20 Rules Of Dating A Single Dad

Unlock the secret to building a strong bond with your partner, one step at a time

Dating experience | | , Editor-in-Chief
Updated On: May 31, 2024
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Starting a new relationship can be hard in this day and age. Even more so, if you’re dating a single dad. Being with someone who is responsible for raising kids and has a family of his own has its share of challenges. That said, we’re not here to discourage you from acting on your feelings. 

You don’t have to let go of a potentially solid connection just because the odds seem daunting. As long as you keep your expectations realistic and know not to overstep your boundaries, you can develop a meaningful, long-term connection with a single dad. The question is, how does all of this translate into the dynamics of a budding romance? We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about how to date a single dad successfully.

What To Expect When Dating A Single Dad?

So you have met a nice, courteous, charming man on a dating app, at a bar, or somewhere socially. You both hit it off almost instantly. There is an intense attraction between you two. He seems like the perfect package that you’ve been waiting for all along. Then comes the rider — he has a child or children and is raising them single-handedly.

This nugget of information hits you like a bolt out of the blue. Leaving you on shaky ground. Almost as if someone has pulled a rug out from under you. You begin to question whether you should go down this road when you don’t know the first thing about how to date a single dad successfully.

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If everything else between you two seems to fit, there is no reason why you shouldn’t give this a chance. Knowing what to expect when dating a single dad can help improve your chances of maneuvering this relationship successfully. Here are a few things you need to be aware of and accept: 

  • Hesitation about dating again: Understand that dating as a single dad can be extremely exhilarating and terrifying. He may be wary of dating again or battling the dilemma of whether it could disrupt the lives of his children
  • He may be a little rusty: He may grapple with uncertainty and awkwardness about how to date. A single dad is likely to have been off the dating game for a long time, and he doesn’t know how the rules have changed during this time
  • The ex-factor: Unless he is a single dad because he lost his spouse/partner, his ex might still be in his life, as a mother of his children 

To be able to navigate these complications, you have to be willing to give him the time and space he needs to be comfortable around you. The answer to how to date a single dad lies in taking things forward one step at a time rather than expecting an all-in-heady romance. 

Related Reading: Second Marriage After 40 – What to Expect

When Not To Date A Single Dad

Whether you’re dating a divorced dad or dating a widower with kids, a person’s past should not impede the possibility of building a future with them. That said, there are certain red flags you shouldn’t ignore when you’re deciding whether or not to date a single father. These are,   

1. You’re not comfortable around kids

He may be the man of your dreams, you may get along like a house of fire, and you check all the boxes in each other’s expectations from a partner, but if you’re not comfortable around kids and don’t see yourself ever taking on parenting responsibilities, this relationship is not for you. And he is not the right partner for you

His children are not something you can wish away or ignore. They’re a focal point of his life. Even when a man starts dating as a single dad, all of his decisions will revolve around the welfare of his kids. So, it’s better to walk away early on than set yourself and him for inevitable heartache.

dating a single father
If you’re not comfortable around kids, this relationship is not for you

2. He is an irresponsible father

Some men struggle to take on the responsibilities of parenting and may find it overwhelming to cater to their children’s needs and look after them, even if they’re not raising them alone or have full custody. If you sense he isn’t handling his parenting responsibilities well — there is yelling, shouting, too much tough love, or signs of emotional neglect, it’s a clear red flag. 

If a man cannot responsibly care for his children, it says a lot about his character. How can you expect him to take on the emotional labor of nurturing an adult relationship? Besides, in such cases, the goal behind dating as a single dad can be to find a partner who can share the load with them instead of a desire to find a fulfilling and meaningful relationship. 

3. There is too much drama 

Perhaps, there is a toxic ex in the picture. Or he is locked in an ugly custody battle with his former partner. Some of the drama involving his ex will likely spill over into your relationship. You must take a step back and objectively assess whether you can build a harmonious relationship with him — and if that relationship will be worth the trouble it’d entail. 

Related Reading: 21 Things To Know When Dating A Man With Kids

Pros And Cons Of Dating A Single Dad

Now, even if there are no visible red flags and you’re completely taken by this hot single dad you’ve met, this is not a relationship you should rush into without due deliberation. Here are some pros and cons of dating a single dad you must reflect on before making a decision: 

Pros of dating a single dadCons of dating a single dad
1. Meaningful relationship: He’s looking for a meaningful relationship and not casual hookups. The chances of him ghosting you or changing his mind about how he feels about you are second to none1. Not the priority: Given that he has a full life outside of the relationship, you will never be THE priority. The children will come first, always
2. Personal space: Since he is single-handedly responsible for raising his child or children, along with pursuing a career, he won’t be an overbearing presence in your life. You will have enough personal space and time when dating a single dad2. No spontaneity: When you are dating a single dad with full custody, you have to kiss goodbye to spontaneity and living in the moment. You can’t expect him to hop into the car with you and hit the road at a moment’s notice. A great deal of planning will go into any and everything you do together
3. Sensitive side: A single dad has to inevitably channel his latent maternal instincts to be able to raise his children. This means that there is a sensitive and nurturing side to him, which he will invariably bring to your relationship as well3. Grounded in reality: He may have neither the time nor money to spoil you silly with lavish presents and grand gestures. A relationship with him will be grounded in reality. You can count on stability but hardly a whirlwind romance
4. Dad material: If things work out between you two, raising children of your own with him will be a breezy experience. He won’t shy away from diaper duty. Or fixing creative meals for your toddler’s school tiffin4. The “ex” factor: If the kids’ mother is still in the picture, you’ll have to make peace with your partner’s interactions with his ex. They may get together for children’s birthdays or even occasional family dinners
5. Not frivolous: A single dad is a mature and responsible guy you can fall back on. You won’t have to worry about juvenile antics with him5. Kids’ approval: The kids’ approval will be essential for the future of your relationship. If you don’t get along with them or fail to share a rapport, the possibility that he’ll take the relationship forward anyway is extremely slim

20 Rules Of Dating A Single Dad

Dating a single dad is like getting a package deal. My friend, Kelly, found this out the hard way, when she was dating a single dad, Richard. He was never really free enough to go out on frequent dates with her, and going over to his place was not an option because he hadn’t told his children about her yet. 

She started this new relationship without putting much thought into how his children might affect their relationship, but she is determined to learn along the way and adjust. Unlike Kelly, you don’t have to learn along the way. With these 20 rules of dating a single dad, you will be able to learn how to strike a fine balance between being in life and not overstepping your bounds:

Related Reading: 15 Things Divorced People Should Know When Getting Into New Relationships

1. Be supportive of your partner

When dating a single dad, you have to work on strengthening the fundamentals of support in your relationship. You must understand and appreciate the fact that he is a busy man who has children to raise and household chores to take care of, besides pursuing a full-time job. Don’t burden him with unrealistic demands or fight over unmet expectations.

One of the most crucial tips for dating a single dad is that you have to learn to become his support system rather than an added responsibility to his already overflowing charter of duties. Try to help where you can and understand when he needs you to. Be the rock that has been missing from his life all this while.

loving a single dad
Don’t burden him with unrealistic demands

2. Patience is your biggest ally when dating a single dad

There is bound to be a fair share of emotional baggage in life if he is raising his kids alone. A relationship that he was invested in didn’t work out. Perhaps, there was an ugly divorce involved. Or he dealt with cheating or toxicity in his past relationship. Maybe he lost his spouse and a part of him is still grieving that loss. When you are dating a divorced dad or a widower who is also a single father, you have to accept the fact that there is a painful part of his past that he may not like to revisit often.

You have to give him time to open up and let you in.

Don’t misunderstand his silence for a lack of intimacy, he might just be repressing memories he does not want to revisit at any cost. Don’t be upset when he talks about his ex, he shared a life with this person and had children with them. One of the biggest tips for dating a single dad is to not judge him when he talks about his ex or when he finds it difficult to let go of that part of his life.

3. Be prepared to deal with his ex

One of the most crucial aspects of learning how to date a single dad is to make peace with the “ex” factor. If his kids’ mother is in the picture, you have to be prepared to deal with her presence in your partner’s life too. They may communicate constantly or even meet or get together as a family. There may even be instances where she calls while you are in the middle of a romantic date and he’ll have to take the call. 

Yes, we agree that it’s bound to sting no matter how much you convince yourself that it’s only for the sake of the children. However, this dynamic isn’t going to change irrespective of whether you’re comfortable with it or not. So you might as well learn to deal with it. On the other hand, if yours is a single mom and single dad dating situation, you know this all too well and are well-equipped to navigate the maze of exes. 

Related Reading: 8 Examples Of Unhealthy Boundaries With Ex-Wife

4. See him for the man he is

When dating a single father, don’t let that aspect of his life dominate your relationship dynamic. Being a father is just a part of his life. He’s a lot more than that. As his romantic partner, you ought to see him as an individual with needs, desires, hopes, and vulnerabilities. He has to keep this side of himself under wraps in front of his children. With you, he should be able to be himself completely.

Flirt with him often, show interest in him as a person, and work on establishing a deep emotional connection with him. Chances are, he has neglected other aspects of his life to be a good father to his children, and he might be deprived of an outlet to let those feelings out.

5. Don’t pressure him for commitment

With nearly half his life behind him and the responsibility of children on his shoulders, it is highly unlikely that he made the decision of dating as a single dad lightly or just to fool around or have flings. In all probability, he wants a long-term relationship. Be that as it may, you should not pressure him to commit. Understand that he has to strike a tricky balance between his home and love life, and one wrong step can prove detrimental to the future of your relationship. Let him do this at his own pace.

Related Reading: 17 Surprisingly Simple Tips On How To Get Him To Commit To You

6. Know when to meet his kids

When you’re dating a single dad, taking things slow and one step at a time is pretty much the mantra. Just like you shouldn’t pressure him into committing, you shouldn’t rush being introduced to his family either. Take your time to strengthen your bond with the man and then decide when to meet his children.

This can be a big step for everyone involved, so you need to be sure that the kids are on board with the idea. Also, bear in mind that your readiness or being prepared isn’t the only thing that matters. His child or children too have to be up for it. So, give them time to process the news of the relationship and take this leap only when they’re comfortable with the idea.

7. Don’t try to take on the mom role

You and your partner may be sure that you’ll end up together but that doesn’t mean that you have to play mom to his kids. They already have a mother, even if she doesn’t live with them or is not involved in their everyday life. By trying to step into her shoes, you may be overstepping.

In case, the single dad you are dating is a widower, the absence of a mother can be a sensitive issue for the children. You risk ruining your relationship with them if you come across as trying to take her place. The dynamics can become even more tricky if it’s a single mom and single dad dating situation, and you intend to blend your families somewhere down the line. Then, it becomes even more imperative that both you and your partner tread carefully and make an earnest effort to establish a rapport with the children. 

Related Reading: Divorce And Remarriage: I Need To Remarry For Myself, Not For My Son

8. Try to be his kids’ friend instead

You are going to be in those kids’ lives by virtue of being their dad’s partner. The best approach for that, as well as one of the most important tips for dating a single dad, is to cultivate an independent relationship with your potential stepchildren. What could be a better way to do that than to become their friend and confidant?

Be the person they can trust, an adult they can turn to for advice with problems or dilemmas they can’t approach their parents with.

Here, you need to take care of two things: first and foremost, never breach their trust by ratting them out. Unless, of course, the situation at hand can have dire consequences. And second, don’t give them any advice that goes against the rules set by the parents.

9. Be receptive to his vulnerabilities

A single father’s life can be overwhelming. Trying to provide for and nurture his children as best as he can. Underneath this got-it-all-together persona, he may be quietly suffering. Heartbreak from a failed relationship or loss of a partner, the exasperation of trying to do it all can get too much to handle even the strongest person.

As his partner, try to be receptive to these vulnerabilities. When he talks, listen patiently. When he needs support in the relationship, be there to hold his hand. You don’t have to coddle him, pity him, or try to fix what’s broken. Just being there for him is enough. If you’re wondering what questions to ask when dating a single dad, in his time of need, a simple, “What can I do for you?” “Would you like me to help?”, could be just what he needed to hear.

Related Reading: Are You Scared To Be In A Relationship? Signs And Coping Tips

10. Take the lead in bed when dating a single dad

When a person is constantly trying to juggle so many different roles, it’s only natural that he is bone tired at the end of the day. He may have no energy left for a romantic evening or enjoying a quiet drink with you after he has made breakfast, sent the kids to school, finished a workday, made dinner, helped the children with their homework, taken them out for their sports lessons and then tucked them in bed. But your sex life doesn’t have to suffer on that account. You just have to be prepared to take the lead. Play naughty, flirt a little, and stoke the fire of passion. 

Infographic on dating a sngle dad
20 Rules Of Dating A Single Dad

11. Learn to work with his schedule

When you’re dating a single dad, you need to learn to work around his schedule. Managing a home with children while pursuing a career is as tough as it gets. Most couples struggle with it. Here, he is doing it all alone. So, when dating a divorced dad or a widower who is a single father, you must accept the fact that time is scarce. Learn to work with his schedule and make the most of what you get.

The only way this relationship can work out is if you’re understanding enough to let him call the shots on how and when you can spend quality time together. Be a little empathetic and understand that you’re dating a single dad with full custody who also brings home the dough, he may not have the time to have elaborate dates with you.

12. Don’t let insecurity get to you

He may not have all the time in the world for you. The children will always be his priority. He may be distracted by 100 things that he needs to take care of. All of this can make you feel as if there just isn’t room for you in his life. The dynamics can get even more complicated if you’re in a single mom and single dad dating situation. 

However, letting the insecurity in this relationship get to you will only make things worse. Give it time, and he will find a way to make space for you in his life, just like he did in his heart. When you feel overlooked or neglected, it can help to remind yourself that his lack of attention is not because he is insensitive to your desires and needs.

Related Reading: 15 Characteristics Of A Healthy Relationship

13. Be romantic and flirtatious

He may be a little rusty on this front, so the onus of setting the tone for romance and flirting in the relationship may fall on you. Don’t hold back. Flirt with your eyes, your words, your body. Shower him with affection. When you’re not together, send him a text or make a quick call to let him know you’re thinking of him. 

14. Help him where you can

When you’ve been together long enough and his kids share a comfort level with you, offer help wherever you can. From a school project that needs finishing touches to planning birthdays and working out a schedule for the holidays, offer suggestions and be as involved as possible.

One of the questions to ask when dating a single dad is how much he’d like you to be involved in his home life and that of his children. Based on that, build a role for yourself in this aspect of his life. If he is not ready to let you in completely, don’t hold it against him. Eventually, as he realizes that you only aim to help him and support the family in any way you can, things will fall into place.

15. Pitch in to keep your love life afloat

By resources, we don’t mean money. Planning date nights and getaways when dating a single dad can be a challenge unto itself. You can keep your love life afloat by pitching wherever you can. Perhaps, find a reliable babysitter to look after the kids while you both enjoy a romantic dinner. Or help the children with their homework while he is still at work, so you both have some quiet time to yourself.

Related Reading: 12 Co-Parenting Rules For Divorced Couples

16. Don’t be jealous of his children

This may seem like a no-brainer but it is not unusual for romantic partners of single parents to feel jealous of the fact that all their world revolves around their children. This is especially true if you’re single and haven’t experienced parenting first-hand. If left unchecked, this can turn into unhealthy resentment that can affect your relationship as well as your mental well-being. So, make a conscious effort to let this jealousy take hold. At the same time, make sure you don’t feel guilty or shame yourself for fleetingly experiencing this emotion. It’s human to be jealous, even if you’re jealous of your partner’s children. 

Relationship Advice

17. Being independent is vital when you’re dating a single dad

Emotional independence is the key to making this relationship work. A needy or clingy partner is the last thing he needs. If you are that person, things will unravel quickly. While she was dating a single dad with full custody, my coworker, Josephine, often struggled with the amount of time she had to spend alone, as she’d get bored very quickly.

She ended up demanding more time out of him than he could afford to give her, which only led to her acting out in ways that the single father was not equipped to handle. An ugly confrontation later, they realized they had wildly different expectations of each other. They ultimately parted ways. 

18. Be flexible when you date a single dad

Children are unpredictable. They require a lot of attention and care. Besides, they fall sick a lot and at the most unexpected times. If you’re dating a single dad or contemplating it, having a flexible approach is a must. He may have to cancel a date night last minute because one of the kids came down with a fever. You may have to postpone a trip because of a school event. As his partner, you will have to learn to go with the flow.

Related Reading: How To Choose A Life Partner – 12 Expert Tips To Find The Best Mate

19. Think about what your life with him will look like

If things do work out between you and your partner, you may want to tie the knot and settle down. So, when you start dating a single dad, think of this long-term possibility. As his children’s stepmom, you will have to shoulder some of the parenting responsibilities. Are you ready for it?

What about starting a family of your own? When you are dating a single dad with full custody, you can’t take this as a given. He may not want any more children. Or perhaps, you may not have the resources to bring another life into this world. Add this to the list of questions to ask when dating a single dad before getting involved too seriously.

20. When dating a single father, you’ll have to deal with the demons of his past

If he is a single dad, it’s a given that something somewhere didn’t go right. A broken relationship or the loss of a partner can lead to a lot of emotional issues. As his partner, you will have to deal with these demons of his past – be it trust issues, anxiety, or unprocessed grief.

Key Pointers

  • Dating a single dad has its share of challenges but if you navigate them well, you can build a long-term relationship with him
  • If you wish to find out how to make him crazy about you over text, send some flirty texts to make him want you and leave your guy smiling at phone screens
  • Some of the advantages of being with a single father are stability, sensitivity, adequate personal space, and a meaningful relationship
  • On the other hand, disadvantages of such a relationship include lack of spontaneity, not being your partner’s top priority, the ‘ex’ factor, and the need for his kids’ approval
  • The key to how to date a single dad successfully lies in being supportive, and sensitive, setting expectations realistically, not overstepping your boundaries, and being prepared to slowly integrate yourself into your partner’s life

It is important to know what you’re signing up for before you take the plunge. Dating a single dad is no walk in the park. Developing a stable, long-term relationship with him can be even more challenging. As long as you both feel that strong connection, you can surmount these challenges together.

FAQs

1. Is it OK to date a single dad?

Yes, it is perfectly okay to date a single dad. If there is a connection between you two, there is no reason to hold yourself back just because he has children.

2. Do single fathers make better parents?

Yes, a single father is likely to be a more hands-on parent with nurturing instincts and solid experience in raising children

3. How do single dads handle dating?

Dating can be hard for a single dad given that he is juggling so many balls at once. Besides, he may have been off the dating scene for so long that he may be a little awkward and rusty in his approach.

4. Do single dads prefer single moms?

Not necessarily. On the contrary, it makes more sense for a single dad to date a single woman rather than someone who shares the same responsibilities as him. In the case of the latter, the demands of their personal lives may leave no room for a relationship to grow and thrive.

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