by La Donna L. Lewis
Dating can sometimes become complicated because I don’t always encounter men with the same stats as mine. I’m single, over the age of 35 and I don’t have any children. Once upon a time, I was pretty much opposed to dating men with children. I had that luxury way back when—when I was younger. Now, the older I get, there’s less of a chance for me to encounter men who don’t already have children.
Don’t get me wrong; I don’t have anything against children. In fact I absolutely love them and still look forward to raising children one day. However, I am a realist when it comes to the fact that dating a man who already has a child/children can make things a little more complicated. These days, I’m a whole lot more open to the possibilities of getting involved with a man and the other people that may come as a package deal with him. I’ve grown, and I’ve had some experiences that taught me a lot.
Whether you’re dating a man or woman with children, here are some things I’ve learned over the years that can hopefully help you alleviate some of the possible complications of dating a single parent.
Determine Whether You Both Want the Same for the Future
She already has children and you don’t. She doesn’t want more children and you do. This should be a no-brainer but I’ve seen so many people enter into relationships like this and wonder why it fails. Some start dating and never even have the conversation, whereas others have had the talk and still continue even though they know they don’t have the same desires. Communicate and don’t expect to change another person now nor in the future. It’s a recipe for constant conflict and hurt feelings—yours and theirs.
Know Yourself and What You Can Handle
Do you like children? Are you selfish? Are you mature enough to accept children? These are all important questions you should know the answer to before getting involved with someone who has children. If you don’t like children or you’re selfish, then don’t even entertain the thought of dating someone who has children. Just because the children are not living with the parent full time, doesn’t mean the children don’t exist. They are ever present, and circumstances can always change.
I was in my late 20’s and met a guy who was really interested in dating me. When I found out his 3 children were in another state it slowed me in my tracks. It wasn’t just the number of children that played a factor. I was nervous because I couldn’t really get to know what kind of father he was since his children were in another state. He also had a contentious relationship with his ex-wife and it affected the interaction he had with his children. My biggest concern was falling in love with him and then having 3 instant stepchildren I had to consider and take part in raising. I decided not to date him. Fast-forward about 9 months, and the mother of those children unexpectedly passed away. I was glad I had not pursued the relationship because at that time, I knew I was not ready, nor mature enough for it.
Establish Relationship Potential Before Involving Children
One of the biggest difficulties of dating a single parent is the fact that there are more feelings involved other than just your own and the person whom you are dating. Children have feelings that can become much more attached and hurt more deeply when they become involved in the relationship. Know before you go there. Spend enough time with the person to determine if this is even a relationship that has potential before you go any further. Trust your instincts and cut it off if you feel it isn’t something you see as a possibility before bringing the children into the mix.
Decide TOGETHER How You Will Introduce Children Into the Relationship
I was communicating with a guy who had a 10-year-old daughter with whom he had joint custody. I met her early on and had no problem with that. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time with her though because I know how attached I become to children. So we decided to date for a bit and once we entered into a committed relationship we’d share that with his daughter. Well, one day while taking his daughter to school she asked if I was his girlfriend. Children are curious and they always have questions. It’s okay to answer them, and we should do so honestly. Unfortunately, he did not do so. He told her yes, I was his girlfriend. What!!?? As a result, I felt pressured to move into a relationship sooner than planned simply because I didn’t want him to have to go back and tell his daughter he lied. Needless to say, I was not happy about it because he disregarded my feelings and he set our relationship up for division early on. It should have been a flag to me that communication might be a problem. The relationship didn’t last. To this day, my biggest regret is the fact that once my romantic relationship with him ended I lost the relationship I developed with his daughter.
Everyone doesn’t have the same experience when it comes to relating to children. Parents also tend to have different thoughts concerning timing and methods. Some feel it is important for children to meet and get to know you from the start regardless of whether you’ll be around in the future. Others are very protective and don’t want you anywhere near their children until they know for sure what role you’ll be playing. All of it must be discussed and decided upon together, ahead of time. Once you communicate and have the conversation to determine how you will move forward, just be sure to stick to it!
This post was originally published on The Do It Anyway Blog as "4 Things to Consider When Dating a Single Parent"