Dating in your 30s and 40s brings a host of new kinds of men into your life, and one of the ones you may discover is that you're falling for a single dad.
Whether he's divorced, widowed, or never married, he's often the best kind of man. He has shown commitment, love for children, and has likely moved past the "I want to go out all night and play video games all day" phase we all hope passes most men by the age of 25.
Still, dating a single dad isn't the same thing as dating your average, carefree man. If he has children, they're going to be the priority and they should be. It's vitally important that you take the time to get to know one another separate from the children, but also vitally important to understand that you're dating an entire family, not just one member of it.
Here are 10 tips compiled from women who have been there and women who are there right now:
- Make sure they're actually divorced: This one is a big duh. But just trust us on this one. Double check.
- Remember you're dating the family, not just the man: As mentioned before, the kids come first. You have to accept that.
- Don't immediately try to be a mother to his children: They have a mother. Think of your relationship as more of an aunt, and let it evolve from there, let the kids take it in the direction they want to. Don't insist they call you anything specific, let them decide.
- Respect his need to talk to his ex: He needs to keep communication open for the sake of the kids. As hard as it is, try to avoid being jealous about it or resentful of time he spends talking to her (unless it's grossly excessive or their conversations are inappropriate).
- Listen: He may need to vent about child support or visitation or fights with the ex. It's important that you be there for him.
- Give him space: It's great that you want to help him create a family for his children, but he also needs to preserve the sacred relationship that exists between him and his kids. Kids can easily become resentful of a new partner. If you allow them time to be with their father, they will get the attention they need.
- Understand that you aren't going to come first: Don't be a martyr about it. Make sure to ask for what you need, but also understand that there are children involved and they need their daddy almost as much (and likely more) than you need your boyfriend. Fatherhood should be his top priority. Don't be resentful of it -- if you're confident in your relationship, there is plenty of room for all of you.
- Be ready: If you cannot handle the fact that he's going to often put his kids before you, then you aren't ready to date someone who has kids. And you shouldn't -- it won't be fair to you or to the kids or to the man.
- Take time for you: It's easy to walk into a ready-made family and plop down and stay there, but you also have to remember (especially in the case of a widower) that you need to still be you. Take walks, take runs, make sure you're keeping a healthy distance and letting things evolve naturally.
- Have fun: Enjoy the fact that you aren't the children's biological mother by being a little different, by enjoying them as something other than their mom. Kids can be a lot of fun if you show them that you genuinely like them for them.
What are your tips for dating a single dad?