As a single dad, we have one primary duty above all else: to be a good father for our children. Even with amicable breakups, dating as a single father can be a challenge—especially as we consider the potential impact of bringing another person into the lives of our children. This is no minor consideration.
Closure & Steadfastness
Honest self-reflection about our role in past relationships might help us learn something about ourselves and grow. Even when children aren’t involved, recovering from a break-up can be difficult. With children involved, the pain can be overwhelming. If we’re still able to see our children, spend as much time with them as possible. Especially right after the break-up, they will need us more than ever.
Social pressures imply that moving on too quickly is cold and uncaring. The truth: if we are ready, get back out there. We don’t need anyone’s permission to start looking for someone else to spend time with. For the same reason, we don’t need to start dating right away either. It’s totally normal to say, “I don’t want another relationship; I just want to focus on myself, my children, and on being the best dad I can be.”
When ready to date, it is best to avoid introducing children, especially at first. Involving them too quickly after a break-up can be devastating to a child who is trying to deal with the loss of a beloved daily presence. A father of young children should consider dating during times when the kids are with their mom or another caretaker. Young ones may become attached to a very temporary presence; dating shouldn’t bring vulnerable children into the experience. If a relationship is strong and lending itself toward longevity, it would then be more appropriate to introduce younger children. Teenagers are usually more resilient, have social lives of their own, and are less affected by changes in dad’s personal life.
Meeting women, going on dates, and learning about new people can be very interesting and a lot of fun. It can also be a train wreck. Date responsibly. If we are a few weeks into dating someone and she starts talking about herself in the third person—and in a baby voice—this might be a sign to go in a different direction. If we do connect with someone on a deeper romantic level, the reciprocity of mutual love, honor, and respect may offer us one of life’s greatest rewards: true love. Nurturing fathers have every right to find happiness with a new partner.
An honest working relationship with our ex helps us provide the stability that our children need and deserve. When both parents respect that children need both parents, children reap the greatest rewards. No matter what happened in the past, time, truth, and sincere respect eventually give way to civility. For better or worse, the health of the co-parenting relationship (or lack thereof) will have both short-term and long-lasting impacts on the happiness and developmental prospects of children.
While we don’t owe an explanation to our ex, we are indebted to our children for working together as cooperative teammates who maintain honesty with each other. We make life easier for ourselves and our children by being transparent, setting expectations, and avoiding surprises.
When we are ready to date again, remind children that they are, and always will be, the most important people in our lives. Be truthful; any fibbing or secretiveness can damage the father-child relationship by accidentally planting seeds of distrust. Also, it doesn’t matter if we have a hot date—when it’s our parenting time—don’t drop the children off at grandma’s house. Kids are very smart; they need to know that our time with them is important. If we skip out on them for a date, they internalize diminished value.
Meet people and date freely; be careful about rushing into anything. If we find ourselves still talking about our ex, it’s too soon. If we find someone and want to take things to the next level, our children will want to know her name, what she looks like, and whether she has children, but aren’t likely to be interested in much else. We can ask if they’d like to meet the woman we are dating—if they say no, respect their wishes. Tell them that someday, dad might meet someone he really likes, and if he does, that he will want them to meet her. Most children will be cool with this, even if it’s just because they can’t imagine it really happening.
The woman we want to share a relationship with should understand and respect that our children are our top priority. There are billions of women out there—if someone can’t get on board with this, keep it moving. Strive to avoid introducing the children (not even a passing introduction) to someone if we don’t sense potential for something serious. As parents, we represent our children’s sense of security in the world. Children can be easily confused by continually meeting (and getting attached) to new girlfriends; they take things to heart. Make sure a relationship has real potential before making any introductions.
Children learn from the behaviors we model for them. If our new girlfriend is sleeping over during our custodial time, and we aren’t in an exclusive, committed, marriage-on-the-horizon relationship, we risk setting an unhealthy precedent. Children who witness women sleeping over eventually grow into teenagers; if we are cavalier about sleepovers, we shouldn’t be surprised if that’s the way they feel as they get older.
No matter what happened with their mother or other past relationships, don’t put down women as an entire group. Whether we demonstrate accountability and ownership or blame and finger-pointing, our children are likely to mimic our attitudes and behaviors―they learn how to treat people by watching how we treat people. Keep harmful ideas away from their malleable growing minds. Any disrespectful comments convey that it is acceptable for men to look down on women, treat them poorly, and speak badly to or about them. Our children are watching us closely; if we exhibit inappropriate attitudes, we may unknowingly point our daughters towards permissiveness or man-hating and our sons towards chauvinism or timidity.
Whether we know a thing or two about dating or we’re new to the dating scene, it’s more than ok for single dads to be romantically involved again―within the context of a few important parameters. Put the children first. Be safe. Show respect―both for others and for ourselves. Have fun and good luck!
“Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” ―2 Corinthians
This definitive guide for men provides answers on everything from how to approach a woman and build a connection with her to how to truly satisfy her in bed to how to know when the relationship is on the right track.
Readers join in on eight fun, easy, and profoundly rewarding dates, each focused on a make-or-break issue: trust, conflict, sex, money, family, adventure, spirituality, and dreams.
PLEASE NOTE: As an Amazon Associate, Fathers Truly Matter earns from qualifying purchases. The information in this post should not be construed as providing specific psychiatric, psychological, or medical advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand the lives and health of themselves and their children. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist, or psychotherapist.