I'm Nev Schulman, a Dad and Host of 'Catfish': Here Are My Biggest Pieces of Dating Advice for Parents

Dating as a single parent can sometimes be intimidating and frustrating. But there are simple and smart strategies to save time and steer clear of deceptive matches, according to the Catfish: The TV Show host and dad of three.

Catfishing illustration
Photo: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

If you're a single parent, you're busy. And it can be difficult to find time and to feel good enough, both emotionally and physically, to go out on dates. For that reason, the convenience of online dating is appealing. Single parents also have the added, very complicated layer of, "Well, if I do meet someone, I can't just mess around and have a fling and bring them home and have one night stands. Like, this is someone who's potentially going to be around my kid." So there's an added layer of analysis and consideration. I can see why many single parents would use dating apps—both as a way to filter and focus their efforts to hopefully save time and heartache.

Yet, it's important to bear in mind that catfishing happens all the time, and it's been happening forever. The phenomena of deception, in terms of love, is not a new one. Plenty of people can tell you about how they got married to someone in real life and only found out years later that the person was entirely different than they had thought they were and that they were living a double life. But with technology and social media taking over our lives, a very new world of deception has emerged, and catfishing is one of many ways that people find themselves deceived generally when it comes to love and the internet. That's why I've partnered with Zelle to give people information on how to protect themselves against different romance scams.

Here are my tips for steering clear of deceptive dates, overall poor matches, and any situation that could end up feeling like a waste of precious time.

Watch Out for These Common Red Flags

If you're talking to someone, whether it's through a dating app or just someone you've met randomly on Instagram, you've got to remember that you don't know who they are. And it's their job and certainly your responsibility to make sure they prove who they are if you're going to have any kind of meaningful or certainly romantic relationship with them.

People often feel weird or creepy doing research about someone that they're dating or talking to, and we need to eliminate that stigma so that people feel comfortable with it. You need to be able to back up anything they've told you—about either where they work or where they live—through photographs or social media. It's a red flag if they don't have any kind of meaningful presence on social media.

And obviously, if they can't get on a video call with you or send you a video, that's weird. If there's an excuse for basic interaction and communication, that's a major red flag. People who are legitimate and who are serious about meeting and actually having some sort of interaction and/or date should be pretty available. I know schedules can be tricky, but it shouldn't take more than 48 hours to schedule a FaceTime or Zoom call with someone if you're serious about meeting up with.

You'll also want to watch out for excuses based on drama, misfortune, death, illness. It might happen to come up when you guys have made plans to meet for the first time, and all of a sudden, they say, "Oh, I can't meet. My grandma's sick" or "I broke my leg"—you have to be wary of that stuff.

Consider Green Lights

Be on the lookout for the opposite of red flags, like Googleability. If you match with someone on the internet, and they seem great, Google them. If they have a job that's legitimate, social media, or any number of things they've done in their past that are noteworthy, that stuff should come up.

If they've got pictures on their dating app, download them, and Google Image search them. If those pictures don't come up associated to anybody else, that's a good sign. And so is having a lot of friends on social media and being tagged in lots of photographs.

And as far as a green light that speaks to relationship potential? My wife and I like to joke that one of the things that helps our relationship be as strong as it is that we both love complaining and often find ourselves sharing similar complaints. So look for someone who complains about the same stuff that you do. It certainly works for us.

Get Out Into the World

Although app dating can be convenient and is so ubiquitous these days, I encourage people to be more openminded and willing to get out of their comfort zone when it comes to dating and relationships (especially after the pandemic is over!). I think a lot of people have kind of lost their mojo when it comes to starting conversations with strangers. And unfortunately, a lot of people find that to be weird and awkward—to approach or even be approached by someone. But you can go out with the mindset of, "Well, I don't know what's going to happen tonight, or where I'm going to end up or who I'm going to talk to, but I'm up for it." And the world can be a very exciting, interesting, fun place, and people can surprise you.

Watch Out for the Guy Who Says He Loves Moms

Moms who are single and dating men need to watch out for ones who say they're really into women who are moms. You may initially think like, "Oh wow, what a great guy. He must love kids, and he's got no problem dating a woman who has kids," which obviously every woman with a kid wants. The problem with those guys can be and perhaps often is what they really like about you is that you're a mom, and they want you to be their mom and take care of them.

Be Straightforward About Your Wants and Expectations

I think there's oftentimes a little bit of fogginess around kids when people start dating. If you're a single parent, you might feel like you don't necessarily need to have the conversation upfront about whether or not you want more children. Being really clear from the beginning is important, because that can get awkward quickly if you make assumptions around what a potential partner wants. Transparency in terms of what both of your expectations are is always a good thing.

Don't Be Afraid to Dive In

You should really always go headfirst, full throttle into things. Because if it's going to work, it's going to work and if it's going to have problems, the sooner you find out, the better.

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