Dating a single dad? Here’s what you need to know

At 25 years of age I met the man who I would later call my husband. Of course I had no idea back then, it was not love at first sight  or anything like that. Well at least not for me. Before we even became an item he was very open with me about being a father. Something that I never gave much thought to at the time but which would later play a very big role in our relationship. I thought it would be a relationship like any other but experience revealed that the dynamic was quite different. I grappled with ego issues, jealousy associated with the ex, feeling like I was not his number one priority; the list of emotional challenges is endless. These are all challenges that we had to work out as and when they came up which was not easy. I wish someone had given me a heads up on what to expect, then maybe I would have spent less time trying to fit the relationship into the traditional relationship mould where there are no kids involved, and more time into understanding my particular situation and making the best out of it. In a bid to pay it forward I have summed up some of my crucial lessons and what you need to know  and expect if you are a single woman dating a single dad.

Loyalty is to his children first

Be prepared to hear a lot about the kids when you spend time together, after all he is a proud single dad. I know it doesn’t make for good conversation when you are out on that date. He may have to cancel a few dates, postpone some plans due to some conflict with the children’s events or unforeseen circumstances like the illness of child; all of which may hurt or frustrate you but remember, THAT IS A GOOD THING. It means you’re not dating a deadbeat dad. It says that he has his priorities straight and he will not compromise on his role as a father regardless of what happened between him and the mother of his children. Give him some time, be supportive and patient and eventually he will get to the point where its it is about you and him.

On the flip side should you meet a single dad who drops everything, alters his plans with the children for you then that is a serious red flag for your relationship.

Respect his children and the relationship he has with them

You have to respect them before and after you meet them. Your actions towards his parenting responsibilities will tell him if you respect his relationship with his children and his responsibility over them. Say you had planned this romantic getaway to spend some quality time together, God knows you need it right? After all, you never really get to spend quality, uninterrupted time with him. Flights booked, hotel booked, itinerary is all set and then at the last minute he has to cancel. For some reason baby mama who was supposed to have the kids this weekend is suddenly not able to and needs him to step in. That’s enough to make any woman flip. Taking it out on him doesn’t help you nor the relationship. If he feels attacked of course he will back off, have reservations about making plans with you in advance, may be even end things. Instead try and take a more supportive approach, express your disappointed but willingness to try. By doing so you are indirectly encouraging his parenting and he sees that you understand his situation.

There is no escaping the EX

Unless of course he is a widower there is definitely an ex somewhere. Whether you have met her or not, know about her or not; know that she exists and there is no way you can ignore her presence and influence. If you still think this is not an issue for you wait until you get a little closer to the kids. Its not uncommon for some mothers to be completely out of touch with their children, hardly seeing or speaking with them or being in any way involved in their lives only for them to come out of the woodwork when they hear their kids are getting close to daddy’s new mate.

Avoid trying to be a replacement mother or trying to make everyone get along. If you did not break it, you have no reason or right to fix it. Understand and support the fact that due to co-parenting responsibilities your man will be in contact with his ex every now and then especially if she plays an active role in their lives. Its not easy being with someone who’s past is in your present, who has shared so many of his big firsts with somebody else who is now permanently in the picture. You will have to be honest about how you feel and deal with the challenging emotions as they come along with your partner. Knowing when you have genuine concerns or are just being driven by emotions and feelings.

Expect a different dynamic

A lot of the expectations you will have will be based on your experience dating men who had no kids. Some of the dynamics will definitely be different. For example you may find yourself dating in secret for a while simply because he doesn’t want to introduce someone he not sure about to his children. He doesn’t need his children to be emotionally attached to you and then have to explain things when you break up. I dated my husband for a little over a year before I met his kids. Something which I didn’t understand then and made me question his love for me because of it but which I now fully understand and appreciate as a wise decision on his part.  A dad with physical custody of the kids means he has less availability than one who has visitation so be prepared to share his time. Just roll with the punches. Experience has taught me that when it comes to children so many unpredictable things can happen that will throw out your ‘plans’

Decide if this is for you

Single dads come as a package. You cannot have the man without the children. If you say yes to the man you are ultimately saying yes to the children and all the responsibility that comes with that decision. Think about it in advance and decide whether you can do it or not.

 

 

 

Married to widower? Tips for a better relationship with his children

Last week we looked at some of challenges that women face when they marry a widower. The transition can be challenging for everyone. As a stepmom to his children how do you best handle this complex and emotional family situation? The truth is, there is no single answer to this; simply because grief is a very personal experience, not forgetting that it never quite goes away but is re-experienced with the presence of certain triggers. That said here are a few tips will help you and your family move past the hurt and challenges to a comfortable place of love and acceptance.

Embrace your feelings

There is nothing wrong with you. No you are not weird and neither is your situation. If anything, it is perfectly normal and all step-families of this nature go through this.  Be kind to yourself and allow yourself to feel what you are feeling! Many women suppress their feelings because they want to appear as the perfect stepmoms while deep down they are hurting.  Bottling things up only makes the situation worse and builds resentment towards your partner and your stepchildren.  The very same people who you are trying to have a relationship with. Deal with all situations with your partner and protect family.

Build a rock solid relationship

Your relationship with your partner determines whether you will make it through or not so make sure it is rock solid because the journey really is rough. Realize you are marrying him and his children, they come as complete package.
You will have to embrace and love the children as they are a part of him and you have to be all in, otherwise do not bother yourself as it will only lead to more heartache and loss. If you and your partner commit to your relationship and to being a family, to making it work despite all the issues and you give it everything you have got, you will definitely reap the reward.

Allow your children time to grieve

The children’s biggest fear at this time is that their deceased mother is being forgotten. Seeing their father moving on with you will make this fear even greater. You need to address this fear and allow them to grieve, work together with your partner and step-kids to find appropriate ways of honoring their departed parent and help them to remember her significance. Don’t be afraid to talk about the loss and the parent that has died, speak freely about them, allow them to take  a trip down memory lane whenever they feel the need to and listen to them carefully when they do. Allow them to celebrate anniversaries such as birthdays and the day their mother passed away. This will communicate that you respect their parent and how important they were in their lives. It also demonstrates to your stepchildren that you are not trying to take their mothers place.

Step down

It’s normal for stepmoms to feel pity on their stepchildren, to want to help them overcome this loss and make them better people. Its not unusual for stepmoms to desperately want to build a good relationship with the children but this will obviously take time. A lot more time than many anticipate. When the children pull away from you or openly reject you, your natural instinct will be keep pushing, trying to force them to see that you are a good person who is only looking out for their best interest. This usually back fires. As counter intuitive as it may sound it important to know when to back off, especially when it comes to the children. Give your stepchildren the space to allow them to get used to the idea of you.

Patience! Patience! Patience

If you have ever lost a parent, then you know that it changes your life forever. Take things slowly and be patient with yourself, your partner and his children. Remember that they are adjusting to a very difficult situation and it will not happen overnight. The sting of death never quite goes away, you just learn to accept and live with it as time goes by, therefore accept that your stepchild’s time scale will be completely different from yours or your partners. You need to be ok with this. Not taking things personally but realizing that each situation will present a different challenge that will need to be addressed slowly, with patience and in love.

 

 

Money questions you should ask before marrying a single parent

When I was doing my pre-marital counseling sessions there was one thing that really frustrated me, all the content, good as it was, made reference to the ideal first time couple. The virgin couple who would experience sex for the first time on their wedding night. The one that had no children from previous relationships, no exes constantly in your business and no extra set of relatives to put up with. The couple whose past remained exactly there, in the past. My hubby and I didn’t quite fit in this mold and I am pretty sure we were not the only ones. The advice we got was good for an ideal situation but we needed a little extra because some wheels were already in motion. We were a ready made family therefore the questions would be different and would require a different answer and approach all together.

Money is one of the biggest causes of friction and conflict in a marriage.  Anne Landers said “All married couples should learn the art of battle as they should learn the art of making love. Good battle is objective and honest – never vicious or cruel. Good battle is healthy and constructive, and brings to a marriage the principles of equal partnership”.

 

Discuss every dark detail of your financial life before embarking on marriage to your new partner

In order to have that healthy and constructive battle there are some specific aspects of marriage that every couple needs to discuss and address before they marry. Aspects such as the family values to be upheld, whether to have children or not and how many, dealing with in-laws, finances, spiritual life, couple sex and intimacy and many more. That is why we are encouraged to get pre-marital counselling in order to bring these areas to light and to give the couple an  opportunity to air their views of each matter and then together agree on what the family approach will be.

Couples with no children have the benefit of starting on a blank page and defining everything a fresh. They have no one else to consult but each other. They call the shots. For those who come into marriage with children from a previous relationship this is a much more complex and difficult discussion. The budget will include more items and considerations such as the children, the ex, already established lifestyles; making it an even more crucial discussion to have.

Discussing every dark detail of your financial life before embarking on marriage to your new partner will make your lives easier and help your marriage succeed. Here is a list of twelve questions that you should ask your spouse to get the conversation started and agree on the way forward for your family’s financial well being. During the discussion please adhere to the ‘no heat, no judgement’ rule. Do not go off on your partner for having a different opinion and don’t judge them either. Let it be a safe space to share and agree on what you will do for your family going forward.

 

‘no heat, no judgement’. Let it be a safe space to share and agree on what you will do for your family going forward.

 

  1. What are your current financial obligations?
  2. Are you financially supporting your children/ Are you receiving child support ? What is the agreement with the ex spouse? How much and how frequent are the payments? Will they increase or decrease in future? When will they end? What do we do when we don’t receive scheduled child support?
  3. Do you have any joint debts with your ex spouse? (loans, mortgages, businesses, credit cards etc) If yes, how do you plan to remove yourself from these joint debts?
  4. What expectations do you have for me to support your family?
  5. Do you have any financial commitments to your parents, siblings, or other family members?
  6. Do we both have active employment? How will we handle childcare given our work schedules?
  7. What will our individual financial responsibilities towards running the home be? rent,utilities,insurance, education
  8. How will we handle the holidays?
  9. How will we unify our finances? Are we comfortable with one bank account or will we have “yours,” “mine,” and “joint”?
  10. What do we want to teach our children about money? Will we give allowances and in what amount?
  11. How will we resolve differences in spending and saving practices?
  12. How will we handle investments, property titles/deeds, insurance, wills?

Remember that whatever plan you come up with will not be static but will evolve as the seasons of life and other factors come to play in your every day life, so set some time discuss this and adjust the plan as and when change presents itself.