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Dating a Dad with kids

Posted May 06 2009 1:32pm

Hi Tina,

I've run across your website and am enjoying reading it.  I'm a 37 year old divorced woman and I do not have children.  I've accepted the fact that most of the men in my age group will be divorced and most of them will have children on top of that.  I don't mind either.  Matter of fact I'm dating a wonderful man that has full custody of his two children. So to get to the point, I'm looking for some information on how to develop this relationship further. 

We are beyond the beginning stages and have decided to be "exclusive".  I find tons of information for the single Dad, but nothing really for me.  I just need some reassurance that this can work out and things to watch for.  I really don't like being blind sided.  Maybe something to shed some light on what he might be thinking.  I know that I can only know what he is thinking for sure by talking with him, but we don't get tons of alone time.  He's a busy Dad.  I know that we are on opposite sides of an idea sometimes – once he told me that he's spent more time with me than he has anyone else he has dated since his divorce.  I was flattered and pleased, but at the same time – this is the least amount of time I have spent with a boyfriend.  I just feel like I'm in left field once in a while.  Do you have any recommendations of some books or websites?

Dr. Romance responds:

There are a couple of things you need to do here, in addition to establishing your romantic relationship with your man.If you and your man are going to be exclusive, that means the relationship is getting more serious, and you need to start establishing some relationship infrastructure.

First, you need to make sure his kids are OK with you dating their dad.  If you haven't met them already, I recommend that he introduce you as "a friend" and that you act as friends, nothing more, around them in the beginning, until they have the chance to get to know you.  Many couples create disaster by forcing a new romantic partner on the kids, which sets the situation up for a lot of anger and rebelliousness. 

These kids have lost a mom in some way -- either she died or they went through a divorce -- which is traumatic for the kids.  They aren't going to look kindly on the woman who 'replaces' their mom, unless they feel they had some say in the choice. 

Second, if the relationship goes forward and progresses to living together or spending a lot of time together, you and your man need to talk about parenting issues.  Are you going to have some power to
discipline the kids? Will you have a say in how they are raised?  These issues can become very divisive, if they're not worked out beforehand.  This is another good reason to spend time around the kids, to see how the family system works. If the kids already know you and their dad are dating, give them a chance to express how they feel about it.  Get together as a group and do things the kids would like to do as often as possible.

If he has been doing things with his kids without you up to now, this will give you both a lot more insight into how well you get along and work together.  For more information on this, read " Dating Guidelines for Single Parents" and share it with him. You might also want to read the section on dating as a single parent, in The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again, and Money, Sex and KidsMoneysexkids_galley_cover

will give you a lot of tools for talking about those issues as your relationship deepens.

Good luck, it sounds as if you're off to a good start.

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