How to Successfully Date a Single Dad-MainPhoto

Dating a single dad can be very fulfilling, especially if you have kids too. But it can also pose its challenges. One of them is that his kiddos most likely have a mom, who also is very likely his ex wife. So even though you and he may be head over heels over each other, with this kind of relationship you need to factor in the children from the get-go. This can actually give you an edge since when you date and marry a childless guy you really have no idea of what kind of a dad he’ll be – often until it’s too late! When you date someone with children, you have that information from day one. From my own experience dating single dads twice in my life – the first time at 23 when I had no kids yet and the second at 46 when I had two girls of my own, here are my tips to make it work for all involved. If you really dig the guy (and the kids).

When you become involved with a single dad, you need to decide whether you’re ready to take him along with everything that is attached to him: ex-wife issues, child support payments, kids and all. The best relationships are built on the feeling of being a team. And in a team, everyone watches out for all the others. After all you’d like him to accept you with everything you bring to the table, right? And at a certain age, it stands to reason that you bring a certain amount of baggage, including little ones!

If he doesn’t introduce you to the brood on your second date, or even the second month, take it as a good sign, especially if the children are very young. I know a man who’s introduced three or four different girlfriends to his boy and girl, now 6 and 3, in the span of a couple of years since his divorce. I’m no prude, but I can see how the children could feel insecure. If it was hard for them to go through their own parents’ divorce, it can be even more shattering for them to feel there is just no certainty in relationships. Wait until you are sure you’re both committed to seeing your relationship out for the long haul and when you introduce each other to the kids, do so as “friends” and abstain from displays of affection. The kids will thank you down the line.

Even when I was 23 and dated a man 11 years my senior, who had two kids, then 5 and 7, I was very aware of how the kids could feel towards me. I grew up with a young stepmother and could relate to jealousy issues. So when I put the kids to sleep on the weekends they spent with us, I would ask them if they missed mom and would tell them how much their parents loved them. Their dad and I are no longer together but those kids are both now in their 30s and we still keep in touch. They still remember my words to them and how good they felt when we were all together.

Read Related: Why You Should Date and Marry a Single Dad

Whether he has a great relationship with her or they cannot be in the same room together without bickering, never ever trash her. Especially not in front of the kids. Not yours, not his. After all she was once a special person in his life and she still is the mother of his children. Most relationship experts seem to agree its best to keep “ex-talk” out of a new partnership. This rule doesn’t really hold up when there are little ones involved, since hopefully the ex will want to be a big part of their lives. Again, even if HE disses her, you should not. What you really want is to set a positive tone for the new relationship based on you two (and the children) and your new life together, not on bickering about a third person.

Spend time alone with his kids and if you have kids of your own, encourage him to do the same with yours. His children are an extension of him and if you cannot learn to love them, your relationship is pretty much doomed. Especially if the kiddos live with you or spend significant amounts of time with you both. If you can’t stomach his children or viceversa, you might as well call it quits. Remember you and him chose each other, but the kids didn’t have a say. Give them time and the opportunity to get to know and love you.

What is your experience with single dads? Incidentally, all of the above worked for me and after four and a half years of courtship, I’m marrying one in the spring! Our three kids (none in common) are elated. And so are we.