Dating in a hook-up culture is rough enough, but adding a few kids into the mix only elevates the awkward factor. Just entering the dating pool after a long hiatus and subsequent divorce was a shock to my system. But eight years into marriage, my college sweetheart walked out the door. So with a kindergartner and a preschooler in tow, I had to start over and learn to navigate the singles’ scene.

Like so many of you, I had some crazy dates. For instance, there was the guy I met on online who flew out from Colorado to join me and my kids at Disneyland with his daughter for the day. The only problem was he showed up to our date with another gal who looked exactly like Megan Fox. And strangely enough, they had adjoining rooms at their hotel (his little girl told me this on the Tower of Terror and my scream might have been genuine for the first time). When I confronted Mr. Awesome Christian Guy about his duplicity, he got sad and asked me with a straight face, “Why can’t we just all be intimate friends?”

It’s the only time the kids and I ever left Disneyland before the fireworks. It took me a while to refine my mommy-approved, date-worthy radar, but eventually I was able to weed out the dirt-bags and find a good man. They really are out there; it just takes some patience and persistence to discover them.

Want to learn from my mistakes? These are the red flags you should watch out for as a single mom on the dating scene.

1. Warning Sign Statements

If something your date says sounds bizarre, ask a few more questions. A few statements that should be construed as warning signs that this person might not be the right choice include:

  • “I haven’t seen my kids in a long time.”
  • “About five jobs ago…”
  • “Actually we are separated, but the divorce should be any day now.”
  • “I just broke up with my ex last week.”

Listen to your intuition and be willing to walk away from a date to protect yourself and your children. Do not play mental negotiations because they have a cushy job, financial security and a Porsche. Just say no to a second date.

2. Ignoring Bad Behavior

A key Biblical principle says that what is in a person’s heart determines how that person acts, including all the decisions he or she makes (good or bad). It’s so important to recognize that conduct follows convictions and actions follow attitudes. As Solomon wrote:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23

So watch how your date behaves in all circumstances. You want to give yourself plenty of time to get to know them before you introduce them to your kids. Be sure to notice the little things. Are they kind to the wait staff at restaurants? If they have a pet, do they treat it well? Have you met their family and friends? How do they behave when under pressure? Are they triggered easily? Their actions in these situations will give you insight into their character that you should not ignore.

3. Lowering Your Standards

The time to think through any potentially perilous situation is before it happens. Know what kind of father you want for your children and what kind of man it will take to raise your precious babies. Fortify your convictions in advance with firm intentions, accountability and a solid plan. If you want a man who shares your faith with you, then don’t compromise spiritually. If you desire someone who has healthy work/life balance, don’t partner up with a workaholic. Dating with intention is never more important than when you have a family you are guiding and protecting.

4. Lacking Support

When facing any obstacle, it helps to know you have support. Invite others who share your commitment to God to encourage you and check in with you. Find advocates and ask them to watch your back and help you to hold firm to your convictions. They can help you to keep you moving in the direction you want to go.

In addition, seek out a dating guide whose perspectives and opinions you hold in high regard, like a pastor, a mentor or a teacher. Spend time with this person and glean all the wisdom you can. Good counsel is available to you if you’ll ask for it. Again, it was Solomon who said:

“He who walks with the wise grows wise.” Proverbs 13:20

Your Christian faith defines who you are and will play a vital role in any lasting relationship. Protect what matters most to you – your children – by watching out for these common dating pitfalls for single moms.

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