I meet most men that I date online.
If you decide you will be dating a man with kids, it's very common for guys with children to write in their dating profiles:
“My kids come first,”
“My daughter is the center of my world!”
Should a man put his girlfriend first?
If you ask me should a man put his girlfriend first, here’s my quick answer:
At first, no.
But once the relationship becomes a serious, long-term commitment, the relationship should come before the kids' every whim. However, child wellbeing is first.
More details on:
- Challenges of dating a single parent
- How to date a man with a child
- Great examples of couples putting their kids second
- Emma's takeaway on dating a man with kids
Dating with kids: Challenges of dating a single parent
When it comes to relationships, I'm fond of saying, “You never really know 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.
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.
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 children the prominent focus of your life and tell partners: My kids come first.
After all, children can be so demanding — not to mention fulfilling.
Plus, if you've gone through a 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.
Do these statements ring true to you? …
“My boyfriend puts his child before me”
This is so common and can be a tricky situation. Especially early in a new relationship with kids, when you crave more time with your man, he prioritizes his children, and you feel left out.
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You may be introduced as “the new friend”
It’s hard to date when you have kids — it can be confusing and overwhelming, parents can feel guilty and ashamed (whether that is justified or not). Maybe you and your lover don’t really know what to call each other yet, or your boyfriend is worried that saying “girlfriend” will be confusing or overly committal.
Just talk about it ahead of time and be honest about your feelings. Also, be sensitive to how he is feeling and his confusion or overwhelm.
“Dating a man with kids and feeling left out”
Perhaps he wants to mostly keep his kids separate from his romantic life, or he is taking slower to blend his relationship with his home life. Or, maybe you expect more from the relationship than is healthy. Or, maybe you each want different things from the relationship.
Consider filling your own life with meaningful friendships, a career, hobbies and fitness. Perhaps your boyfriend will invite you into his homelife if you are less clingy. Or, you will each realize you want different things from the partnership and go your separate ways.
Sometimes you will not feel like a priority
When your boyfriend puts his kids first, it is natural to feel left out, and sometimes you will not feel like a priority. And maybe you’re not — after all, your relationship may be new, he may not be that serious about you or the relationship, or maybe he is just busy with things outside of his relationship. Also: you may be especially vulnerable or needy for reasons that have nothing to do with him, and are issues that your bring to the relationship. Everyone is a human here.
“Boyfriend not bonding with my child”
There are so many reasons why a boyfriend/girlfriend does not bond with the other partner's child. These include:
- The child is jealous of the new partner
- The partner is jealous of the child
- Their personalities just don't jibe—just like two adults do not naturally get along, this can be true for a child-adult relationship, too.
Here are some tips:
- Be patient. Once both the partner and child realize there is enough love to go around, everyone may calm down and connect
- Find ways for your boyfriend or girlfriend to spend one-on-one time together. Focus on everyday tasks (rather than big special outings or treats), like a grocery store run, washing the car, or cooking together. Once you remove yourself, they have a chance to create their own bond
- Keep in mind that children go through phases they quickly grow out of, as do adults. Likewise, relationships have ups and downs and seasons.
- Seek outside perspectives. Ask your friends with blended families for advice, and ask them to watch how your new brood interacts — and be open to feedback. Consider therapy.
“My boyfriend's child is ruining our relationship”
Or, his kids start to manipulate him and have an upper hand in the family — and he lets him.
Men, just like moms, can feel the pressure to prioritize children above all else. Maybe he feels guilty that he is not with his child's mom, or that he left the relationship, or he wants to be a better father than his own dad.
Or, maybe he is using his child as an excuse not to get close to you. This may be a conscious decision — or it could be percolating at an unconscious level. We all have ways we sabotage relationships out of fear of intimacy, and we need to be aware of these red flags when we are dating someone with kids.
How do you date a man with a child?
A few tips for dating single dads that may apply, though of course every dad is unique:
- Be respectful of his time with his kids.
- Be mindful that if he doesn’t have his kids 50% of the time, that may not be his choice.
- He’s the parent — not you.
Continue reading more tips here on dating a man with kids: The benefits of dating a single dad
Great examples of couples who put their kids second in dating
A couple years ago, a guy I went out with, read my blog before we went out, and mulled my opinions on putting your kids behind your romantic partner.
Over cajun food, he described what sounds like a remarkably happy suburban childhood headed by parents who enjoyed a 40-year marriage, five kids, and two successful careers.
My date has only the fondest memories of watching his dad court his mom on their weekly date nights and annual parent-only vacations — in addition to the family road-trip.
Staying home with the babysitter was tons of fun. “My dad made it clear that his relationship with my mom was the center of everything, while he was also the best dad ever,” he said.
What could be a better example of the benefits of putting your romantic partner first?
Emma’s takeaway: Her final word on dating a man with kids
If you find yourself dating a man with kids, remember that he is an individual who is juggling parenthood with his desire to date, he may or many not want more kids, and he may prioritize his kids over you — at least for now.
You may be hesitant to date a guy with children but find yourself surprised by this new relationship with both him and his children — or you may be satisfied with spending time alone with him during the time his kids are with their mom, and keeping that part of his life separate.
When dating a man with kids, be open to some magic, while also honoring your own dating goals and feelings — pretty much like every other relationship.
No. But once the relationship becomes a serious, long-term commitment, the relationship should come before the kids' every whim. However, child wellbeing is first.