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. Your knees may turn to mush seeing a cute guy nuzzling a baby but a relationship with a man who already has kids is a whole other story and comes with plenty of real, adult challenges.
Is dating a man with a child worth it? Would you date someone with a kid? Are you dating a man with kids and feeling left out? If your mind is tormented with such thoughts, allow us to help you. We’ve rounded up some solid reasons not to date a man with a kid, backed by some real talk from psychotherapist Gopa Khan (Masters in Counseling Psychology, M.Ed), who specializes in marriage & family counseling.
9 Reasons Not To Date A Man With A Kid
According to a 2017 study, 16.1% of households in the United States are headed by single fathers. The number is not vast, but it’s risen rapidly since 2007, which means the chances of you meeting a man with kids are now higher. In fact, 43% of the kids who live with their fathers are aged between 12-17 years of age. So, if you’re thinking of dating a man with a teenage daughter or son, we hope this paints a clearer picture.
If you’re determined that you will not date a man with a child, we’re sure you have a good reason. Maybe you’re not keen on kids or you don’t want to share your man with living proof of a past relationship. It’s also possible that you’re dating a man with kids and feeling left out in the relationship. While we are aware that dating someone with a child has its own pros and cons, we’ve rounded up 9 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.
Well, if you’re wondering what to expect when dating a man with a child, this is one situation. “This is a key issue that can prolong conflicts and disrupt family life. 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,” Gopa explains.
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 roles they will play in the kids’ lives in the present and the future. This helps avoid a situation where the child has to choose sides, leading to trust issues.
In other words, dating a man with a child and a former partner might be way more troublesome and complicated than it seems. Your mental and emotional health could constantly be at stake. Is any relationship in life worth putting your well-being at risk?
Related Reading: 21 Things To Know When Dating A Man With Kids
2. You’ll never be top priority in his life
Dating a man with kids and feeling left out in the relationship? Well, don’t be surprised. 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 date will be canceled.
And of course, there’s the whole concept of him co-parenting with his ex-wife. Gopa says, “To be in such relationships, one needs to be mature, have empathy and be a secure person. There will always be a shared history if the man has a child, unlike a divorce without children where couples can move on and choose not to have any contact at all.”
So, what to expect when dating a man with a child? Gopa weighs in, “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 with his ex-wife on a regular basis. You’ll need to respect the previous relationship and give them space to co-parent without feeling jealous or insecure.
“Also, you need to accept that you will have 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 with his stepfather while growing up and blamed his mother for not doing enough to protect him from her husband’s verbal abuse. These are complex, delicate situations you may have to navigate.”
3. Breaking up with him means breaking up with his kids
Would you date someone with a kid? Well, consider this possibility that truly feels like a 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. But, then, your relationship with the man fizzled out. Not only will you be breaking up with him, you will also have to sever all ties with the kids. 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 partner’s 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 breakup is acrimonious.
“It can be a tough situation for the children to deal with if they have strong bonds with their parent’s partner. Any contact with his former partner and 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.”
Related Reading: Should You Stay In An Unhappy Marriage With Kids?
4. You’re not just a partner, but also a potential stepmom
Sharing a case, Gopa says, “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.”
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 step-dad, he could not take on the mantle of being the father of the child 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.”
Is dating a man with a child worth it? Well, that’s for you to decide but such a situation could come up in your relationship too. If you’re willing to be patient with his child, add value to and take care of them, go ahead with the relationship by all means. But, if you aren’t ready to be a potential stepmother, do not date a man with a kid.
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 a child 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 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 wanted.”
What to expect when dating a man with a child? Well, this is one possible scenario. 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 fulfill them than to remain in an unhappy relationship and be frustrated. There’s no point dating a man with kids and feeling left out or ignored.
6. Your life and couple goals will be different
This is one of the major cons of dating a man with kids. You want a spontaneous weekend getaway? He can’t go without trustworthy childcare. You want to celebrate an anniversary with a romantic dinner? Sorry, but 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. You’ll only be left asking yourself, “Is dating a man with a child worth it?” In our opinion, it’s best to avoid such a situation.
“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 the second fiddle? 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? Is any relationship worth compromising your identity or self-worth?
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, it’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. 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 acknowledgment of how hurtful and exhausting it was for me.” Well, if you’re considering dating a man with a teenage daughter (or son), know that it’s quite a common occurrence in such scenarios.
A study by the Texas Women’s University shows that teenagers are frequently annoyed when parents start dating. Especially if you’re his first relationship after the divorce or loss of the other parent. To make matters worse, the man in your life could be riddled with guilt and overcompensate by always taking his child’s side. If you’re dating a man with kids and feeling left out in the relationship, this could be a possible reason.
You will need to be understanding and gentle and compassionate. It all seems great until 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 leaps 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. But what do you get in return for all that pain and effort? A hurtful statement claiming that you’re not a ‘real parent’ and, therefore, have no right on the kids.
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 step-brother. 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.
Citing another case, she explains, “I also had an adult female client come in for therapy stating that her soon-to-be step-daughter 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.”
We’re not saying that a relationship with a man with kids never works out. But the complications cannot be ignored. 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!