If you meet a wonderful single man who just happens to be a parent, you may be confused about how to approach dating someone whose first priority is not you.
Unlike men with no family obligations, single fathers are responsible for everything from knowing their child or children’s school schedule to doing the laundry to ensuring their youngsters are happy and fed.
Children are an enormous responsibility, and if you want to build a relationship with a man who is raising them, you will have to accept that you will be dating a guy who is busy all the time.
That said, if you can work through the difficulties of his chalk-full days, dating a single dad can be hugely rewarding.
For one thing, he is too devoted to his kids to waste his time and will only agree to meet you if he thinks you’ll have a date worth keeping.
For another, unlike the immature guys who may have told you, “I’m not ready for a relationship,” single dads are mature and dependable, and are usually looking for the real deal.
17 tips for dating a single dad
- Be friendly (or at least civil) to his ex
- Don’t insist on meeting his kids right away
- Understand that his kids come first
- Bring romance and excitement to the relationship
- Be flexible with plans
- Accept that his kids will limit his freedom
- Get to know his kids for the people they are
- Offer to help when he needs it
- Don’t lose sight of your needs
- Keep your own social life up and running
- Don’t be insecure about what you bring to the table
- Don’t expect commitment right away
- Show him you are responsible and competent
- Don’t take everything too seriously
- Remember that making decisions regarding his children is up to him, not you
- Don’t take on too much too soon
- Have fun as two people falling in love
Dating a single father means dating someone who has already gone through one of life’s major milestones, namely having a child (or children).
In most cases, he will have been in love, decided to spend his life with someone, and chosen to raise children with them.
Whatever has happened in the meantime to make him a single dad on the dating scene will inevitably have left him with some scars.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to be aware of.
If you choose to be with a man who has children already, you are giving up the experience you might have with someone else of going through the process of pregnancy and childbirth together for the first time.
However, there are also myriad advantages to dating a single dad.
For one thing, raising children will surely have made him responsible, caring, and competent.
He will no longer always be looking out for himself and will know how to care for and prioritize the needs of others.
For another, single fathers don’t tend to waste their time dating people they don’t see a future with, so he is likely to be far more serious about you and invested in the progress of your relationship than many other men might be.
At the end of the day, you’re dating the man, not his status as a father.
However, if the man you’re into happens to have children from a previous relationship, here are some tips for how to navigate the situation.
1. Be friendly (or at least civil) to his ex
Unless the man you are dating is a widower, you will probably have to accept the fact that his ex is a permanent fixture in his life.
And what’s more, as the mother of his children, she will want to know about you, because she will want to know who the adults are that are spending time around her children.
While this won’t be too much of an issue in the early stages of dating, be aware that as things progress you may well find yourself in regular contact with his ex-partner.
To keep everyone happy (and to make your own life easier), try to establish a good relationship with her from the beginning.
2. Confirm his relationship status
When two adults share a romantic history and children, there is always a lingering question about whether they could get back together.
Make sure that he is finished with the mother of his children before you get too emotionally invested.
You wouldn’t be the first woman to think she was practically in a relationship with an apparently single father only to find herself sitting around thinking about how to respond to a break up text because the man is back together with his ex.
3. Don’t insist on meeting his kids right away
Let the single father you are dating make the call about when it is the right time to introduce you to his children.
Don’t put pressure on the issue or ask him why he hasn’t introduced you yet.
Show a healthy level of interest in them—ask how they’re doing in school and how the time he spends with them is going, but only as a way of showing care for him.
Don’t insist that he open up more about them than he is comfortable doing.
At the end of the day, your relationship is with him, not his children.
If he is protective of his children, that’s purely because he loves them and doesn’t want to cause them any more pain than they have already endured.
And ultimately, his defensiveness of them is a good thing, because it shows that he is a caring and careful person, which means he will show you the same level of care and devotion if you two end up in a relationship.
4. Understand that his kids come first
There’s no way around the fact that dating a single father means you will never be the man in your life’s sole priority.
Becoming a parent means dedicating yourself unconditionally to the care and protection of your children, and there is no way around this.
And ultimately, you wouldn’t respect or love him if he didn’t prioritize his children’s happiness and wellbeing over all else.
However, that of course doesn’t mean that he won’t shower the woman in his life with affection, tell you “I love you so much,” or dedicate himself to creating a beautiful life for you.
It just means that when push comes to shove, he may have to cancel a date to pick up his kid from a sleepover if they need him.
5. Bring romance and excitement to the relationship
Look, raising children is exhausting. Any parent will tell you that even just the daily struggle to get one’s child out of the house can leave a person wanting to crawl right back into bed.
All of these small struggles of parenting are even harder when you have to do them alone.
So, you’ll have to forgive the single father you’re dating if he isn’t always brimming with romantic enthusiasm and spontaneous plans.
That’s where you come in. If a man has put himself out there on the dating scene, he is obviously seeking excitement and experiences he doesn’t currently have.
So, don’t hesitate to push him to explore by suggesting romantic evenings or weekends away when his children are with their mother.
He will surely appreciate the effort you are putting in to making your dating life something special.
6. Be flexible with plans
Unfortunately, children can be a real headache when it comes to allowing their parents to keep plans.
Because their needs will always come first, you’ll have to be willing to adapt to the guy you are dating’s kids’ needs when it comes to changing plans.
If you’ve agreed to go away for the weekend and one of his little ones comes down with a cold, you may have to change your plans and stay home.
Instead of making the single father you’re dating feel bad about this, show him that you understand the position he’s in and show appreciation for the care and love he is showing his child.
7. Accept that his kids will limit his freedom
On the same note, dating a man with the responsibility to provide a stable home for a child or children means that the two of you will have less freedom to travel and explore.
You won’t be completely precluded from the occasional road trip or international holiday, but a man with children does not have the same ability to be spontaneous as a man without them.
He will have to be around to bring his children to school and provide them with a stable family structure and safe routine.
Since you are knowingly dating someone with children, it is vital that you accept this before you enter a relationship with him.
It would be unfair for you to harbor secret resentment about the fact that he won’t be able to whisk you away for last-minute weekend trips.
8. Get to know his kids for the people they are
When you do meet his children, you’ll probably feel a lot of pressure to make them like you. Instead of trying to behave like a second mother, just see them as you would other children, and speak to them as you would any of your friends’ kids.
Establishing an authentic relationship with his kids will be important. You aren’t going to replace their mother, so the best thing to do is to establish a good, supportive friendship.
Hopefully they will come to love and rely on you, and to see you as a responsible and caring adult presence in their lives.
9. Offer to help when he needs it
Life as a single, working father can be tiring. He will often be caught between his work responsibilities and his child-rearing ones, not to mention the housework and any semblance of a social life he is still trying to maintain.
So, once you’ve become close enough, you might offer to help him when you can tell he really needs it.
He’ll certainly appreciate the care you’re showing him by trying to take some of the weight of his busy life off his shoulders.
Most single fathers are ultimately hoping to meet someone who can do life with them—which includes helping raise their children.
I mean, think about it: if you want nothing to do with his children, your relationship will be doomed from the start.
They’re part of his life and there’s nothing that will ever change that.
If you want to be part of his life, you have to want to be part of theirs too.
Offering to help by babysitting one evening so he can head out with the boys will show him that you want to be a permanent fixture of his life.
If you offer a helping hand in situations like this, there is no question that the guy will say he appreciates you.
10. Don’t lose sight of your needs
Having said all that, it is equally important that you don’t let the fact that the single father you are dating has a hectic life completely swallow up your own life.
If you need to go on early morning runs to take care of your mental health, make sure you don’t let the fact that he needs to get his kids to school early prevent you from taking care of yourself.
After all, you know what you need, and he would rather you are continuing to keep yourself healthy and fit than finding himself sitting around alone trying to come up with things to text your girlfriend when she’s sad.
Basically, don’t run yourself into the ground to try to save him from the pressures of his life.
They’re his responsibility, not yours.
11. Keep your own social life up and running
Don’t stop hanging out with your own friends just because you’re dating someone who has no shortage of things to do.
Make sure you are still seeing the people in your life that make you happy.
You shouldn’t have to sacrifice your relationships with your friends and family to be with someone.
Ultimately, if things don’t work out between you, he will keep his children and his friendships, and you will be left stranded if you don’t maintain your own.
12. Don’t be insecure about what you bring to the table
Single fathers have to have a put together, organized, financially stable life. They tend to be perfect gentlemen on a date.
This is because they are responsible not just for themselves but also for their kiddos.
If you aren’t quite at that stage in your life yet, it can feel like the guy you’re dating has everything to offer and you don’t have much to give back except your time.
However, you cannot approach a relationship with this frame of mind.
Know that what you bring to the table is you. Your wit, care, youthful energy, and exuberance are more than enough.
You can sort out the practical realities of what a life together would look like at a later stage.
But for now, know that if the single father you’re dating wants to be with you it’s because of everything that makes you unique. You don’t have to bring anything more to the table than you already do.
13. Don’t expect commitment right away
When a single parent commits to a new relationship, they aren’t just committing themselves, they are also committing their family to you, which includes their children.
For this reason, it is perfectly understandable for a father to want to take more time before asking you out.
14. Show him you are responsible and competent
When dating a man who is also a parent, it is important to show him that, should you two continue to get along, you are responsible enough for him to trust with the most precious thing in his life: his children.
If you are always out partying and don’t seem to be able take care even of yourself, he will question whether you are the right woman to introduce to his family life.
If he thinks you are dramatic, he won’t want that kind of energy around his children.
15. Don’t take everything too seriously
Just because the man you are dating is a parent, doesn’t mean you should lose your sense of adventure and fun.
Ultimately, these are the qualities that probably drew him to you in the first place.
Instead of becoming overly serious about everything, retain your lighthearted approach to life.
Children can be wonderful, silly goofballs too! Think of all the fun you could have together as a family unit as time goes on.
Keep your good humor!
16. Remember that making decisions regarding his children is up to him, not you
You may not always agree with every parenting decision the guy you are seeing makes.
But there are times to speak up and times not to.
Keep your opinions to yourself when they would directly interfere with his ability to parent effectively.
And, if he asks you to do something specific when speaking to his children, don’t do something different just because it is what you would rather do.
You need to respect his position as his children’s father.
17. Don’t take on too much too soon
If a man has been raising children alone for a while, he may be so relieved to suddenly have another responsible adult around his kids that he heaps too much responsibility onto you too quickly.
He may not have bad intentions. His overdependence on you to take care of his children may just be the result of total burnout.
However, that doesn’t make it okay. Be mindful about how much responsibility you are taking on for his children’s care.
If you take on too much at too early a stage in your relationship, it may be devastating for them if you break up, since they have come to depend on you.
It is also not fair for the man you’re dating to assume that just because the two of you have been out for a few dinners that you will now be co-parenting his children.
There are a lot of serious conversations that need to take place before this happens.
18. Have fun as two people falling in love
Most importantly, the fact that the man you’re into has children is no impediment to the two of you having a lighthearted, fun, relationship.
Goof around, watch marvel, and tell each other, “I love you 3000.”
Enjoy each other’s company during the time you spend together.
Know that you are allowed to spend time not thinking about the children (so long as they are being appropriately cared for), and simply enjoying the honeymoon stage of a budding relationship.
Hey, it’s me, Steven. Dating and relationships have always fascinated me. On Dategosu, you will find my best tips to make sure your next date is a great success!