Love and Approval

dating a divorced dad isn't easy

Dear Mr. Dad: I have been dating a divorced dad for a year now. I’ve met his two awesome daughters. We’ve hung out together but they don’t know that I’m in a relationship with their dad. How do we tell them that we are more than friends in a way that will be least disruptive and will produce the best results?
A: Dating a divorced dad can be a pretty daunting prospect and you’re one brave woman to be doing it. You’re absolutely right to be thinking about this now, but I’d be willing to bet that your boyfriend’s daughters are already on to you. Kids are a lot more perceptive than we give them credit for, and if they’ve hung out with you at non-work-related functions (office parties and picnics, for example), they’ve already connected the dots or at least suspect that something’s up.
Ideally, you’d have kept your relationship with their dad a complete secret until you were ready to tell them. However, the fact that the girls already know you may work to your advantage by making it easier for them to accept you when you make the official announcement. Hopefully, your boyfriend wouldn’t let his kids’ opinions of you dictate whether or not your relationship continues, but getting their “approval” is important. Those girls are going to be a part of your life for a long time and they’ll always have some influence over their dad. Sounds like you’re off to a good start.
The key to successfully dating a divorced dad and getting in his daughters’ good graces is to take things slow. Let them gradually get used to you being a part of his—and their—life. Children are usually very protective of their parents (this is especially true of daughters and their dads) and they’ll lash out if they feel that you’re not the right person for their dad or that you’re “up to no good.” The slow-and-steady approach will reduce the odds that this will happen to you.
As for the mechanics of spilling the beans, dad should be the one who starts the conversation. Something like, “I know you’ve already met Audrey and you know her as my friend. But we’re really more than just friends.” Give the kids a chance to respond. Since they know you, there’s a good chance that their response will be a yawn.
Put some thought into where this is going to happen. There are no absolute rules, of course. Home is good because it’s the girls’ territory and they’ll feel more comfortable there (plus they can go running off to their rooms if they need to get away). A public place could be good because it’s neutral territory (but you may end up incredibly embarrassed if the girls pitch a fit). Either way, leave plenty of time to answer questions.
Even after your status change (from friend to girlfriend) has been confirmed, keep taking things slowly. Hold hands with their dad and kiss every once in a while, but don’t go overboard. And avoid overnighters for a while longer. The kids need time to adjust and having you move into their house—or even just leaving a toothbrush on the bathroom sink—could be too jarring.
Finally—and maybe most importantly—be a friend to the girls, but make it clear that you’re not trying to be their mother. They have one of those already. What they really want to know is whether you’re going to love and care for their dad. All you have to do is show them.

Navigating the Dating Waters after Rehab: How to Handle the Stress of Finding Love

Under the best of circumstances, dating can be pretty stressful. But what happens if you’ve suffered from addiction and/or been in rehab? How do you get back in the game? In today’s guest post, Terry Stegall has some great advice.

You’ve left rehab feeling a new found sense of optimism; you’re wondering if the time is right to share your new sober life with a significant other. The dating world is treacherous and gut-wrenchingly terrifying enough without attempting to remain clean. Dealing with all the emotional highs and lows of makeups, break-ups and the dreaded singles scene is stressful enough as is.

Before jumping feet first and blindfolded in shark-infested waters, take a step back, examine your life and take a thorough look, before allowing someone to share your present and future. You may think you’re ready, but it’s important to realize that beginning a new (and potentially tumultuous) relationship, could prove detrimental to your sobriety.

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Dating a Divorced Dad: Patience and Bravery Required

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m a sixth grade teacher and one of my students became very attached to me during the school year. Her parents divorced eight years ago and I began emailing with her dad a couple months ago. We started seeing each other but didn’t let many people know because we wanted to wait until school was out. The daughter got wind that something was going on and told her dad it was wrong for him to date her teacher and begged him to date anyone but me. I wasn’t expecting this reaction and we stopped seeing each other. He said he had to do what was in his daughter’s best interest. I completely disagree with this, because the girl has not liked any of the past girlfriends either. I’m absolutely devastated. He thinks she’ll come around now that school is over but I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. Is there any hope? What should I do?

A: Being a single dad myself, I can assure you that dating a divorced father is never easy (that’s what women I’ve dated have said and I know I’m not the only one…). We come with plenty of baggage and there are always unforeseen complications. Plus, children tend to be very protective of their dads (interestingly, they’re often more protective of dads than moms—perhaps because they see that moms already enjoy much more social support than dads).

Part of problem may be that the girl feels betrayed by you. Because the two of you had such a strong bond during the year, chances are good that she looked at you with admiration and respect and even considered you a friend. To have you suddenly dating her father might have made her feel that you were just using her to get to her dad.

It’s also possible that the girl is worried about betraying her mother. Most kids with divorced parents secretly hope that mom and dad will get back together—even if the divorce happened long, long ago. And there’s nothing like having dad start dating someone else to show a child that (a) she has no control over the situation, and (b) that her fantasy of a reunited family might never happen. So the fact that the girl really likes you muddles things even more by making her feel that she’s actually helping shatter he own dream.

As far as the dad goes, you need to understand that his first responsibility (and loyalty) will always be to his child—as it should be. And while it’s certainly worth trying to convince him to give things another go, his primary motivation will be to do what’s right for his daughter, whatever that looks like to him.

One thing you can do to help both dad and daughter come to grips with the situation is to slow the relationship down. In other words, be friends instead of dating each other. While it would have been better to have started the relationship from this angle, going the friend route now might work by giving everyone a little extra time to get used to the new dynamic.

At the same time, be sure to give dad and daughter some space to talk things over alone. I know you want to be there to give your side of the story and try to show them that you’ve got the best of intentions, but don’t.

Dating a divorced dad can be frustrating and infuriating, and the key to success is being very, very patient. Rushing things will only backfire.

How single fathers navigate the delicate balance between their kids and their love lives

Nice Chicago Tribune article on the ins and outs of dating for single dads, featuring some quotes from me:

… Single fathers have a tendency, more than single moms, to “feel incomplete” without a partner in the house, so they risk rushing into a new relationship that may not be right, said single dad Armin Brott, author of several books on fatherhood including “The Single Father: A Dad’s Guide to Parenting Without a Partner” (Abbeville)…

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Introducing Your Kids To The New Woman In Your Life

I got divorced a number of years ago. I’ve been going out with the same person for a few months now and things are getting serious. She and my kids haven’t met yet, but I think they should. Is there a right way and time to introduce them? What kinds of reactions can I expect from my children when I do make the introduction?

Getting the kids and the new person in your life together for the first time can often be a very stressful event for everyone involved and requires a lot of preparation. I strongly recommend waiting until you’re "serious" to introduce your girlfriend to your kids. That doesn’t mean you have to be engaged, but as long as your relationship is exclusive and committed, it’s safe. When, how, and where you set up the initial meeting is up to you, but here are a few general things to keep in mind:
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Dating For Single Dads

I’m a single dad and am just now starting to date again. I’m worried about how this will impact my kids and I’d like to know whether there are any guidelines. Are there rules about how long I should wait before introducing someone to my children? It’s been so long since I’ve dated anyone, what should or shouldn’t I tell the person I’m dating about my situation?

Whether you’re a single dad or a single mom, starting a new relationship-with all the dating and extra showers and being on your best behavior-can be a traumatic experience. For that reason, you should be careful not to start dating too soon. Your friends and family are probably trying to fix you up, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with being by yourself or with people you have no romantic interest in.
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