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Divorced dads: Tips for dating (or marrying) a divorced father

Lisa Steinke, with Liz Fenton, is the co-author of the debut chick lit novel l'll Have Who She's Having and the popular Chick Lit blog

Dating (or marrying) a single dad

Imagine this scenario: you meet a great guy and feel a connection -- a definite spark. Then he tells you that not only is he divorced, but he also has kids. If this is something you consider a red flag, then stop reading now because this relationship can only thrive if you see this as an opportunity, not an obstacle. If the divorce and kids don’t dissuade you, read on for three critical tips you should consider when dating -- and even marrying -- a divorced father.

Single dad reading a book with daughter

You're dating (or marrying) the kids, too

The kids are the most important people in your relationship -- even before you've met them. A divorce is a huge change for a child, and once Dad (and Mom) start dating again, it's impossible to gauge how the child will react to the new person in his or her dad's life. Once you've decided to meet the children, realize it may take them some time to warm up to you. (Wait to meet them until you are sure the relationship is built to last.) Be prepared for the fact that you might be chopped liver for a while, and that it's not up to the kids to build the connection -- it's up to you. Help them understand that your relationship with their dad isn't going to take him away from them. If a babysitter shows up every time you show up, it's sending the wrong message. Most importantly, if you remember to always put their needs and emotional readiness first when it comes to big steps like sleepovers, (be smart about when these start) you are setting the relationship up for success.

Your relationship with the ex-wife is important

Depending on your man's relationship with his ex, she may be the last person you want to think about (hopefully he is already friends with or is on the road to becoming friends with his ex). You can't view the woman he was once married to as just his ex-wife because she is the mother of his children. Take a moment to consider that your presence is also impacting her. Any mom is bound to have insecurities about another woman coming into her children's lives. You can make the transition easier on her by following her lead. If she wants to get to know you early on, make it a priority to do so. If she'd rather take her time, that's okay too. Bottom line -- just like anything, your relationship with her will take time to build as trust is gained.

Lower your expectations (and his)

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither was a family. It will take time to find a rhythm. Be prepared that it could be a rollercoaster ride. One day the kids seem to like you, and the next they are standoffish. One day things with the ex are going smoothly, and the next rocky. Divorce is complicated. But if you remember to manage your expectations -- and your man's -- and remember that things won't ever be perfect, the sooner you will all hit your stride. While all of this might sound daunting, all things worth waiting for require hard work.

How to make divorce less traumatic for the kids >>

Life vs. fiction

Another Piece of My Heart

Want more? Check out a great read in the new SheKnows Book Lounge: Another Piece of my Heart by bestselling author Jane Green, a powerful novel that explores the complications of a woman marrying into a ready-made family, and the true meaning of motherhood. Head to our new SheKnows Book Lounge now.

More divorce tips

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