What You Should Know About Dating A Man With Kids

Every relationship is different from the last, and this is no more true than when you start dating a person who has kids from a previous relationship. You might want to think that you can just behave the same. Truthfully, though, things are different. You have to take a different approach and respect the reality of the fact that your relationship isn’t just between you and your partner. It takes work and effort and it will be hard, so you have to be in it for the long haul. As long as you are, you’ll be golden. Here’s what you should know about dating a man with kids.

  1. He will have different priorities. You mustn’t take this personally. When you’re dating a man with kids, there will be times when he has to leave a date early. Or cancel late notice if something happens with his kids. Or, if he has to pick them up from school, or if a babysitter cancels. These might sound inconsequential to you, but they are the cogs around which his life runs. You have to respect that and be flexible around his schedule. He will be stressed and constantly thinking about things to do with his children. You shouldn’t expect to immediately be owed all of his attention. That will come with time, but the priorities are distinct from any other type of relationship.
  2. Kids come first. This is the golden rule. It is, quite frankly, a rule without exceptions. If you pose any sort of threat to his children’s time, that’s a much bigger commitment than a guy who doesn’t have any other responsibilities. If he’s a single parent, it’s likely he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. It isn’t your fault and it isn’t his. It’s just a fact of the relationship and one that you must accept. Don’t blame each other, just know that the evil stepmother trope exists for a reason in the Disney canon. The kids are the main characters. You have to respect that.
  3. You are entering the children’s lives. When you’re dating a man with kids, you’re entering their lives too. This means that you have to either maintain certain boundaries, or you have to adjust to the possibility of adopting a maternal role in the future. Not immediately, of course, but you have to acknowledge that it’s on the horizon. You can’t be naive. Most people won’t date if they’re single parents because it can be confusing for the children to bring people into their lives who might then be gone the next week. Make sure you know what you’re doing. This isn’t the sort of a relationship to string along if you get the ick. For this to work, you must know that he’s the one.
  4. You have to put the work in. Do your research. Don’t presume that you know what kids like, or how to behave around them. Put the effort in to play with them and treat them with respect. All relationships require work. Make no mistake, your partner will be putting the work in too to fold you into his complex life. Make sure you do the same in return to make his children feel as comfortable as possible.
  5. The kids will be mean sometimes. They all are. I know that I was the worst version of myself when I was a pre-teen. You don’t have any filter like adults do. There is no concept of protecting one another’s feelings. Just impulses. You can’t take it to heart, but you have to adapt. They’ll often change their mind next week, or when plied with a slice of cake. After all, they will be comparing you to their mother or another parent who isn’t in the picture anymore. That’s tough.
  6. Be committed. Don’t turn up if you aren’t going to stick around. You will cause heartbreak. By entering a single family, you have a lot of power. Act responsibly.
  7. Ask the family what they need. Hopefully, you can integrate the family in a unique way in due course. But that won’t happen without vulnerability and courage. Be clear that you want to help them and join in their love. Ask what toys the girls like, or how you can help give your partner a night off by looking after the children. They will be so grateful.
  8. Know that it won’t be easy. Nothing worth having ever is.

You’re entering into a world of pain and heartache, but also possibly some of the most life-affirming and worthwhile endeavors of your life. Be sure, and go in with your whole heart, and you will be the best girlfriend he’s ever had. 

Hannah has a Masters degree in Romantic and Victorian literature in Scotland and spends her spare time writing anything from essays to short fiction about the life and times of the frogs in her local pond! She loves musical theatre, football, anything with potatoes, and remains a firm believer that most of the problems in this world can be solved by dancing around the kitchen to ABBA. You can find her on Instagram at @_hannahvic.