A solo mum and dad who found love after she sent a supportive message responding to his post about a terrible date in an online community have inspired the Valentine’s Day launch of a dating app solely for single parents.
When Susannah Underwood, 48, the manager of a chain of hair salons, started chatting to a man online, a single parent for five years now with two children, her intention was to offer reassurance, not to find romance.
But sparks soon flew between her and civil servant Carl, 40, and before long the dad-of-two from Wallingford, Oxfordshire, and the Cardiff mum were in love.
Susannah, who met Carl – whose sensitive work means he will not give his surname – in September 2020 on Frolo, an advice hub for single parents, said: “I had a lot of male friends on the site.
“I’d pick their brains about stuff to do with being a single parent, so I could get the male perspective, but it never occurred to me I’d start a new relationship.
“The thing with Carl is that he just got the whole single parent thing because he is one.”
She added: “I also knew the site was a really safe place to meet other single parents and interact, so I wasn’t going to get sent nasty pictures or anything dirty.
“I trusted Carl, but I told him I was still concerned that if I fell for him I might lose the friendship.
“Also, I’m a woman of a certain age, so that, together with being a single parent, made me feel more vulnerable, but Carl totally understood.”
Carl, whose two children – a boy and a girl- live with their mum and visit him every other weekend, also spending some of their school holidays with him, was new on the Frolo site when he posted a message saying no one wanted a “nice guy,” after having a disastrous date.
Susannah, who ran a number of the site’s specialist groups including the online book club, sent him a message saying she had also been told she was “too nice,” but advising him to be true to himself and not to change.
Continuing to chat as friends, after a month, they started enjoying video calls away from Frolo when her girls were in bed and she had the house to herself, before finally meeting in person at the end of November 2020.
But the venue was far from romantic.
Susannah laughed: “We met at Magor Services near Newport in South Wales for a couple of hours.
“I always say it was the worst location for a date of my life, but it was convenient as it meant I could get back in time to collect my kids. However, it was one of the best dates of my life, too, as I could have stayed and chatted with Carl for hours.”
She added: “I knew we got on brilliantly as friends and I thought maybe I fancied him a bit, but I didn’t want to do anything that might spoil that friendship.
“Happily, it turned out we both felt the same way and the chemistry was there between us.”
Until that point, since splitting up with her ex and becoming a single parent in 2016, Susannah had been too committed to her daughters to give her own needs much thought.
She said: “Carl and I really made each other laugh, but when we first met, I still wasn’t sure I was ready for a romantic relationship.”
But, at the end of 2020, they could not deny their feelings any longer and became a proper couple – describing themselves as a “blended family” even though they do not live together.
With their jobs based a long way apart, they see no need to rush into setting up home together and are happily watching their relationship blossom at their own pace.
Susannah said: “We’re enjoying life and enjoying our children, so we don’t feel we have to make any big future plans.
“That’s worked really well for me, because it means it hasn’t been too overwhelming.”
With lockdowns hampering the amount of time they physically spent together in the early days of dating, even their children first got to know each other online – playing board games together on long Zoom calls.
Susannah added: “When they did meet in person at Easter 2021, we decided just to go to the beach at Barry Island near Cardiff for the day and I remember looking up at one point and all four kids were standing in the water holding hands as they bonded.”
This was both a pleasure and a relief for Susannah and Carl who, like all single parents, knew it was essential for their children to like each other and their partners in order for the relationship to truly work.
Next was the “parenting challenge” – making sure that their different approaches to bringing up their children were compatible.
Deciding to parent their children as a couple when they were all together, there were some initial teething troubles, according to Susannah.
But these were ironed out at family meetings and all four children quickly understood there was one set of rules when the blended family was together and another when they returned to their usual family unit.
“If there is an issue, Carl and I make a point of going off to talk about it together, so we can resolve it together and the kids have all seen that,” Susannah added.
Describing Carl, who became a single parent in 2017, as “funny, kind and considerate,” she says the fact he is so good with her children makes her love him even more.
While he feels she is a wonderful mother and loves the fact she accepts him for being his authentic self, rather than trying to change him.
And their relationship has so impressed the people behind Frolo that they have been asked to be ambassadors for its new dating app launching on Valentine’s Day, which has been designed by single parents for single parents.
Susannah said: “It’s the icing on the cake, to think our relationship has inspired something positive that could help more single parents who understand each other’s challenges to find love.”
Carl has also given the app his vote of confidence and is extremely happy to have found someone who loves him without him having to change and understands how important his children’s happiness is in order for any relationship to work.
He said: “We do have differences in our style of parenting, but they are not so big that we couldn’t find common ground when there were teething problems.
“Susannah is a wonderful partner and a brilliant mother.”
(MUST PAR) Find out more about Frolo Dating at www.frolo.com or sign up as a founding member by downloading the Frolo app on the App Store and Google Play.