Being a single dad, I often get asked about “rules or guidelines” for dating in regards to involving children. A lot of guys (and women) are confused and have no idea when to introduce the new romantic interest to their “mini-me’s”. Here are a few thoughts, plus some “do’s and don’ts”, that I have either learned from experience or been lucky enough to get in the form of great advice from parents, doctors, and child experts
Starting a new relationship after a divorce can be difficult. For that reason, you should be careful not to start dating too soon. Your friends and family will try to fix you up, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being by yourself, or with people you have no romantic interest in, for as long as you choose. I know that I personally was not ready to date for at a least a year after my divorce. There was simply too much going on in my world, I was processing everything that had happened and I was busy adjusting to raising a one year old on my own. Also, no matter how tough you think you are, you’ve been through a rough time and a break will do you good.
Once you’ve made the decision that you’re really ready to start dating, start slow. A great way to get your feet wet is to find local community groups that organize picnics, parties and other events for single and/or divorced parents. This is a great way to meet people who know exactly what you’ve been through.
If you do meet someone who you want to know better, and you feel you are ready to go down that road, here are two basic “do’s” and two basic “don’ts” to keep in mind.
DO / Keep your children and your dates separate.
Try to do your dating when you don’t have the children or at least meet the date someplace other than your house. The idea is to not introduce your young ones and your dates unless it’s clear that you’re starting a long-term relationship. If you’re going out with a lot of different people and you introduce them to every one, they’ll get confused. If you absolutely can’t avoid having your children meet one of your dates, introduce her only as a friend, someone you’re just hanging out with. Remember as a parent, your first concern should always be your child. Any potential mate will respect you for your commitment.
DO / Be completely up front with your dates.
If it turns out that the woman you’ve got eyes on doesn’t like children, she may be pretty upset when she finds out your “little secret.” And if she does like them, she’s going to wonder what kind of guy doesn’t care enough about his children to even talk about them from date one. Also, a lot of women think that the way you relate to your children is the way you’ll relate to them. So share your pride, joy, and love. Do everyone a favor and tell your dates you have a child… or two, or three. I am completely upfront about the fact that I have my son 90% of the time. There is no reason to waste time (yours or hers) if this is something that she doesn’t want to be involved in. No harm, no foul. Children are not everyones cup-o-joe.
DON”T / Jump right into a relationship with Bachelorette #1.
As appealing as it might seem, the last thing you want to do right now is get into a long term romance with the first woman you meet. She may make you feel loved and needed and, trust me it will feel good, but chances are you’re nowhere near ready for the plunge just yet.
DON’T / Talk about the other women in your life.
If you’re widowed, your prospective girlfriends have a right to know. But if you talk about your deceased wife constantly, they’ll feel intimidated. On the other hand, if you are divorced, talking about how wonderfully you and the ex are getting along will make your date think you’re headed back together. But don’t spend the evening badmouthing her either. A new girlfriend is naturally going to side with you against your ex but your relationship should be built on something more than a mutual dislike for somebody else. And remember, the ex is the mother of your child(ren) so talking smack about her (warranted or not) simply isn’t the gentlemanly thing to do.
Best of luck in the dating world.