Things to Consider Before Dating a Single Parent

Recently I’ve been thinking about the specific issues that can come up in a relationship where someone without children dates a single parent, especially if that “someone” doesn’t have kids, themself. To be clear, I believe everyone deserves a loving, romantic relationship, even if it didn’t work out with the mother(s)/father(s) of their children. However, this situation comes with some inherent issues that should not be ignored.

The first thing to realize is that in order to be a good parent, they must put their child(ren) before you. If they don’t, you are dating a bad parent, which brings their character into question. You will never be first in their lives, although they are most likely first in yours, which means there is an imbalance in the relationship right from the start.

You’ll most likely be pressed into service, especially if the kids are young. There is very little chance you will not be expected to help out with the kids, at least on the weeks that your partner has them in his/her care. The younger they are, the more dependent and helpless, the likelier it is you will be called upon. Whether it’s to pick them up from school or watch them until your partner gets home from work, it is bound to happen. You will also often be expected to engage in activities that include taking the kids along, so dates might be at Chuck E. Cheese instead of a nice steakhouse.

Spontaneity will be difficult, if not impossible. No more spur-of-the-moment trips out of town or changing of plans. Child care plans, exact itineraries, and tight schedules will need to be adhered to always. Consistency and stability are important for children, and, like previously stated, their needs and wellbeing must be prioritized.

The younger the kid, the redder the flag the parents are not still together. The most serious thing you can do with someone is to bring a child into the world. If they made this decision with someone and then within a year or two there was a breakdown in the relationship, it probably means something very serious and sudden happened to end the relationship (like infidelity being uncovered or abuse beginning) or that they got scared of the commitment they had made. This could mean far-reaching implications for your relationship with them. It could mean there are some less-than-ideal character or personality traits lying dormant within them that could prove problematic for you down the line.

If you become close with the children, a break-up will be that much more painful. It’s one thing to break up with a person, another to break up with an entire family. If you have become close to the children, maybe even taken a parental role in their lives, and then you break up with their parent, you have no legal rights to any further contact with the children. The sudden and complete severing can be traumatic, not only for you, but for the children, as well.

If the other parent is still in the picture and the relationship between both parents is not amicable, it could spell trouble for your relationship. Regardless of how much the other parent is disliked, making a baby with someone means you will always be linked to them. Even after the children are adults, there will continue to be weddings, birthday parties, funerals, family reunions, other get-togethers, and grandchildren. Even just the added stress from drama with the other parent could mean a lost relationship for you.

For those in a monogamous relationship, there is always the chance your partner will end up getting back into a relationship with the other parent or starting up a sexual relationship with them again. After all, regardless of how they might feel about them now, at one point they had a sexual relationship with them and even felt close enough to bring a child into the world. That creates a special, spiritual connection between the two that shouldn’t be downplayed.

I personally do not date men with children. However, this is a personal choice and is not meant to be prescriptive. I think, especially for those who cannot have kids or do not want to add to the human population but want kids, it can be wonderful to meet a built-in, ready-made family. Keeping the above considerations in mind can help in deciding whether you are comfortable dating a single parent and, if so, help you traverse the most common pitfalls that can jeopardize your relationship.

On Feeling Responsible for Other People’s Emotions

A painful lesson I’m trying to learn is that I’m not responsible for other people’s emotions. I’m trying not only to learn and understand, but also to believe, that as long as I do right by people — by not violating their rights or acting unnecessarily cruel — that I am fulfilling my end of the social contract with my fellow human beings. It is just really hard when faced with close relatives who harbor unreasonable expectations about what a relationship with me should look like. I have always felt a need to be a solution-finder and peacekeeper, and the mental and emotional toll of needing to keep people happy and trying to stabilize their extreme reactions can be overwhelming and guilt-inducing. Anybody else going through the same thing?