Below is an interview I did for MyTreat some time back on the topic of dating as a single parent.
You’ve winked, poked, and prodded; you’ve met for coffee, had yogurt, and almost broke your pelvis in that yoga class; you’ve spent countless man hours and burned through half your kids’ college fund on dinners and nights on the town where you’ve culled out the emotional basket cases and daddy’s girls. And finally, after thinking all the good ones were either married or lesbians, you’ve met someone you believe has staying power. She has the potential to be around – for a while. And the time has come to put all your cards on the table and throw in all the chips – it’s time for you to introduce her to the kids.
I know well the terror that can strike the heart of a man when faced with the task of arranging that first ‘meeting’. The three days prior are spent in constant prayer to God that your five year old son doesn’t try to hump her leg and your teenage daughter doesn’t turn into Ms. Drama. It’s a performance that would challenge David Copperfield himself.
If you’ve read me for a while you already know I was divorced when my kids are painfully young – both under three. Besides the brutality of diapers, bottles, baby food, and being on house arrest from 11-3 every afternoon for naptime, I was able to botch the girlfriend introduction with minimal shrapnel. A child’s naivety can be a wonderful thing.
But I know that not every divorced dad has it like that. More often than not you’ve got a few teens or tweens who either think you’re the reason for the divorce and would rather see you roasted alive or they’ve become so possessive you can’t take a moment for the loo without sending up smoke signals so everyone knows where you’ll be. But through my years of experience I’ve learned to navigate these treacherous waters and since I’ll never sail those seas again I’ve decided to pass on my wealth of knowledge.
Just remember to pay it forward – and follow me on Facebook.
There are a few things to think about before commencing with introductions.
For starters you should be decidedly honest with Ms. Wonderful. That doesn’t mean you over sell it but you can’t under promise either. If you’ve got a nine year old that needs daddy to lay with her before she can fall asleep every night then say so. If your son spends more time in detention than he does math class then you need to call it like it is. I’ve been on the ugly end of these situations only to discover that her kids were Children of the Corn when she made them sound like the Walton’s – don’t be that guy.
Next, give the kids a bit of heads up before the big day. Start talking up the new girlfriend telling them her name, what she’s like, what she looks like, even show them her picture if you have one. You don’t want to blindside them as they get off the bus one afternoon. Let them know a few days in advance that you are going to introduce her, that way you can judge reactions, see if behaviors change, Barney Fife any issues before they become big, and if necessary scrap the whole thing until the timing is better.
I’ve laid out a play by play for the perfect first meeting when it’s your kids and her kids, and this follows the same rules. But to recap the first meeting always should be in a neutral setting, in public, and brief. Arrange the first shindig somewhere like an ice-cream parlor, a park, or the carousel at the mall. Keep it to under an hour and preferably thirty minutes; chances are your kids will be bored after ten anyway. And what this also means is DO NOT make the first introduction a sleepover, dinner, or a weekend trip to the beach – don’t be that guy, either.
After you’ve gotten everyone together the first time let it marinate for a while. Give it a few days or week even to allow things to sink in and see how everybody is feeling about it. Hopefully she keeps returning your texts and the kids don’t come back with the conviction that she’s out to replace their mom.
And above all else, and I can’t type this loud enough, don’t do any of this until you’ve had a chance to get to know her and she’s had time to learn about you. I see so many of my buddies introduce their latest ‘girlfriend’ to the kids after the second date only to end up dumping her two weeks later because she’s actually deranged. For more observations on that I’ve written here about when the right time is to introduce the kids to the new girlfriend.
As divorced dads we’re always trying to balance the emotions of the girlfriend and the kids. And while there’s no guarantees a good start makes the job much easier.
It would be one of the toughest decisions I had ever made. We had been together for a year and a half and considering our culture’s microwave approach to dating that’s a lifetime.
I wasn’t always such a nice guy. There was a season of my life where I would lie and manipulate to get what I wanted.
The color and lettering of the sign match the eatery’s overall rustic décor and blended nicely against the paneled wall it adorned. The message, simple
Someone better might simply have laughed off this relational bucket list to the derangement of a few middle aged women under the influence of Two-Buck Chuck. I on the other hand wanted to rush home and blast off a scathing bloggy retort . Fortunately discretion remains the better form of valor however a watered down rejoinder will soon be forthcoming.
It seems that women’s requisites for a man are as varied as the women themselves. Granted there are a select few universal requirements which apply to any man such as honesty, confidence, intelligence, and a Ferrari; but when that gleam in your eye is courtesy of a single dad a garage full of exotic sports cars won’t make up for one vital male characteristic.
It continues to amaze me, as I surf about the Internet, at the number of women lamenting on their boyfriend’s recently formed character flaw such as his lying, wandering eye, or another frayed strand of moral fiber. To the damsels’ defense while these newfound attributes were likely always there, he was just adept at keeping them hidden long enough to get what he was looking for. But as they say the truth comes out (in around 90 days) – no one can keep up charades forever.
One of the many pains of dating is deciphering what is real and what is candidly – bullshit. Since conducting background checks reek of stalkerish psychopath there are few ways a woman can learn about a man’s true character other than the proverbial trial by fire. But if that man should be a single dad there is a truth serum far more potent and telling than anything cooked up in a CIA lab.
If you find yourself contemplating a relationship with a single father the first thing you want to learn, even before his credit score or rap sheet is – what kind of father is this guy?
His qualities as a dad will say more about his character and integrity than anything else. I had a friend once who’s 20-something year old daughter began dating a guy who had fathered a child from a previous relationship. He rarely saw his son, never talked about him, and by all accounts contributed nothing financially. Then, by the cruelest of fates, she became pregnant. You can well deduce without a PhD in Psychology what happened next.
Ladies let me be candid with you, a man who will not, does not, or can not take care of his children will never treat you any better. There is absolutely NO valid excuse under the sun that justifies a man walking out on his children – ever. I knew an acquaintance that, upon separation, was faced with the prospect of losing his lake house as part of the splitting up of assets. Sensing an opportunity to move back with her family a day’s drive away the soon-to-be-ex-wife offered to give up her interest if she could take their kids – he readily agreed. This father traded in his children for a good view. He now sees them a few weeks every summer and a couple of other times a year – all so he could keep a lake house. If he treated his kids that way, how much better would he treat a woman?
Let’s not forget it’s called dating for a reason and that should include questions like. How often does he see his kids? How close are they? Does he take them on trips? What does he do with them over the holidays? Does he miss them when he hasn’t seen them for a while? Is he involved at their school events? Does he attend their sporting events? Does he meet his financial obligations? Then make sure he proves it!
At the first hint a man begins making excuses for why he isn’t involved in his children’s’ lives – RUN! Tell him to get his priorities straight and then give you a call. If he doesn’t pay his child support yet wants to take you on a vacation – RUN! If his kids aren’t a priority you won’t be one for long either. Please, please, please ladies don’t be misled by thinking that because he’s met you somehow he’ll now get his act together. First, you’re not that special and second he’ll only change long enough to get what he wants. Yeah there’s the off chance you might get him to do a 180, but if Vegas doesn’t take those odds you shouldn’t either.
What seems so obvious to me is a complete miss by so many women. Heed the advice, the heart you save might be your own.
This is the second in a series of posts where I’m giving up the goods about dating single fathers. Think of it as being given the other team’s secret playbook right before the big game.
As a quick recap, the first tip was to ask yourself:
“Do I even want to get involved with a single dad?”
If the answer to that was an emphatic ‘no’ then you can stop now and go back to DWTS. Otherwise, keep reading.
Stringent scientific inquiry has dispelled that old myth about the baby and the stork, which means dating a daddy will probably mean crossing paths with a mommy. And since mommy and daddy aren’t together anymore take it on good counsel that things between them likely aren’t rainbows and butterflies. And if they’re divorced it gets even more interesting.
It’s a wise choice to assume a certain amount of drama anytime we jump into a relationship with a single parent. Co-parenting is as simple as Quantum Physics and when two people who would rather fatally stab each other must try to cooperate things can get heated and often out of control.
I’ve seen more than one ex-wife get blamed for ending the new relationship of her former husband. The Queen had her car keyed from a former boyfriend’s ex; I’ve witnessed the use of the kids as a way to control post marriage relationships, and I’ve seen women go to extremes with false accusations against their ex-husbands ranging from laziness and irresponsibility to charges of child abuse.
You might be saying to yourself “Why should I care? Their relationship is his problem not mine?” Don’t be misled into believing it’s only his issue. The first thing you must understand is when you start dating a single dad, by default, you’re also dating his ex-wife. What I mean by that is you’re going to have a front row seat to all the arguments, squabbles, and blow-ups that inevitably come with co-parenting. And you may suffer a fair amount of your own shrapnel from her mood swings, random bitchiness, and occasional insecurities that often become magnified now that you’re on the scene.
All of this requires a little digging and maybe some touch decisions. No matter how nice or cute he may be if dating him means you’ll be filing future restraining orders you seriously need to think it though. But how can you know if you’re about to walk into the Twilight Zone? I believe there to be three areas that can tell you a lot.
What does he say about the ex? – Does he ever say anything complimentary about her when asked? (He WAS married to her so there must be something?) Or is everything that comes from his mouth negative, vindictive, and harsh? If he ranks her up there with the Black Plague then either he’s an idiot for marrying a psych patient or he isn’t completely over the break up. If he is constantly throwing her under the bus he may be using it as a cover up for unresolved hurt. The opinion of my ex has softened greatly the longer I’ve been divorced.
Why did they get divorced? – Almost everyone I’ve ever met blamed his or her breakup on the other person. I can’t recall anybody who made even the slightest acknowledgement they had a part to play in the split. If he claims to have been the only victim and she was the bad guy he’s immature because it takes two to tango, he’s possibly wracked by guilt as a way to cover up his own mistakes, and he’s certainly living in denial.
How do they get along now? – How does he talk to her when they are together or on the phone? He is cordial and respectful or does he talk down to her like a dog? Do their conversations quickly escalate and get heated over the slightest disagreement or does he remain in control when quarrels arise? Is he always complaining about every indiscretion while brushing over his own or does he let things slide?
And here’s something else. Isn’t the way he treats his ex wife an indication of how he might treat you? How can a man be a complete jerk to his ex and turn right around a be the sweetest man in the world to you? Maybe it’s just me but that just doesn’t seem to fit? Because in due time the real boyfriend will stand up.
By definition men have never been rockstars at dating. From the moment they’re thrown the keys to dad’s Mercury a boy usually struggles to handle the basics of the courtship ritual ” Should I open her door?”, “Will I call her in two or three days?”, “How far can I get before she punches in the pie hole?”
While you might think dating would be instinctual after centuries of human experience – it’s not. More often it’s like one of the nine circles of Dante’s Inferno where we’re endlessly tormented so that some day maybe – just maybe -we’ll have enough neanderthal scrubbed off we won’t have to club fair-haired Beatrice and drag her back to the cave.
Yet after marriage all of those courtship skills eventually wither and die by atrophy as life settles into couples’ dinners, late night bottle feedings or diaper changes, and yard work. But as the marriage wears on the lad now with a mortgage, two German automobiles, and 2.5 kids finds himself bestowed with what he secretly and frequently pondered – to be single again. Only this time time around it includes child support, a two-bedroom apartment, weekend visitations, and half an ass. So with divorce papers in hand he heads back into the dating world for the second time – and he just took his new freedom and asked you out.
The latest estimates show there are over 14 million single parents in the US. That means there’s an abundance of single dads looking for love and research indicates the vast majority of newly divorced men jump right back into the mix like a caged hyena just released and eager to return to the hunt. Some want to relive their teenage years again while others move quickly to recreate some version of what they just left.With those vast numbers there’ll come a point when most eligible women will be be asked out by a single or divorced dad.
If you are, have, or are thinking about going out with a single dad this series is for you. Think of it like insider information or getting your hands on the other team’s playbook. And I’m convinced, if nothing else, the suggestions in these posts will give you new perspectives to mull over.
We had been dating a month or so, she knew up front that I had young kids and while never married or with kids of her own she claimed she was fine with my small carry-ons. Neither of my kids were old enough for school yet which meant minimal outside activities and since their mom wasn’t working any plans she and I had were normally a go. Except this time, my daughter had a last minute activity so I had to nix our date that night on short notice. When I explained the situation she reluctantly agreed without further mention. But soon thereafter I noticed changes, my calls went unanswered and messages weren’t returned as quickly. Sensing something was amiss I finally got her to admit she had been thinking and now realized she couldn’t date a guy with kids. Though a bit put off I had to admit I appreciated her honesty, I only wished she’d told me sooner.
Before one even considers meeting up for coffee or drinks with a single dad I’d encourage her to think long and hard about what dating most single dads involve:
The time – children are great but they can cause major relationship problems. Especially if that relationship doesn’t involve both parents. The time factor is a big issue with practices, rehearsals, games, and recitals that means everybody involved has to be more flexible than they’d like. I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had to pass on because it was my weekend with the kids.
The ex – oh yes, there’s always the kids mom. Some ex’s are great, others are stalking, restraining-order psychos who will key a girlfriends car before her second cup of coffee. Ex wives can kill a relationship quicker than anything.
The money – if there’s a kid and a mother then there’s likely child support and if mom’s really lucky alimony. Child Support which is Hungarian for “remove his wallet through his esophagus” is the thorn in many a dad’s side.
The financial fallout – one of the leading causes of bankruptcy in the U.S. is divorce. Along with mind numbing legal bills there’s the splitting up of marital debt and assets which means he could very well have his 48 inch plasma sitting on cinder blocks and a sleeping bag on the floor.
The emotional fallout – if marriage is hard, divorce is hell. No man or woman comes out the other side without psychological damage, often serious. Those first months after a divorce men go into what’s called ” the fog”. And they do stupid stuff when they’re in the fog.
That isn’t to say that dating single dads is bad, obviously I’m one and I know a lot of others who’ve got their act together. But dating a single dad isn’t as simple with a lot to think about, which we’ll get into in this series.
So the first thing momma forgot to tell you is … make sure you want to date a guy with kids.