyToy and he could be offering potential. I'm not saying I've imagined our wedding, picked our house and named our kids, but he offers potential. And that's good in the sense that it reminds me there is hope, even if it's not with him.

So why don't I feel happier?

Seeing someone every night for three nights in a row, when you've only really just met them, isn't a wise idea. So, I've made plans. That don't involve him, and booked him in for the next date on Friday night and I've slowed my texting down. I'm not ready to be feeling like I want to come home to someone, or like they "will miss seeing me this week". As lovely as it is, and as much as I want it to happen, I don't want it - with anyone - this quickly. Time for a breather.

Am I ungrateful? Should I be embracing this fast moving train thats hurtling towards me with the power to decapitate me? (Sorry, the overdramatic me again).

I was hurt once. I'm healed now. But that doesn't mean I'm in a rush to make those mistakes again. So, Mr BoyToy, please stick to your good track record with me, and allow me some breathing space, and hopefully we might be able to take advantage of the huge potential you offer.

Slowly. Maybe.


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Dating As A Single Parent

The biggest learning curve as a single parent is how to balance parenthood and dating, because both need to come with an instruction manual, yet neither do.

I'm a confident, outgoing kind of woman, and yet the prospect of dating again after being single for 18 months absolutely stumped me. I'd been in a relationship with my son's father for six years, so returning to the dating pool was terrifying. Like playing that trust game, where you have to fall backwards and wait for your friends to catch you. Except this time, the person I was hoping to meet was going to have to catch two hearts instead of one...no easy feat.

Along my online dating journey I've learnt several, key things which are my imperatives to dating as a single parent.

1. Honesty From The Beginning
When you join a dating site, don't withhold the fact that you have a child. The sad truth is, with online dating especially, the mentality is like looking through a catalogue for a partner or date. This means that if you don't tick enough 'boxes', then you're not going to get that initial message in your inbox. In all honesty dating a woman with a child isn't for everyone, and that's okay. As much as we love and cherish our child, we can't expect every single person to do the same. It's only fair on other people to know your situation - no matter if it means ruling them out of a date. If this is the case, they aren't right for you anyway.

2. Keep Child-Chat To A Minimum
Personally I keep my son out of as much initial communication as possible. I make sure I reiterate that I have a son into initial communications once - usually when someone asks what I've been up to, I will respond and include an activity that we've done together. Just to make absolutely sure they know. After this, and during a first date, I will rarely mention him. I think it's important for a date to get to know me as me, not as a parent - to decide if there is anything worth pursuing. A new guy with little experience of children, especially if he has none of his own, isn't going to want to hear about the beautiful play-doh creation that my son made, or the amount of times he has tried to stick a raisen, lego, or bead up his nose. So for those initial messages, and the first (few) dates, keep it to a minimum. If you decide to keep seeing each other, then slowly begin to bring the child into the conversation on a more frequent basis.

3. Don't Introduce Until You're Sure
Everyone has different rules about this. My stance is that a man won't meet my son until I'm sure there is a future for us. I'm not talking white dresses and vows necessarily, but I am talking about a mutual decision to face forward together. This comes after the honeymoon period, when routine has taken hold and you know that you're compatible as two individuals. Children make bonds with those they see regularly, and nothing is worse than watching your childs heart break when the newest squeeze doesn't work out and they face missing them, and potential rejection issues. Protecting their heart is more important than the convenience of introducing your new beau to your child too early, just so you don't have to rely on babysitter time to be together.

4. Labels
When you do introduce someone to your child, think careful about what label you want to give that. Lines shouldn't ever be blurred, and labels are dependant on each individual situation. My son has a father, so I'm not looking for a replacement one. Therefore I would only introduce someone new under the guise of a 'friend' at first, and thus keeping the hand holding, kissing and hugging private. Then as things stop being 'new' the label would become that of a "boyfriend".

5. Don't Neglect Either Heart
Finally, when you're in a relationship and you have a child, there are three hearts to consider, and you are the one who has the most control over them all. As a parent, we can't expect anyone to protect our child's heart for us, that's our responsibility. If your child needs you, then that has to be the priority - no matter what the new squeeze would say. If they can't handle a last minute date cancellation because your child's been sick everywhere, then they aren't going to be the right third heart for the scene. Don't expect them to jump for joy if you have to cancel, but if they struggle to accept it, then that should be a warning sign. Likewise make sure that you make the most of your child-free time and invest into the new relationship. It means your free time is going to disappear as you split it between your little person, and your big person, but that's just seasonal as a pattern will nicely emerge with gentle persuasion.

I'm not saying these tips are foolproof, but I wanted to share what I've learnt. It may sound like a lot of rules, but in reality dating as a single parent comes with a shed load of extra considerations/worries. Don't let it stress you out, but make a mental plan and stick to it, and most importantly, go with the flow, but never be dragged along by the current.

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