Re: Ladies, what is the truth about dating a man with kids?
I would say to anyone, man or woman, about to embark on this to be very wary...
I belong to another forum for step-parents. I do recognize that people with rosy situations probably aren’t out there looking for advice online, so that forum over represents the difficulties of having a partner with a previously enjoyed family. But while the details vary, there are some universal problems many of us share. I could probably fill a book with my feelings and experiences, but here are some things to watch out for (it’s easier for me to talk about this in terms of men; the problems can be applicable to either gender though):
Boundaries with other birth parent- A notorious problem is the Dad not wanting to “rock the boat” with his ex, the birth mother. This is all well and good, sounds good in theory at first. The reality can mean allowing the ex to dictate what goes on in his life, allowing intrusive behavior (constant phone calls or texts), or allowing all kinds of craziness in the name of “keeping the peace”.
Parental Alienation Syndrome- Look this one up. It’s one birth parent mentally poisoning the child(ren) against the other birth parent and/or his new spouse.
Guilty Parenting (“Disneyland Dad”)- This goes beyond simple material spoiling of children, although that can be part of it. It can mean being overly permissive or allowing unacceptable behavior. Usually their rationalization is along these lines: I only see my child(ren) XX amount of time and don’t want any of it to be negative, it’s their mom’s fault, I can’t undo what their mother teaches them in the amount of time I spend with them, they are victims of divorce and need special treatment. The Guilty Parent will perform all kinds of mental acrobatics to justify the behavior of the child(ren).
Child(ren) resent new girlfriend/boyfriend- self-explanatory, but permissive or indulgent birth parent might allow antagonistic behavior to continue or escalate.
Mistaking making children a priority with catering to children- When I got together with my SO, he declared that his children were his number one priority. I thought that was great…the well-being of my children is my number one priority as well. However, where my priority was the health, safety, and well-being of my kids, his turned into catering to every whim of one of his children because of his need to make her number one. This is hard to briefly explain here, but once he realized he wasn’t doing her any favors allowing her to act however she wanted, things improved. Many people, especially those who have not been in this dynamic, will claim unequivocally that it is nature’s intention for children to be #1. Others will claim the bible says a spouse is #1. My opinion is that neither is correct. The two types of love and relationships don’t even belong on the same list. Apples and oranges. Each is a priority in its own way. What can harm either the parental or spousal relationship is the parent wearing blinders and putting either one ahead of the other. There needs to be a healthy amount of priority for both the children and the spouse.
There are more red flags, I’m sure…but these hit the main points. I’m not sure I did them justice, but hopefully you’ll get the gist of what I’m talking about.
Mainly, just keep your eyes open and try not to get too involved until you feel comfortable there are not huge warning signs. Even then, you can never be sure. I had known my SO and his kids for years before we got together. Still, I had no way to be prepared for what it was like when we actually lived together. The beginning was very problematic, but mainly due to research and talking on my part, things have improved. I am also here to say that some of the most poisonous words you can hear are “you knew s/he had kids when you got together” and “you’re the adult, so just suck it up”. You will get very trite advice from people who have not been in this scenario. There are some good books out there if you find you really are on the edge of this kind of relationship. There are also bad books that place all responsibility on the (future) step-parent. I guess it all comes down to how the person treats his/her kids and ex, or more notably, how he/she allows them to treat him/her.