Dating a man with kids? Why kids don’t always come first

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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,”

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.

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:

Should a man put his girlfriend first?

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:

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? …

When to tell a date you have kids

“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.

Do you feel like your relationship is at a crossroads? I recently got a psychic reading from Keen, which allows you to pick from hundreds of mediums, tarot readers and psychics for a live reading. Jenn, the medium I chose, assured me my relationship would get over this rough patch. Try Keen now, first 3 minutes free >>

“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.

eharmony review — are this site's claims of the highest rates of marriage, and the lowest rates of divorce legit?

“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.

Why you don't have to tell your ex about your new relationship

“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.

Dating red flags — and when to call it quits

Best online therapy sites for 2021— Costs, free therapy, pros, cons

How do you date someone with a child?

Deeper information can be found to this question in these posts:

14 tips for men who want to date a single mom

Benefits of dating a single dad — and how to date a man with kids

Looking for a serious relationship? Our No. 1 recommendation is eHarmony, which is consistently rated the most trusted dating site, and is designed specifically for those looking for meaningful, long-term connections. A+ Better Business Bureau rating, and claims “Every day, an average of 438 singles marry a match they found on eHarmony.” 3-month free guarantee with eHarmony.

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?

How to choose pics for online dating profiles

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.

14 tips for men who want to date a single mom

Benefits of dating a single dad — and how to date a man with kids

Takeaway

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 >>

Not into online dating apps? Consider a matchmaking service. Read: It's Just Lunch matchmaking service review

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?

KILL IT!

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?

Should a man put his girlfriend 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.

Wealthysinglemommy.com founder Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, activist, author and expert. A former Associated Press reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has appeared on CNBC, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, TIME, The Doctors, Elle, O, The Oprah Magazine. Winner of Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web” and a New York Observer “Most Eligible New Yorker," her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was a New York Post Must Read. As an expert on divorce and gender, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality and multiple state legislature hearings. More about Emma's credentials.

765 Comments

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38 percent of old people over 75 years old are living alone in UK. And this ratio increases over 50 percent after 80 yeras old.

Your spouse may not be near you when you get old.

And if you put your kids second you can be sure of that your kids will not even want to call you or see your face when you get old.

Relying on only one person is gambling with life.

Put your kids first for 18 years.

Put your spouse first for next 30 years.

This is very fair.

You put your spouse first but you also put your kids first.

Win / Win

if your kids are unhappy you cannot also be happy.

Kids are are our future.

They do not deserve to be put second.

Happy kids & Happy society & Happy parents……..

Your kids will not have another chilhood.

But you can find another spouse / romantic partner.

The most important part of human life is chilhood.

So giving kids a happy chilhood must be “priotirized” not only parents but also whole society must prioritize that.

And this does not mean “devoting yourself completely to your kids”.

If you will not priotirize your kids do not have kids. You do not have to.

I respect honest people who tells that : Romance is the more important for me so i will not have kids.

You can live “child free”.

This is an article written to rationalize selfishness.

What does the article tell?

Be selfish and put yourself over everybody else. Do not worry that will also be good for everybody.

But “selfishness” is not good for everybody or your kids: Selfishness is only good for you.

There are 2755 billionaires all over the world while billiards of humans are living under hunger limit.

And as a selfish role model you will teach your kids selfishness tihs way.

You are trying to teach your kids to put themselves over everbody else..

Humans are equal. Kds must learn this in the family. There should not be a “selfish hierarchy” in the family.

And how can kids trust their parents if their parents selfishly put them second / third / forth / fiftth…….

In a step family it becomes worse :

How can kids trust their “biological parent” if their “biological parent” puts a stranger ( their step parent . Yes there are exceptions but only exceptions ) above them?

If “romantic partner & spouse is more important than the kids” than a parent can abandone his / her kids for a new spouse who dislikes his / her kids. Sorry truth hurts.

That is established first and foremost because it’s the truth. Sorry lady. Unless it’s a dead beat dad. A strong woman will agree.

All I know is growing up I never had my dad around. Didn’t meet him till I was 33. My mom never really had a man around. Both my brothers wer already grown by the time I came along. So I had no male influence around. No little brother, jus me and mom. I needed a male around desperately. I didn’t care if they didn’t get along. I learned early that families fight. But they also worked it out, no matter what. No breaking up, no divorces. I Kno it sounds unintelligent. I jus wish I had both of them as a kid

I don’t agree and here is why. The happiness of the romantic couple should NEVER trump the happiness of the child. Children of divorce are constantly trying to keep their parents happy so they don’t leave the children too. I have seen first hand what following your advice does to a child and it sucks. Everyone says to let the children get used to the idea of a new partner. Let them work it out slowly so they get along. Do things fun together. Maybe the child instinctively knows the new partner is not as good as dad/mom thinks. Kids are very smart and pick up on things a lot quicker than dad/mom after coitus. Difficult to be objective after you just got laid. OMG…my kids don’t like my new partner!! But he/she is great for me. I feel like a million bucks. Well, little Johnnie, you are going to have to get along with dad/mom new love interest because dad/mom is having the time of their lives. But when reality finally hits and the honeymoon wears off…and NEW PARTNER decides he/she isn’t going to take care of someone else’s kid. Little Johnnie can console dad/mom and hopefully is old enough to say, “I told ya so”. IMHO your advice on this one is full of crap.

The article is right, limiting yourself to only prioritizing your children will shorten your ability to find happiness and will also create poor behaviors in your children. Speaking from experience. Full stop, you need to put yourself first, your love second, and finally your family after that. No one is talking about outlier examples such as introducing someone who is a danger to your children. We are discussing healthy relationships and boundaries. Some people in these comments are confused

A parent cannot be happy when his / her kids are unhappy. There is a correlation between kids and their parents happiness. So a parent putting his / her happines over his / her kids happiness also risks his / her own happiness. And kids need to trust their parents. They should be sure of that their parents will not leave them for anything ( happiness & love ). How can they trust their parents when their parents put them after all? Putting kids second & third belongs to the ages before 20. century where kids are not important and can be used as little slaves & abused & neglected & even sold by their parents. We are at 21.st century. Parents should not teach their kids selfishness by being a selfish role model who puts himself / herself over eveything else. In a family there must not be a first and losers. Parents should teach their kids Win / Win not Win / Lose.

“Good parents” make happy children says:

My father was a really very happy man. But he was the worst father i have seen till now.

Not happy parents good parents make happy children

I am not a mother, but I was involved with a man for 4 and a half years, who had two children. the youngest was 15 when we started dating. I am a shrink. It became apparent over time that this kid was out of control in many ways, got involved with dealing pot, using steroids, speeding, missing school, lying, crashing multiple cars, going to rehab, showing up in the ER because of alcohol poisoning. There was police involvement and we learned he was trying to buy a gun for ‘protection.’
My man who was wonderful in many ways, and had a strong relationship with his older son, was so intimidated by this teenager, that he chose to be a doormat. He refused to lay down the law. It was horrible. Never any consequences, never bringing things up that were too uncomfortable to deal with. Zillions of conversations that never moved the needle never helped. He refused any parental guidance and wouldn’t go to therapy with me. We couldn’t move forward with our relationship because the kid was always home, being incredibly disrespectful and I’d had it.
Sad story. No way to fix it. It takes a long time to know someone.
Things our significant others do…and FAIL to do about their kids’ behavior matters, in choosing a man with kids.

Ima single mom, and in a serious relationship, is it ok to spend every weekend with my boyfriend, I’m an entrepreneur, so I spend the weekdays with my kids… is it ok to visit my boyfriend and spend the weekend with him, or should only spend the weekend with him when my kids are with their dad

I really don’t like my boyfriends kids. He has 3 and they are wild and crazy and disrupt my life with me and my daughter. How can I get them to stay with their mother only.

Okay but the ” it makes zero difference how much time the parent spends with their child” part is bullshit, neglect can seriously damage a child’s brain. I know from experience

What if the mother only gets the kids on the weekends and me and her live together? She doesn’t cuddle with me the same way as we would during the week when her 8yr old daughter comes over and 13 yr old son. Should she be justified of putting kids first since she only gets weekends? I compromise when they come over ( not to mention im adopting her 1 yr old son) but when its movie time she seems to not want to cuddle with me but only her daughter? Am i wrong for this?

If you put your kids behind your romantic partner you cannot see if they are abused by your romantic partner. There are lots of abuse cases like this.

If you put your romantic partner first your kids does not tell you / want help from you if they are abused by your romantic partner. There are lots of abuse cases like this.

I was not abused while i was kid.

But i have read so many child abuse cases where dads rape their kids and mothers stay silent.

Kids must even be protected from their parents.

Human 1.0 is “trash” so maybe human 2.0 project must be initiated.

Socialism failed because “human 1.0 is trash”.

.

How about this??? Boyfriend took me to a haunted house for my birthday and left me behind inside because he was trying to get reception on his phone so he could text his adult married daughter pictures because she use to love going to haunted houses with him? WTF?!

According to UN 20 percents of kids all over the world are sexually abused at least once till 18 years old.

And abusers are not strangers.

85-90 percent of abusers are : Dads / brothers / uncles / grand fathers ………..

Yes males are monsters. I am ashamed of my gender.

But we also know that many many mothers stay silent even when their kids tell them about the abuse.

Why do not these mothers protect their kids?

For kids this “great betrayal” becomes a second and a deeper trauma.

We should solve this “great abuse problem” first of all.

This must be our “toppest priority”.

“Great ideas” like putting kids second does not help this.

Emma please research how Iceland saved their teenagers which had really gone out of control : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cDbD_JSCrNo

Alchohol and substance usage rates of teanagers were very high in Iceland at 80’s and 90’s .

So government forced parents to sign a pledge. ( Not only this. )

And do you know what the second item of this pledge was :

It is not something like that : “Demonstrate your kids how a loving, respectful partnership should be”. :)

It is “More family time with the kids.”

And do you know what happened?

The number of young people who have ever used cannabis has dropped from 17 percent to 7 percent; and smokers are down from 23 percent to just 3 percent.

Yet we are far from understanding completely how human brain works. 5 years later Maryland university can make another research telling just the opposite. This is how science works.

I cannot treat my kids like “lab rats”.

I can’t understand how my girlfriend of 3 years and leaving it up to her 6 year old daughter to say if our relationship should end or not? Like I understand I don’t have a great connection with her I may even have some resentment towards her due to her the father is. But I really want to try to make this work and fix it I love my girlfriend and I want a life with her but I don’t know if leaving it up to her daughter is the best thing? Because she’s a child and kids are indecisive on everything at that age like she doesn’t know everything her mom and I went threw to even be together in the beginning because she was even younger than she is now she was basically a baby. Her mom and I both fought for us to be together and when we finally got that chance everything was better at lease so am I crazy for thinking that my girlfriend is not being fair to me that leaving this decision in her daughters hands?

In a relationship for 3 years now love the man with everything in me, get my youngest daughter every weekend he has two teenage girls who are into horses they do 4h and equestrian teams as well as he works a full time job. He never seems to decide his attention between kids and lately have been left at home w my children while on the weekends goes to horse shows from Fri to Sunday leaving no room for him to bond with my youngest I get on the weekends, can’t remember the last time I got flowers never been on a proper date, I’m home work a part time job bring his kids to and from school daily make meals for there horse potluck, I know ur thinking why dont u go with I have a 6year old girl w autism who requires special needs not easy for me to take her out of her comfort zone in hot weather to stay all weekend at horse events, am I just being selfish or do I have a valid reason to be upset?

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