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

Shuffling your child between divorced homes: How to make the best of it
How to start dating after divorce
Tips to help kids during divorce

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

30 year Stepmom March 11, 2014 | 9:00 AM

DON'T DO IT! DON'T GET INVOLVED WITH A MAN WITH KIDS! IF THE EX IS GIVING YOU A HARD TIME, IT WILL ONLY CONTINUE!! IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE. I was the nicest Stepmom anyone coulda ever had. But my husband's Ex never worked, her kids don't work, they owned MySpace & now Facebook. They r mean-spirited, becuz they have too much time on their hands. My husband's ex has sworn at my husband & me too. Now I think she is sick, but her kids are picking up where she left off & insulting me & calling me names, i'm tired of all of them. They think it's a game, a fun game to be cruel to people. Even the hubby could go now. He wants to go see his grandkids, they're all poisonous so there's no way I will see those people, I can't & won't so our marriage is doomed to failure now. He's a crabby old cusser anyway. They consumed my life for 30, I'm done!

kim February 08, 2014 | 1:45 PM

husband & I are just starting dissolution process. He has been seeing/staying with new girlfriend. States they will marry . Wants to introduce our 12year old to her. this is happening so fast. how do I prepare him , when I'm still spinning?

SalvoEm February 04, 2014 | 1:02 AM

Hi everyone, reading this article is a great eye opener to me. I'm currently dating to someone who is legally separated for over a year now, and divorce is on process.He have 2 years old adorable son. I met him in person already for the first time. I am a widow, without kids. I've been widow for more than two years now. I know we are just started, Its only been 5 months since we exclusively dating. He is living from different state. We talk over text,phone call and facetime daily. Everything is been great.I know he will always be connected with his x-forever. I know hes son is his priority. There are been multiple incidents that i feel hurt ,last minute changes of plan that suppose to be our time . I tried to understand and really be patient with him. Lately if he will tell me that we will talk online in certain time although I am looking forward for it I also try not to get too excited about it anymore and always have a second thought in my mind that if something will come up and change the plan that it will be ok for me. Lately one thing is been eating me, When hes dad visited him and all four of them went out for a brunch ,him , his dad, hes X and hes son. After he informed me I was like" oh okay you guys have fun" . He replied me and said " Why is that gonna be a problem"? I dont want to spoiled hes dad visit , so I just pretent that its a great idea and its good for hes son. Of course i was hurt but I never let him know. I just hope that he will consider what i feel too and be very careful how the way he talk to me. This just happened once .I want to address it to him, which i always do evrytime something will bother me. We both agree to be open to each other but at the same time i dont want to think I am being inconsiderate while hes Dad is with him. i can sense that he is sincere about me, we talk our future living together when everthing is all good on hes end. It is very hard, but he makes me very happy. I truly care about him and hes son.

divorced dad wife November 10, 2012 | 11:52 PM

Hi Christina, hang in there girl. If you're a good hearted girl with her priorities straight & you're beginning to love his kids and want them to love you, it will work out. I'd say it'll fall into place, but like most things in life its 2 steps forward, 1 step back. Just remember that leaves you one step AHEAD and don't get discouraged. I married a divorced dad (with custody) so it was probably easier for me. His exwife was an irresponsible person who only cared about her own needs, so I didn't need to worry about feeling jealous of her. (Although I did because that's the type of insecurity i have a weakness for.) It's been a few years now & we got married, and although I never got to the level of closeness that I tried to with his child, I did my best and its miles apart from where it began. I don't know if you're feeling threatened by the exwife having a special bond with your boyfriend, but if so they are divorced for a reason. Divorce is painful and causes a lot of damage. if she isn't partnered up with a guy yet, she eventually will be. If its the fact that he's not your son, its OK. You will grow into a closeness. Try to find things to do with him that he likes, and find some common ground. You may feel like a 5th wheel and useless right now, but it won't always be that way. You will become a very very important part of his life, I promise. And if you're like 2 different friends of mine, one day YOU will be the one the mom prefers to talk to over the dad. Once the weird jealousy feeling either one of you might have arent fresh, you'll get more comfortable & be a vital part. It's not easy, but be glad hes a dad. he's already years ahead of other guys his age out there. Most girls would find him a catch, because he probably has gotten partying & acting like an ass out of the way, and has more noble pursuits on his mind like setting down & securing his career. Good luck to you! It's good to know how you feel. Just know there isn't much for it right now & it gets better after a couple of years. Take care.

Christina November 07, 2012 | 6:48 AM

Hi, Every article I read reagarding dating a divorced dad are always about how to make it better for the kid and how we need to just sit back and accept the fact that we will never be number one in his life, but does anyone think of how hard it can be on the girlfriend herself. For example in my case, I'm 23 years old, dating a 27 years old divorced dad. The son is 4 years old. He's adorable, so far so good. But even though I love the son and that everything is going great with my boyfriend, I can't stop myself from feeling a little ach in my heart everytime the ex calls to talk about the kid and I'm there feeling stupid because I need to just sit back and watch them raise THEIR son. I always feel out of place and I feel really guilty. My boyfriend and I are already considering getting married and he's always telling me how much he loves me. I know it's bad but I guess I'm just a little jealous and I don't know what to do to get over it.

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