Are you dating a single parent? Here are 9 things you definitely need to understand before you think of making a long-term commitment to this person.
Love doesn’t always work out the first, second or even the third time around.
And when a relationship ends, sometimes kids get left behind.
Now many single parents choose to pore over their child’s welfare 24/7 and are therefore out of the dating market.
But there are still some single parents who crave companionship and romance.
9 ways to start a great relationship with a single parent
If you find yourself in a mutual attraction with a single parent, it’s way different from dating someone who doesn’t have kids.
There’s a whole paradigm shift there that you have to be aware of.
So to help you out, here’s the basic guide of things you should be able to do to have a successful relationship with a single parent.
#1 You won’t be priority #1. This goes without saying since you’re dating someone who has an offspring.
But the child won’t be the only one that would come before you. There are bills to pay, an education fund to save up for and other basic responsibilities that go with having a child. And in order to get these things, the single parent must hold on to his or her career too.
There will also be parent-teacher meetings to attend, recitals to watch and play dates to set with other parents. But this doesn’t mean you have to just blend into the background of his or her busy life.
There are two things you need to do to deal with this. One, you should be supportive enough to give him or her time to take care of their youngster’s wellbeing *plus time to rest afterwards*. Two, you should resist the urge to bring up a fight when they cancels a date because their youngster has a cold or a strange rash or needs help with homework. [Read: The 80/20 rule in relationships and your love life]
#2 He/she will have different preferences. Bachelors and bachelorettes can be swept off their feet with a Caribbean cruise, a date to a fancy restaurant or an expensive gift.
But with single parents, they tend to be a little more practical. Instead of a grand gesture, they’re more likely to be impressed by tiny but consistent things like an offer to take out the trash, a foot massage or even a goodie bag of comfort food when they’re feeling low.
But this doesn’t mean single parents no longer want to be swept off their feet. Some of them may have just gone through a relationship filled with grand gestures that went belly-up despite the romance. Our advice is to stick to the little things you can do, but it’s also a good idea to do something romantic from time to time. [Read: 25 really romantic ideas to make your lover melt]
#3 Some single parents may not be looking to settle… Yet. Think of it this way: a single parent has gone through the emotional trauma of losing a significant other through divorce, a mutual separation or even death. And if that’s not enough, there’s a child that was also left behind by the end of the relationship. It may be hard for single parents to open up to a new relationship again for fear that things might end the same way.
There may be a long phase of “testing the waters” before you can be considered the significant other, and even then, it’s still a long way to the altar.
#4 The defenses will be up. Nothing brings out a person’s protective instincts more than the presence of an offspring. If you come barging into a single parent’s life, you better watch yourself because they won’t take crap from anyone.
What’s more, they’d be highly concerned about who they welcome into their life because these people may also affect the welfare of their kid.
Once a single parent sees signs that you may not be good with their kid or you’re not really stepmom or stepdad material, the relationship may not progress to anything more meaningful than a physical relationship.
This is not to say that when you possess one bad trait, you’re out the door. Just be aware that when you’re dating the parent, you’re also somewhat wooing the kid if you want your relationship to be more serious.
#5 Watch out for the ex. In many rom-coms, the ex of a single parent is usually either virtually nonexistent or completely nuts. In real life, their personalities won’t be so clear-cut. Some of them may actually be genuinely happy that their ex has found someone who makes him or her happy.
On the other hand, watch out for the more insidiously possessive exes who think you’re a threat to their child’s wellbeing. Maybe someday they’ll warm up to your presence in their kid’s life. But just prepare yourself for unpleasant behavior like if the ex badmouths you to the kid to discourage you.
Sometimes it takes years before the child can even form an opinion of you that’s free from the ex’s influence. But be patient with this. Let your own personality and genuine kindness shine through, and this may be enough to shake off the ex’s sway on the kid.
#6 Woo the relatives and close friends. The single parent’s loved ones will definitely be on the lookout for people who might feed on their vulnerability. Friends and family may have witnessed the deterioration of their previous relationship with the kid’s other parent, so they may try to prevent the single parent from a relationship that might end in heartbreak all over again.
Like with the single parent’s ex, there’s really no easy way out of this. Again, just be genuinely caring and thoughtful, and hope that this would be enough to convince them that you’re a good enough person. [Read: How to get over trust issues in your relationship]
#7 Show genuine interest in the kid. It’s highly likely that single parents, particularly those who have been single for a while, have molded most of their world around their children. The kids would obviously be a huge part of their life, and would serve as a motivation for them to work hard in order to provide for them.
It’s always a good idea to show some interest in the kid. But don’t have entire conversations revolving around the little surprise revolving around the “little surprise” in Georgie’s diaper. If the child is just a baby, there’s really not much you can ask. But if they’ve already developed a more complex personality, you can ask about their favorite TV shows or their favorite sport. Just don’t go overboard on asking, though, as there is a difference between curious and creepy.
#8 Don’t be too eager to meet the kid. It’s like an unspoken rule among single parents that their children should not be exposed to the full lineup of men and women they’re dating.
Just imagine how hard it would be for a child to really get along with someone, and then with a blink of an eye, he or she is gone and replaced by someone new. That’s definitely going to spawn emotional issues later on.
You probably won’t meet the kid until the parent is sure that you’ll be sticking around for a while. Not only does this serve to shield the youngster from a revolving door of short-term hookups, but it also gives the parent ample time to prepare the kid for the fact that mommy or daddy may be at the start of a budding relationship. [Read: When does age difference start to matter in a relationship?]
#9 Keep trying even if his or her kids don’t like you. As mentioned earlier, you’re also vying for the approval of the children. This isn’t as easy as bringing them a few snacks or toys every once in a while. You have to talk to them and establish rapport. This is a serious emotional investment for you, the single parent and the child.
Try to brush up on what kids are into these days, whether it’s still Barney and Barbie or snazzy gadgets. But even if you’re fully equipped with a kiddie entertainment system, there’s still a chance that they may not like you.
And that’s fine, in fact, it’s pretty normal at first. But once they get to know you and they see that their parent loves you and wants you to get along, this can be the first step to starting good rapport with the kid.
Of course, all single parents are different. Not all of them may have the same goals and preferences in life. But the key things you should keep in mind is that even though their children are their main priority, they also want to establish a relationship with someone they can relate to and rely on to stick around.
Remember, it’s not easy to date a single parent if you expect the relationship to be revolving around just the two of you. But if you understand these 9 things, and you’re still willing to take the leap of faith, go right ahead.
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