Dating someone who has children is not for the faint of heart. All those rules of dating go completely out the window when there is a child or children in the picture.
It is no secret that dating someone who has children will be different from dating a non-parent. Late dates, spontaneous overnight stays and the ability to do anything last minute are out of the equation.
It’s definitely more challenging to date a parent. The needs and schedules of the children will impact how and when you are able to be together, and babysitters and custody agreements may also be part of the equation.
It also becomes not just how you feel about each other that matters because you aren’t the only ones involved. The person with the children will take into account how they are dealing with your relationship too.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t date someone with kids, but it’s good to know up front that it’s probably going to be a different experience than your last child-free relationship.
Here are some tips for navigating the situation and dating someone with children without feeling alone.
Have realistic expectations
Just because you and the parent get along doesn’t mean you and the children will do the same and that can be a deal-breaker for many parents.
There’s also a chance that the children could be jealous of you and your relationship with their parent and may even try to sabotage it. Obviously, this doesn’t happen all the time, but it can and it is important to be aware before you get in too deep.
Be okay with your lover not being reachable
Children require a lot of time, energy and focus especially if they are young. That can make it tough for parents to be able to answer calls and texts quickly at times. Kids are the priority, and that can be tough for someone who doesn’t have them to understand, at least, at first.
It is recommended that you both get clear about your time constraints, not just with the children, but with work, activities and life in general so you both have realistic expectations of how available you will be for each other.
Things might move slower than you are used to
Your partner likely takes their children’s opinions into account when it comes to dating someone new or whether they should even be dating at all. It is understandable they might be cautious about introducing someone new to the equation. Plus, you are also dealing with multiple people, which can be a lot to handle.
Taking things slow allows you to deal with these extra challenges more effectively. Moving slowly also lets the children get used to the idea of their parent dating and of you being in the picture.
Watch what you say about the children
At some point, your lover is probably going to complain about an experience they had with their children, but it’s best for you to take a backseat about things. If they want to talk about something going on at home, try to only ask open-ended questions and listen without weighing in. Responding otherwise could be seen as criticism of their children, which won’t go over well in the long run.
Be neutral about your lover’s ex
If your lover’s ex is still in the picture and things get serious, you are going to need to interact with them on some level. Even if the split was bad and your partner isn’t crazy about their ex, it is crucial for you to be civil about the ex. Bad-mouthing them or refusing to interact with them will only cause trouble. Stick to your present relationship with your lover and leave their ex in the past where they belong.
Don’t push to meet the children
It is tempting to push to meet your lover’s children given that they would be yours one day if things work out, but it’s important to slow down.
Don’t be too eager to meet them and be prepared to let their parent take the lead about including the children. They know their children best. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t meet the children until your relationship was super-solid, like after you have dated for at least six months.
When you do meet the children, keep it short and meet up in a neutral place like a restaurant or playground. This can help make the situation more comfortable and less threatening for everyone.