Why kids don’t always come first when dating as a single parent

putting kids first in relationship woman with kids single mom

I meet most men that I date online. What do you look for when dating a man with kids?

It's very common for guys with kids to write in their eharmony.com 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 (it's no secret chicks get hot for guys who are great with kids!).

Got it. Roger!

Dating with kids

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.

Consider online therapy to help you through challenging life changes. Very affordable, convenient and anonymous (neighbors won't see your car parked in front of the counselor's office!), get the help you and your family need via video, phone or text therapy. Find a counselor now >>

Dating with blended families

It's no surprise that so many blended families I know struggle with adjusting all parties to a home where everyone is suddenly expected to revolve around the new relationship.

It can be so hard. Some find it impossible.

But it is even trickier if one or both of the parents put the kids before their partner.

One dad I went out with nearly boasted when telling me about a four-month relationship that went sour because his girlfriend did not understand why he'd abruptly leave in the middle of dinner because his tween son would call, upset about some matter with his hockey coach.

Another's girlfriend eventually broke up with him after several years because he rarely made time to spend alone with her, instead expecting constant family time with his son.

Ultimately, failure to put their partner first was a sign these guys were not ready for a serious relationship, or at least not with those particular women, and that is totally normal.

It's not cool to pay lip service to intentions of growing a serious, long-term relationship and from the onset demote your lover to second-rank — even before you message her on eHarmony's website.

Women are certainly guilty of putting their kids ahead of their partner — maybe even more so than men, especially since they are nearly always the primary caregiver in the event of divorce.

But in this moment when men are struggling to claim their place as equal parents while society expects single dads to be the lackadaisical weekend father, I get why you are compelled to go overboard with your expressed devotion.

How do you date someone with a child?

Dating with kids in the mix can be complicated. Messy.

Challenges of dating a single mom or single dad can include:

  • Feeling left out, feeling your boyfriend or girlfriend puts the child before you
  • The mom or dad is struggling with raising a teenager— who may hate your guts.
  • Your partner may not bond with your child — or like your child.

Is it worth it to date a man or woman with kids?

It can be. It can also cause trouble in the relationship and lead to a breakup.

But that is up to you.

If you are just getting to know someone, check out:

If you are indeed ready for a real love, create a space for her or him. If it is a serious, committed, long-term relationship, the couple needs to be each other's No. 1 priority.

Stop putting kids first. Imagine a relationship that centers on the two of you, and all the stability and care your kids will take from that.

Accept that a truly wonderful relationship only multiplies the love available to your kids — not robs them of some of yours.

Because in those families, there is all the more love to go around.

Try Elite Singles online dating >>

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 a 2005 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.

Related: Why you should sell your engagement ring

How does a single mom stop putting her kids first if you don't have a man to focus on instead?

In other words, how do you create space for a potential relationship when kids can be so all-consuming?

In the event you don't seek a romantic partner, where do you focus that energy if not on your children?

Cliche as it may sound: You gotta put yourself first.

That means taking care of your health. You must make it a top priority to hang out with other adults — girlfriends, dates, relatives, and friends.

It is not normal to spend all your time with children, nor make your offspring your primary emotional support.

And while you're at it, indulge in your instincts to have a fulfilling and profitable career — without any guilt whatsoever! — even though our culture tells you that stay-at-home mothers are better mothers.

Dating with kids … How do you know when you’re reading to start?

If you are getting over a big breakup or divorce, and you are a single mom or dad, you may have a lot of questions and confusion around dating. After all, you likely have never dated as a parent. That is totally normal.

My general rule of thumb is this: Date when you want to date. Society tells you that mothers are virgins and dating steals precious time from child-rearing.

In fact, a happy mom who is fulfilled romantically, sexually and with a great companion — whether a serious partner, friend with benefits, lots of fun dates, or whatever your dating journey looks like, is the right journey.

Don't sneak men in while the kids are asleep.

Don't lie to the kids about dating.

Don't move in with anyone anytime soon.

Keep an open mind and be positive and hopeful. This not only frees you to enjoy a healthy, post-divorce romantic life, you also model healthy dating and sexuality for your children.

The big 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 with Elite Singles >>

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?

Friends with benefits? 8 rules for single moms who have friends with benefits

About Emma Johnson

Emma Johnson is an award-winning business journalist, noted blogger, and bestselling author. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.  Find out Emma's top Single Mom Resources here.

688 Comments

  1. Brendan Mace on August 23, 2018 at 8:12 pm

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  3. Yure on August 9, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    Jealous of children? Come on… They need us more than adults do… I think a good partner would understand that.

    • Becca on November 3, 2018 at 1:07 am

      Sometimes the partner will use the child as an excuse not to be a decent partner.

      My last relationship ended with a guy who told me even though he had summer off that he couldn’t make special plans with me on a weekend because he had to get all of his errands done so all of his fun quality time went with daughter the week later. No Joke. He had the next week off. Was childfree that weekend.

      I told him I did not understand. He said we aren’t compatible then and I said I totally 100 percent agree.

      As far as I am can concerned you are a single parent you better show me you are darn capable of being a great parent and a great partner. You better be darn considerate of the sacrifices that will come along with your child.

      • Lilian on March 24, 2019 at 2:39 am

        Thanks for sharing this. Single parents who completely resolve their lives around their children should not date. That is selfish and unfair to the other person. I’m glad that relationship ended.

  4. Brandy on July 15, 2018 at 2:37 pm

    As a single mother, I have endured dating. I personally believe that time should be split equally. No parent should put their spouse above their children and the children shouldn’t be above the spouse. I think it takes two people to make a relationship work. I have always been really good with kids, to a point where I think independence is a good thing. I value their opinion and I respect it. I may not agree with it or even go along with it, but the truth is children are little people who will grow up to be big people, and when you are dealing with them you have to teach them what to expect as they age and one of those is realistically they will come across someone with kids. If you can show them that they can be loved and involved as well in the relationship too then that’s good, but you also have to teach them that mommies and daddies need time for themselves. There is no shame in that. Your child should understand that no matter where you are or who you are with you will value and respect them as people. They are just as important to you as you are to them. They have to grow out of that egocentric thinking. Children are naturally that way. One of the hardest things is teaching them to share. When their parents are loving and welcoming they become that way. When their parents are selfish and egocentric they become that way. A child is still a little person who will become an adult and as adults there are things better learned through childhood. Unconditional love and Sharing are two of those things. I love my kids dearly but never would I accept their mistreatment or harshness to my guy. Nor would I allow my guy to disrespect them. Be civilized, humane.

  5. NoPieceOfAssIsWorthMoreThanYourKids on June 12, 2018 at 4:26 pm

    I was a single mother with a child. I didn’t date a lot because I had other priorities. When I did find someone I thought was suitable, he had kids. He, as I had always done, expected me to expect any “date” we had would be a family function. He always put his kids first just as I had always put mine first. I would never have continued to date him if I suspected he put me above his children because nobody would have ever come before mine. We have been together for over a decade and we love each other hard; we love our family hard.

    However, I will tell you what it means when single parents date and put that partner before their children. From my perspective, it means their children end up abused/neglected. It means those children who needed parents to love, support, and guide them into adulthood have ended up homeless because a parent’s partner came before them. It means these children have ended up at mine and my husband’s door, broken and homeless. It means that all these so-called adults around me have chosen a piece of ass over their own flesh and blood.

    My husband and I have found housing and resources for more than a few older children put on the streets because there wasn’t enough room for them and whatever partner their parents had put first. We have accepted two into our home. My husband, the man who put his children first, has built a loving relationship and home with me, a woman who put her child first. Somehow we manage to even value other people’s children more than these people value their own children. Funny thing is that these parents still haven’t quite figured out how to have meaningful relationships even with their children cast away. Maybe it is selfishness. After all, there is no place for selfishness in a solid relationship and desiring to be number one over somebody’s children is really fucking selfish.

    Valuing and investing in children has never meant we weren’t able to achieve the best relationship of our lives. I truly feel valued by my partner and I do everything I can to make sure he feels valued as well. He is my best friend and our family is our best thing. The heart is big enough to love many people; you can have a great relationship if you have kids while continuing to put them first. You have to ask yourself this: do you really want to build a life and potentially have children with somebody who could easily put those children, your children, aside? If you are fine with that, you don’t need kids and neither does the person brushing off their own.

  6. MissDeee on June 11, 2018 at 2:31 pm

    I know this is an old post, but thank you. As a mid 30 something childless woman this has been a major challenge and after two disappointments I am not willing to go down the dating a single dad road again. If I can make you my priority, I have every right to deserve the same. If you can’t give that to me then there is absolutely no point in us dating. I have had many men get downright get angry and insult me for this view, but whatever. I am not wasting my time on a situation where 9 times out of ten I will not get the relationship I desire.

    • Lilian on March 24, 2019 at 2:26 am

      Well said, I’m with you on this one! Thanks for sharing your honest thoughts!

  7. […] of my favorite single parent dating articles I’ve come across is “Why single parents should put their kids second when dating” by Emma Johnson of WealthySingleMommy.com. Because of the competing demands in my life and how […]

  8. Dating with Kids: A Litmus Test for Love | WomanSpeak on May 29, 2018 at 11:41 am

    […] of my favorite single parent dating articles I’ve come across is “Why single parents should put their kids second when dating” by Emma Johnson of WealthySingleMommy.com. Because of the competing demands in my life and how […]

  9. Maggie on April 8, 2018 at 6:31 am

    My son was five when I divorced his father. I was was 34. If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t have dated, been in serious relationships, or married until my son was off to college.

  10. Dave from Oz on April 5, 2018 at 9:42 pm

    The main abuser of children is partners that are not parents of the child. Which is to say: mom’s dirtbag boyfriend or dad’s golddigger girlfriend. So often, the kids would be better off being made wards of the state than living with a de-facto stepparent.

    • Dave from Oz on April 5, 2018 at 9:44 pm

      Never forget that your child is just someone else’s kid to every man in the world except for one.

      • Yovina on April 26, 2018 at 9:45 pm

        I have to agree! For instance I’m with this guy for 5 and 1/2 years. I am divorced with tow daughters, 20 and 14 yrs old. Great kids and a little messy. My boyfriend is leaving me because my older daughter apparently used his razor to shave her legs. She says she didn’t use it and he insists she did. He hates lies and is leaving us for that. I am lost because I don’t know how to feel about this whole thing:( I guess my exhusband wouldn’t care or make a big deal over something like this.

        • abanni on June 19, 2018 at 11:34 am

          He is leaving because he wants to , if its that easy lets him go, it means he has always seen your kids as a burden.

  11. Insidious_Sid on April 5, 2018 at 4:37 pm

    LOGIC IN 2018:

    I’m a strong independent single career mom! I put my kids first!
    (No, you can’t do that. If you don’t look after yourself, you can’t be the best mom you can be!)
    Oh, okay, You’re right! I deserve a relationship so I can be happy, so I’ll do that first.
    (Good thinking! And don’t forget your social life! You have to be happy, right?!)
    Great! So I can take care of career, my social life AND my relationship and not feel guilty!
    (Exactly!)
    And by doing that, I’m really putting my KIDS FIRST!
    (Told ya! They were right… you really CAN have it all!)

    Guys: Let these strong independent mommies stay strong and stay independent.
    When they leave you, they’re just going to say you held them back anyways.
    Oh, and you probably will resent paying child support for some tatoo’d stud’s kids.

  12. Lindsey Walton on March 21, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Welcome to the 21st century where adults feel threatened by children when it comes to their own intimate relationship. Wow. What a selfish person, to expect their partner to put their own child aside because they feel like they need the attention more. I don’t even have kids yet and I am one to get a little annoyed about how parents coddle their children but never in my life would I expect a boyfriend to push their own kid aside regardless of what it is about because I need more attention. YOU ARE AN ADULT. F***ing act like one.

  13. KD on February 27, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Wow. This post appalls me. The adage of parents coming first applies to intact families; a child never feels threatened or jealous of his own parent, who also loves him deeply.

    But hey, go right ahead and put who you are dating first if you are a single parent. My mom did that and my brother killed himself in August, after years of coming 2nd to her new husband.

  14. Chris 70119 on February 17, 2018 at 6:31 pm

    Children are a lifelong commitment. Part of that commitment is sacrifice. Boyfriends and girlfriends may come and go, but children are forever. Putting your relationship first is selfish. It’s not all about you and your happiness. If you or your significant other are to be put above everything else, you really should ask yourself why you had kids. I wish that people had to pass a test to be parents like they do to be doctors, lawyers, etc. Too many people who have kids shouldn’t do it. What is called a right should indeed be a privilege.

    • afs on April 24, 2018 at 10:31 am

      if a child is going to be the first its better never date anyone

      • Nora on March 24, 2019 at 2:17 am

        Totally agreed. Putting your child first is selfish to the person you are dating. It should be equal.

  15. Blair on February 7, 2018 at 5:21 am

    Ridiculous and sad. Heartless and gross. The only thing more atrocious than your opinion is that people agree with you.
    Children always come first. They depend on you and you brought them into this world. Nothing is more important than a child, not a booty call, not a date, and certainly not the gym! What is this world coming to!

    • becca on April 24, 2018 at 12:45 am

      Well the gym is often necessary for health. So some working out is good for the kids (healthy mommy and Daddy). In everything there is balance. There are couples who put everything in the child and ignore each other. Than the relationship breaks down and that’s hardly good for the child.

      It’s all about balance. A boyfriend and a girlfriend should not be more important than one’s child. Children have needs and require sacrifice. If anything one should be looking to see if the new significant other is understanding of the needs of children. And the significant other should look at and see what kind of father/mother the person is now to the children they already have.

      However I do believe that children shouldn’t be taught world revolves around them and yes sometimes mom and dad go on a trip (once in awhile) or go on a date night.

    • Nora on March 24, 2019 at 2:14 am

      You misunderstood the article. A healthy relationship is the best for kids. When a single parent put a child first and revolves around the child, that parent is very likely to rely on the child for emotional support as the child is growing up. That is not healthy for either. “You love your children, but you are not in love with them!”

  16. Promise on December 25, 2017 at 1:34 am

    SBeen a little over a yr his son is 35 lives with him with his granddaughter, He babysits granddaughter every day plus Saturday, I just want time . Not sure if I am gonna keep doing this. Son does nothing grand dad wakes child up takes her to school he expects nothing but for him to work but not be totally responsible for his child grrrr, tired.

  17. becca on November 24, 2017 at 9:55 pm

    I don’t think children should be taught that they are number one or the world revolves around them. However I don’t expect to be more of a priority than my boyfriend’s daughter. She’s six year’s old. She gets limited time with him. Every other weekend is such a small amount of time. So no date nights shouldn’t be around that time. Date nights should be when he doesn’t have her. And if she calls her dad on the phone when she’s older I’m certainly not going to scream and complain. I guess I would like to eventually be put first in a relationship but in reality its not a competition. I would never ever want to come between my boyfriend and his little one. Never.

    Look, I have no children and I’m fully aware the potential of step parenting can be hard. But years ago this woman decided to marry a man with 3 kids. And while I’m sure there at times when she was on the unhappy Stepparent list. I can tell you for a fact that she’s awfully glad that she has us in her life. The marriage did not last but the three of still love and adore our Stepmom.

    Honestly I think in reality families all should be taught to consider and factor in EACH other’s needs. Parents should respect children’s time and feelings. Children should respect parents. Crazy mutual respect must be learned.

  18. Gloria on November 17, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    I think majority of the people commenting clearly did not understand the article. The author is not just saying that a parent’s partner should come before the children, but parents wants and needs should not be neglected simply because they have children. You’re not just defined by your children, you’re identity is not solely a parent, you have a whole other identy that does not involve your children. The love you get from your children is not the same love you receive from a partner, and if it’s something you need and it’s something that is missing, no one should ever be made to feel terrible just because they put their identity as a parent on pause once in a while. Yes, this can be done, and it’s ok. For the people saying once you have children, then your whole life revolves around them and that’s it, everything else is secondary- well I feel sorry those people, and furthermore you make parenting sound terrible, you make it sound like it’s a chore. If you’re not happy and not addressing your needs, you’re no good to anybody else anyway, everyone deserves to have what makes them happy and having children doesn’t negate that.

    • Lilian on March 24, 2019 at 1:58 am

      Well said, Gloria.

  19. Joe on November 8, 2017 at 9:23 am

    Whoever wrote this article is a sickening selfish cu*t. Kids should always come first because if you were selfish enough to bring them into this world. They didn’t ask to be born. Lowlife

  20. Denise on October 25, 2017 at 1:07 pm

    I’m not sure who can help me with this, but I’m reaching out. I would like to preface with, I haven’t met the kids… and not being parent myself, I personally feel it’s too soon, or was too soon… not sure where I stand right now. We’ve only seen each other since the beginning of September… officially the 10, I’d say… I’m hoping to get some insight from a single dad.

    I’ve started a casual relationship with a single dad who was no only completely enamored and smitten with me, but super forward and came on EXTREMELY strong in the beginning – looking into all sorts of signs like how he plays roller hockey and my 9 yo nephew is an ice hockey goalie, how Ray Bourque was a favorite hockey player and he had the posters up in his living room, Star Wars (seriously, I’m a ridiculous fan and it was refreshing to discuss it with someone how knows what you’re talking about), the way I sighed when we first kissed (I was in denial with that connection), how strong of a physical connection we had, adamant about breaking down my wall (he said things like “cracked away at the bottom (I know, LOL), now cracking away at the top”), etc…. The first few weeks were awesome… and then we started talking about me liking him… and then he remembered all the crap I said in the first 2 weeks of us seeing each other. I told him in those 2 weeks, of which I was still pining for my ex, that I would drop whomever I’m with if he came back. He said how could I say such a thing and I would destroy lives if that happened after a few years… what I didn’t explain, until later, was that I was under the impression I would be in a series of short, casual relationships, so no harm, no fowl. He also brought up raising children, since I’ve never had any of my own (I’m 40, he’s 47 with a 4 year old daughter and a 9 year old son), thanks to my ex (yeah, I’m partially at fault, as well, I know…), and apparently I told him (wondering if I was stupid drunk and ridiculously high) that I wouldn’t want to raise anyone else’s children, since I couldn’t have my own. Those things were enough to be stuck in the back of his head. Again, feelings I had in the beginning of the casual relationship. And I honestly felt the first couple of weeks talking about serious things like children in a casual relationship you have with someone was way too soon, but I’m not a parent and my sister couldn’t answer, considering she’s happily married, but feels she wouldn’t have asked so soon herself, but we’re all different, men and women, etc. Anyway, I started to like him. I certainly wasn’t expecting to EVER get over my ex, wasn’t expecting to ever like anyone, let alone someone with kids, which I’ve never had a relationship with before. Of course now things are weird… we discussed me liking him, which he apparently discussed with his bff (female, which I’m fine with, she can bring a female perspective to this… BUT loves those kids like they were her own, which is great, but can work to my disadvantage if she thinks anything worse than who, or what I am), and because I said what I said about dropping anyone for my ex, he did a 180, and told me I straightened him out, so back to the casual relationship thinking thing… His texts became somewhat infrequent and less cute/flirty, and I told him it was weird and he admitted it was, but felt we could move past it. When I next saw him, which was the next day after that text, things were great, but then I suddenly gave in to my anxieties about not being sure if he was open to this going anywhere, or not, and said if I liked him, I wasn’t sure I could do this pretending I dont’ feel the way I felt.. so I ended up leaving, but talked to him when I got home, thinking he understood where I was coming from and that I actually didn’t want to discontinue our relationship… I also opened up raw to him, stating things like I want the whole package (he kept telling me all the things I said he couldn’t get out of the back of his head and he’s a package deal, which I was aware and understood). He knows how I am with my sister’s children and I’m sure that was what also drew him to me… and I know he still feels SOMETHING for me… so since then, I”ve been trying to do control damage. I haven’t seen him in two weeks, but we still text. I tried to see if we could get together 2 weeks ago, but he had just gotten a new puppy for the kids (early Christmas gift) and his son wanted to spend more time with the puppy, which I totally understood, and then he had to train new guys at work. our schedules conflict, so the only times we were able to see one another was Sundays around 7:30pm and Tuesdays and/or Wednesdays, around the same time… his work schedule blows, but i’m beyond patient and understanding. This week didn’t fair any better, as his son was over Sunday with the puppy (seriously don’t blame him… I would want to smother the puppy myself 24/7), and then the poor kid ended up with the stomach and out until Friday… so he’s had him since last Friday. I thought I broke through the tension Sunday when I sent him a picture asking if we could “play”, to which he was all for, but again, son was at the house, would have to wait until Monday, then the kid ended up sick.

    I finally asked him yesterday if he was still interested (for the record, I’ve apologized and explained and shown a lot of interest since my stupid, immature moment, but there is only so much of that anyone can do, so I’ve just tried to move past it by being flirty and showing interest). He said he finds himself conflicted due to what happened the last time we had seen each other. I’ve been overly anxious over all of this, which is something I’ve been dealing with for 3.5 years of trying to get my ex back (that’s another story…). He was well aware of the mess I was in the beginning, as well… which he admitted… I’m just wondering if I blew it with this guy. I know parents have a lot on their plates between work (especially him being a manager and on top of that having a sick kid in his office this week), so I don’t want to pester him with this stuff, but I don’t know what else to do. I’m smitten with him… he’s my unicorn (which I only figured out AFTER my dramatic bs… wasn’t super dramatic, I just cried and said I didn’t think I could stuff my feelings while we maintained a casual facade)… I just want to fix this, but I totally understand where he’s coming from and his position.

    Please don’t berate me… I have enough anxiety, guilt, remorse and regret for my actions and words… believe me… I keep hoping I didn’t ruin what could’ve been a potentially great thing. Everyone I talk to says I haven’t, but his actions speak louder than their words. I’m still pretending like nothing happened, ask about his son (he’s doing better, thankfully), and sending flirty texts.

    I’m sorry this is so long…

  21. Annie on October 18, 2017 at 7:55 am

    I could not disagree more. It disgusts me how many children are hurt because their parent put a new man or woman first. This is only true if you are with the parent that it is healthy for children to see this. I am happy if my children are happy. Parents remarry only to have money that should be spent on their children spent or even taken by the new person. Every day you read about steps abusing even killing children. I would not risk it. You do not have to make it all about your children, but once you have them you give up your right to put your or anybody else’s happiness first. This article makes me sick.

    • Karen on October 29, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      Totally agree with you. If you end up a single parent you OWE it to your kids to put them, not your sex life, first. Get them launched as adults and then you can bring as much drama into your life as you want. Honestly, this article really bothers me!

  22. Meg on October 13, 2017 at 2:31 am

    I completely disagree with everything stated in this article. I believe the only one that should be first in one’s life is God. Once that’s done, the rest will fall into place.

    I don’t believe in “dating” in the secular sense. Those types of relationships are casual at best, and thus should not take precedence over one’s children. That’s absolutely ridiculous and an appalling expectation, I think, for anyone to have. I had a mother who did this. She had me when she was still rather young (parents never married) and so I ended up spending the majority of my early childhood and pre-adolescent years with my grandmother (her mother) while she went to university. I mainly saw my parents on weekends (mum had one weekend, dad had another, rinse…repeat). So I was always trying to “connect” with them and get to know them, but never got the opportunity to do so because 90% of the weekend visits also included whomever they were dating at the time, and I mostly was sat aside. My mother was the main offender. And most of the male company she chose to entertain were substance-abusing wankers with violent tempers and colourful criminal histories. They all made me uncomfortable, and no matter how much I expressed this to my mum, I was ignored, and she chose to put her time spent with them over her (already limited) time spent with me.

    When she finally finished school, I went to go live with her and the behaviour became even worse. I might as well have been a roommate, that’s how little we connected emotionally. I also struggled with depression as a child, that I’m certain was only amplified by her emotional neglect and insistence on keeping whatever man she was talking to as priority one. There was also physical, verbal and emotional abuse going on with me at her (and my dad’s) hand, and I ended up feeling so abandoned by both of my parents that I sought emotional support from men myself in the most unhealthy ways possible. Eventually, I ended up getting pregnant, ironically at the same age my mum got pregnant with me. The father (who was also abusive) thought I was joking and blew me off. That relationship ended rather violently, also.

    I don’t date. I actually refuse to do so. And still, to this day, I struggle with feelings of abandonment and worthlessness. I don’t speak to my father at all. The last conversation we had was a curt phone call 7 years ago. And the relationship I currently have with my mum is a bloody nightmare. We literally cannot hold a conversation without it turning into an argument. It’s awful. And it’s mostly because we never got a chance to connect. I never really got to build a relationship with her because A) most of my childhood I was with my grandmother, B) when I was with my mum, there was always some bloke in the way. I just know that I wouldn’t want my child to experience what I experienced. I would never put a man before my child, if I ever chose to “date.” That wouldn’t be fair to my child, and would surely put a strain on our relationship in the future. If I’m with someone who can’t grasp that concept, then I don’t know what to tell them. Honestly, sounds like a personal problem, if you ask me. Either get over it, or leave me and my child to our own device, I say.

  23. K on October 7, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Thanks for this article Emma! I have been dating a single man for 1 year. He has one adult child and one teen. I have one adult child out of the home. I agree with Dr. Laura about putting the marriage first. A happy marriage is a lasting marriage. Too many marriages fail due to lack of intimacy due to the kids always coming first. Just because we become parents does not mean we have to give up our identities and our needs. I would think it would be difficult being a good parent when we are miserable. Can you all honestly say that you can stay single and not be in a serious relationship for the next 15 years because your kids will “always come first”? And can you truly date someone knowing that you are not their priority and never will be? It is our human nature to need love and attention just as much as our children. It makes us happy and fulfilled and yes, a better parent. I am not saying that we should ignore our children’s needs, but we would be failure as parents to allow them to dictate our lives and our happiness.

    The person I am dating has his children 50% of the time. The week he does not have his kids is our week. Yes, his kids have tried to interfere in that by trying to plan activities with him during his off week and making him feel guilty for not obliging. However, we both agreed that in order for this relationship to succeed, we need to put ourselves first. When it is his week to have his kids, he spends quality time with them. I still come over once in awhile during his week so that they can feel comfortable with me being around.

    I’ve read most of these remarks about how “my kids always come first” and “my life is messed up because mommy didn’t give me any attention” and I have this to say: If you really think your marriage/relationship is going to last putting your marriage/relationship second, you’re kidding yourselves. To the ones that say you have a great marriage and you put your kids first among everything, are in denial. If your spouse is not getting attention from you, it’s a matter of time before they get it someplace else.
    If you say your life is messed up because “mommy or daddy didn’t give me enough attention”, your issues are deeper than that. Seek therapy.

    I hear complaints that this generation is what is failing our kids and I have to agree. I think this generation is having children for the wrong reasons. Think back why you (if not an oops) you and your spouse decided to start a family and be honest with yourself. Were you feeling empty inside? Was your life getting stagnant? Was your marriage on the brink of ending and you thought maybe having kids would be the “glue” to hold it together? Or were you so satisfied and fulfilled that you wanted to extend your happiness by building on your stable foundation? Something to think about.

    • Nora on March 24, 2019 at 1:46 am

      So well said, K. My relationship with my long term boyfriend is on the brink of breaking up exactly because the question you asked: And “can you truly date someone knowing that you are not their priority and never will be?” That answer is NO to me now. I love my boyfriend and his daughter, but he said he could not put me or our relationship first before his daughter and he also told me I was jealous of his daughter. It hurts when he said that.

    • Jenny H on May 11, 2019 at 7:38 pm

      K. YOU COULDNT HAVE SAID IT BETTER!!! I get the “concept” of yea kids come first, but it’ll never work. People need to wake up and face the music.

    • Beth on May 13, 2019 at 4:26 pm

      So I assume you love him more than your own child? wow. unbelievable how easy it is for parents to love new strangers above/more than their own children. If my mother did that to me I’d never want anything to do with her again. I would feel so broken hearted knowing she loved a new man MORE over the strong bond I had with her.

  24. Stephen on October 3, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    I actually don’t agree with anything you’re saying. You should never put your spouse before your kids. If my spouse promised me the world when we got married and then three years later did a complete 180 and did the exact opposite. Turned into a violent, drunken idiot, beating my kids every night, I would break every bone in their body if they laid a finger on my kids.

    • Lisa on May 13, 2019 at 4:23 pm

      Exactly! Or if you known your kids longer than your second or third husband why should a new spouse come before the history you had with your kids you bore out of your own body? if you knew your daughter 35 years longer than the new husband why should he get everything when you die when you were only married to him for 3 years? and then he turns around and leaves everything to his own kids. If it did not work out the first time and then why does the second lover get to be first over your children? this article makes no sense to me, the marriage which bore the children didn’t work out the first time yet the mother chooses to put a new man above her kids? Spouses can cheat and fall out of love naturally, and want out, but your kids are your kids biologically you cannot divorce your child you can a spouse

  25. Faith Oliver on August 25, 2017 at 2:33 pm

    Email: dr_mack@yahoo. com, He is the truth…. He can…turn your heartbreak to joy…. contact him if you want your Ex-lover back.

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