I meet most men that I date online.
It's very common for guys with kids to write in their dating profiles:
“My kids come first,”
“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.
Got it. Roger!
But this message can get messy in relationships, and kids are one of the main reasons that second and third marriages suffer such high divorce rates.
Here are common questions when it comes to dating a man or woman with kids:
- What you should know when dating a man with kids
- Should a man put his girlfriend first?
- Challenges of dating a single parent
Should a man put his girlfriend first?
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.
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 kids the prominent focus of your life.
After all, they 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 the relationship, when you crave more time with your man, he prioritizes his children, and you feel left out.
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“Dating a man with kids and feeling left out”
Perhaps he wants to mostly keep his kids separate from his romantic life, or his 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.
“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 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.
How do you date someone with a child?
Deeper information can be found to this question in these posts:
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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?
What if you don't have a romantic interest to start with?
This Modern Love column in the New York Times (which I read religiously and am only slightly bitter about the fact the editor Daniel Jones has rejected more than a dozen of my submissions over the years BUT NEVERMIND!) highlighted an essay by Aylete Waldman about the fact that she puts her husband and their fantastic sex life above their four kids.
The most interesting thing about the essay was the resulting shitstorm of controversy which landed Waldman on a much-viewed Oprah episode during which a hostile audience nearly attacked her.
Yes, that essay is a decade old, but it warrants a revisit because parents — mothers most especially — are still expected to make our children the center of our worlds, and always put kids first. Waldman wrote:
I do love [my daughter]. But I'm not in love with her. Nor with her two brothers or sister. Yes, I have four children. Four children with whom I spend a good part of every day: bathing them, combing their hair, sitting with them while they do their homework, holding them while they weep their tragic tears. But I'm not in love with any of them. I am in love with my husband.
It is his face that inspires in me paroxysms of infatuated devotion. If a good mother is one who loves her child more than anyone else in the world, I am not a good mother. I am in fact a bad mother. I love my husband more than I love my children.
I love that Waldman challenges the institution that admonishes women for anything other than full-time adoration of their kids.
Waldman's work includes many of the points I've made here on this blog:
Many of you lapped up my essay about the fact that I don't live for my kids — and that is my biggest gift to them.
Putting kids before all else makes them neurotic and robs me of my potential to live the biggest, fullest life that I can — and model for my children that such a life is possible.
Putting kids first makes them neurotic and robs me of my potential to live the biggest, fullest life that I can — and model for my children that such a life is possible.
I've urged parents — single moms in particular — to prioritize their health above all else, including family time.
After all, you can't be an energetic mom now if you are overweight, and you are even more likely than single moms overall to burden your children in your old age if you don't care for your wellbeing now.
That despite my attempts to live said full life, I've found myself hugging my kids too much because I'm lonely — and that is entirely unfair to my son and daughter. Alas, I am only human.
I plan to read Waldman's essay collection, Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, and Occasional Moments of Grace, which promises to dig into the societal pressure moms face to put their children into the laser-sharp focus of their universes.
Liberating music to my ears!
But Waldman has a husband she is crazy about. I don't.
Give yourself permission to stop feeling guilty.
Focus on research that finds that kids don't need nearly as much time with their parents as we think they do.
A University of Maryland meta study of 34 papers found that after age 2, it makes literally zero difference how much time parents spent with their kids. In fact, researchers found that the pressure to spend so much quality time with children stresses moms out so much that it may actually make us worse parents than if we just focused our time on our relationships, health and making more money, and less on frontal-lobe development and deep connection with our children. That is right: We are spending TOO MUCH time with our children.
U.S. moms of 3-to-11-year-olds spend an average of 11 to 30 hours each week either fully engaged in activities with their kids, or nearby and accessible when needed. And for kids in their early teens, moms are there between 11 and 20 hours each week. On average, in 1975 moms spent just over 7 hours per week with their kids. We are spending more time with our children, yet feeling more guilty and stressed.
Want to date? Go for it — AND DON’T FEEL GUILTY!
Schedule one date per week — with guys from Tinder, your boyfriend or your husband (or, if your relationship permits — all three!) Get started today and choose your online dating platform >>
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Need a sex life? NO GUILT FOR YOU – ONLY BOOTY!
Do what you have to do.
Need to hit the gym?
HIRE A SITTER AND DON’T LOOK BACK!
Looking forward to that business trip even though you have to leave the kids at home?
I’m not worried you'll neglect the kids. If you are like the professional moms I know, the pendulum swings way in the other direction — and you’re far more likely to neglect yourself.
Dating someone new? When should single moms introduce a boyfriend to the kids?
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.