No one can prepare someone for dating a divorced dad (or mom). I can say that because when I started dating divorced dads (a decade ago) I was clueless. This was new territory for me. That said, I had an advantage because I was a divorced mom, so I did understand the complexity and challenges that go with dating and relationships when there are kids involved.
But let’s say you don’t have kids and you start dating a a divorced dad. For most people, dating someone with kids is disappointing and frustrating at times. Why? Because things happen with kids involved. Plans fall through, kids’ feelings might be all over the place, financial issues can crop up, or the divorced dad has to deal with his ex (who could be difficult.)
There are all kinds of reasons, and even if you have the best relationship in the world, and you are madly in love and blissful 95% of the time, things with the divorced dad (or mom) can cause headaches, and even conflict.
I applaud divorced dads (and moms) and the people who date them, because it really truly isn’t easy, and you have to be unselfish. That said, there are some people who date divorced dads who just don’t get it. Here are two examples.
Awhile ago, I wrote a blog post called Are Divorced Guys A Turnoff To women?”. In that post, I wrote this quote:
“Who one woman gives up could be another woman’s love of her life.”
A reader then commented about it:
This might be impossible, especially if the couple had children, they are always ‘first, forever’. This means the woman is putting the divorced dad first, and he’s putting her second, or third. Also, the ex wife (mom) is never going away, like, ever. She will be at all the graduations, holidays, birthdays etc. inescapable. There will also be less money for the new woman, as divorced dad is supporting his first family, insurance, cars, college, vacations, grandkids…. it never ends.
Here’s how I feel about her response. This woman dating a divorced dad needs to get a grip. Big time. Or, she needs to end the relationship and only date men who don’t have kids and who have never been married.
If the couple had children, they are always ‘first, forever.’ Ummm…hello? Of course the kids will come first forever!! That is a given and needs to be accepted by anyone who chooses to date a divorced dad.
If you cannot accept that, then you should not be in the relationship. If you cannot accept that and you choose to stay in the relationship, then you will end up continually frustrated, bitter, angry and resentful, which isn’t healthy for you or for the relationship or the kids. Furthermore, if a divorced dad (or mom) doesn’t put the kids first, than I wouldn’t even have enough respect for that person to even date them! In other words, is a person who puts their love life before their kids attractive? No.
The ex wife (mom) is never going away, like, ever. She will be at all the graduations, holidays, birthdays etc. inescapable. Being someone who is an ex-wife, I truly took this to heart. What does this woman expect us to do? Die?? Doesn’t she have any empathy that the ex-wife wants to see her children graduate and see them at holidays? Is she insecure that the ex-wife is trying to get back together with the ex-husband?
This woman sounds ridiculously childish. Instead of realizing that these kids are better off with everyone being close friends, she is thinking only of herself and her delusions that the ex-wife is the bad guy.
There will also be less money for the new woman, as divorced dad is supporting his first family. This was the clincher for me. I guess she’s in the relationship for the cash. What a shame. What I want to ask her is, “Should the divorced dad stop supporting his kids so that he can give you money? What does he really owe you?” Shame on this woman, is all I have to say.
Here is another reader’s comments:
I dated a divorced dad a couple years ago who had 4 kids under 12 yrs. old., His ex wife got 1/2 his paycheck. He had a vasectomy. So, no kids for me. I got nothing (except dirty looks from ex/kids), they all have legal/blood ties together, so I didn’t want to move in with a family to pay 1/2 the mortgage to be an outsider, permanently. Tough situation (for me, not them, they all have each other). Oh, the ex gets 1/2 his pension too after retirement, & the kids get the house. Then, you can look forward to repeating all of that with grandkids- theirs (not mine) wry smile.
This made me feel even worse. If she wants kids, then why is she even with this guy? She knew going in that he had a vasectomy. Also, vasectomys are reversible.
But what’s remarkable to me is that she says she feels like an outsider, saying that they all have legal/blood ties together. So, she’s feeling jealous that she isn’t a blood relative? It’s very bizarre to me.
I question two things. First, is her boyfriend making her feel like an outsider? That’s a possibility. And, like the first woman, is she with this guy for the money? Maybe she got dirty looks from the kids because of her greedy attitude.
Before you think I’m being judgmental, I will say that my boyfriend is a divorced dad and financially, I want nothing from him. I will continue to work to have my own retirement. I have my own house. I don’t want anything from my boyfriend except for his love. Isn’t that the way it should be?
What I see from both of these women dating a divorced dad is a sense of entitlement and it sort of makes me sick.
I will leave you with this. Dating a divorced dad isn’t easy. I cannot count the number of plans that have been cancelled or altered with my boyfriend (and even in other relationships in the past.) It can be frustrating at times, disappointing, and it can even feel hopeless sometimes. But, his children must come first. Always. And my children will always come first. That doesn’t diminish our love for each other, it just is the natural order of the priorities of being a parent.
Ask yourself if you really really love this person and if you do, then staying with him (or her) even under the roughest of circumstances should be a no-brainer! In other words, if you expect nothing but love, you will be fine. And if you expect more—like money or for him to cut off ties with his ex, or for him to put you before the kids, then honestly, you are clueless and you need to get a grip.
Like this post? Check out, “20 Things I wish I would have told my newly separated self”
Thank you for the article. To be honest, everyone in this scenario needs to get a grip. I am a divorced mom with a 16 year old daughter. Dating a person with children and an ex is a situation that requires some compromise and flexibility for everyone. I dated someone whose ex wife could not move on, and this influenced her adult children. For holidays, family milestones, college summer break visits, she and her kids insisted that they all live together and that he not see me and I could not call or visit. It really was not possible to create a sustainable relationship until he made it clear that boundaries needed to be established. Yes, our children and their needs came first. Yes, of course his ex wife should be at family events and milestones, but he requested that his family learn how to make space for a significant other, and her child in their post divorce lives too. My daughter likes him very much, but the behavior of his family and ex was hurtful to her too, and I explained that to him. His ex now stays with a friend in the neighborhood when his kids come home. They are not always easy, but are becoming more civil as time goes by. I’m not thrilled with his ex wife, she continues to be unkind, but I understand that it is hard for her, and having the boundaries helps protect my space and our space (me and my BF) together.Dealing with a new reality after divorce is hard for everyone. We all have to get over ourselves. His ex won’t go away and neither will our kids and I don’t want them too. When a divorced man or woman cannot put some guidelines and boundaries up to create room for a significant other is when you get the anger and resentment expressed in these letters.
Wow. I see some familiar markers in your response. One of the first things I had to establish with my ex were new boundaries. We really didn’t have them while we were married (go figure), so she was (and still is) pretty bent out of shape over them and challenges them whenever she can. To make it worse, I also had to establish boundaries for her family. My kids thought it was “creepy” when grandma would pick them up after school and go through the closets at my house while the kids were collecting the last of their belongings. It’s a control thing, and they’re all holding onto whatever vestige of it they think they can exert over me. I’m fortunate that my girlfriend went through this as well and we can laugh about it. But, it’s a serious matter, particularly when the kids’ other parent is filling their heads with ideas that it’s somehow appropriate or acceptable that the other parent should be welcomed into the home other than for a few hours for some special event, as if nothing ever happened? Some people can’t seem to move on with their lives?
It’s not that we dads value our relationships with our kids more than we do you, we just value them differently. Although laws are beginning to change, many of us had to fight like wild animals for what time we DO have with our children. That time with them is important to us. And if that isn’t enough, we can be under the microscope whenever the children are in our homes. Every. Single. Minute. So you’ll find out the sometimes gory details of our past marriage, you’ll see the kid drama unfolding before your eyes, and you’ll get to put on the same brave face in public for those kids so that their perceptions of their other natural parent aren’t harmed. And yes, we may get to do that for you, too.
Dating someone who’s divorced with children requires an advanced level of patience, empathy, compassion, and understanding. You’re going to find out what kind of “staying power” you really have. And I’ll admit that I know a lot of guys who aren’t up to that. You’d best stay away from them. I’ve also found a few women on my own who aren’t, either. You described both of them above. If you have a need to be “rescued” from something, be it financial security, childlessness, loneliness, or an unfortunate past, our plate may already be full raising and being responsible for our own children. And that’s true of divorced moms, too. Guys can throw some pretty unreasonable needs and expectations at them as well.
I’ve been divorced for about three years now and have 50/50 custody of a 12 year old son. I thought it would be relatively easy to find a divorced dad to share my life with. Boy was I wrong. My divorced friends and I are finding that we have to come to grips with the fact that few desirable men want to marry or live with a divorced women and her kids. They will agree to a monogamous relationship with you for as long as everyone is happy, but that’s as far as it goes. On top of that disappointment, you realize you won’t share many holidays or vacations because maybe your kids don’t get along, or your kid doesn’t like him or he has teenage girls repaying you for being a teenage girl. Just forget about sharing your whole life with someone, it’s just the 50% of it that doesn’t include your kids. Good that the writer realized what divorce really meant for her future and accepted it with grace. It takes time to get there so perhaps she could have some compassion for women who come across as bitchy and entitled.
I feel like this is not a healthy attitude. My question is, why do divorced women with kids feel like they need the Brady Bunch happy ending?? Trust me, I’ve heard enough stories about moving in togehter with kids and second marriage, that don’t paint a very pretty picture. So, what I’m saying is, why can’t women just love the man for who he is, share a life together, without moving in together and marrying? When the kids go to college (even if that’s a decade away), they can retire together. What’s so bad about that life? You can still share a life with someone even if you don’t share an address or a marriage certificate. I have never been happier doing it this way. I never feel alone or lonely, I appreciate every minute I spend with my boyfriend, and life truly is blissful. But, I still have my independence, I am raising my kids without a stepfather living in their house, (or step siblings who are often forced on kids). So everyone is happy. I don’t see that as a bad thing. Just wanted to share a different perspective on looking at post divorce relationships differently than having the end goal being remarriage.
One more thing…single women seeking marriage or a serious commitment from divorced men with kids need to be careful. About half of them will lead you to believe it’s a possibility when it’s not because they know you won’t sleep with them otherwise. And they really do like you and want a long term relationship at least, so in their heads, it’s okay. You won’t realize what’s really going on until it’s been six months to a year into the relationship and you’ve only hung out with him and his kids twice – at parties where the kids don’t really have to talk you. He has no intention of letting his kids get to know you because he doesn’t want them getting attached. He knows you’ll leave once you figure out marriage is only a slight possibility 10 years down the road when the kids move out and everything in his life and yours is terrific. And to be fair, men like this balance out the women who use men for money.
See, it’s easy for you to spout this as you have kids of your own, so you have no problem neglecting your significant other as they do you. But the childless women who date these men are constantly putting these men first, while being permanently relegated to last place. A relationship can’t work if both partners aren’t the first priority, period (that doesn’t mean neglecting the children, it’s recognizing that the marriage should be permanent while the kids leave the nest one day.) There’s a reason why the majority of marriages fail when one spouse has a child involved. As for the issue with ex’s, I think you’re sort of assuming that all ex-wives are emotionally stable. You fail to realize that most ex-wives actively work to tamper with their ex-husbands new relationships. So maybe be a little more understanding that a new significant other isn’t thrilled that she gets to share her husband for the rest of her life.
To Realist – I have never been married nor have I ever wanted children. I am currently seeing a person with a child coming into his early teens. ( about 7 mths. although I knew him prior 3 yrs. as an acquaintance) You are right of course, I put him first and am struggling a bit to see that I never come first. I am hoping in time that will change. I have never dated a person with children before so this is all very new and quite challenging. Also this ” So maybe be a little more understanding that a new significant other isn’t thrilled that she gets to share her husband for the rest of her life.” You hit the nail on the head. My partner and the ex wife though do have their own co-parenting down and they get along which is great for the child involved. A lot of challenges to work through.
Jill, you sound like a great woman with so much to offer. While it’s ultimately up to you if you stay or not, I’d personally advise you to do a bit of soul-searching and see if this is something you can live with the rest of your life. If the man is a good father, you’ll always feel neglected and relegated to second place. It’s the nature of the beast, and why the majority of second marriages involving children fail. You have never been married and have no children, so you are unencumbered. You don’t mention your age, but regardless, there are men who are child-free who can give you what you deserve. You deserve to be happy, and if dating a single dad, your happiness will never matter to him.
I dated a divorced dad for four years. Worst mistake ever. When I got with him I had no idea what fun I was in for. Here are just some of the fun things you risk encountering by dating a divorced dad (note: I haven’t experienced them all)….
– Little mini versions of the ex wife running around, constantly reminding you of her presence
– Money always going out the door to support the ex and their kids
– In laws who, for no good reason, may favor the ex over you, downright hate you, or side with his (poor) kids in disagreements making your husband feel guilty
– Every holiday being complicated as your forced dance around everybody else’s plans
– Divorced dads acting out of guilt, afraid to parent their kids
-Parental Alienation Syndrome
– Joint Birthday parties (no thanks)
– If you even think about having kids of your own, often you are met with backlash from stepkids and the ex (how dare you want your own kids!!) Also the wonderful feeling that your husband has of been there, done that.
– False Child Protective Services claims made by bitter ex wives
– Mini-wife behavior, if your stepkid is a girl
– Once the child support check stops coming at 18 you may find yourself with a kid and some bags standing on your doorstep
– Definitely feeling like an outsider at every event and holiday. Wedding pictures, graduation pictures of your husband and his ex wife posing together (for the kids of course). Babysitting their grandkids.
– Your husband engaged in a battle of who can buy the kids’ love at Christmas, birthdays, Easter etc.
– If you have kids together, he’s likely to be more tough on them than your stepkids because (again) guilt, fear of upsetting them
– Getting to see every stepmother stereotyped as “wicked” (maybe there is a good reason for it lol)
I have my own house by the way and a six figure income. I don’t need anyone to “rescue” me. Nor am I looking for anyone to support. Women be smart: find a guy who doesn’t have the baggage and can contribute just as much as you do financially. I promise you being a stepmom is a thankless job and there are plenty of men out there who are free to make you priority #1 (The only people who say “kids come first” are talking about THEIR kids and acting in their own best interests. They don’t care about your marriage). Take care of YOU, stepmoms, because no one else will!
I’ve been in a relationship with a separated dad with only one child for 4 months. Their separations are quite recent, five months ago before we met on tinder. And because of how we met on tinder, we talked about our relationship goals on our first meeting, everything aligned except I want family and he doesn’t.
I am coming to 37 and have no idea if I still have a chance to be conceived but if I could I would like to.
We are great together in general, I see him once a fortnight over the weekend.
Recently the topic of having kids came back. He viewed I as considerate and understanding people and he likes me (I’ve been reading how I should play my role in this unique relationship). The topic returned because I feel distance from him and questioned him.
I am not after his money, properties or no. 1 in life. I only wished to find a companion and build a family. But if this is asking for too much?
let me ask you this do you think its right of a divorced man of fourteen years to treat live in girlfriend act like he was broke with me never paid for food never help me clean but it this way he is very lazy and cheap after i moved out found out he has lots of money pays his ex wife phone beside giving her 2000 a month for child support which his kids are 17 and 19 and gave her money for a down payment for another house she wanted he also would lie to me about everything with her call all her texting i did say to him if you have a relationship with her im fine with it but he could never tell me the truth i moved out cause i dont think he treated me right never did his share of anything i know he had kids with this women i understand that what i will never get he caves into everything she wants me i just wanted to feel like i was part of his family i meant something to him im in my 50s im not insercure person that he made me think he has told me im soulmate love of my life but i never felt like that to me he is needy and his ex is also i think he liked all her attention he still bother her about her cheating he was only married for four years also they would take vacation together share a hotel room and he would stay at her house she lives in another state to me its weird i know alot odf divorce men they are friendly but to me he is apushover for her
If a lady is divorce with children of her own, it may be ok to marry a divorced man and vise versa. If you are single and want a family of your own one day, marrying a divorced person may not be ideal. It is not selfish to want a family of your own or to want to feel important in a marriage. If the other person puts you below the ex and refuses to set any kind of boundaries, the marriage is doomed from the start. Be mindful of the red flags before walking down the aisle. It may save you a lot of heartache.