How to Date a Single Dad
By Michele Bender

Great news: You just met a wonderful guy! He has an impressive-sounding job, a summer house by the lake, a nice car in the garage ... and three kids on the weekend. Oh. And did we mention an ex-wife who doesn't love the idea of another woman making her children pancakes? Yes, you're dating a divorced dad, and he's a tricky species indeed. Whatever rules you've applied to dating in the past, just throw them out the window. Because when it comes to having a relationship with a man who has kids, you'll need to follow a whole new set of guidelines. To help you maneuver your way through this scenario, we asked experts and people who've been there for tips on the best way to date a dad.

Rule 1: His kids come first.
And you should be happy about that. "If he doesn't make his kids a priority, that's a major red flag for me," says single-dad dater Susan Avery, 35, of New York City. "For example, if he says he would be willing to change his plans with them to be with me -- that's a bad sign. You want someone who makes his children the most important aspect of his life."

Rule 2: The ex is here to stay.
She's the mother of his children and if they're both involved in their kids' lives, she's not going anywhere. "You've got to be prepared to deal with and interact with her regularly," says Rhonda Findling, author of The Dating Cure. This could be as infrequent as answering her occasional phone call to regularly making plans for pick-ups or drop-offs and filling her in about anything that happened when her kids were at your place. You don't have to be bosom buddies, but you should be able to get along and be willing to communicate when it relates to the little ones.

Rule 3: You'll probably date in secret.
At least for a little while. "Children shouldn't be involved in parental dating until you're really serious and it's a committed relationship," says Gilda Carle, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of Don't Bet on the Prince! How to Have the Man You Want by Betting on Yourself. "Children become easily attached, and you don't want to disappoint or hurt them if things don't work out." A single dad who adheres to this really cares about his kids and isn't just casually bringing women in and out of his children's lives.

Rule 4: His diaper days may be over.
Since he's already got a child (or two or three) that he's busy with and responsible for, he may not want any more. This is a big deal if you're longing for offspring of your own either now or someday. "Finding this out is easy, and you should do so sooner than later," says Carle, who suggests asking him, "Would you consider having children again?" Just make sure not to add "with me." Here's why: "If it's too early on, that may scare him, or you may not get the real answer," says Carle.

Rule 5: Kids come with the package.
Sounds obvious, but if your guy's close to his kids (which is a good thing), then his little ones will be part of your life, too. That means some dates may be more Chuck E. Cheese than wine and cheese and that sleeping at his place may turn into a slumber party. It also means his kids play a role in how he feels about you. "Though I'm not looking for a replacement mother, I do want someone who'll be involved in my daughters' lives and will help me as I raise them," says divorced dad Marty Tate, 33 of Salt Lake City, UT. "I don't want to get too far down the relationship road without seeing how a woman interacts with my children and how they feel about her."

Rule 6: Money may be tight.
Parenthood and divorce don't come cheap, especially if your man's paying alimony or child support. "You have to expect (and accept) that some of his resources are going to be geared toward the children which can mean less money to take you out and treat you," says Findling. While not exactly a cause for celebration, the fact that he pays child support tells you that he's responsible and committed -- and that's priceless.

Rule 7: Flexibility is a must.
The only predictable thing about life with kids is that it's unpredictable. Although your mate may have set times to be with his children, those plans can change at any minute if the kids are sick or his ex has an emergency or it's a school vacation. "That means he may not always be available to you or as spontaneous as a kid-free guy," says Findling.

Rule 8: You've gotta have a life.
Though hopefully you'll get along well enough with his children to be part of their life, most dads and their kids will still want some one-on-one time. "You've got to be independent enough that this doesn't bother you and that you have other things to do," says Carle. Sitting around waiting for your turn with your guy will only breed resentment.

Rule 9: You may be cast in the role of wicked step-mother.
At least in the beginning -- especially if you're the first relationship this single dad has had post-divorce. "The guy I dated had a five-year-old daughter who wouldn't talk to me and just scowled whenever I was around," says Melissa Lane, 36, of New York City. "It was hard, but I kept reminding myself of the pain she'd just been through -- and gave things a good amount of time to settle down." And patience is indeed a very valuable asset for anyone juggling love and kids.
Original Post
On its face, it doesn't sound like bad advice, but the more I think about it, something is off. The overwhelming sense is "You are not really a part of this family. Be prepared to be bounced out of the picture at whim and get the short end of the stick. And don't gripe about it." Which is somewhat understandable in the beginning, but seems insane for anything that goes beyond a few months.

I just don't quite see how that's a healthy situation. At some point, there has to be equal dedication to parenting and your relationship.

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"The guy I dated had a five-year-old daughter who wouldn't talk to me and just scowled whenever I was around"

ohsnap Lord. I hope the father said something to the child about that. sck
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but seems insane for anything that goes beyond a few months.

Not really. Having dated women with children and known them I think it is wise for a person to keep the parenting and relationship separate until it is clear that the relationship will be for the long haul.

The main concern is for the child. If the single parent continues to introduce people to the child as a "potential" parent and the relationship ends as they can and do, it could have an impact on the child.

And I personally don't have respect for a woman that would place a stranger above or even on the same level as their child. Family first!!

Therefore, the person dating the single parent will have to realize and accept that they will not be at the top of the priority list.

Now once the relationship has been established and the two adults feel that it could turn into something serious THEN it would be ok to introduce the child to the other person. But even then the other person must realize that just because the parent "chose" them the child may not. Hence the father may need to "correct" the child's behavior but he can't MAKE her like the woman.
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Not really. Having dated women with children and known them I think it is wise for a person to keep the parenting and relationship separate until it is clear that the relationship will be for the long haul.


Don't most people know that after a few months? I certainly do. Unless you mean to say that you should wait to until you are on the verge of getting married to this person before you introduce them to your child(ren). Confused Which I don't agree with.

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And I personally don't have respect for a woman that would place a stranger above or even on the same level as their child. Family first!!


What I am saying is that if you are going to seriously date this woman (and maybe eventually marry her), she needs to be just as important. You can't continuously give your relationship the shaft and expect it to be healthy. And you certainly shouldn't think of her in terms of being a stranger/outsider to your family whose opinions/views/needs/desires "don't really count" when it comes down to it. There has to be a balance. Otherwise, just sit in the house with your kids and save everyone the hurt feelings/waste of time.

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But even then the other person must realize that just because the parent "chose" them the child may not. Hence the father may need to "correct" the child's behavior but he can't MAKE her like the woman.

I understand that and I'm not implying that the parent somehow has that capability. But rudeness should not be excused and/or indulged. Especially not while you're still in the dating phase, because when marriage rolls around that child is going to take it up to notches unknown. ek
MidLifeMan summed up my feelings on this pretty well. I've always been a big fan of moving as slowly as possible in relationships. I especially take my time when it comes to introductions. I was dating my ex-wife for a year and we were engaged for another six months before she even met my parents. No other woman that I have dated has been around long enough to earn the privilege of meeting my family. I'm very careful about the girls that I bring home. Cool
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Originally posted by Frenchy:

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But even then the other person must realize that just because the parent "chose" them the child may not. Hence the father may need to "correct" the child's behavior but he can't MAKE her like the woman.

I understand that and I'm not implying that the parent somehow has that capability. But rudeness should not be excused and/or indulged. Especially not while you're still in the dating phase, because when marriage rolls around that child is going to take it up to notches unknown. ek


I'm in total agreement with that point. It would seem silly to allow your child to show less respect to your date than you would allow them to show to a stranger.
I wonder how the topics of this article relate to dating single mothers. I've always avoided dating women with childeren. Not because I don't like kids, I love kids! I'm just never sure how to handle the situation. When kids are involved, all the rules change at least a little, and dating is already a mine field! Just out of curiosity, are thier any of the rules in that article that would relate regardless of gender? Or are they all gender specific?
Black Viking, wouldn't you want your children's input before you got engaged or too entangled in a relationship? IME, it's much more difficult for a child to think of their parent as single or casually dating and then BAM! all of a sudden they introduce you to their fiance. A child would think "Holy shit! Now I'm forced to like this woman. And why doesn't my dad even care what I think of her or what she thinks of me??"

So, no kids of the first date but definitely before the proposal. That's what I think. Big Grin
I don't think most of the article is gender-specific. The only difference is that men are not as easily characterized as "Wicked Stepfather." They are more likely to be seen as potential child molestors, instead.
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Originally posted by Frenchy:

So, no kids of the first date but definitely before the proposal. That's what I think. Big Grin


I think you're right about that. But slow and cautious would be the best strategy. It can be just as much of a shock for the kids to get attached to your date, and then for them to be suddenly gone. You can build a relationship slowly, but break-ups tend to happen pretty fast.
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Originally posted by Frenchy:
I don't think most of the article is gender-specific. The only difference is that men are not as easily characterized as "Wicked Stepfather." They are more likely to be seen as potential child molestors, instead.


If there was ever one thing in this world I truly hated...It's anyone who hurts children for pleasure. upset

Sorry, off
The article makes several good points, however, I think it sugarcoats the "baby mama/daddy drama" that affects many of these types of relationships. When a couple have a child, there is an eternal connection. Even though they no longer wish to have a relationship with the other parent, they play vicious games and can cause great pain perhaps because they are still going through the pain of their separation/divorce.

Some biological parents won't speak to the step-parent for any reason and are extremely disrespectful. Other biological parents berate the step-parent to the child on a regular basis which is extremely confusing for the child. Dating a person with young children is an extremely difficult thing to do. The difficulty can intensify greatly if the new couple choose to have children of their own.

I don't think there is a way to summarize how to date a single dad in any article because these situations are unique. One of my best friends has custody of his daughter which makes it easier, but she is a teenager now and is jealous of the attention dad gives to other women and has no problem demonstrating that fact regardless of what her father does. She wants him all to herself, and she can't be blamed for that - she is too young to understand adult relationships.

This is an extremely complex topic that should be examined for a very long time prior to deciding to enter into a relationship with people who already have children.
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Originally posted by Sandye:
The article makes several good points, however, I think it sugarcoats the "baby mama/daddy drama" that affects many of these types of relationships. When a couple have a child, there is an eternal connection. Even though they no longer wish to have a relationship with the other parent, they play vicious games and can cause great pain perhaps because they are still going through the pain of their separation/divorce.

This is an extremely complex topic that should be examined for a very long time prior to deciding to enter into a relationship with people who already have children.


I like children, but, for the reasons above - and many others - I avoid ever dating any man with children under 21, and preferably with none at all. So far, I've been lucky. [insert relieved face icon here]

I never say never, but it's as close to never as it's possible to get. Wink
This was good advice...

Also Sandyes additions, gave much food for thought.

Since im getting older, im realizing that a 'lot' of men have children........these are good points to consider prior to getting involved.

Each situation is different.......so you have to pick and choose, when deciding to date someone that has children.
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she is a teenager now


She's not to young to understand relationships. Someone just needs to have a talk with her and understand that it's not easy for the child.

I don't know if most people know that the relationship is leading to marriage after only a few months.

But I would think that the two people should have at least established if the relationship is exclusive. Once they reach that point then the child can start to be introduced to the other person. But I still think it should be in small doses. If and when the relationship leads to marriage THEN the child can have more expose before telling them that the two want to make the relationship permanent.

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What I am saying is that if you are going to seriously date this woman (and maybe eventually marry her), she needs to be just as important. You can't continuously give your relationship the shaft and expect it to be healthy


I agree. You need to show the other person that they are important. But the article is saying that the other person has to realize that they may not take 1st priority and there are things to deal with when dating a single parent.

When I went out with single mothers, many times I had to deal with not being first priority, even if I knew that they had feelings for me. But I think it comes down to parents realizing that it is ok to have a life outside of the children. You are not a bad parent if you do something for yourself. I dated single mothers that felt guilty if they bought themselves some new and much needed items like panties instead of something for the kids.
I'm not saying that two people know if they will be getting married after a few months. I said that they should know whether or not the relationship is serious by that point, and if it is, introductions, concessions, and compromises need to be made.

I don't think the teenage girl is too young to understand either (especially since she's about at the age where she has her own interest in the opposite sex). She might not want to let go of the foul behavior, but she knows what time it is. cabbage

I think that's probably The Perfect Storm of dating a man with children: dating a man with a daughter. Girls of any age are formidable opponents. ek

Even so, I would have to bounce if the child was too unruly. I am not going to stay in a situation where some child is repeatedly throwing me all kinds of shade from across the room, scowling at me, trying to trip me, kicking me in the shins, etc and Daddy can't control them. Yes, the transition is tough, but I'm not going to be a human punching bag because things are confusing and rough right now.

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But I think it comes down to parents realizing that it is ok to have a life outside of the children.

yeah appl
Great article Frenchy. This advice is definitely needed in our community! I have no children, but I am exclusively dating a man who is divorced and has a son. His son and his son's mother, however, live in New York so there are no issues. In addition to the advice given here, I think the most important thing to have is a positive attitude.
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Speaking as one of these single dads (as in actually RAISING my kid), I gotta give some props to the article. But it does come off as leaning toward the idea that the man is the non-custodial parent. What if he's a full time daddy? Dealing with the issues of the kids being in the picture just about 24/7? Just my thoughts..........
A single-father of two recently asked me out.

It was only out to dinner, but I heard to be a mother.

I would have had his oldest at 16 if were his mother. He had him at 17 when he was born, but still.

It was cool that he was such a devoted father when he just wanted to be friends.

It was all too weird when he wanted me to be his date.

I always thought I was open, but I suppose the situation is different once you're in it.

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