Newsflash: You get to decide who you date.
My opinion doesn’t matter at all.
But …If you are curious I’m happy to share with you the story of how I decided to date a man who already had children.
As I write this we’ve been married over 20 years now. This is an old memory.
I think it’s a pretty fun story.
fyi – this all took place BEFORE online dating apps.
We worked together in the same company but in different departments.
He swung by my department and invited me to a happy hour.
I thought I was meeting a group from work.
When I got to the happy hour I was the only person there.
He still swears that he invited other people who just didn’t show up.
I maintain that he always had the intention to ask me and only me on a date.
I was in my 20s and had ended a pretty serious relationship a few months before. I had made myself a personal promise to be single for a year.
I honestly don’t remember if he told me that he had kids that night.
We were only together maybe 2 hours. He had other plans with a friend for after.
I had a nice time but I was there for happy hour so I didn’t really even think of it as a date.
Dating people with kids
We did begin to date but only sometimes and it wasn’t exclusive. Part of the reason was that he did have commitments as a dad.
It was several months before I met his kids and that was fine with me. I was not looking for a serious relationship. I don’t know what he was looking for.
I remember early on we were supposed to go on a date and instead I got a call where he broke up with me and the reason he gave was that he had kids.
I said, “okay.”
I wasn’t upset. I honestly didn’t care. I was young. I didn’t even really think we were in a relationship.
Looking back I can see that we had a totally different perspective one what was happening. I was socializing and he was dating.
With hindsight I can see that perhaps having kids maybe does make dating much more serious more quickly.
Another way to say this is that I probably didn’t even really understand what a serious relationship meant in many…many…many ways.
Whereas he did. He had been married and divorced so he understood it on a completely different level than I did.
Should you date a man with a child?
After the first break up which I didn’t even think was a break up a few weeks went by and he called me again and said he’d been thinking of me.
I think we went to dinner. I was up front about the idea that I didn’t want a serious relationship. I honestly don’t even remember what he said. I know that this happened in February.
We kind of sort of messed around like this until fall.
At some point over the summer he tried to break up with me again. At this point I was a little more invested and I refused to just do this over a phone call and I insisted we meet in person. He at first selected a crappy bar and I remember that I suggested a much nicer restaurant because I figured if it was my last date I should get a good meal out of it.
I remember he told me that he didn’t think I was ready to be as serious as he needed for a partner and I agreed. So we broke up. Afterwards I called my oldest girlfriend and she commiserate with me. The fact that I remember this means that I was a little bit heartbroken.
A few weeks went by and he changed his mind and this is the point where I said to myself and him that it needed to be on or off but not back and forth like that. I think this is when we agreed to be exclusive. Baby step one to being a committed relationship.
Pros and Cons of dating a person with kids
Because of his custody schedule I did not see him every other weekend. I happened to be traveling a lot for work and I didn’t mind this at all. It probably slowed down the progress of our relationship and that’s okay.
It is something that I hear is an issue for many couples. It is something to really think about because the time commitment to the children often takes a priority throughout a relationship.
I do remember that some of his friends were not entirely happy to meet me. There were also events that he did where I wasn’t invited to at all. I don’t actually remember if this bugged me or not.
I will say that this is a reality of post divorce life. Almost all of our current couple friends are people we met together and just a few are people who were friends with him and his ex-wife. This was not at all an issue while we were dating but it has been a reality the entire time of our marriage so I mention it.
Our relationship was pretty secret for kind of a long time. I do remember that being a little bit annoying but I also understood why. For me the issue of my coworkers knowing seemed like a bigger deal than his kids knowing about us but for him it was probably both. I remember being careful to not leave anything behind at his apartment before the kids knew he was dating me.
“Do you really want to take this on?”
It was sometime in the fall when I met his kids.
If I had realized that this would be my permanent relationship and that one day I would be writing this story I perhaps would have paid more attention to how this unfolded.
I had no idea. In preparing to write this article I asked my husband and he doesn’t really remember either. You get the general details and you’ll have to be okay with that.
What I do remember is that meeting the kids was one of 2 key moments that marked our relationship as “serious.”
He was up front that he did not want to introduce me to the kids until he knew he was serious about a future with me. He wanted to know that I was serious about a future with him.
If you’re curious – the other moment that marked our relationship as serious was telling our coworkers.
Sometime in the fall I met his kids.
At Thanksgiving he briefly met my mom, dad and brother. He and his kids came by after dinner. I very selfishly ditched my parents and joined them to go to a holiday amusement park for the afternoon.
I remember this because the day after my mom called me and she said how nice she thought my boyfriend was. Then she said, “This seems like a lot. Are you sure you want to take this on?”
I remember the question clearly but I don’t remember at all what I might have answered.
I do remember being annoyed at her lack of support for my relationship.
Now 20+ years later I do understand more of what she was asking and how it was meant to be helpful.
Today my life coaching clients often ask me a version of this which is “if you knew then what you know now would you do it again?”
It’s not a particularly helpful question.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
I don’t think we ever do know what the future will hold.
I didn’t have kids at the time. My parents had been divorced pretty much my whole life. How could I possibly have any idea what I was committing to by dating a man who had kids?
I couldn’t know.
I didn’t know.
I don’t expect anybody else to know either.
Should you date a single parent?
My story is that I fell in love with a man who has kids.
I didn’t set out to do that.
I also didn’t set out not to do it.
This is something that I talk to my life coaching clients about often.
I truly believe that there is no wrong decision.
I think we make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time.
Sometimes we change our minds when we learn more. Sometimes we make great decisions that we are very happy about. Neither one of those options makes us a better or worse person.
Here’s a truth that might be worth sharing.
My relationship got very serious and very permanent pretty quickly after I met his kids.
I’m not sure if that’s normal but I suspect that it’s not uncommon. It was slow, slow, slow, slow …then sped up to very serious.
Instead of dating every other weekend we had solo weekends and weekends with kids.
The weekends with kids were a little bit like having a part-time and semi-instant family. Except I still had my own home and I could and did often not participate with the kid stuff. The really big changes happened when we moved in together. That’s a discussion for a different day.
Something to think about..
You pretty much can’t undo being a parent. This is worth thinking about.
If you want to piss off a person who is struggling in a blended family say something like “you chose this.”
It’s super unhelpful.
I don’t think I ever say that.
If I had an opinion to share it might be this.
I had my eyes open and I inherently somehow understood that the kids were a non-negotiable part of this relationship.
I certainly did not fully understand what that commitment would like like for me. I don’t think there is anyway that I could have understood that.
I just didn’t ever think there was some version of this relationship that would just be me and my boyfriend. That maybe made it easier for me to survive some of the bumps as they came up.
Let me know with a comment when you read this — if that makes sense.
I suspect that this is one thing that might have been helpful in us successfully moving forward as a long lasting blended family.
I do think this might be the really good thing to think about in the moment. As I say that though I think it’s important to be kind to yourself if it doesn’t occur to you to think about it.
You can’t know what you don’t know.
If you are going through a situation and trying to figure out if this type of relationship is a good fit for you I’m happy to talk it through with you.
A more important and significant decision is whether to commit or get serious with a partner who has children.
I made a list of 5 things that I think are helpful to think about or discuss before you do this.