dating a single dad

Single Parent Dating: A Few Things Dads Want You to Know

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As a single parent, your goals
for dating and future relationships
are different.

For women of a certain age, and particularly women with children of their own, the single dad holds massive appeal. What is it about a single dad that makes for a good partner? What are the pitfalls and risks of starting a relationship with a single dad? Let’s take a peek at some of the issues all single parents share and that come into play when single parents begin dating each other.

The Good Side of Dating a Single Dad

  • We’re good with children
  • We understand when your priorities are on your kids and not on us
  • We’ve lost it all and are less likely to make similar mistakes
  • We understand the value of a good woman
  • We can support you in your struggles with your ex
  • We’re a port in a storm of parenting

The Harder Side of Dating a Single Dad

  • We might have baggage with the ex or the divorce arrangements
  • We might be emotionally fragile and need extra sensitivity around things like trust, intimacy, and lightening up about life in general
  • Our priorities may get mixed up as we attempt to balance both lives
  • Our emotional lives are complex (we have higher highs and lower lows)
  • We may have trust issues around relationships with both women or men
  • We have learned to isolate in our sadness and emotional vulnerability

How Dating a Single Dad Can Be Great

Those are the pros and cons. And of course, your relationship with any partner (dad or otherwise) will depend on timing, emotional availability, and compatibility. And while the rollercoaster might be daunting initially, a single dad might be able to crack open your heart again. As a couple, both of us have experienced the death of a partnership, and our goals and intentions are centered around crafting and working on a long-term relationship that does not end in divorce. We may be interested in getting married again, or we may have a less romantic idea of marriage that is more pragmatic. (Do we want to save money by getting health insurance together? Should we buy a house? What is our long-term investment and retirement strategy?)

What I can tell you about my life, at this moment, is as a single dad I’m comfortable with my vulnerability. I’m able to break down in tears when you’ve crossed some emotional boundary that needs care and healing. I wear most of my emotions (enthusiasms and fears) on my sleeve. My girlfriend can always tell where my emotional head is. When I’m quiet I’m either processing some hurt or I’m distracted by some internal dilemma. When I’m expressing myself (writing this blog, for example) I’m often sharing about my emotional state, my dreams, sorrows, and plans. In many ways, I’m an open book. A complicated one, yes. But my complications give me an emotional depth and transparency that is honest. You’re either going to go along for the emotionally connected ride or you are not.

Emotionally Available Also Means Emotional

As we get a little older, as we’ve loved and lost, as we reset our intentions in terms of dating and relationships, as single dads, we’ve either evolved or were frozen. A stuck single dad would be a nightmare. (Angry, bitter, distrustful, stoic) An emotionally available single dad is a gift. (Honest, caring, sharing, priorities on the welfare of my kids AND your kids)

What I learned early on in my dating experience as a single parent was this: I don’t have time to fuck around with disconnected or distracted partners. Addictions and unexplainable rages are deal killers for me. Either you are ready for a relationship or you are not. I was not ready for any relationship for a few years after my divorce. There was too much emotional processing that I was trying to get through. I tried dating, but it was not successful. It might have been illuminating. It was a bit lonely and painful.

Know When You Are Ready to Date

The real trick in dating after a divorce with children is to know when you are still emotionally wrecked an unfit for courtship. When you are ready to date, when you are open and actually available for a life partner to join you on this amazing journey, you will know it. Your energy will shift. For me, this meant I was confident, happy, and intentional in my approach to women who held potential as a partner. I began to date with my long-term eyes. This new conscious dating helped me streamline my process.

I began to understand that the online dating world was full of potential, but it was also full of bullshit. I also started to move my quest for a relationship with another single parent offline.

The Two Big Ideas of Evolved Dating

  1. Intentional dating: if it’s not long-term potential it’s over
  2. Get offline: find your partner doing what you want to be doing with them (they’re already out there if they are also emotionally ready and evolved.

As single parents, we can relate to each other in ways that people without kids simply will not understand. (Yes, I know there will be plenty of objections to this statement. And yes, I’m certain there are plenty of great partners who (for various reasons) have not had children. And I’ve learned through my own trial-and-error dating, that moms understand dads and our bonds with our children in ways that my non-mom dates have tried, but been unable to support fully.

Single Parents Love Single Parents

As single parents, I believe, that my kids and my connection to them are more important (just for this short period of time) than my happiness or my new relationship. I have a different priority in my life. If we share this priority (you for your kids and me for mine) we’re going to understand and embrace a lot of the same emotional values. We’re going to jump when our kids need us. We’re going to be distraught when our exes act like jerks. And, the best part, as a single parent, we’re going to understand from our own experience. Empathy is important, and several of my non-mom partners were very empathetic. But empathy is not the same as the visceral connections we share with our kids.

My kids still come first. Even at 17 and 19, my two kids are the priority in my life. Sure, at this point (as teenagers) they are less interested in connecting with me. But that’s okay. The point is, my responsibility is to them first, my date, girlfriend, partner, other single parent, second. Period. If you’ve never had kids this is going to hurt. If you’ve had kids, this is going to be something we both share and embrace in each other.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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Dating 2.0

image: the unicorn, tv show about a single dad

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