If you’ve been in the dating game for a while, you probably stumbled upon some divorced men. You might have even dated a few divorced guys without being aware of it as some men prefer to keep their previous chapters of life private, just like you do. However, dating a divorced guy can quickly become challenging if the guy you fancy happens to be a single parent.
Here is a list of important things to consider when dating a divorced dad. It will help you relieve the awkwardness and give the relationship the best chance of success.
1. Make sure he’s actually divorced
One of the most common misconceptions is the difference between being divorced and being separated. Don’t date a dad if he hasn’t finalized the divorce yet. Even though he does not live with his wife, and the divorce date is approaching, only the actual divorce proceedings mean that his marriage is legally over. You don’t want to date someone that still has that baggage hanging over him.
Of all the dating divorced dad red flags, this one is high up there. Whenever someone is separated and not yet divorced, that means an increased chance of conflict that hasn’t been finalized. Even worse, dating a separated dad can add fuel to the fire, putting each of you in an unfair spot.
2. His children will always be a priority
An important thing to keep in mind when dating a divorced dad is that his children will always be a priority. Make sure that you’re aware of this and are okay with it.
If anything, this should tell you everything that you need to know about your new beau. He should be prioritizing his children over you; it’s what a good dad would do. Understand that you may not come first and don’t be hurt when the kids need attention more than you do.
Not only do you need to be okay with that but be prepared for some pushback from the kids. They may not hate you, but keep in mind that they will see you as the “replacement” for mom, and they won’t be enthusiastic about accepting it.
3. Did he cheat on his wife?
The old adage is that people can change, but is this the case? It is helpful to know if the divorced dad’s previous relationship ended due to infidelity on his part. After all, “once a cheater always a cheater.” Even if it was years ago and he says that he would never do it again, this is still a major red flag. One thing that you don’t want is to have to question every aspect of your relationship.
Getting involved with a dad who couldn’t stay faithful in a legally binding relationship doesn’t set the odds in your favor. There are many things that infidelity shows in a person’s character, and none of them are good.
While it certainly is possible that he may have learned his lesson for future relationships, that’s probably not the case. Be aware of this before you start dating a divorced dad.
4. Does he have a healthy relationship with his ex?
We’ve all seen those dramatic television shows where someone starts dating a divorced guy, and his ex ends up being from the depths of Hell. Knowing the relationship that your new potential beau has with his ex can be important for the relationship’s success.
Ideally, he won’t completely hate his ex but won’t be chummy, either. You want them to have good, established boundaries where both are civil and respectful. If he talks about his ex-wife a lot – maybe blaming her or putting her down – it can be a sign that he’s not over his ex.
Most importantly, he should respect her role as the mother of his kids, which isn’t going to change. It’s okay that he might be feeling hurt, but if he’s not over the previous relationship, it likely won’t end well for his new romantic connections.
5. Is he a good dad?
Watch how he interacts with his children. If he is short-tempered with them or ignores his needs, that should be a major red flag. Think about it like this: if you want him to treat you like a princess, what makes you think that will happen if he can’t show his children his love?
Have a conversation with him about how he handles his family life. You’re going to get a better sense of how he treats his kids and ensures that he’s making them a priority at all times.
And if he doesn’t treat his children as the top priority, you have to ask yourself if this is how he would treat any potential children you would have.
6. Don’t get jealous
Some women that start dating a divorced dad have insecurity issues. You have to be confident and self-assured before you enter a unique dating situation like this. Sure, he may not be with his ex anymore, but they have a bond through the children that can’t be changed.
Committing to somebody, knowing that you aren’t competing with another relationship (and that it has no bearing on your relationship in the future), is vital to the potential success the relationship may have. Enjoying the time that you two spend together shouldn’t be hampered by things like rampant jealousy.
Relationships riddled with jealousy problems rarely end well. Not only that, but they tend to be rife with explosive fights and a lot of anger. The last thing that any divorced dad would want to get involved in is another volatile relationship.
7. Know and respect his schedule
This isn’t about his work schedule, but about the time that he designates for his kids. Maybe he has full-time custody. Perhaps he only gets weekends. Whatever the case may be, understanding the time that he spends with his children is essential. That time isn’t in direct competition with you or the things you want; it’s the part of his old life that still matters. There will be time for the two of you to spend later on.
The situation can change based on kids’ ages, too. Older children tend to be more independent or focused on school, so you may not even see them all that often. Whatever the case is, knowing their schedule can give you a good idea of when you two can spend time together and make the most out of it.
New relationships in a situation like this can suffer because it feels like there is no time in a divorced dad’s life for you and that his kids are the most important thing in his life. When you respect his schedule and family priorities, it becomes easier to understand that it’s nothing against you.
8. Make your expectations clear
While expectations are not the most comfortable thing to talk about, particularly in a new relationship, it can save a lot of trouble and heartache in the end. Don’t be afraid to admit what your expectations are and make it clear to him. Some things get ignored or go undiscussed and turn into bigger issues later on.
Knowing what the expectations are can set the tone for the rest of the relationship. The most important reason for this is the kids. A divorced dad may not want to introduce his children to someone that he doesn’t think will become a permanent fixture in his life.
Don’t act like things are okay or pretend like one particular issue won’t bother you because it will eventually catch up. You want this relationship to be successful, so give it the tools to get to a place where you are both comfortable with its direction.
9. Talk about accountability
It doesn’t matter what relationship you’re talking about; it takes two to divorce. Whether things ended amicably or in ugly, tumultuous terms, there is a fault to be had on both sides of the fence. Those things that led to a divorce may not necessarily be critical to your new situation, but you want to get a sense that this man accepts his role, even if it happened years ago.
Talk to him about how things ended early on in the dating process. You may have to carefully work towards that topic, but it’s essential to know that he feels accountable that his past relationship ended. He shouldn’t want to talk about it all the time but knowing that he has taken some of that responsibility and wants to grow with it can be necessary to foster a new, successful relationship. It may seem like one of those small things but knowing that he accepts his role is vital.
10. Find out his intentions
In the wake of a divorce, the prospect of being alone can be scary. For some, it can become all about finding someone, anyone, to be with. This desperation isn’t something that leads to healthy, successful relationships. While it’s understandable to want a company, it shouldn’t be the only reason for getting into a new relationship.
Talk to him and find out why he’s looking for a new woman. Ask if he’s okay being on his own or if he’s looking for a stepmom to share the load. Does he want to get married again? Is he just looking for sex? Figuring out what he’s looking for in a partner and what kind of support he wants out of a new relationship can save you from being just another fling.
Relationships are meant to be partnerships, but the wrong reasons can prevent a relationship from being a healthy, successful one. It is scary to be alone for some, but it shouldn’t be the sole reason for jumping into a new relationship.
11. Don’t take things personally
Staying calm and not taking personal offense is particularly important when you are dating a divorced dad with teenagers. When you first enter the scene, they probably will not like you. It is not even a personal matter; consider that their parents have split, and their worlds have changed.
There is a big chance that they will say something mean to hurt your feelings. It’s okay to feel hurt, but remember that they probably don’t mean it. Shrug it off and work towards the best relationship with them (and the man you are dating) that you can.
One of the most challenging aspects of a new relationship, especially with a divorced dad, is integrating yourself with the kids. Take your time, let them come to you, and don’t push it. They will let you in when they are ready; it just may take some time to get to that point.
12. Don’t push too hard
The tip of not trying to push things hard applies to both the divorced man and the kids. Keep in mind that they are looking for a new normal and are trying to work through the emotional pain that the divorce caused.
Understandably, you want to become an integral part of their lives, but try not to force it. When you push too hard, you will look desperate, and it may become impossible for them to accept you. Be willing to take the time, weather the storm, and build trust with both the divorced guy and his kids.
You may not even meet his children right away. Given how precarious and sensitive something like that is, a good dad will likely want to wait a bit before introducing his children to his new potential partner.
Even after the initial meeting, you mustn’t rush things with the children. The key to a healthy relationship with his kids is to take your time, let it develop organically, and not try to force it.
13. Give him space to heal
While there are plenty of divorced dads out there that are well past their former relationship, that isn’t always the case. The guy that you’ve met may still be feeling the sting of having the band-aid pulled off.
Should you happen to meet a man fresh off his divorce or it’s clear that he is still not over his marriage, give him the time that he needs to heal. Try to think about how you would feel in his shoes and what you would like out of a new relationship in that aspect.
By giving him the space that he needs to heal, you accomplish two things. The first is that you show him that you’re there for him and that you have the patience to help him through the healing process. The second is to give him the time to work through his problems.
There are far too many relationships that start with these circumstances and fail because there isn’t enough patience. Let your new man heal when he needs to, and you will see him look at you in a whole new light.
Dating a divorced dad doesn’t have to be as dramatic as you can see on television. You may find the man of your dreams in the wake of one of the most challenging times in his life. Have a little patience, and follow these tips, and you will be in the best position to make that relationship a successful one.