Dating a man with kids can be markedly different from anything you’ve ever experienced on the relationship front. When you’re drawn to someone, it can be hard to view the situation pragmatically through those love-tinted eyes. That’s why you may feel tempted to take the plunge with a let’s-see-how-it-goes attitude.
Even so, you cannot deny that there is a tiny voice in your head constantly questioning whether it is a good idea to be dating a man with children. You may even find yourself a little more edgy or insecure than usual in this relationship. And that can make an already tricky situation even more precarious.
The equation becomes more complex if you too have children of your own. Then, apart from working out the nuances of dating a man with kids, you also have to factor in how your new partner and his children will fit into your life and that of your children.
Well, as overwhelming as it may seem, dating a busy man with children isn’t impossible. All you need is to approach this relationship a little differently than you would any other. To guide you through this journey, we have with us today emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to name a few.
Dating a man with kids – Pros and cons
The moment you feel attracted to a tender-hearted man who is a single parent (in all probability), your heart will start racing faster than ever. But your mind will instinctively spot the red flags when dating a man with a child. And every logic will try to convince you that you are putting a lot at stake for this man.
While some part of that argument is valid, most of it is your relationship insecurities. I am sure you are wondering, “Is dating a man with a child worth it?” To resolve all the confusion, let’s put the positives and negatives down in black and white and you can decide for yourself if dating someone with kids is a good idea or not.
|If you are a kid person, this relationship is meant for you. You get a chance to nurture and bond with a lovely child (or children, if |
you are lucky)
|His child will come first in any situation. Chances are you could never become his first priority|
|This man will be consistent and stable in the relationship as he |
has reached a certain stage in life where ghosting or messing around is considered foolishness or a waste of time
|While dating a guy who has a kid, you may feel like you are competing with the child for his love and affection|
|He will be true to his words||You have to cope with his relationship with the co-parent|
|He won’t be in a rush to get married and take things too fast. |
So you can move forward at your own pace
|The child may not be very fond of you. If his kids are grown-ups, it might be difficult for you to gel with them|
|You can expect him to be sensitive about your emotional needs||He will need some time to figure out how much he wants you involved in the lives of his kid(s)|
|You will be dating a man who is single-handedly taking care of a |
child(ren), job, and a household. So you don’t need to worry about managing all the responsibilities alone if you ever move
|You may not get that much space and time to spend with him alone|
21 Things To Know When Dating A Man With Kids
Perhaps, there is a single father whom you’ve known for years – a friend or a coworker. Of late, you find yourself drawn to him. And you get a sense that he is attracted to you too. You know his life story, maybe even know his kids well, and are now contemplating dating this man with kids.
Or, you have connected with someone on the dating scene – thanks to online dating, social media, or a friend’s recommendation – and they lead by telling you that they have children. The prospect of dating a man with kids is sending you into a tizzy. You can’t rule out the possibility of dating a man with kids and feeling left out later because of his unique dynamic with his family. In both these scenarios, you may want to give this relationship a try despite all your apprehensions and reservations.
So, you’ve come to a point where you do want to go ahead but just don’t know how to handle it the right way. You’re wondering: Are there any rules for dating a man with a child? Keep these 21 things about dating a man with kids in mind, and you’ll sail through.
Related Reading: 12 Tips To Be A Successful Single Mother
1. His children come first ALWAYS
So, this man has been upfront with you about having kids and you choose to date him anyway. Know that one of the first rules for dating a man with a child (or children) is to set and manage your expectations realistically. That means knowing and accepting that for him, his children will come first, ALWAYS.
Pooja says, “If you’re wondering what to expect when dating a man with a child, know that the responsibilities and emotional attachment of a single parent are very high. Raising children single-handedly takes a lot of time, space, and effort.” No matter where you both are or what you’re doing, if his children need him, he will leave everything at the drop of a hat and rush to be with them.
Oftentimes, these ‘needs’ may seem trivial or inconsequential to you. But as a parent – a single parent at that – his perspective will be different. On the other hand, if you’re a single parent dating a man with kids, your own parenting responsibilities may also get in the way. In these circumstances, finding time to nurture a new relationship and looking after your children’s needs can be a tricky balance to strike.
2. Dating may not be his priority
Leah, a nurse practitioner, was dating a man with kids and feeling left out. Her partner was a senior doctor at the same hospital. Between the demanding nature of his job and responsibilities at home, he hardly had any time to devote to his relationship with Leah. That bothered her to no end initially but she gradually began coming to terms with the fact that even though he wasn’t able to prioritize dating, it wasn’t a reflection of how he felt about her.
When dating a man with kids, you have to be mindful that he may have gone from “I never want to date again” to “let’s give it a try” after years of careful consideration, going back and forth over whether dating again is a good idea. Even so, dating may still not be a priority for him.
This is not to say that he doesn’t want you in his life or for him it’s just about having some casual fun on the side. Not at all. But you have to be mindful of the fact that you’re dating a busy man with children. Even if he is invested in the relationship as much as you, it just may not be practical for him to put everything aside and plan dates with you or spend all his time in your company.
3. You won’t make it to the inner circle easily
Dating a man with kids and feeling left out? Well, it’s not unusual considering that the man you’re romantically involved with already has a tiny little world of his own – him and his children. And it won’t be easy for you to penetrate and be accepted in that inner circle. Perhaps, you will always be somewhat of an outsider.
Pooja says, “You have to understand the situation from the perspective of the kids. Accepting that the only or primary caregiver in their life, depending on the circumstances behind his single parenthood, has found someone else can be threatening for them. They may fear that you, the new partner, may try to replace their other parent. This insecurity can be very real, irrespective of whether the other parent is present in their life or not, and could become a cause for conflict.”
Of course, this doesn’t have to manifest as one of the reasons not to date a man with a kid but knowing what to expect can help you navigate the dynamics of this new relationship better. Maybe his family will accept you as one of their own with time. There is no way to know for sure how things will pan out on that front. All you can do is try your best and wait it out.
4. Patience helps when dating a man with kids
From canceled dates to unreturned phone calls and messages, there will be many moments of disappointment in the course of this relationship. Sometimes, these may even leave you wondering if it is worth dating a man with kids. Besides, if you’re a single parent yourself, you must think long and hard about, “Should I date a man with a child when I already have one of my own? Will they all get along?”
Since both of you have your hands full, making time for each other can get hard. On the other hand, if the two families blend in like pieces of a jigsaw, it can make the relationship even more fulfilling. This is undoubtedly among the top benefits of dating a man with a child when you’re a single parent too.
So, weigh the situation pragmatically and decide your future course of action. If you’re really emotionally invested in him and want to take this forward, patience is your best friend. Before you react or blow your top, take a moment to put yourself in his shoes. You will see that he is doing his best. And if he feels the same way about you too, it will all be worth it in the end.
5. You won’t have to worry about mind games
If you’re starting to feel like this relationship is just bad news, think again. There are many upsides to dating a man with children. One of them is that you’ll never have to worry about him playing mind games just to control the narrative in the relationship. He won’t disappear just to make you miss him, manipulate you with hot-and-cold, push-and-pull dynamics, or make you feel jealous or insecure. There is just no room for these childish games in his life. So, is dating a man with a child worth it? Definitely, yes.
Linda shares with us her experience of dating a guy who has a kid, “Initially, it was no cakewalk for me to sync our love life with his busy schedule involving his 6-year-old boy. But gradually, I realized I am the new factor they are trying to incorporate into their lives and both of them are doing everything to welcome me with open arms. Eventually, going on a playdate seemed more desirable than waiting for some guy for days who may or may not call me back after the first date.”
One of the aspects of dating a man with child that makes it worth it is that he is the real deal. He will invest his time, effort, energy, and emotions – all of which are scant for him – only when he truly and genuinely wants to be with someone.
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6. He will be sensitive to your needs
Your man will be surprisingly sensitive to your needs and will always treat you with kindness. This is especially true if you’re dating a man with a teenage daughter. There is a young woman in his life who is the center of his world. Raising her and doting over her all these years will definitely have polished his sensitive side.
That alone makes being with him worth all the effort you’re putting in to keep the relationship afloat. Again, if you’re a single parent, this is one of the unmistakable benefits of dating a man with a child. Since he is in the thick of the parenting rigmarole, he will not only be understanding of your compulsions and commitments as a parent but also your children’s needs. Once he becomes a part of his life, building a bond with them will come more naturally to him.
7. The other woman factor
If the man you’re dating has children, it goes without saying that there is bound to be a mother in the picture too. While they may not be together anymore, this ‘other woman’ who was once your partner’s partner will always be a part of his life. And by extension, yours.
In case, they are divorced, separated, or raising a child together without being in a relationship, they will interact, talk, meet, and spend time together every now and then. The precarious dynamics of dating a man with a child and ex need to be handled delicately. On the other hand, if she is deceased, you may feel her presence in your life even though she is not physically around.
Whatever the specifics of the situation, feeling like the other woman or dealing with one can make you territorial, insecure, and jealous. One of the rules for dating a man with a child is that you need to be able to process these emotions the right way to not let them hamper your relationship or wreak havoc on your mental health.
8. He will give you stability
It’s very easy to notice relationship red flags when dating a man with a child, but if you look closely, it has its fair share of green ones too. A relationship with a man who has children may not be the most spontaneous or passionate but you can count on it to be a stable one. In all likelihood, this man is mature and settled in his life. He knows what he wants.
The fact that he has gone back on the dating scene means that he’s ready to turn over a new leaf. And the fact that he has chosen you to be his partner in this journey, means that you’re special to him. Once you find a method to the madness of dating with children involved in the equation, you can go on to build a solid relationship together.
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9. He may be rusty at romance
If you’re dating a busy man with children, chances are that you’re his first rodeo since he donned the single dad hat. That means he may be a little rusty at the whole romance ball game. You may find that he hesitates to express his feelings toward you. He may struggle with something as simple as saying “I love you”. You have the ability to change that by showering him with love and affection to a point where reciprocation comes organically to him.
Pooja says, “Sexual intimacy and privacy can also be affected when you’re dating a man with kids. If the child is young and is still co-sleeping with your partner, making room for intimacy can be hard. Even if the children are older, being intimate with your partner, especially when you’re in his house or once you start cohabitating, can be awkward.”
10. He may not have dealt with women in a long time
If you’re a woman and dating a man with a son, he may not have interacted with a woman intimately in a long, long time. His home may well be a boy’s pad and he might just be totally clueless about a woman’s needs and expectations. All these years, they have been set in their own ways without the feminine touch.
Even the most predictable things like a woman getting a little edgy and moody while PMS-ing can catch him off guard. At times, it may make you wonder, “Is dating a man with a child worth it?” Well, you’re just going to have to rewire his outlook, slowly and steadily, and everything else will fall into place.
11. Your man comes with emotional baggage
A marriage or relationship that didn’t work out. Losing the love of his life. A casual hook-up that culminated in his partner getting pregnant. Whatever the story, you have to prepare yourself for the fact that a single dad is bound to have more than his fair share of emotional baggage. Not to mention the toll of raising a child single-handedly and the gnawing feeling of not doing enough.
Carlos, 35, says, “After I started dating Matthew, I knew he was hiding a scar from the past. He never opened up about his ex-wife. I didn’t even know if she was alive or not. I was patient for a long time but this mystery was bugging me inside and one day, I snapped. What he revealed was beyond my expectations. His wife was with her lover on the day they met with a car accident and she passed away shortly after.”
One of the crucial rules for dating a man with a child is to tread around these trigger points carefully and be empathetic toward him and his situation. In case you too have children from a previous relationship, you’d have your own baggage to deal with. In all probability, you can relate to his state of mind and know fully well what to expect when dating a man with a child.
12. He may not tell his kids about you instantly
While dating someone with kids, you may have found something truly special with each other. Even then, you might notice that he’s not particularly enthusiastic about telling his children about the relationship. It’s only natural that this may throw you off a little.
After all, if you two do feel strongly about each other, why won’t he just tell the kids already? Besides, you may want to be involved in that part of his life too. You’re not wrong in expecting these things. But he wouldn’t want to disrupt his children’s lives by bringing someone new until he is sure that this thing you’ve got going is rock solid and lasting. That’s why another one of the important rules for dating a man with a child is to never rush him into making that decision.
Pooja says, “Since my partner and I both had children from our previous relationships, we understood this conundrum perfectly well. To make the transition smooth for them, we meticulously planned outings where our kids got a chance to interact with and get to know each other without the pressure of their parents dating. Once a certain rapport was established, only then did we tell them about our relationship.”
13. His kids may not like you
When he finally does break the news and introduce you to them, the possibility that his kids may not like you cannot be ruled out. And that can put your relationship in a sticky spot. In that case, the chances of dating a man with kids and feeling left out are pretty high.
Since they are children and to their innocent minds, you may seem like the intruder who is taking the place that once belonged to their other parent, the onus of breaking the ice the right way is on you. And of course, your partner. “One way to ensure that you don’t get off on the wrong foot with his children is to not make them feel excluded at any point, in any way. This new relationship should not make the children feel insecure or threatened,” advises Pooja.
Related Reading: What Does Dating Mean For A Man?
14. He has too many obligations
When you’re still testing the waters and trying to decide whether or not to date a man with children, pay attention to how packed his schedule is. Having a full-time job in itself can take up so much of our quality time. Raising children is harder than a full-time job. Here, he is doing both. And doing it alone. So, it’s pretty obvious that leisurely time may be a luxury for him. But it helps to check how much of a luxury.
Can he take out at least a couple of hours over the weekend or mid-week to be with you? Will he be able to call you at least once a day and speak at length? Can you communicate through regular texts? Is he open to setting certain ground rules for dates, calls, and texting while dating? If not, then this person may be too unavailable to have a relationship with. No matter how desirable he seems in the moment, things won’t pan out well in the future.
15. He may want to take things slow
You may be head over heels in love with the man you’re dating but he may want to take things slow. Possibly, he too feels the same way about you. Or maybe he doesn’t. But he’d almost certainly not be quick to act on his feelings. When you’re ready to say “I love you”, he may just only be getting comfortable telling you that he likes you and cares about you. The thing about dating a man with kids is that the baggage of the past and the reality of the present make him a tad too cautious.
Like we said before, patience is your best friend if you really want this to work. Before taking the plunge, you must introspect on questions like: Should I date a man with a child if I am in a hurry to commit to someone, or even marry? Why do I want this relationship? When you’re with him for the right reasons, you will find a way to match his pace.
16. Moving in together can pose challenges
So you’ve been dating a man with children for a while now. Things are going great, you’re both very much in love, and his kids are fairly comfortable with the relationship. Now, you may want to take things to the next level. Something as simple as moving in together can become a challenge when your partner has kids. They have to be onboard with the plan. And you have to prepare yourself to go from living as a single person to suddenly sharing a home with a family.
17. You have to build a relationship with his children
When you choose a partner who has children, you have to be prepared to build a relationship with them too at some point. If the relationship progresses well and you both become committed to each other, his children will become a part of your life by default. To co-exist, you need to have a rapport. Now, this does not mean taking on the role of a parent or the place of their mother. You have to carve your own spot in their hearts and lives. And that takes a lot of hard work.
“If he’s a single parent, you must not lose sight of the fact that the children are used to having one parent figure in their life. Besides, if you assume the role of a parent from the get-go, it might send out a message that you’re trying to erase their other parent’s place in their life, which can backfire. The correct approach is to engage with the children as you would if they were any other friend’s kids. Slowly, build a bond and connection with them,” says Pooja.
18. You have to adapt to their traditions and routine
Say, you’re dating a man with a son and they spend their Sunday morning playing soccer. Or dating a man with a teenage daughter and they both spend holidays or weekends going on treks. Once you become a part of their lives, you will be expected to be a part of or at least supportive of such routines. If the kids feel that their father is abandoning things he used to do with them for your sake, they may start resenting you for it.
That can open a can of worms and lead to a lot of unpleasantness, which can take a toll on your relationship. You can prevent the situation from turning messy by simply including his children – and your own, if there are any – in things to do as a couple. When dating a man with kids, you have to make room for a family outing, picnics, and movies, in addition to date nights or other couple activities.
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19. PDA may not be welcome
Let’s say, you’re having dinner with your boyfriend and his children. And he says or does something that makes your heart skip a beat. Your first instinct may be to kiss him and tell him you love him or find him adorable. But you have to think about how this will go down with his children. They may feel uncomfortable with such gestures. This means you’ll have to learn to rein in your most instinctive reactions around them.
20. He may not want marriage or kids
If you’re dating a man with kids and thinking long-term, it’s advisable to have a conversation about marriage and kids early on. Yes, it can seem premature to bring up these topics when the relationship is still new and no commitments have been made. But it will stand you in good stead.
What if he just isn’t open to the idea of getting married and having any more children? And what if that’s something you really want for yourself? Naturally, this will become the undoing of your relationship at some point. So, it’s best to clear the air at the onset by asking the right questions about marriage and children to make sure that you’re both on the same page.
21. Your friends and family may not approve
It may be the 21st century and all that, but there is still a stigma attached to dating a man with children, especially if you’re single and don’t have kids of your own. Expect some unpleasant reactions from family and friends. They may not approve of your relationship or suggest that you find someone who is in the same place in life as you.
If you’re already debating whether dating a man with kids is a good idea or not, such reactions can add to your confusion. If you’re convinced that you and your man belong together, your decision may strain your ties with the people closest to you, even if temporarily. That can be hard to deal with.
The long and short of it is that dating a man with children is no walk in the park. As far as the complexities of relationships go, this one ranks quite high up in the order. But, if you feel in your gut that this is the right thing to do, don’t let the effort needed to make it work or societal prejudices get in the way.
Yes, it’s perfectly okay to date a man with a child. If you feel in your gut that this is the right thing to do, don’t let the hard work of making it work or societal prejudices get in the way.
Dating someone with kids is certainly complex and harder than a relationship with a person who has no such strings attached. Your partner may never be able to prioritize you over his children, he may not even have a lot of time to devote to you. That can make taking things forward hard.
You should leave that decision to your boyfriend. Once he begins to feel strongly about you and is sure that his children are comfortable with the idea, he will set it up himself.
When a man introduces you to his child, it’s a clear indication that he sees a future with you. He wouldn’t want to disrupt his children’s lives by bringing in someone new until he is sure that this thing you’ve got going is rock solid and lasting.
You should ask yourself if you are ready to go that extra mile for the sake of love. Are you in such a stable state in your life where you can accept the added responsibilities and drama that come with dating a man with a child? If the answers are yes and yes, the experience would be absolutely worth it!
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