Dating a man with kids

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It’s not unusual if you’re in your thirties, and certainly more than likely in the age groups beyond – you could end up dating a man who has kids from a previous relationship.

If you have a check list of attributes you seek in a potential partner and one of them is that they be child-free, you’re denying yourself access to a pool of wonderful men for no good reason.

All it requires to successfully date a dad is to follow a few simple protocols and have a bit of patience. The same rules apply in reverse if you are a man keen on a woman who has children. It’s no big deal, but failure to tread softly can kill off a potentially brilliant romance.

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Rule No.1

The kids come first.

This is a concept that is sometimes hard for people who aren’t parents to understand. Recognise that a father’s love for his children is paramount, or should be. Trying to compete with children for their dad’s affection is a catastrophic strategy that will end in tears – yours.

I once had a blossoming relationship go pear-shaped when the new lady in my life, who’d never had children, got in a strop because I was taking too long to show one of my sons how to use a whipper-snipper and we were late for a brunch date. It was of no consequence whether we were tucking into eggs benedict at 11 or 11.30, but she interpreted my concern for my son as disregard for her. I saw her irritability as evidence that she was a narcissistic psycho. We parted ways.

You wouldn’t want to go out with a man who put you before the needs of his kids. Give him the space to be a caring dad and he will love you for it.

Having said that, be wary of a man who is always offering up the kids as an excuse not to spend time with you. A guy who is serious about having a relationship will find the time to fulfill his role as a father and be an enthusiastic lover as well.

Rule No.2

Meet the children when they’re ready, and not before.

Little people don’t like change. They want the world they inhabit to be safe and recognisable. If their dad is dating it is because he has separated from their mother or he is widowed. Either way it is a scary scenario for those little people. Throw dad’s new girlfriend into the mix and it just adds more uncertainty to their lives.

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There is no rush to meet his kids. Too many people push new partners into their kids’ lives in a bid to normalise things, where instead a more circumspect approach is prudent.

At some point the children will become curious about who dad is dating if it looks like it is going to be an ongoing affair. Let them WANT to meet you.

When you do, just be yourself. Don’t try to force anything. Don’t ask too many banal questions of them – kids hate that. Relax, and they will too.

Rule No.3

Don’t even think about trying to be their new mummy.

They’ve got a mummy already. And if through some tragedy she is not around anymore, they’ve still got a mummy.

Of course, children of different ages need different approaches, but when it comes to discipline, for the most part leave it to dad.

Over time, if you win their respect and affection, you can offer counsel to his kids.

Sure, you have a right to be treated with respect as someone special in their father’s life, but don’t be surprised if they don’t warm to you immediately. And the easiest way to ensure they stay frosty is to try bossing them around.

Rule No.4

It’s their house.

Just because you are going out with their dad, you can’t stroll around his house like you own the joint.

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Familiarity breeds contempt, and if you get too familiar in the residence the children consider their own you’ll earn their contempt.

If you stay the night and the kids are there too, loud sex is not going to win you any brownie points. Public displays of affection across a bowl of cornflakes in the morning will make them spew. Discretion is the name of the game in the place they call home.

And they get to watch what they want on TV. Very important.

The rewards

By following those guidelines you give yourself a good chance at successfully dating a man (or woman) with children. Good parents make good partners, because by definition they are caring, thoughtful and not entirely selfish people, so there’s that.

But as a friend of mine who has started dating a man with kids recently said, if you do it right you end up getting to know some great young people.

“It’s like a bonus. I love talking to his kids and we have a great laugh. It makes dating their dad even more fun than it started out being,” she said.

Good luck!

By Rory Gibson (father of three sons)

Have you ever dated someone with kids? Got any other tips? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation on FacebookTwitter & Instagram. And if you are ready to narrow down the world of possibilities, sign up to eharmony today- find someone made for you.

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