I love a man who nurtures. It could be his human babies, his fur babies, his plants – there’s plenty that’s sexy about a man who’s taking care of others. But, slow your galloping hormones. A relationship with a man who already has kids is a whole other story, and comes with plenty of real, adult challenges.
So, before your knees turn to mush because a cute guy is nuzzling a baby, we’ve rounded up 9 solid reasons not to date a man with a kid, backed by some real talk from mental health therapist Gopa Khan.
9 Reasons Not To Date A Man With A Kid
A study showed that in 2017, 16.1% of households in the Unites States are headed by single fathers. The number’s not vast, but it’s risen rapidly since 2007, which means the chances of you meeting a man with kids are now higher.
But, if you’re determined that you will not date a man with a child, we’re sure you have good reason. Maybe you’re not keen on kids, maybe you don’t want to share your man with living proof of a past relationship. While we are aware of dating someone with kids pros and cons, we’ve rounded up some valid reasons not to date a man with a kid.
1. Issues with the biological mother
Karen had been dating Stephen for two months when she met his ex-wife Dana. Dana and Stephen had a son, Richard. Right from the start, Karen and Dana had issues. Dana didn’t want another woman around her son, and she didn’t think Karen was a good influence on Stephen either. The air between the two women was palpably cold and led to major long-term issues in Karen and Stephen’s relationship.
“This is a key issue that can prolong conflicts and has the potential to disrupt family life,” Gopa says. She adds, “The inability to get along with a partner’s former wife, disliking any references to the past marriage or wanting to erase the spouse’s history with ex-wife are just some of the symptoms.
Similarly, the biological mother could have issues with the ‘new mom’ parenting her child or having a closer equation with them. It is imperative at this stage for both women to acknowledge the key roles they will play in the kids’ lives in the present and the future. This helps avoid a situation where the child having to choose sides, leading to trust issues.
In other words, dating a man with a child and an ex might be way more trouble than it’s worth. Your mental and emotional health could constantly be at stake. And what relationship is worth that?
2. You’ll never be first in his life
One of the major cons of dating a man with a child is that his children will almost always come first, leaving you whining, ‘my boyfriend puts his child before me.’ Yeah, we’ve got bad news for you. It’s tough being the light in your love’s eyes when his eyes only light up for his kids.
The irony is, this is what makes him a good dad, and could well be a major point of attraction. But on the flip side, every time his child is playing the rear leg of an elephant in a school play, your romantic dinner date will be cancelled.
And of course, there’s the whole concept of him co-parenting with his ex. Gopa says, “To be in such relationships, one needs to be very mature, have empathy and be a secure person. There will always be a shared history if the man had a child, unlike a divorce without children, where couples can move on and choose not to have any contact at all.”
She adds, “It is very different when there is a child involved, as there will be birthdays, milestones, school PTAs, events etc, where your partner will interact on a regular basis with their. You’ll need to respect the previous relationship and give them space to co-parent without feeling jealous or insecure.
Related Reading: 21 Things To Know When Dating A Man With Kids
“Also, you need to accept that you will need to share your partner’s space and time with their children and not put them in a situation where they have to choose between you and their kids. In one case I worked on, the adult son refused to have any contact with his biological mother because he had a negative and difficult equation growing up with his stepfather and blamed his mother for not doing enough to protect him from his stepfather’s verbal abuse. These are complex, delicate situations you may have to navigate.”
3. Breaking up with him means breaking up with his kids
Oh, this is like a truly depressing ‘never date a man with a child’ meme. Say you went ahead and dated the nice guy with a kid, and somehow, you and the children formed a bond. And then, the relationship fizzled out. Not only will you be breaking up with him, you have to sever all ties with the kids too. The heartache will be immense and will leave you convinced you will never date a man with a child.
That’s just what happened with Elena and Arthur. While they were dating, Elena grew close to his 8-year-old daughter, Sarah. But when Elena and Arthur broke up, it was Sarah who was most affected. Elena missed Sarah too, but there was nothing to be done since they brought in the ‘no contact after breakup‘ rule.
Gopa says, “Sometimes, relationships simply don’t work out, but breaking off may not be as simple if one is attached to their step-children or played a significant part in their growing up years. This situation is similar to a divorce except one does not have legal access to the children. This can be difficult if the break up is acrimonious and also tough on the children if they have strong bonds with their step-parent. Any contact with ex and his children will depend on how gently the situation is handled by both parties. Sometimes it may simply not be possible to maintain contact and that can be a very difficult situation.”
4. You’re not just a partner, but also a potential stepmom
Sharing a case, Gopa says, “In a counseling session, I had a unique case where the mother was complaining that her 9-year-old son simply did not listen to her live-in boyfriend. On the other hand, the boyfriend felt that the child was spoiled and needed to be disciplined. Meanwhile, the child (who I thought was quite mature for his age) felt that it was okay to listen to his mother and biological father but not to his mother’s boyfriend as he was not yet part of his family. He did not like being “scolded or yelled at” by a stranger.”
Related Reading: Should You Stay In An Unhappy Marriage With Kids?
Explaining further, she says, “It is key when joining new families, to join as an extended loving family member and not assume the role of a parent right away. I had to tell the boyfriend that even if he was a potential stepdad, he could not take on the mantle of father, till he had a solid foundation as a family friend with the child. Just being a significant partner does not ensure that a child, who has his/her own individuality, will automatically accept you into their life.”
5. He might not want more kids with you
When Rachel and Riley were dating, Rachel was sure she wanted kids. Riley, however, already had two children from a previous relationship. He was certain he was done with fatherhood and didn’t have the energy or need to have more children. They talked about it, but it would nearly always end in a fight or the silent treatment.
It was too big a chasm for their love to survive, and they eventually broke up. “It wasn’t easy,” Rachel said. “There were days when I thought, ‘I hate that he has a child already. That wasn’t healthy and I needed to leave. Again, it wasn’t easy because there was a lot of love between us, but he couldn’t give me what I want.”
On the list of dating someone with kids pro and cons, this comes as a major factor. You have your needs, and they are valid. It’s better to be with someone who can fulfil them than to remain in an unhappy relationship and be frustrated.
6. Your life and couple goals will be different
This is one of the major cons of dating a man with a child. You want a spontaneous weekend getaway, he can’t go without trustworthy childcare. You want to celebrate an anniversary with a romantic dinner, he needs to make sure his child gets a bedtime story.
Even in terms of work, a man with children will perhaps choose a job that allows him a certain amount of time with his kids. And if you need to move cities for a job, it’s not likely he’ll follow you.
“It helps to have a couple discuss what their goals are,” says Gopa. “If the spouse needs a weekend visitation with his child, will his partner adjust to it and be willing to share this time and space. Will the partner be open to a ‘readymade’ family and be flexible? You may always need to play second fiddle if required.”
The question is, how long are you willing to play second fiddle? And how much will a relationship really work if your goals and ambitions are so far apart? Do you really want to be dating a man with kids and feeling left out?
Related Reading: Relationship Goals For Me And Bae When We Turn 80
7. You’ve never wanted kids
Now, you might think that if a woman doesn’t want kids, why would she date a man with children in the first place? Believe us, it happens. Maybe the man in question is everything you’ve ever wanted – charming, caring and warm. But, he has children. You get into it thinking love will smooth the way and after all, they’re not your kids.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Regardless of what your relationship is with his kids, they will come into the picture and you will need to deal with them. If you’ve always been certain that you don’t want kids in your life, that’s a good reason not to date a man with kids. Ultimately, you will end up resenting the fact that he has kids and you have to deal with them at all. None of this is healthy and could lead to you thinking, ‘I hate that he has a child.’
8. You will always have to be the bigger person
Darcy and Joe had been dating for a few months. Joe had a teenage daughter, Stella, who wasn’t too happy that her dad was dating. Stella was outright rude to Darcy, and went out of her way to remind her that she had no place in their family. And, Joe always took Stella’s side.
“I always had to make the sacrifice and understand that Stella was young and finding it difficult to cope,” Darcy recalls. “There was no acknowledgement of how hurtful and exhausting it was for me.”
This isn’t uncommon. A study by the Texas Women’s University shows that teenagers are frequently annoyed when parents start dating. Especially if you’re the first relationship after the divorce or loss of the other parent. And, the man in your life could be riddled with guilt and overcompensate by always taking his child’s side.
You will need to be understanding and gentle and compassionate. Which is great, except when you want to let loose and scream because you’ve had enough, becoming the face of a ‘never date a man with a child’ meme. ‘My boyfriend puts his child before me’ might sound like a whine, but if it’s bothering you this much, it’s better not to get into it.
9. Despite every effort, you’re not a ‘real parent’
We’ve made great steps with adoption and IVF and surrogacy, but the power of biology continues to reign supreme. It’s possible you’ve made all the right moves, made every effort and every sacrifice. And what do you get for your pains? That you’re not a ‘real parent’ and therefore have no rights.
This could come from the child, the ex-partner or even your man himself. Ultimately, the bottom line is that because you are not the biological mother, your feelings and opinions do not hold as much value. This is a tiring and frustrating thing to cope with in a relationship.
This is one of the harshest realities of dating a man with a child and an ex. Unless you’re prepared to go through this multiple times, having to prove yourself as a partner and a step-parent, we recommend you stay away from dating a man with kids. It could turn into a seriously toxic relationship, and who needs that.
“I counseled a young lady who is very close to both her parents’ spouses and pampers her younger stepbrother. She mentioned both her moms were her biggest support system. Now in traditional terms, one would say she came from a ‘broken’ family but after meeting this young lady, as a counselor, I would say this was the strongest family unit ever seen,” Gopa says.
“On the other hand, I also had an adult female client come in for therapy stating that her soon-to-be stepdaughter was a “real she-devil” and was “deliberately driving her nuts”. Even more shocking, the client stated that the child was only 3 years old. I advised my client not to get married if she could not tolerate her future stepdaughter or was not willing to make significant changes in her parenting style and patience levels.”
For women especially, given that we’re portrayed as the gentler, more nurturing sex, it can be difficult to accept that you don’t want to date a man with kids. While there are definite pros and cons to such a relationship, remember that your feelings and doubts are valid. Do what’s best for you, and be with people who nurture you. Good luck!