If you’ve just met someone who also happens to be a single parent, you might feel a bit apprehensive moving things forward, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience with kids. Dating a single parent is a unique situation. Kids take a lot of time and responsibility. Plus, there’s bound to be an ex in the picture somewhere, which can make things even more awkward.
Dating a parent, from all outward appearances, does seem pretty complicated. But it can also be a deeply rewarding and pleasurable experience. If you can get in tune with what it means to date a single parent, then you have a better chance of accepting, understanding, and enjoying your new relationship.
Here are the most important things you need to know about dating someone with kids.
1. The kids will always come first. Always.
Like it or not, your date’s kids will always come first. That means if your date’s kids want mommy or daddy time, then that special date night you’ve had planned will have to be postponed. Try not to take it personally. They probably want to see you as much as you want to see them, but until the kids are full-sized adults, their needs will always be a top priority. Use that free night to catch up with your friends or your Netflix queue.
2. You’ll need to take things slow.
A single parent isn’t likely to be a big fan of an instant relationship. Not only do they not have nearly enough time to readily commit to a full-blown relationship (remember they have work and other commitments in addition to tending to their kids), but they also have to consider their children before ‘going all in’ with someone. They won’t take this lightly. If you need more of a guarantee, be prepared to walk away. On the positive side, your limited time together will leave each of you wanting something more, which can be incredibly passionate and fun.
3. They might seem emotionally distant at times.
It’s important to remember your single parent date has been through a lot emotionally, experiencing a wide range of feelings from anger and frustration to sadness and disappointment. Depending on how recent the divorce is—or if they are still in the middle of legal proceedings—there might be some immediate need for them to heal. This could either mean they need space from time-to-time in order to deal with their feelings, or it could mean they aren’t capable of meeting your emotional needs yet. It will be up to you to decide whether you can deal with the emotional ups-and-downs.
4. You’ll need to be flexible.
Be prepared to be flexible and spontaneous with your schedule. Whether there was a last minute softball cancellation so your date can see you tonight after all, or there’s a sick kid, so now they can’t, you will be playing a lot of things by ear. In fact, don’t be surprised if planning something more than two weeks ahead is a near-impossible feat. If you’re someone who thrives on planning, this might be a problem. However, you could embrace going with the flow and the freedom that it allows you.
5. Their ex is still in their life.
With kids involved, your date will have regular contact with his or her ex and may vent about their frustrations with their ex. Although this is perfectly normal, try not hate on the ex yourself. You might meet their ex at some point, and those negative vibes are never a good idea. You can be supportive and hear them out, but refrain from giving advice. At the end of the day, your date’s relationship with their ex is really none of your business until it directly relates to your relationship. If knowing that your date is dealing with their ex on a regular basis makes you uncomfortable then maybe the relationship is not the right fit for you.
6. You’ll have to like their kids.
Contrary to popular belief, your single parent is not looking for a new mom or dad for their kids. So panicking about taking their kids on as your responsibility is moot. However, if you want your relationship to develop, you will have to like them. And they will have to like you. It’s kind of a package deal. The upside is, if you do like each other, you might be able to cultivate a meaningful relationship with each other, which is sure to be a great gift in both of your lives.
When dating a single parent, like in any relationship, it’s important to be honest with yourself and know what you can and cannot handle. If you’re able to be patient and understand that you’re in a relationship with someone who prioritizes another (little) person, then you could find yourself in an incredibly rewarding relationship.