By Mary Jo Rapini
If you wait until the age of thirty to get married, it is quite possible you will be dating a single dad. If you are one of those women who have always been the “princess” you will find yourself replaced by a “smaller princess” around this guy. That can be frustrating and at times seem impossible. It takes a lot of maturity to date a single dad. His number one priority will always be his children. This can be a good thing if you want a steady, dependable guy, but if you want a guy who dotes on you and you alone, dating a single dad will be a disaster.
If you are in love with a single dad and willing to take on this adventure of becoming a potential “step mom” or close confidante, some of these suggestions may help to make your transition smoother. The number one thing you must always remember is he has a loyalty to his children. Any time you threaten that loyalty in any way, you risk hurting your relationship. Any arguments that cause you to say, “It’s them or me” are going to leave you alone. That threat rarely works for guys without children and it certainly won’t work for guys who have children (and if it does they are not a guy worth having).
Suggestions that will make your relationship easier with a single dad
1. Scheduling. People are busy and scheduling is a must for most relationships. It becomes extremely important when dating a single dad. Dads have their own work demands, but they are also responsible for the demands of their children’s activities. When he told you he couldn’t have dinner until after 8 p.m. he was not lying to you (although you may be familiar with the guy who wants to meet you after he had an earlier date with someone else). He really did have to take his child to her piano lesson. There is soccer and little league to contend with and no matter how much he wants to have dinner with you; he has to take care of his children’s needs first. It may be easier if he suggests you meet him at the ball field or the park wherever he is waiting for his children. This gives you an opportunity to see how he interacts with his children and it allows his children to get to know you without the pressure or threat that you are stealing their dad away from them.
2. Parental figure or friend. It is very important that you identify the persona you want to give off to the children. Are you trying to be a parental figure or a friend? If you see yourself as a parental figure how comfortable is their father with this? If you see yourself as his kid’s friend, how do you react when they are disciplined by their father (your boyfriend)? It is important that you talk with their dad before you ever meet the children to see where the relationship is now and what the vision is for both of you. If you are just a friend then it is wise to be a friend for the children and to not get involved with them on a more personal level. Your ability to “parent the kids” is going to be dependent on how he feels, so it wise to keep the communication open at all times with him. Check with him in regards to how comfortable he is with you being around his children. He may want an exclusive relationship with you that is not a part of his children’s life. This may be hurtful, but honesty is the most important ingredient for a healthy relationship so be grateful he trusts you enough to talk about how he feels.
3. Dating a dad. Your dates may be different with a dad. He may want to check on his kids frequently. You may be interrupted over a candlelit dinner and the date may not last as long as you would like. It is difficult because if you were a parent you would understand this and embrace it. You are single though, and sometimes his behavior may seem too enmeshed with his children, or you may feel he is pampering them too much by “giving in” to their interruptions. You can never understand the true concept of what happens when parents’ split and the guilt that follows. Don’t’ try to “Know how it feels” or advise him. You would be wise to begin a dialogue instead of hurling accusations at him with these observations. He will not like it and may feel attacked by you. Most likely he will end the relationship. If he likes you enough and if he senses that you are willing to try and be supportive of his parenting life style, then he will find a way to make it work. A dad usually wants to find a way he can be with you and his children and not suffer guilt or incriminations. If he feels like his children are suffering from a relationship he is having, he will usually end the relationship.
Dating a single dad takes maturity and a willingness to experience and embrace the parent life style. If your idea of a date is clubbing and then going out for breakfast you may want to find a single man who doesn’t have a child. The lifestyle you want is not suited to a single dad’s lifestyle.
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