Finding someone special is rare enough, but when you reach a certain age, there’s a good chance that the person you find may be a package deal. I met an amazing guy that I fell for fast and during one of those “getting to know each other” moments, I learned he had kids. Intimidating? Yes. Dealbreaker? Certainly not. Still, here’s what I wish I’d known about dating a single dad before I started.
- The kids will always come first. We made dates and sometimes he’d have to cancel. If one of them got sick or he needed to be there for them in some way, our life was put on hold. It was difficult at first but I had to remember that kids deserve that from a parent. We couldn’t make spontaneous plans and things would often get interrupted. I knew he was worth it so I adapted quickly but I had to remember that I would never be number one. This is perhaps the most important thing to know and accept when dating a single dad.
- You need to share your time. New relationships go through the phase where you want to spend every waking second with each other. I definitely felt this with the guy I’m dating but with kids in the picture, being together 24/7 isn’t an option. Once that clicked, I actually found it sexy that he could love someone so much as he does his kids.
- It’ll take some time to meet them but when you do, be interested. Dating a single dad necessitates involvement in the kids’ lives if you’re going to be together long-term. While you may not meet them right away, that time will come. The kids had to deal with their parents splitting up, which can be hard, so I knew that meeting them wasn’t going to come right away. I did want my guy to know that I understood his role as a parent so I would ask questions about them or their lives. I loved hearing him get so excited talking about the cute little things they would do. Just like it was new to me to have kids in my life, having another woman in his and his children’s lives was new to him too. I wanted him to know that I was supportive of his little family.
- There will be an ex and she deserves respect. Whether it’s an ex-wife, ex-girlfriend, or ex-one-night stand, there will always be another woman in the picture when you’re dating a single dad. I honestly found this extremely tough and had to check my jealousy at the door. There were constant reminders of her, not only in the kids themselves but in memories, photos, and so on. I had to be an adult and remember that it didn’t work out for a reason. She calls and texts him regularly but I keep in mind it’s for the children. Funny enough, I even have a positive relationship with her now too since we both just want what’s best for the kids.
- Tough moments will happen and he’ll need your support. I remember fairly early in our relationship, we were at dinner and out of nowhere his demeanor completely changed from happy to sad. He told me that he missed going out to dinner as a family. Again, I had to hold in any jealous feelings and be mindful that I was dating a single dad who used to be part of a family unit. These moments came where he’d miss regular, routine things and all I could do was listen and be there. I had to be very patient and let him feel those things. He wasn’t missing his ex in particular, just the moments they shared as a family.
- When you do meet the kids, it’ll take some time to warm up… for all of you. When it was finally time for me to be introduced to his kids, it was a slow process. A new woman in their dad’s life was not what they were used to and they’d already experienced a lot of changes. I chose to let them dictate our time together. I’d let them show me their toys, we played games and I didn’t force anything. I let them decide how they wanted to get to know me and it developed naturally the more we interacted. I knew I couldn’t push them into accepting me—it had to come at their pace.
- Always remember: you’re not their mom. This almost seems too obvious to mention, but I found that it was sometimes hard not to be a parent when you’re around little ones. If we were spending time together, I’d make sure their dad played the parental role. I wasn’t a pushover and if I needed to say no, I did, but I left the real parenting to him. I still wanted them to respect me, so if it was something I could answer without feeling like I was overstepping, I would, but everything else I directed to their parents.
- It can show you a side of love that you may never have known existed. Seeing him with his kids showed me that he had a great capacity to love people and to make time for them. He actually had his act together! All of those earlier feelings of not getting all the attention and having to take a backseat to the kids on occasion went away when I learned how much this man was capable of loving other people. I felt really lucky to be a part of that and I still do.
- Chances are, you’ll become attached. After spending time with my boyfriend and his kids, I noticed I would really miss them when they were away. I started to develop my own relationship with them and it was really special to me. This was a great thing, but I also had to keep in mind that if he and I broke up, I’d not only be breaking up with him but with the kids, too. This helped me to focus on keeping our relationship strong. Dating a single dad came with a lot of perks for me too.
- You must be pretty special. Overall, I knew that I had to be a person that meant a hell of a lot to my single dad boyfriend. Since he had two little people that depended on him, he wasn’t going to go bringing just anyone into that dynamic. He wanted to make a place for me not only his life but the lives of his children. That’s a level of respect from another person I’d never experienced before and it helped with all the little insecurities that sometimes plague me. I was important, loved, and most of all, I was included.
A few additional tips for dating a single dad
If you are lucky enough to meet a great guy who has kids, here are a few more tips for making your relationship more likely to be successful.
- Give him time. This is perhaps the most important piece of advice for anyone dating a single dad. Don’t expect him to jump in head-first and immediately want to get into a committed relationship because that’s not going to happen (and if it does, that’s a major red flag). Take things step by step and allow your relationship to progress naturally. He may be a little more reluctant than most to get serious, so try and have patience.
- Be willing to get involved in the kids’ lives. While you don’t want to insert yourself too soon or too aggressively, you should be willing to get involved with the kids and let them get to know you. If you’re dating a single dad, you’re not just part of his life, you’ll eventually be part of theirs too. That means you’ll need to be interested and engaged, especially if you hope to eventually meld into part of their family.
- Support him in his parenting decisions. Not only should you recognize that you’re not their mother, as mentioned above, but you should step up as the dad’s support system. Hopefully, the kids’ mom is willing to work as a unit, but since they’re no longer together and he’s currently dating you, you need to back him up and reassure him that he’s doing a good job. That kind of support can go such a long way.
- Be flexible and patient. When you’re dating a single dad, your lives are not your own. There will be more hiccups and screwups than usual, but you need to be willing to roll with the punches and not freak out every time something doesn’t go your way.
- Dial up the romance as often as possible. Just because the guy has kids doesn’t mean he won’t appreciate a bit of romance. He’s dating you, which means he wants to enjoy the benefits of a mature romantic relationship. You can bring this side out of him by reminding him of all the sweet, sexy stuff about dating this single dad has likely forgotten about (or just not had time to indulge in lately).