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 can become even 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.
- 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.
“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.
- Dating may not be his priority
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.
- 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. 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.
“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 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 of 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.
- 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, 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, dealing with the other woman or feeling like one can make you territorial, insecure and jealous. 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.
- 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. The gnawing feeling of not doing enough. 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.
- 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. 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. “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.”
- He may not tell his kids about you instantly
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 outing 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.”
- 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. 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 mom, 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.
- 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 set 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.
- 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?” “Why do I want this relationship?” When you’re with him for the right reasons, you will find a way to match his pace.
- 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. “You must not lose sight of the fact that the children are used to having on 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 if they were any other friend’s kids.