Single Parent Sessions: John Sutcliffe

Our Single Parent Sessions are a series of interviews where we speak with single parents about all things dating & parenthood.

John is a proud Dad to two teenage girls. He works full-time as a Sales Director, but is also a qualified coach and runs his own business.

Welcome to Single Parent Sessions, John. Please tell us a bit about more about yourself. 

I’m rapidly heading towards my 50s (really don’t know where the time goes), I am a northerner at heart and I currently live in Sheffield, which with its close proximity to the Peak District is ideal for me.

I work within the Healthcare industry, as a Sales Director for a Vitamins and Supplements business based in Yorkshire. I have also qualified as a coach and my focus is in the area of relationships – I have used my experience, knowledge and passion to focus on a niche to work in.

From a relationship perspective, my marriage ended back in 2014 after a 20-year relationship with 14 of those years married. It did give me two wonderful daughters, now aged 15 and 17.


What does your current situation as a parent look like?

My experience is a great indicator that just because you have a piece of paper that dissolves a marriage, there are still many twists and turns to negotiate between both individuals especially where children are involved.

Up to two years ago, my ex-wife also lived in Sheffield which meant that shared responsibilities were easily managed – however, she decided he wanted to move back to her hometown in the north-east and be closer to her whole family. The obvious conundrum then being what would happen to the girls in this new arrangement, the result being that the eldest stayed with me to finish her studies in Sheffield, whilst my youngest headed further up north to a new school.

Now that my eldest daughter has concluded her time at Sixth Form, she will be moving onto University Life, so it will be all change again. That is one thing I have got used to and I believe my emotional resilience has definitely developed in this area.


How would you describe your current relationship status?

In a great place – I decided to dip my toe into the world of online dating and signed up to one for a 3-month period. It was during this time that I met my current partner and it is without doubt the best relationship I have ever had. We both had our own personal commitments from a parental perspective and we established some clear boundaries early on which we still buy into now.

How do you spend time away from your kids?

Trying to keep myself fit is the main activity I do – running out in the Peak district (or walking when I am feeling less energetic), I also get down to the gym whenever I can as well.

I also enjoy attending music gigs and getting to as many festivals as I can – I am just back from Glastonbury and just about recovered now (I expect my daughters will want to come with me next year though, which will be great!)


When did you start dating after your divorce?

It was a few years afterwards and even then it was pretty tentative in its early stages, I feel lucky to have found someone that shares my values, beliefs and outlook on life. We also have shared interests which helps but also know when we can give each other the space to do things separately.


How did you find the time to date alongside work and being a parent?

It was a case of being both very transparent and honest with each other and being clear on where the priorities were, which in both cases was ensuring the children were always at the centre of what we did and that our time would go to them first. We did ensure that we got some time in with each other, even if it was meeting for a coffee on a lunch time or going for a walk – it didn’t always have to be a big night out or staying away somewhere.

Making the small steps in the relationship towards a bigger plan has been the consistent approach we have taken and it seems to be working still.


What is the biggest struggle dating when you are a single parent? What one thing would’ve made it easier?

 Time will always be the biggest challenge and also when your children are less independent then you have so many things to balance on that front, as well as managing your career as well.

I think working with a relationship coach would have been a great assistance, having someone in your corner to support you through any challenge would have been really useful.

Also, asking friend and family for more support as well – I have never been comfortable in asking for help but I think this would have certainly helped in the early stages to offer me more free time to myself.


How did you and your current partner meet? Did you discuss your kids straight away? 

It was online – I am a believer in fate and we both went on the same online dating app at the same time to just give things a go, thankfully this was the start of what is still a great relationship. The subject of our children did come up straight away, it was good to talk about them but also then get a clear picture on how it would work for us both. We have been very patient so far and balanced our time together accordingly.


Describe your ideal first date

I am pretty simplistic in nature – grabbing a coffee or a pint in the pub usually works for me. I also think meeting and going for a walk is a good one, sometimes I feel it easier to build a rapport when you go for a walk rather than sitting across from each other.


How did your daughters feel about you dating?

They were a bit younger then, so I am not sure how much it was on their radar – also, I didn’t talk about it too much as I wanted to ensure they were not overwhelmed or anxious in any way about it.As they have got older and can understand it more, then it becomes easier to discuss the relationship and to involve them more in it as well.


When did you introduce your current partner to them and vice versa?

We waited a while before any introductions, I think it would have been about a year into the relationship – the reason being that we were both taking things cautiously as we had sensitive issues with our ex-partners to resolve first.


How did you introduce them? Any tips or lessons learnt?

We met up on a dog walk – this was a good way of doing it as there were enough distractions, it offered up more to talk about and also, it enabled both of us to be able to make any excuses to leave should things not be going as we’d hoped (it went smoothly though)


How important to you was it that your next partner is also a single parent?

It wasn’t on my list of desires in terms of my next partner being a single parent but I guess it has worked out well, as we have something in common and this makes it more relatable.


What are your thoughts on a ‘blended’ family?

I am a big believer in this, if you can make this work then it is better for all involved. I see it that the children benefit from having a bonus-parent and from that supportive friendships can be formed.


What have you learnt about yourself as a single parent?

That I am a capable individual, I have developed an inner resilience and it has personally developed me as well. I was always told I was no good during my marriage, this severely impacted my mental health and my self-esteem was rock bottom. I have ben able to re-build myself and create version 2.0 as I see it.


Describe being a parent in 3 words

Rewarding – Challenging – Love


If you weren’t in a relationship at the moment, would you download Playdate to seek a new partner and fellow single parent?

Definitely – I think having something in common and being able to buy into each other’s situation is key to the basis of a sustainable relationship. I think a dating app which specifically focuses on a certain group of people allows for a more focused dating approach as well.


What one piece of advice would you give to fellow single parents who are too scared or nervous to start dating again?

Go and try and find Mr or Mrs. Right now – just go for it, there is nothing to lose. Obviously there are aspects of safety that you need to consider and having clarity on your ideal partner is also important, but go and have some fun and start moving forwards.


John is a Relationship Impact Coach. He helps individuals recover from challenging and stressful phases of life caused by break-up, divorce or other relationship issues. He has helped many single parents get clarity on what they need to do to build resilience, confidence and positive personal change. You can find out more on his website or Instagram.

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