The Family Man: What You Need To Know About Dating A Dad
You're not the centre of his universe because he has kids. Victoria Stokes susses out how to handle it when your new partner is also a parent
It’s all going swimmingly. You like him, he likes you, you’ve eaten your body weight in junk food together, professed your feelings for one another and decided that you might just like to progress things to the next level.
But there’s one more thing to consider because your new boyfriend isn’t just yours and yours alone, he’s also somebody’s dad. Perhaps for the first time in your life, there’s not only one human you have to impress in a new relationship, but at least one or more little humans whose approval you’ll need as well. And this whole scenario can prove to be a bit of a mindfuck. What if his kids just don’t take to you? What if their mother, his ex, takes issue with you being involved? What if you struggle with not being the centre of his universe because he’s got other responsibilities to tend to?
Before you jump the gun and fret about the future, let’s consider why dating a dad can be a really great thing, first and foremost.
This is a man who, hopefully, will have his shit together, not be afraid of a little responsibility and possess a certain level of emotional maturity that you may not be used to. And given that he’s likely changed a few nappies in his time, he’s unlikely to get grossed out easily, so win-win.
That’s the positives, but what about the challenges that can come with dating a guy with kids? There are certainly a few things you’ll need to bear in mind. “When dating a dad you may need to flex the following muscles,” points out dating and relationship coach Annie Lavin (therelationshipcoach.ie). “First, you’ll need to become a master of planning.
If you are dating a dad you must be okay with organising time together in advance as it may be a challenge to do spontaneous things.”
You’ll also need to manage stressful situations, like bumping into your partner’s ex/the children and not knowing what to say or navigating family occasions when you can feel like an ‘outsider’.”
You’ll also need to remember that you won’t always be your partner’s number one priority. “Recognising that although your partner really cares about you, there will be times the children will have to be prioritised is very important,” Annie explains. “You’ll need to take care of your own disappointment when your partner may need to be with his children and be able to manage the doubt regarding his love for you when it may feel as though it is spread rather thinly.”
That’s your partner sussed, but what about his kids. How should you go about navigating a relationship with them? “Know your own limits or boundaries in advance, especially if you are someone who likes to keep everyone happy,” Annie advises. “Develop your communication skills to share these boundaries with your partner and ask your partner (their dad, the person who knows the kids best) how he thinks they can be respected whilst also respecting the children’s boundaries and getting to know them. For example, let’s say you would like to spend some time with the children but they don’t want to, you must respect where they are at and not take it personally.
The creation of all relationships takes time, patience and trust, so you must offer as much space and compassion to yourself and the children to adapt to this new situation.”
What are the rules when it comes to getting involved with your partner’s ex, i.e. the kids’ mum, assuming that she’s still in the picture? “I would say the ‘rules’ are similar, figure out the kind of relationship you might ideally like to have with the kids’ mum and stay open to the kind of relationship she may be available for (if any),” Annie suggests. “Depending on how your partner and ex broke up there is a chance she may not be ready for a relationship with you now (or ever). Again, you must not take this personally and instead put yourself in her shoes to imagine how difficult it may be to see her ex move on with someone new. Put your relationship with your partner and the potential relationship you may have with the children first and set some boundaries regarding what you are and are not willing to deal with.”
Bottom line, “if you can tolerate all the ups and downs that come with dating a dad it can be very rewarding,” says Annie. “However, the beginning of your relationship may require a lot of patience to meet your own anxieties and you will need to offer so much kindness to the little hearts who may be anxious and scared that you will take their daddy from them.” Basically? Take it slow and tread carefully.
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