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.

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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.

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

Seriously, maybe that’s why you’re a single mom. Your kids, no matter what you believe and how your raise them, ARE NOT the center of the universe. I am a single mom, but for different reasons. My kid certainly does not come first for everything. I need to have my own life, too. I need to do adult things with other adults. It keeps me sane! If I want to date, that is up to me and not my child. My child is not going to be a reason to not date. I need my own life. My daughter is the most important person in my life, but I need boundaries. When my daughter is with her father, that is my time and I take full advantage of it. I believe parents deserve to have their own lives, their own things, their own identities outside of their children. My daughter is my world, but if I want to date, it’s about the man. I care about his needs and desires. If it is a serious relationship, his needs have to be satisfied. They can’t be ignored just because I have a child. Adults are on different wavelengths than their children. They have different needs, but both need love.
I certainly am not selfish because my daughter dictates my entire life. I love to travel. I took a trip last year for two weeks, my child stayed with her father. I go out for “girls night” with my friends. I am planning on going back to school. My life didn’t stop just because I had a child. Being a mom is not a prison sentence. Those of you who say it’s selfish to not put your children first, are probably single for just that reason. You cannot block out other important people in your life just because you have children.

I am newly single and am planning on starting to date soon. I have no qualms with leaving my daughter with a sitter once in awhile so I can go out with someone. There is nothing wrong with that! God knows, I give my child everything I can. I am a single mother and I struggle. But her needs get met, she has a loving home. But for God sake, I need a break sometimes. Dating as a single mom gives you a different perspective on life. It gives you someone else to take care of. Why is that a bad thing? Why do we have this negative view of mothers who do other things with their lives? It’s actually better for your kids to have a mom who has her own life. They are better adjusted, they are happier because mom is happier.

If you’re in a relationship or casually dating, there is nothing wrong with making his life part of yours. Take interest in his interests. Compliment him. Make him feel good. While I have a child, that doesn’t meN I can’t date or have a boyfriend.

“Adults are on different wavelengths than their children. They have different needs, but both need love.” yes!!

I’m so glad that I came across this post because I have been dating this guy for about three months now and he’s very present in his 3-year-old daughters life, he sees her maybe almost every other day she spends the night at his house and I love to see a father who takes care of his child, from a separate home :)..
BUT today is Valentine’s Day and he called me this morning and said happy Valentine’s Day but then said he was about to go spend some time with his daughter and give her her gifts. So in my mind when we made plans he never said anything about seeing his 3 year old daughter and spending most of Valentine’s Day w her. Also a holiday he don’t even “really” celebrate.. So now today he’s expressed that we’re going to hang out in the evening maybe around six or 7 o’clock. (He didn’t really put a time on it) so I’m just like out of all days this is the one day that he could have sacrificed for it to just be about me him, so in my mind I don’t feel as though he’s only going to see just his daughter like he claims.. Like she’s 3 year old… Valentine’s Day.. She doesn’t even know what Valentine’s Day is.. Come on this just doesn’t sit right w me.. And he may be telling the truth, and I am not an insecure girl by no stretch at all. But I hate feeling like I’m being lied to..

The only men I”ve met who knock Valentines Day have been selfish, perpetually single men. Valentines Day takes 60 seconds to celebrate. A box of chocolate’s , a card. Less than $20. Something small to show you care. Not a lot of effort. Jaded people think otherwise & complain about it. Small actions or inactions like this can sometimes show a mans character. Actions speak louder than words.You can disagree but, that is my opinion & I’m sticking to it.

Find a man who has no children.Trust me you will be better off.I,m a 51 yr old man who has never been married until I was 48.I married a woman with 2 grown children and if I had to do it all over again I would never go with a woman who has kids,but In my age group a woman who has no kids is like hitting the lotto.If you are a young woman ,go out and find a man who has no kids and start your own family if you want.Trust me there are plent of young men that would love to have a childless woman.

I was with a man whose boys would always come between us. They refused to accept me, treated me as if I was the antichrist. Now before you all get up in arms with me about what part I played in this… My boyfriend didn’t have full custody, so his time with his boys was his time with his boys and I was not involved in that time. We were together for a long time, when it came time for them to begin college – I believed that it was finally my time to become if not first, then at least a high priority. When that didn’t happen, the relationship ended. I truly felt that it was ok for me to take the back seat to his children, when they were children. But now… If ever I am with a man who has children and their attitude towards me is that toxic and he doesn’t nip that in the bud – I’m out. I will never put myself through the pain and agony of loving a man who won’t fight for me, because I am worth it.

This is truly amazing. I just dated a divorced man for the first time and left him after 7 mths. He was divorced for six years and initially never wanted a divorce. I never expected to compete with the bond he had with his sons . However, he repeatedly stated from the very first date that his kids “came first”. Eventually with a clear mind and head I started to feel “second.” This became apparent when he didn’t stick to seeing me every other wknd and took one wknd to be with his friends. That was all I could take. It became obvious to me that he was a helicopter parent with a guilt ridden approach and a fear of losing them . His putting me second was also selfish. This article validated what I felt all along . I now realize that what I expect from a relationship with a man divorced or not is perfectly normal. Thank you!!!

This is me exactly as well, I’m on a year and keep trying to do everything in my power to try and get my boyfriend to want to bring me into his life more so I could be a REAL part of it and feel like we had a real partnership. I’m realizing it’s just not changing, I’ve only met his kids like 3 times… every event, bday, holiday is spent with the kids and his ex-wife. I’m awfully sad about realizing he’s one of those dads, I thought it was me this whole time not being a good enough partner. I never once complained about his time away but now I just feel unfulfilled and alone most of the time. What kind of relationship is that? Works great for him, for me… not so much. I have no kids, but want nothing more than to get to know his kids and create a loving space for them and my boyfriend. But I am not included at all. Sad because I do think he really loves me. He’s going to lose me over it.

Great article Emma, I wish my boyfriend would read it, I appreciate he “only” sees hes child ALL weekend Every weekend and he wants to totally devote that time to her yet we have four evenings alone and he sits on FB or watches tv, my annoyance is how much he takes me for granted, we recency argued because I said one day when the circumstances are right id like us to take a month or two out to do some traveling, his response was that that was “silly and you can’t drop everything to go gallivanting” I accept his responsibilities and have supported that but is it so awful that once his daughter is grown up for it to then me my turn to be a priority?

Tania – sounds hurtful, but also maybe time for you to accept where his priorities lie. It doesn’t sound like with you, I’m afraid.

thanx Emma for this great lecture. I am in this situation but did not have the knowledge how to tackle the problem but thank God i got you. My fiance has a 4 year old daughter and she works six days a week and we rarely find time for each other. she is attached to the kid and i also love the kid. She tries by all means to give excuses whenever we discuss the issue of going out or spending time together. I did not have any clue as to what could be going on. Im glad i now know how to tackle this great problem. I am into her 100% unconditionally

Sorry Emma. My ex-wife was a very selfish person who put our kids last. At the end of our marriage I was doing all the child care, housecleaning, shopping, errands, cooking, laundry, etc., all while working full time. And she sat around complaining, spending money, and doing whatever she wanted whenever she wanted to. I would never file for divorce because I think marriage is a sacred covenant, but I was sure glad when she did. I bought her out of the house and never looked back. My kids and I are doing great, much better with her. She wonders why they never want to see her. She still doesn’t get it. My kids come first because they’re the best people I’ve ever met. They’re kind, considerate, smart, loving, supportive, and fun to be with. Everything my ex wasn’t. I always told myself I’ll start dating again when the kids are out of the house. Well, my last is graduating HS soon and I still don’t think I’ll be dating. Women just annoy me. When you pay attention to one, it’s like a drug. They can’t get enough, and they suck the life out of you. I’m going to enjoy being single and have fun with my grandkids when they come along. Women have nothing to add to my life – nothing at all.

That is very sad. You are lonely, and stopped living your life. ” Grandkids”. Seriously? you should just start etching your tombstone now .

Oh, gosh. You’re going to be that hovering grandparent that will ALSO prohibit your children from having a wonderful loving partner and normal, fulfilling relationship. It sounds like you are a perpetrator of parental alienation. Your ex might be a pos, who knows, but you sir are damaged beyond repair. Please stay off the dating sites.

I completely agree with this. My marriage to their father failed because after we had kids, we lost ourselves in the process. I was only known as Mom and he was Dad. In my second marriage, we do everything we can to make sure there is time for US, as Mellissa and Ray which doesn’t include the kids.

I think you make a great point, and don’t understand all the hate you’re getting. It’s about boundaries, and being able to set proper ones with your kids.

I dated a single mom who had adult children (in their 20’s), and they were still very much “on the teat”. She’d even stop in the middle of ‘adult time’ to answer the phone if they called. No borders whatsoever.

I’m a single dad with 100% custody of my kids. I love them to death and would do anything for them. That being said, there’s also boundaries in place. Grown-up stuff is grown-up stuff, kid stuff is kid stuff. Not to the extreme of where “kids should be seen and not heard”, but for crying out loud, let’s draw some lines in the sand!

40 year-old woman here. Every single mom I know is either dating or looking for a childless man. At my age, I know quite a few. They refuse to get involved with single dads. They’re also unwilling to have children with these childless men. These guys are not and will never be a priority for them, yet they are expected to help support and raise children that are not theirs. I never understood why a childless person with zero baggage would get involved with a single parent.

Oh and one more thing….Imagine flying 2 flights with a 4 month baby from london to St Thomas ALONE! And arriving very jet lagged new mum new baby to adapt to timezones climate LOADS OF LUGGAGE and then grocery shopping boxes of it. I already had pelvic inflammatory so my bones were aching!

Then…the day I arrive, a demanding ex wife who TELLS dad he needs to come and get his kids because she has to go out! HE IMMEDIATELY DOES AS HES TOLD! Even though I asked weeks in advance to give me at least a week to settle in before the kids come to see mum and baby. Which we agreed and apparently he let her know and she was fine with it. So she knew. When I arrived I had 2 under 10’s in a 1 bed small apartment jumping all over me and my very tired little baby boy as dad looked on.

They sulked, because they felt sad???? and also told me THAT DADDY belongs to them because they were here first they are his REAL children. I tried to talk to them but it was hopeless DADDY let them say and do what they want AND also wiped every tear…I told him he needs to address it with their mum I don’t want them feeling left out dad assured me I have it wrong they are so happy they have a brother LIKE REALLY HAPPY! Their mum was also poisoning them. ‘mummy told us u wanted us to be a boy, are u happy you have a son daddy?’ THIS WAS ALL IN ONE DAY! I wanted to scream! And that night the ex wife accidentally on purpose ran into us I was holding my son SHES NEVER SPOKEN TO ME EVER and held my sons hand and spoke to him but ignored me! My sons father watched and then OF COURSE they needed ANOTHER brief discussion about ‘the kids’ EVEN THOUGH she had been calling and calling his phone for us to drop everything to go and get them. She left them on his doorstep in the dark and the rain. But the woman in a rush now has time to stop and chat. MY SONS FATHER SAID she was just being nice ……

But hey, I am the needy, cruel, selfish, paranoid, ‘bipolar’ step mum who nags over nothing!

I wish they would go back to each other.

Thank you Heather! It seems as though we are separated at birth. Also vier we started out like your situation until my baby was 4 months old and I found out all the secrets he was keeping.

I will make this as quick as I can.

My sons father lives over seas and came here to visit out 18 month old baby in early November 2015 for 10 weeks, we were meant to be working on ‘fixing things.’ I asked him to stay with his brother who lives 2 hours away and see our son weekends or take him for a while I HAD EVERY EXCUSE. Needless to say I was forced to let him stay mostly for my sons sake.

He promised he would treat us better. His ex wife and daughters rule us every time we visit him. SO… I took care of him (he was on sick leave for a minor op) I worked and studied he was great with our son but was very secretive in his phone calls to his ex wife and kids (as always). He did his usual silent treatment game to me and I eventually threw him out after 3 weeks couldn’t take the mental abuse anymore (he’s done a lot worse to me I am on anxiety pills) his passport and personal belongings were already missing from my drawer he was planning to exit its a form of punishment.

Anyway a week later he told me he was getting the 9pm flight and he hung up and I did not hear from him until days before christmas there was no explanation just a small gift in the post and no mention of seeing his son. I cried and begged. He said he could see him for ONE day I SAID NO forget it. ONE DAY. He sees him 1-2 times per year 6 weeks usually.ONE DAY?

Anyway, HE LEFT the country without telling me when he was actually leaving (its all a big secret) then…when he arrived back to his Island, he has his precious princesses for as long as the ex wife (wife ) needs, as usual. LIKE HE SAYS OFTEN IT ISNT FAIR ON HER SHE NEEDS A BREAK when he’s visted me….what about me? HE DID NOT EVEN SAY GOODBYE TO OUR BABY SON! He has shared custody of his daughters they live BLOCKS AWAY shared custody but goes an extra mile if the evil trouble making hag wants to get drunk and sleep with married men. They now live a 2 min drive 10 min walk but dislike each other ????did I mention he was sleeping with her most nights 9 months into the relationship? and apparently I AM CRUEL WICKED CHILDISH STEP MOTHER who doesn’t understand his kids come first DAUGHTERS AND EX WIFE he means. I am a vindictive jealous insecure childish paranoid woman when theres nothing going on with them anymore…..????? BUT NOW everything they NEED to communicate about IS FOR THE KIDS lol yes that old chestnut for the kids…who are allowed to be disrespectful to me because daddy is guilty and mummy brainwashes them with poison.

so to the people against new partners and jilted brides now forced to be completely single mum (not the cosy part-time parent getting all the help like the ex wife) WHERE THE HELL DOES THAT LEAVE MY SON AND I? MY SON DOESNT HAVE A FATHER ANYMORE….

oooops I forgot as somebody kindly put before THEY WERE THERE FIRST ….so what MY SON doesn’t matter because THEY WERE THERE FIRST? REALLY?

I’m dating a single father. We live together and his kids stay with us every other wknd. When we first got together I flat out refused to meet his kids (both under 10 yrs old) until I knew we were serious. He wanted me to meet them right away but I didn’t think they needed to meet me immediately in the event that we did not work out, so they wouldn’t see fleeting relationships with women in his life. When we were finally introduced I insisted we take it slow, he doesn’t get a ton of time w/them and I didn’t want to detract from it as he was spending all the rest of his time w/me anyhow. When eventually we moved in together, I’d make myself scarce on his weekends to ensure they got alone time with him. Eventually, they began asking me to stay around, asking me to go with them on all of their outings and including me in everything. We all get along and have fun together. I made a strong effort to show that there was no competition for their father’s attention and it resulted in a very happy environment. In fact, I researched quite a bit about step parenting prior to our decision to cohabitate and everything I read said: you need to accept that you can’t rush a bond between yourself and your step children, it will take a lot of time and probably akward, uncomfortable situations… Fortunately for me, that was not at all the case. His kids accepted me, and I accepted them and we became close in a relatively short time.
He’s not one of those: “my kids come above all else” types of men, and our loving relationship toward each other makes us happier people and therefore better more effective co-parents. I support and agree with Emma and commend her honesty and bravery to assert her point of view despite it going against what has been societally accepted and expected for so long. Parents are people, the ones with lives and interests other than their kids are happier, better, more satisfied and well rounded people and role models.

I need some immediate advice. I adore the man I’m with and he loves me so very much. He is a single dad and has total custody of his two children with whom I adore. However, his daughter is focus and he does not discipline her and gives in to her on everything. She is so sweet but there are times I say something to him and he acts like I don’t like her. I love her and that’s why I try to make him stand his ground. I’m scared if one day she decides she doesn’t like me, I’ll be sent to the curb. He feels guilt with her mom abandoning the kids so I understand. But kids need boundaries and I don’t know how to approach this or leave. My kids are disciplined and I don’t want them thinking they can get away with things as well. Help. I don’t want this to ruin our relationship. He is so good to me and we have a wonderful relationship but I don’t know if I can deal with an unruly child that has no boundaries.

I had the same issue in the beginning, bedtime was when she wanted and where she wanted, please and thank you was never enforced, “I want” was ok, interrupting when adults were talking and constantly protesting things she was asked to do, fortunately, through a lot of patience on my part this has improved a lot and she is now a relatively well behaved polite little girl , but now other stuff has started to pop up, we’ve talked about living together and even though he drives he doesn’t want to be more than half an hours drive from her even though this will mean me spending an hour traveling to work every day and its been made clear that even when shes a teenager every decision we make she will still be the main reason for doing or not doing certain things, I imagine even when shes at uni or getting married hed happily put us into debt for her!

I’m not a single mom anymore but I totally agree with you on this! When I was single I lived by this because I wanted to get married so badly. I knew things would get better after I was married and 4 years later they did!

I also find it interesting that the author only comments to people who agree with her, however dead silent to those who with personal stories of proof that putting your partner first isn’t always best. What is your response to those who have been physically and emotionally abused because two people chose to put their toxic relationship before the children who clearly needed speech therapy, or counseling, or be shown just the slightest bit of love? It’s not the article that I find offensive, but I think I find the author to be, for writing something so insensitive and thoughtless. So, you took a biblical concept and called it your own?

If the adults in a relationship can’t stand as one undivided front.. Then the children will run or ruin the relationship.. Your mate is the one to help make the home a happy place firm your family, how happy is it off they feel your loneliness? They see and hear everything! Making a place in your life for another adult.. That shouldn’t be a concern of the child and it shouldn’t be a problem.. That’s why children don’t make the decisions.. The adults do.. And they aren’t always the right ones.. Some parents aren’t grown up enough to know that a child if just a child.. Not the judge and jury of a relationship..! A child needs guidance and structure.. Not a parent who can’t make a choice about dating one person

your implying that the author is suggesting you ignore the child’s needs, i think the message is that your children will grow up and have their own lives therefore you cant put what would at that that later time be your main relationship, of course it is a priority to make sure your children are happy, healthy and safe, but that shouldn’t mean that your partner just gets forgotten about and taken advantage of in the process, most stepparents are willing to make sacrifices and take on joint responsibility for a child who isn’t their blood, we’re expected to provide, feed, clothe, take care of, love as if they’re our own yet the minute we say something negative like “I’m not happy that you let her stay up til 9” we get the “shes my daughter and I know whats best” line

My daughter doesn’t like my partners personality. We have been together 2 years. He bought a place for all of us to live, where she can have her own bathroom. She is 16. He has bent over backwards for her and she is so disrespectful. She acts like he is invisible. But has no problem taking gifts, or if she needs money, or part lift. We even got her two kittens. She told me she didn’t want to live with me of he was here. I asked why and her response was he is annoying. I told him how she felt and now he is moving out and renting a room, because he said do your kids come first, and he had tears in his eyes. He says he is willing to live apart for two years, until she goes to college. He won’t come around when she is here. My 4 year old loves him and is going to be heartbroken.I did not raise her to be this way. When I told her he was moving out, she said good, but now she guesses I want her to feel guilty. She should feel guilty. I have known this man 30 years and he has such a big heart.

Sounds like you need to put your foot down and prohibit this kind of behavior. She is running your house because she knows she can get away with it. Time for you, mom, to step up and stop letting her run roughshod over the house, and for your boyfriend to assess your priorities and loyalties.

I just don’t understand why you are angry that you didn’t get a comment from the author? This isn’t a counseling/therapy site, it is simply an article she wrote. If you are looking for sometime to argue with because they didn’t contact YOU and ask you if this article would be fair to YOU and YOUR life experiences, your clearly at the wrong place.

Sorry to seem so rude but my goodness, some people just expect something for nothing. She doesn’t owe you anything, your father and stepmother do. If you have tried working out these issues with them, great, and I’m sorry that it clearly didn’t work. Many people have had terrible life experiences and obviously will deal with them in whatever manner they choose. Some people just need to learn how to cope and work on their problems in appropriate manners, rather than being miserable and shitty towards innocent bystanders.

UGH!!!! Because you are missing the point, that’s why the authors not responding to you people! It’s a waste of her time and the rest of us that Truly gets it.

I am torn. While I am nowhere near ready for a new relationship, I fear that I will NEVER find a partner who will love my child as much as I know she deserves or as much as me or her father…
Growing up, I lived with my father, my stepmother, and their TRIPLET babies. Talk about being at the bottom of the priority list. These two beings have shown me the true meaning of selfishness and were never nice or subtle about letting me know how much of a burden I was to their lives. But, apparently the only sense they could make of my hurt feelings and their daily frustrations was that I was “just jealous”…really?
SO, my experience of having a stepmother AND a father who didn’t accept me as part of their family makes me extra fearful for my daughter and who I choose to enter our lives. the thought of watching her grow up while my being alone is becoming more and more acceptable over falling in love with someone who will only “love” her out of obligation for me. Not worth it.
Like here’s my thing-I expect a man to participate in my daughter’s life and value her as she was his own. I want her and I to have the same amount of love in our lives and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Hate to be pessimistic, but I just don’t think he exists. It’ll take a heart of gold to convince me otherwise.

It sounds like you need to get (or return to) therapy to take care of the childhood issue that causes your fears. Getting to the root can help you find some balance. You need to make sure you’re not being overly sensitive to normal events since you’ve lived through abuse/neglect and want to be certain your child doesn’t go through with it.

The things you expect that you mention here are normal (him participating and valuing your daughter like she’s his). Both you and your daughter deserve that.

But men (and women) must actually get to this point. They don’t just meet your child and fall in love… and sometimes if they do, they might fall out of love when everyone’s real personalities emerge. They have to work toward this.

In order for you to get to that point you have to show this person that they matter in your life. This is where this article comes in… value your partner. If you go into it looking for a father for your child and seeing everything as a threat to her, then he will feel this resistance and you will not get what you are looking for.

Does this mean you have to cancel mommy/daughter dates, break promises, or tolerate abuse toward your daughter? ABSOLUTELY NOT. But it does mean that you have to treat him like you value and respect him and he matters to you. You have to set boundaries for both him and her and make sure that you don’t break your promises to either unless it’s an emergency. And you must practice fairness with them BOTH. If your partner is the right one and he feels genuine love from you (and you make an effort to be sure she is showing him and your union respect), then the love for her will come naturally.

He won’t love her out of obligation, he’ll love her because there’s a real bond and a relationship that stood a chance because it was built with a strong foundation. He’ll love her like she is his because she IS his. It’s not forced and it’s not a chore, it’s the same as the friendships we build. There will be love there.

Don’t expect it to be there from the start… because if it is then you should probably be questioning… WHY???

My father was– as you put in a previous post– a “married single dad”. He became a single dad for real when I was 15 and my mother died. So while I was just a couple years away from living on my own (it was the early 2000s and it was still possible!) it honestly took him a few years before he was ready to start dating again. While I wouldn’t say that he made me his whole world as a result of single parenthood, he really wanted to wait until I moved out and started having my own life before he could focus on finding a partner again. I found that he did spend more time with me after her death though. Whether it was out of frailty of human life or the whole living for your kids thing, I don’t know. As of this fall, he’ll have been with my amazing stepmom for 10 years. I’ll be frank: they both had major shitheads for first spouses and became widowed around the same age bracket, and deserve all the happiness they have. My dad didn’t find real true happiness with a partner til 56. So, any older readers…don’t give up hope!

Granted, what I had wasn’t a 1:1 comparison to what I skimmed through here since my parents weren’t divorced and I was not super young. But I think there just needs to be a healthy balance. Just because you’re prioritizing your relationship doesn’t mean you’re abandoning your kids or refusing to go to EVERY hockey game or whatever. My dad did stuff with me and my sister but he also had friends he went fishing with, work friends he hung out with and civics stuff he did; all of which I found boring. He was totally fine with me having my own friends and hobbies. It still didn’t stop us from taking road trips together or showing me all the places he used to play at in the Village.

A common point I saw come up here and there in this thread was “your child is forever, your partner may not be”. Well…I don’t know about that. Because honestly, if my abusive mother was still alive I would’ve cut her out of my life. When I was having my photo session for my site done, I had a nice chat with the photographer when we were going through the prints. It was an enlightening but sad conversation about how despite giving her a nice upbringing, she’d become a drug addict who fell in with a bad crowd and hadn’t spoken to him in over a decade. The last time she did, it was because she wanted money. His son did alright for himself but for some reason just wanted nothing to do with him, lives on the other side of the world with his wife who he never met.

Life’s a crapshoot. A partner may not be permanent, but a parent-child relationship might not better. All you can do is not smother either person, ignore the haters, and just give it your best shot.

Reading this article reminds me of reading the Bible passage about marriage. The Bible says the husband and wife should put each other only second to God. The spouse comes before children so they can make a good foundation for the children. That does not mean that you do not love your children dearly. If the husband and wife’s needs are not being met, how can they together meet the needs of the children? If their relationship falls apart, it is going to have a negative effect on the children. I guess that is why the Bible says that God hates divorce because it’s harder for a divorce parent to put another spouse before his or her children and build a strong family unit. I am in no way putting people down who are divorced. I know it things happen some times and divorce can not be avoided for the sanity of the people involved. My own brother is divorced and I still talk to his ex the few times I run into her and I love his new wife like a sister. His ex has moved on (they had no children) and his new wife one of the best things that ever happened to him.

I disagree. A partner can look after themselves but a child can’t. When you’re young, you need somebody to put you first. Prioritising your partner over your child is selfish and will probably lead to mental health problems later on. While it’s true that you can’t give your child all the time in the world, you need to draw the line when you’re sacrificing their wellbeing to make your relationship work.

Emma, thanks for giving me hope. My husband just told me his kids are more important than I. My heart is broken. I love him. I don’t know what to do. Please, helm me.

Sounds like you have to decide if this is a) something you want, b) something you think is healthy for anyone involved– including the kids. You have some tough choices to make. You will make the right ones.

Thanks Emma,
We don’t live with his kids and for the second time he kindly said I am second. He said in tears I deserve someone who can make me his number one. He said he was not ready to leave me and neither do I. I do not think he can love me any stronger. I feel I cannot leave him…

I’m 17 years old and my parents have been divorced since I was 2. I live with my mom and get to see my dad every summer and ever other winter break. He remarried when I was 7 I believe and they just recently got divorced this past August. Within the first few weeks of his divorce he went on a date with a woman. He told me he went on one about a few days later when we talked. We usually talk atleast once a week. sometimes we don’t talk for a week or two but we don’t go that long without talking- that is until this year. Like I said he went on the date and told me but didn’t say much. Soon after he stopped calling me altogether. He wouldn’t talk to me unless I started the conversation. Now as a 17 year old girl with her father in a completely different state over a thousand miles away it sucked that he didn’t want to talk to me. Months later I found out he had a girlfriend. I was on Facebook which im never on but my notifications started pilling up so I decided to check them and that’s where I noticed that there was a girl kissing him on his profile picture so I decided to check it out and when I did I found out he was infact dating this woman. So that night I texted him and asked if he had a girlfriend. His response? “UMM yeah?” I tried to ask questions but he just shot me down and said he was at dinner with her and my little brother and sister. He finally called me, not on the day he said he would but still, and he started laughing when I brought it up he kept saying it was no big deal. She is 26 years old. 9 YEARS OLDER THAN ME!!! 9 FUCKING YEARS!!! He doesn’t seem to think that a 17 year age gap is a big deal when he has a daughter who is so close to that age. I kept asking him why he wouldn’t tell me of all people he was seeing someone. He never answered just kept changing the subject. He introduced her to my 7 year old sister and 3 year old brother early in the relationship but insisted that it wasn’t serious. I found this out last month. I”m here at his house for winter break for two weeks. I leave on Saturday. How many days he’s spent here spending time with me or his other kids may you ask? Not even a full day. The Saturday I arrived she was there along with his friends. That Sunday he spent the day with her. That Monday I had to watch my sister and brother while he and their mom were at work that night he didn’t come home till late. Same thing on Tuesday. On Wednesday he wasn’t at home at all he went to work and then spent the night at her house. Christmas Eve I had to babysit my siblings again and then we had to go to her family’s house for Christmas eve. Because on one of the days to spend time with your family my dad doesn’t think that spending time with her family is bad, I just met the damn woman I didn’t want to already meet her family and she also spent the night at our house. On Christmas Day he made us breakfast and then they left. I was told they were going to a dinner party at five and then he’d be back. HE NEVER CAME HOME NEVER TOLD ME JUST LEFT ME SITTING THERE ON CHRISTMAS DAY BY MYSELF BECUASE HE WAS WITH HIS FUCKING GIRLFRIEND!!! it wasn’t until that Saturday that he actually stayed at home we even went out to dinner but naturally she calls him and he leaves me all alone once again for over thirty minutes cause he couldn’t be bothered to say he’d call her back or that he was actually spending time with me. Then on Sunday he got the kids again so I was back to babysitting. So Monday I was babysitting but atleast he came home that night but Tuesday night he didn’t and he didn’t on Wednesday either. So right now im stuck babysitting for a week straight not only with my brother and sister but also with her child because me father seems to think that I have no problem fucking babysitting whoever. New Years Eve and im stuck doing nothing because he once again isn’t here. So tell me this you think a man should put a woman over his children because you believe you should be first? That is a load of bullshit I have never felt worse than I have these two weeks. Children should always be put first especially in the case of a girlfriend. Because you know what? He will always be my dad just like I will always be his daughter you can come and go but im here to stay so if you think you should be more important than a man or woman’s child then you have some major problems. If you don’t like it I frankly don’t give a flying fuck. Grow the fuck up you are not the most important thing in a man’s life!

I am so sorry that happened to you. What you dad did to you is plain crappy and there is no excuse for it. Putting a spouse (not girlfriend) first does not mean that you ignore your children. You should be a big part of his life and feel the love and stability of a father. I believe that when a spouse emotional needs is put before a child, it should be to build a strong family unit for the child. I’m sure that you can testify to the fact that when a marriage fails that the children suffer. With divorce, it gets trickier. I don’t know your faith and I will no way judge you, but I am a Christian and I believe that is the reason that God hates divorce. It breaks the strong family unit up and makes it harder on the children especially dealing with step parents. Any girlfriend or spouse that would allow a man to do his child like he did you is very selfish and self centered and is in no way mature enough to date or marry a man with children.

Grow up. Your dad seems extreme. He should not be breaking his promises to you. He should be more considerate of your time and feelings and he definitely needs to keep his relationship with you healthy, however…you sound jealous.

He can be with his ‘EFFIN girlfriend’ because he is trying to move on… as adults do. One day when you have a mature, responsible relationship you will learn that to make it work, you have to consider your partner and they come first sometimes.

Your dad should not be taking it to the extreme, but I have a funny feeling why he’s doing it. You seem very demanding of his time and presence. I can tell that I’m on the right page because that’s why he was laughing because he’s wondering how he got this far letting this little girl play 20 questions like she rules him.

NEWSFLASH! Your dad DOES NOT have to report to you about who he dates. He DOES NOT have to stop dating someone because YOU don’t agree with the age gap. He certainly DOES NOT have to explain to you why he decided to keep his relationship secret from you! He has a life of his own and he is allowed to live it… without your permission.

Because your dad was so extreme, I can imagine you feel used and discarded but it sounds like you were offended by his relationship before you even got there. It’s obvious in the tone of your comment that you are hurting, but reading between the lines, I can tell that you know that you hold some kind of ‘power’ over him. It’s like you felt entitled to knowing all of your fathers personal details and are livid because he won’t share them.

It sucks that he ruined your 2 weeks but I can tell that you’ve probably ruined tons of relationships for him. Because you sound like the feisty, ‘mini-wife’ that so many girlfriends & new wives get pushed to bottom for.

The good news is that if his new girlfriend is so selfish to take all of his time from you, they probably won’t last very long… so you’ll have what you want…daddy wrapped around your finger. But you need to work on respecting your father, his wishes, and his lifestyle. You are the child, not the mother or wife. He does not answer to you.

Sydney, I’m so sorry that you went through that. I understand where you are coming from; somehow coming by this post and quickly relating it to your current experience and how it made you feel to read this. But in time you will realize that Emma’s post is not a product of your experience. It is a product of hers. Your anger and resentment are with your dad, I believe, right? Just because Emma, (a stanger to you, correct?), wrote a blog that struck a nerve with you doesn’t really condone your obscenities and animosity. It would be much more productive to discuss your feelings with your father. Communication is EVERYTHING. If people cannot communicate, rather communicate effectively, there is not much hope for healing your wounds and fixing your problems so they do not continue to occur. Maybe the anger you feel is stemming from more ill feelings between your relationship and past with your father. I’m sure you are going to read this and prepare to fly off with more swearing and backlash but in all fairness you opened the door to every posters opinion with your tirade.

I agree with this article, and find some of these comments to be quite unrealistic. When you seriously are in it for the long haul and want a lifelong partner, you should make that person a priority. Your children will grow up eventually and form partnerships and start families of their own, and where will you be? Alone, because you chose to put you children above a potential loving relationship. Unless your intention is to grow old with your child.. In that case, you better make a great mother/father in law… Good luck with that :)

I agree with this article. I think when dating exclusively… (in a relationship, not just random dates,) people should put their kids second.

People get offended because they automatically assume you’re going to take on the role of the aging, desperate clinger who’s going to let her boyfriend abuse her kids for the sake of having a guy around, or the tool whose going to stop contacting his kids because his new girlfriend said so.

There’s actually a happy balance.

You can stand up for your kids rights and make sure that your new partner is not abusing them or taking advantage of your ‘partner first’ policy, while allowing your partner to feel valued and important.

I think the people who are so afraid of the aforementioned issues are the ones who take it to that ‘are you SERIOUS?!’ level.

My ex had it really bad. He would not only put his son first in EVERYTHING but he would also ‘punish’ me if his son put on a tear show. I had to walk on eggshells everyday of our 5 year relationship. He was super sensitive about his son, so if I made a suggestion and his son made one afterwards he would dismiss mine as invalid or silly. His son was constantly competing with me though I was very welcoming and warm to him. But my ex took advantage of that and would try to discredit me for his sons sake. This was an extreme situation.

I think putting your kids second mean making adult decisions together and enforcing them as a team without allowing your kids to pit you two against each other. Kids can sense a weak union and if they know they have their mom/dad eating out of their hands, they will abuse that, which causes many failed relationships.

For those who think their kids can do no wrong. I’ve found that alot of this has to do with kids being insulting to their parents partner and their parent not standing up for their partner because ‘my kids come first’. There is no reason on earth that a person should allow their kids to dishonor their partner. NONE.

A child cannot (and should not) fulfill the role of a partner. Your kids will grow up and fall in love, make families and move on (as they should). You will be the lone, miserable person who refused to solidify a healthy relationship when you had the chance.

I also don’t believe it’s the time aspect of it (putting the kids first in time), I believe it’s the aspect of not respecting your quality time with your partner (if you made a dinner date then stick with it; your child should be raised to understand that your time is important as well and that you can manage your time without being irresponsible.. unless it’s an emergency).

Also other aspects such as automatically siding with your child before getting the facts in a situation. There are moms and dads out there who just hit the roof when their kid ‘tattles’ on their partners and then when they get to the bottom of it, there was a misunderstanding or the kid exaggerated the bulk of it. These are things that are inexcusable, and this is what I think of when I hear of people who boast that their kids come first.

Well said, I agree with every word. I think your comment doesn’t only apply for single parents but any parent period. I’m married, my husband and I didn’t have kids prior to our marriage and we are about to start our own family. :)

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