Why single parents should put their kids second when dating

single dad with kids

Um, hi? Remember me?

I wrote this a couple years ago, and it continues to be one of my most-trafficked and commented-on posts. I stand by it 100% — as well as the followup I wrote here — and am bemused by the angry comments around my blog from people who think children should be the center of single moms’ lives. Read between the lines on some of these screeds — they’re really saying mothers should deny their sexualities. That moms who date or enjoy sex are bad moms. Of course that is all hogwash, and you know know that, but I’m republishing this as an enthusiastic reminder to get out there, date, enjoy and stop feeling guilty you’re destroying your family in the process. 

I meet most men that I date online. It’s very common for guys with kids to write in their OKCupid profiles: “My kids come first,” or “My daughter is the center of my world.”

I get where you’re coming from. You want a potential mate to know that your life includes the giant presence of a kid or four. You also want women to know you’re a devoted dad (it’s no secret chicks get hot for guys who are great with kids!). Got it. Roger!

But I bristle at those lines. When it comes to relationships, I’m fond of saying, You never really knows what goes on between people. But there are a few couples in my life who I look to as models of the kind of marriage I’d like one day. People who really enjoy each other. Respect and support one another. And in these families, the parents put their relationship before the kids. They are the dynamic centriforce around which the family’s life orbits. And everyone thrives as a result.

#1 Site For Love - Match.com® Official Site

There is lots of research to suggest that a happy marriage is the cornerstone of well-adjusted kids. Celebrity sex therapist Laura Berman, Ph.D., writes in her relationship guide, The Book of Love: “No matter how sacrilegious it sounds, you need to put your relationship before your children. A strong relationship provides security for your children and demonstrates how a loving, respectful partnership should be. What could be more important?”

That’s a tricky proposition for single parents. If you’re not in a committed relationship, it is very easy to make your kids the prominent one in your life. After all, they can be so demanding — not to mention fulfilling. Plus, if you’ve gone through divorce or another crisis that landed you as a single parent, you are no doubt concerned about giving your kids extra care and sense of security. It’s no surprise that so many blended families I know struggle with adjusting all parties to a home where everyone is suddenly expected to revolve around the new relationship. It can be so hard. Some find it impossible.

But it is even trickier if one or both of the parents put the kids before their partner. One dad I went out with nearly boasted when telling me about a four-month relationship that went sour because his girlfriend did not understand why he’d abruptly leave in the middle of dinner because his tween son would call, upset about some matter with his hockey coach. Another’s girlfriend eventually broke up with him after several years because he rarely made time to spend alone with her, instead expecting constant family time with his son.

Ultimately, failure to put their partner first was a sign these guys were not ready for a serious relationship, or at least not with those particular women, and that is totally normal. But it’s not cool to pay lip service to intentions of growing a serious, long-term relationship and from the onset demote your lover to second-rank — even before you message her on Match.com. Women are certainly guilty of putting their kids ahead of their partner — maybe even more so than men, especially since they are nearly always the primary care giver in the event of divorce. But in this moment when men are struggling to claim their place as equal parents while society expects divorced dads to be the lackadaisical weekend father, I get why you are compelled to go overboard with your expressed devotion.

But guys! If you are indeed ready for a real love, create a space for her. Imagine a relationship that centers on the two of you, and all the stability and care your kids will take from that. Accept that a truly wonderful relationship only multiplies the love available to your kids — not robs them of some of yours. Because in those families, there is all the more love to go around.


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55 thoughts on “Why single parents should put their kids second when dating

  1. The hockey coach thing was ridiculous.

    But think about it…most divorced guys spent a bloody fortune on a divorce that – statistically – was most likely initiated by the wife. Some of those guys were lucky enough to get joint custody, others got stiffed by a judge who gave them every other weekend, and most of them had to split the assets with the ex.

    Most of them had been putting their wives first, drifted away from friends over the years, and look where it got them.

    If I were to divorce while my kids are still minors, any woman will be second to them, and a distant second at that.

    1. Let’s be real. If a man were putting his wife first, the chances of divorce are dramatically decreased. Even so, men and women need to get over their pasts and give respect to the person they select instead of punishing them for the ex’s behavior.

    2. Well, good luck keeping an intimate, mature, equal, adult relationship going. Guess you’ll be single for a long time. Why can’t parents realise that these two loves are different? Just don’t treat your children like a partner and your partner like a (disowned) child and you’ll be fine. It isn’t a competition but so many thoughtless partners make it one. Your spouse is your spouse, your children are your children. You are capable of loving both and then everyone wins. Why does everyone think that these loves are mutually exclusive – they are not!! Just treat your spouse with respect, affection and a little thoughtfulness when you are with your kids and try not to lick your kids boots – its nauseating! Kids need a loving parent, not a pushover sycophant.
      My husband asks his 15 year old daughter if she is ok every 5-10 minutes, then checks in on me as an afterthought because he realises how uneven he is being. As I’m newly pregnant, tired and nauseous, you think he might show a little consideration. I get he loves his daughter and dotes on her and he’s a great Dad. Just don’t expect a reasonably self-respecting woman to like walking behind you two cuddling like lovers, or eating her lunch while you both get up and walk away, or the two of you walking off repeatedly whilst in Paris when you promised not to, or you singing her name repeatedly, or paying too much child support, etc etc etc. If we hadn’t moved overseas I would have left him as I hate being spoken down to when she’s around. His coolness towards me and his over the top affection for her cannot help but leave me feeling rejected, alone and replaced. How does this help me feel love towards them? How does it create a family unit? My mistake for thinking he could love us both in a balanced way. I just do my own thing now and leave them to it. Not a good way to maintain your marriage though so I wouldn’t recommend it. Balance people, its all about balance!!

      1. Wow. I feel for you. My husband has a 13 year old son but he doesn’t put him first. He always makes me feel loved, included, and important. When his son had a slightly snotty phase with me and tried to make me feel excluded too, I spoke to my husband about it openly and calmly. My husband then spoke to his son (in private – which was wise of him) calmly but firmly. The behavior stopped. His son tried to push the boundaries again a few months later, but my husband told his son (again privately) that I’m an adult and he must treat me with respect, just as he must treat his teachers and other adults with respect, and he must also be polite and say “thank you” when I do things for him (like cook him a meal, etc.) His son’s snotty behavior stopped to my relief. We are kind and respectful in our home. Our marriage does come first. We are having a baby now, and I am currently reading a book called “To Have Happy Kids, Put Your Marriage First” because I believe that a strong, loving, healthy marriage makes a secure home for a child. If we don’t have a strong, positive, loving marriage, how would his son (or our daughter) feel if we were to divorce? It took his son a few years to get used to me. If we don’t put our marriage first – we would lose the cornerstone of our home and family, (the bedrock of our family!) So thank God my husband does put our marriage first, and you can see by our home being peaceful and thankfully free of the kind of unfairness, step-mom bashing, or other madness that I hear about in so many stepfamilies. Frankly, his son seems happier when we are happy together. He seems more relaxed and relieved when we are happy and peaceful in our marriage. I guess he knows all is well. My husband and his ex-wife had no relationship at all for 10 years. They didn’t fight, but they didn’t talk, hug, kiss or even share a bedroom. They stayed together for their son, and finally split when he was 10.
        I wouldn’t have married my husband if he had behaved how your husband does. You deserve better. And before people on this site bash me for being an selfish step-mom, be aware that I do plenty of nice things for this boy, like making his favorite – my homemade chicken soup, which I spend hours picking meat from bones and making it from scratch, and I do it in the darn summer, because he loves my soup so much and always asks for it. I don’t even eat soup in the summer, just make it for him. So, we nourish him and we care about him, but he doesn’t rule our home, we don’t pay homage to him, and when our baby is born, same goes for her. They are members of a loving family, not reigning princesses or princes who’s every whim is put above and before the adults’ needs. I wish you luck in your situation. Please speak up for yourself calmly, and don’t be afraid to. And don’t kiss the daughter’s ass as your husband is clearly doing. The situation is clearly dysfunctional, but a very common stepfamily dynamic. No the stepkid shouldn’t come first, but frankly, our own kid won’t come first. The marriage, and the family UNIT comes first. Today’s kids are way too spoiled, and children of divorce are often even more so, due to parental guilt, which is understandable, but is all too often mishandled by spoiling, overindulging, etc.

        1. Thanks for this perspective – I love hearing from conscientious step-parents who always lend a really interesting and important perspective to the divorced-families challenges and joys.

        2. I totally agree with you! My daughters father is newly dating a younger woman and totally ignores our daughter. He works, comes home, showers and goes to his girlfriends or goes to bed. It irritates me that he doesn’t make the time to have a day to spend with our daughter. Any suggestions on how I can get over this and be ok? I’ve confronted him over this and his reply is he wants to have a life, but he’s never made time for our daughter and I think it’s important for him to include her in on activities and gradually get her use to this new relationship.

          1. Well, one don’t assume you can change someone else, ever. But maybe start from a place of compassion. “I’m worried about our daughter. How can I support your relationship with her?” But it sounds like he just never got it, so probably never will.

            Then you let go of any notions of controlling him, and move on.

        3. why do you people take children…… plz don’t have children if you think you can treat children like second class citizen….. nobody ask you to have children if you can’t pput frist in your life ……don’t be stupid like author!!!!!!

        4. Wow, I am very impress with your post. I support you 100%. I just broke up with my fiancé because he told me his daughter comes before me.

      2. Hi. I don’t mean to disrespect, but the incidents you describe….sound very inappropriate to say the least. I know from dating someone who was way too close to his sister, and reading your post was making my stomach get a sick feeling (same as when I dated the guy with the sister thing). Since, I have learned to trust that gut feeling.

        I hope this is not the case for you, and that you can find truth, and enjoy a normal, healthy and balanced life.


      3. Hearing you! How do you do it! My fiancé treats me so badly when his kids are with us. Admittingly it’s only school holidays. It’s the only time we argue! I dread this time! They play him against me and it works! I try and stay away but sometimes it can’t be helped! nothing I do is right! My cooking etc! It’s like I’m a maid to them! And money?!?! It’s a very expensive time! It grows on trees! And I still haven’t caught up by the next holidays!

    3. you can’t blame other women for what the first one did to you. A woman deserves all of you or you shouldn’t be seeking a relationship until that thinking is gone.

  2. Harry – really interesting points I had not considered. This really got me thinking:

    >Most of them had been putting their wives first, drifted away from friends over the years, and look where it got them.

  3. I’d forgotten about my post for this article, so I’m back a few weeks later…

    An elaboration on the sentence you referenced…I don’t want to go so far as to say, “look out for #1.” But I will say that nobody cares about your life as much as you do. So I guess the moral of the story is be a giving person, but don’t be played for a sucker.

  4. Agreed that the hockey coach thing is ridiculous, and that if you are dating someone, you need to make time alone as a couple to get to know each other and to be adults and not just mommies and daddies.

    However, knowing too many single parents, moms and dads, who have placed too much of a priority on their significant other of the week rather than their kids’ stability, I think I would rather go the other way. I would be much more comfortable with the match.com dad who says his kids come first than the one who is willing to drop them at a moment’s notice for a good date. Which I suppose is why I’ve always been most comfortable dating (good) single dads, because they seem to get where I’m coming from in terms of the time, energy, and responsibility devoted to our kids.

    Ultimately, I would like to have a great relationship with the right man, but I certainly couldn’t say that someone I’d been dating for a few months would become a priority over my son. It’s hard to find that balance and admittedly I err on the side of “my kid comes first”. I’m ok with that for now. If the right man comes along, hopefully we will both gradually be able to make room for each other. But he may have to accept one night a week with a sitter for my son at first.

    1. As the stepmother of an adult daughter that is bringing a different man into into her three small children’s lives every few months I say hogwash!! The fact that
      she is not even legally divorced makes the situation worse.

      Ask yourself-what am I teaching the kids by this example? The priority of any parent -single or married- is to provide a safe, secure and stable home life for their children!

      This goes to show what a hedonistic society we still live in. I hope my stepdaughter hasn;t seen your pathetic blog. The idea that putting your kids second to a boyfriend is acceptable is terrible. If a single parent is engaged to be married then that is a game changer. But up until a commitment is made-the children come first.

  5. Thinking of the single dad I dated who never once visited me while I was in the hospital for a week with an infection. He used his kids as an excuse, then having no money for gas.
    Yeah, well it really spelled out what his priorities were.

  6. I think this article drastically over-simplifies matters. My mother and her ‘new’ (4 years, not that new…) husband put each other first, followed by his children, followed by my brother and I. This has led to us both feeling extremely isolated and alienated. Although I acknowledge that my mum and her husband need time to themselves, I think that there still needs to be a definite element of love from a parent in a child’s life for them to be happy. My step-father has manipulated my mother and she now has no friends of her own and has completely lost touch with all members of her family except for me (including her own mother, sister, and son, who now lives with our father,) and the way my step siblings are treated is vastly superior to the way I live. Although they live separately from us, when they visit we buy food from Waitrose, as opposed to our usual Sainsburys. If I try to watch the television with them or eat with them, I am shunned or constantly mocked under the pretence of ‘sarcastic wit’, which, if returned by myself, is treated as abject rudeness. I know do not feel like I can engage in the family at all; I am an outsider, banished to my bedroom and scared to leave for fear of encountering the dreaded husband. I feel more relaxed at school than at home. I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. So, although this article seems to be very pro ‘single-independant-women-living-life-to-the-full etc. etc,’ which I am completely up for, I feel the need to point out the dangers of continuing this sort of attitude into a long term relationship.

    Sorry for the rant. :)

    1. Hi A – thanks for sharing and I’m so sorry you are in such a horrible situation. It sounds like your mom is in an abusive relationship and that affects the entire family. I hope she gets the help she needs.

    2. Hi. Thanks for your comment as I am a single Mum with a 2 and 5 yr old.
      I am now living with my partner who has 3 kids of his own but they visit every fortnight on a weekend.
      I am scared as all hell to not lose who I am or the Mother I was before I met my partner.
      I have read lots about putting your kids second but it has never sat well with me and I always wondered how grown kids feel that have witnessed it.
      Thanks for the insight and I Wil be careful not to fall into the same trap as your Mother.

      1. I really believe that if you are genuinely taking care of yourself, being true to yourself, you are going to be a happy, healthy woman and great role model for your kids, and a thriving mom. For example, if you commit to regular exercise, that may mean you spend, say, 5 fewer hours per week with your children. But you a) will be happier, more energetic and less stressed (take this from me — two days without exercise and my kids pay the price!), setting a great example of healthy living for your family, and more likely to live a longer, healthier life and not be a burden on your kids down the road.

        Apply this to dating … if you are happily dating or searching for love or enjoying a great relationship or getting regular, fantastic sex, then a) you will feel fantastic and your kids will benefit from that, b) you will model an adult woman who recognizes her needs as a person and acts on them, responsibly, c), you will set an example of happy, healthy dating and maybe a relationship, d) you will teach your kids that the sun does not rise and set on their asses.

    3. I come from a family and have dated within families who ostracize or team up on a member of the family just because they are dysfunctional. My family did it with me, and I dated a man for a decade whose family did it to each other, abusing under the sarcasm title, but if you give it back you are being a jerk.
      In the end, it doesn’t matter if you are blood or if it is a blended family, without respect for each other you will have problems.
      Demanding respect from kids and from adults is the key, and sadly since we are just animals operating on a reptile brain it is necessary.
      Teaching empathy and insisting on respect is all we can do, and if you can’t get it then you have to either leave the situation or suffer with it.
      I left my family of origin in my late teens and my life has been much better for doing so.
      People speak of the hell of step-families, but when so many blood ties are alcoholics, or whatever their damage is, being with your birth parents is not always so grand either.
      In the end it is the family you choose to be with that matters, and those people should respect your boundaries and employ empathy and compassion if they want it in return.

  7. I think most people who read this article misunderstood it. Being a child of a blended family that went sour I can tell you what went wrong. My step dad always put his kids before my mother so much so that it felt like his eldest daughter was little wife number 1. I don’t mean that in an incest way but there would be times where she would pick out his clothes or make him lunch or try to act like the woman of the house. It was nauseating. My mom always went above and beyond for him and his children but she was always disrespected and put on the back burner. He failed to make it clear to his kids that my mother was his partner in everything and that her word was just as good as his…no negotiations. He needed to demonstrate to all of us that marriage is a partnership between spouses not between children. Now that my mother is single I feel that her happiness is the most important thing. If the children are in a loving, stable environment and are getting enough attention why shouldn’t parents put their emotional needs first? Let me tell you having a lonely and sad mother/father does not make for happy children. I don’t think the author was encouraging single people to drop their kids like a bag of bricks the minute someone calls for a date but to encourage single people to make uninterrupted time for themselves to date or do whatever else that is fulfilling to them without kids. Now that I’m in an adult relationship we tell each other that we as a loving partnership come first before the children. Children will grow up and leave you and then it’s just you and your partner all over again so it’s important to nurture that relationship while raising children.

    1. Thank you for an excellent, reasonable. post. I am in the process of ending a wonderful, loving 15 year relationship because my boyfriend’s 17 year old daughter decided she had to come out to live here and be a faux surfer girl. My boyfriend stopped calling or texting as much. We had been looking for a house in the desert for months and months. He finally found one and wanted us both to buy it. He just told me that he wanted to buy it on his own so “he could give it to his daughter if anything happened to him”. He then informed me that “she was here before me so she’s his priority”. I am heartbroken. I will never, ever date a man with children, young or grown, again.

      1. Oh man, Sarah. This is crazy. I’m not the hugest fan of couple’s therapy, but I wonder if a trusted third party could talk some sense into him?

        As for never dating a man with kids … careful not to stigmatize half the male population :)

      2. I’ve been dating a man for over 4 years. Unfortunately met him before his divorce was final, but have always been very supportive of his relationship with his ex and kids. He recently told me that he couldn’t take any vacation with me this Summer because he didn’t know when he was going to start building his “legacy house”, which I helped to design, etc. He needed to be home when he got the all go to put the shovel in the ground. Well, a couple of weeks later he booked a trip for 6 days to Arizona, which now turned into 9, to move his daughter back into her living arrangements at college, which was supposed to be the ex-wife’s job and was agreed upon by them since the moved her out in May. I am very hurt because I wasn’t even invited to go along, and he doesn’t have any intention of arranging a vacation for us even though he hasn’t started building the house. Also, he wants me to live with him in this “legacy house”, which would mean I would give up my well-paying secure job because I couldn’t commute from the new house. I pressed him to answer the question if anything happens to him where would that leave me? He said not in exactly these words, but that he is looking into purchasing other property in the area because the “legacy house” is for his daughters & their future families. He can’t understand why I’m so devastated.

  8. I agree completely with the author.
    It may sound harsh but like the previous writer said, marriage is a partnership between two adults. it is important for kids to see that as this in turn will teach them what a healthy relationship is about.
    Kids will move out, marry, have their own lives. All we have to do is be good teaches, good examples of healthy adult relationships. This will help them be happier and dare I say more fulfilled.

  9. Elyssa – I just wanted to say thank you for your comments. I recently very sadly came out of a relationship that was ended by a man who’s daughter acted the same way as you mentioned & who’s son just threw tantrums everytime he was at our house (he would refuse to eat the food that we cooked & would demand take aways etc which my x-fiance would alway give in to as he didn’t want his son to ‘go hungry’). He’s now decided he has to be on his own & focus on his 15 & 18 year old, while I’ve been left absolutely devasted. I too was in a blended family after my father died when I was 10 & my mum remarried & the only thing I wanted was my mum to be happy.

  10. Male partners are always complaining about lack of love from their wives or that their wives love their children more. However if a grown man feels this way when he is aware that he is second to the children, just think how the little children would feel knowing that their moms loved a grown man more than them. There have been reported cases of depression in kids stemming from this, and I myself have grown up with my mom loving strange men and even other people’s children more than me.

  11. This article is absulte crap the child should always come first and I’m speaking from experience what if your mother met some guy and treated you like crap afterwards and you was 12 years of age with no father how would you feel and then at the age of 16 your getting kicked out of the house for the husband is that really good parenting??

    1. The childs needs should be met and the children respected, but kids should to run the house or rule adult relationships.
      When parents let their kids act in the role of little wife or husband as far as making rules or running the show, it is both demeaning to adults, who work and pay for the whole thing, and it is bad for the children, who get the false idea that they are the center of the universe, which they are not.
      As long as they are treated with love and respect, and their are cared for, they should not be able to demand that the adults revolve around them.
      It is not healthy.
      Look at all the young people failing in the world because some guilty or lonely parent made their kid the center of the world and revolved around them. They can’t go out into the world and succeed if they are tied to the apron strings too tight, or never taught what good relationships look like.
      They are kids. Letting them run things is crazy.
      If you let them rule your life, why not let them eat all the junk food they want, stay up late all the time, and anything else they want?
      Adults need to have boundaries in order to teach kids how to respect boundaries.
      And if you can not make your partner in life your priority, do not date until you can. You can’t expect someone to devote themselves to you if you can’t give back the same.

  12. I divorced when my children were in middle school. And my children DID come first. So, I did not date. I devoted myself exclusively to my children. It’s not that complicated.

    When men say, “My children come first!” that is honorable. Go on and raise them with gusto during this season. No regrets.

    But don’t try to get what you want from a woman without understanding her need to feel truly prioritized in your life as any soul mate would desire. Wait until you have more time. Successful relationships require a lot of WORK. It’s hard trying to figure all that out WHILE pouring all your energy into kids grades and extra curricular activities, their feelings and drama with their friends and teachers/coaches, all while trying to keep your career viable to be able to pay the mortgage and car notes so you can taxi them all over the place. That’s too much.

    I didn’t want any man of mine to NOT feel cherished and prioritized. So, I didn’t get on my soapbox and declare on a bullhorn, “My children COME FIRST!” I just put my children first. Period. And now I date WITH ABANDON! I love men. My college-aged kids better NOT say nothing but, “Thank you for paying this tuition.” This is MY season now. No regrets. And we have all have great relationships.

  13. u didn’t chose your children but decided to have children. but think about children who neither chose their parents nor decided to be born. Now the problem with the family today is for your infidelity, mistrust, mental illness, abusive behaviour children have to pay the price. and at the time of your divorce u will tell your kids that ” we will always love u no matter what” and at the time of your date you tell your kids”he did not decide who I dated and when — that was my decision and my choice” at the time of your remarriage u will tell this broken kids ” it is ok not to be ok” and the time of your honeymoon u will keep yore children with someone because you are ashamed to include your children in your special moment . it is you who shown how to disrespect the marriage , not allowing them every moment of your life.After all this things you are expecting to get respected, to be loved so u are asking them to be mature, thats nice!!!!!!!!!!!!! i really don’t understand who need to be mature.
    your children are broken they are dying inside. look into their marriage life how they are doing. i hope they will not do the same mistake what u have done.But most of the cases this children became abusive towards their spouses the cycle will do on and on.
    U remarried because of your own physical and financial reason and so on. U divorced his/her bio parents for your own problem. if you feel u can provide and beautiful life to a child then bring child into this world other wise don’t . Nobody forced you or nobody can to have children if you don’t want to. if child life destroyed because of your stupidity and selfishness then u are only to be blamed. ” If the kids come first then why get remarried in the first place?” i can ask u another way– if marriage/remarriage is so important to u then why to bring a child into this world.

    1) child is not your marriage cement,not your marriage symbol,not your pets. it is your flesh and blood. don’t destroy your grand children life by destroying their patents life because u are the adult and mature you are the one who have to sacrifice don’t ask your child to sacrifice.
    2) Get remarried when your children are adult/independent and in this time only put your marriage first.
    3)I think u are good as a girlfriend/boyfriend but u don’t deserved to mother/dad. I am truly sorry for your child.

  14. I agree with putting your spouse first however, im looking for some advice/guidance for my situation which is….i divorced my husband exactly one year ago. Him & I have 2 children together a boy who is 4 years old & a girl who is 2 years old. I also have a 2 month old daughter with my current boyfriend. My current boyfriend has been around since my 2 YEAR old daughter was 5 months old however, we didnt start dating until i was divorced…my problem is that my boyfriend & my son (4 yrs old) do NOT get along or have any kind of bond at all but they use to up until my son realized that its no longer “mommy & daddy” & its now “mommy & rick” and my 2 year old daughter & my b/f get along so well and have an amazing bond! I have always put my son first & took up for him, “babied” him due to the fact that he makes me feel terrible & guilty. Is there any possibility of starting to put my relationship/spouse first NOW or is it too late? We’ve tried but we’re lost and not sure how to go about it!!! Please, any help and/or advice would be greatly appreciated.

  15. I feel I have to share my experience of the last 4 years with you. I have been living with a man who has 4 daughters. A 24 year old, a 21 year old, a 9 year old and a 8 year old. He is 52 I am 41. When I first met my partner when he saw his older girls either together or separately he used to ask me to go home as the girls wanted to see him on their own. I stayed every other night. He used to share a bed with them. I found this totally wrong we had many rows over this. I felt he should of given up his bed for them and slept on sofa or they should not stay the night. He also has the younger girls every other weekend and the same thing happened, but I didn’t used to go home I used to stay on the settee and he slept with them in our bed. Every other night we made love in this bed. I felt very unhappy about this. I even spoke to social services For advice. They were very concerned and said this was not appropriate and if I gave his name they would contact the mum and my partner to say if he didn’t have appropriate beds for his children they shouldn’t stay. For the last 2 years this hasn’t happened and they sleep on the settee and I share his bed.
    I know my partner misses his kids all the time and can’t wai to see them. He really over compensates for this and they get away with blue murder. He gives them rules which they disobey and there is no consequence. Empty threats. I get so frustrated as I haven’t been brought up like this. On the few occasions he does tell them off they both cover their faces and burst in tears. He then forgets why he told them off in the first place and goes over the top making up for making them cry. They have no boundaries. We don’t smoke we hate it, but he lets his older girls smoke in the lounge. The curtains really smell when they go and it effects his asthma. They make such a fuss going outside so he gives in to them. No respect. They treat our home like a do what u want home. The oldest moved things round in the kitchen like tea coffee and sugar etc so I moved them back.
    The latest row we had was a few weeks ago, it was bank holiday and it wasn’t his weekend. My parents invited us over for a bbq. I thought excellent nice relaxing day we haven’t got the kids so we can relax. His ex asked if he wanted the kids sat day Sunday night and Monday of her weekend so he didn’t come to the bbq with me even though he and the girls were invited. So I had to go alone. I felt so upset he said if he gets any extra time with the girls he wants it as much as possible. He sees me everyday. I pointed out day to day is not the same as us having QUALITY time together. He reply was that his children will always come first over any woman he struggles with only seeing them 4 days a month. Whilst I can see this I truly can is it right to make me feel so worthless?
    His ex plays him like a violin, he just can’t see it. He gives her too much maintance for the money he gets and recently resulted in us being evicted from our home. She never turns up on time either dropping them off or picking them up. She says 6pm then we get a text saying she is still in London! The kids don’t leave till 8.30 sometimes, they have school next day I think this is unacceptable.
    Then it all goes back to normal till they come again.
    I think that there is a happy balance. I also think that some parents should also think how their actions are affecting their partners who every two weeks play and entertain children that are not theirs. Need to also remember there are two people in a relionship and not everything is about their children and their family, the other persons family is just as important.

  16. I would like to think that marriage demands that you love, and are devoted to your spouse. If you don’t have that, you don’t have a marriage. Certainly, children are to be loved and cherished, but to place the children above all other interests, makes the marriage meaningless. How could you go into a marriage wondering how much of their mother’s time you would be allowed to have? A major part of parenting is to model good behavior, which includes loving and respecting your spouse. What do you think children learn if they are calling the shots? They will learn that “me first” is their birth right. They will not learn to be considerate of others, and they will treat everyone, including their parents, as if they were servants.

  17. As the adult child of a mother who consistently put her boyfriends before her children ever since we were 12 and 8, I have to say: you have never been the child in a divorce, or you have only dated wonderful men. It is heartbreaking when your mother clearly cares more about some strange man than you. Some strange man who wants nothing to do with her kids, who doesn’t even care about -her-. You have never had to deal with being ditched by your mother for her boyfriend for no reason. He didn’t need her, they just decided to spend all day in bed rather than help you with whatever you really needed her help with. You have obviously never had a mother who would scream and yell at her eight year old children that they don’t want her to be happy simply because they might have hinted that they don’t like her boyfriend.

    You have one (or more!) failed relationship already. What makes you think this one will be better? Why is it worth the risk of damaging the relationship you have with your children? By all means, get out there, date, and enjoy yourself, but don’t for a second think he is more important than your children, because you will just drive them away. I want my mother to have a man who makes her happy, and yes I hope she has a wonderful sex life that I never hear about. But if I need her help, and she ditches me to watch movies with her boyfriend, don’t be surprised when I eventually stop calling.

    My dad has been in a relationship with the same woman ever since my parents first got divorced, and she is wonderful. They have both struck the balance between their relationship together and their relationship with their kids. That’s what it is, a BALANCE. Your dates are not more important than your kids,. They are differently important, but equally so.

    I realise you’re probably not talking about women like my mother, but when you say “you shouldn’t put your kids first”, I hope you realise that there are women like my mother who take that to heart in the wrongest way possible (I’m sure you do, but I’m having a bad day, obviously because my mother has let me down again. Sorry).

    1. Sorry to make a second comment but I feel the need to add… my problem with my mom is not just that she keeps letting my siblings and I down, but that she also keeps dating men that don’t respect her. Sorry to clog up your comments, I’m just frustrated today and all my friends have gone to bed, so I need to vent somewhere, anonymously.

      1. Hi Sam – I’m glad you shared your experience. As you say, this post is not aimed at women like your mom, who it sounds like will prioritize men above their kids to fulfill their own needs. What I see is so many single parents (and married ones for that matter) so afraid of being like your mom that they swing to the other extreme – to the detriment of a good relationship and the health of their family.

  18. I so relate to the article. I am in a 2 year relationship where I live with my partner who feels as if my 6 year old from a previous relationship runs the show. I view him as uptight, childishly argumentative with her, and non understanding. I also feel like we moved in too quickly before really thinking about how these dynamics should work healthily and what it means to be in a partnership with our specific situation.He provides housing for us as he makes exponentially more than I do and is constantly resentful that I cannot pay rent and that my income goes toward my daughters private school. Meanwhile, I am starting my own business, attending school, doing a lot of odds and ends just to buy food and gas. I am resentful that he cannot assume financial responsibility for a bit so that I can find a life balance that allows me to be a contributing partner emotionally financially and otherwise. I now sleep in my daughters room in the extra twin bed because we cannot seem to make it through a day without an anger explosion. Its time for me move on and I can’t really afford to. So the lesson here for me was to not introduce too soon when dating and make sure things are really a relaxed fit before moving in. In my case there isn’t enough love left to try.

    1. Thanks for sharing, Carmen — I really appreciate how reflective you are — not blaming and taking responsibility. Lessons learned, onward and upward.

  19. i was perusing the internet looking for an article on single parents and dating. i had not looked at things this way. since my divorce almost 3 years ago i have had 2 dates that ended badly and just gave up. I have been so wrapped up in my sons life that i have forgotten that i need one to. I can agree that it’s healthy and necessary to put your needs first sometimes. Happy mommy happy kid right? After reading this i dont feel bad about the needs and wants i have and wanting to pursue them.

  20. Dated a man with kids and I will NEVER do it again. It’s amazing to me people with no kids want to date those w/o the same baggage. How dare you come in my life, want to date me and want me to accept being a second class citizen out the gate. HECK NO!

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