Dating and the Single Dad

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I recently received a friend request on Facebook from someone that I knew back in elementary school. Hearing from someone that I had not seen in over two decades made me wonder who else was out there that I had lost contact with. I began putting in random names from high school, college, previous jobs, and finally some family members. I eventually found a cousin that I hadn’t spoken to since we lived in the Northeast, over 15 years ago. We began to catch up and I asked about the two darling little girls that were in all of his photos on his profile. It seems that he is currently a single dad who is raising an 18 month old and a 5 year old without the help of their mother who walked away from the family when their youngest child was born. I have to admit that I was in total shock at hearing his story because it usually isn’t the mother who walks away from the responsibility of raising a child. (I guess I had seen one too many episodes of “Maury” where women were hauling men onto national television to find out the results of the DNA tests to convince these men to take responsibility for the children they had created.) After exchanging pleasantries, we started discussing our personal lives and he was very excited to hear about my pending nuptials. I asked him if there was a special lady (aside from the two little ones on his profile) in his life and that was when he began telling me the woes of dating as a single dad. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I would hear such tales of heartbreak, sadness, and disappointment. In the movies men usually use babies and puppies as “chick magnets.” Why didn’t that work in real life? (Note to self—you watch WAY too much television!) Apparently, dating for single dads is no easy feat and may leave many wondering if they’ll ever find that special someone again. I asked my cousin if he had any words of advice for other single dads out there and he says he has come up with five easy rules to follow:

1. Avoid the “baby momma drama.” Whatever you do, DON’T TALK ABOUT THE OTHER WOMEN IN YOUR LIFE! At least not in the beginning of a relationship. Your dates and prospective girlfriends have a right to know if you are widowed or divorced; however, they will feel intimidated if you talk about them incessantly. Definitely avoid talking about how well you and your ex get along as this may cause your new girlfriend to think there is a possibility you are getting back together with them. You also don’t want to badmouth her either as this sets the stage for ill feelings towards someone your ex has never met.

2. Me, myself, and I. Take some “me time.” The better you feel, the better you’ll be able to take care of your child(ren). Get plenty of exercise, engage in hobbies, and spend time with your friends and family. These are great ways to stay physically, emotionally, and psychologically fit!

3. The truth shall set you free! First, tell the woman you are seeing that you have children. It doesn’t make sense to try and date someone who is adamant about not liking/wanting children. Second, be honest with whomever you are dating about your financial situation. Women were so used to dating men who paid for everything that it was difficult for them to understand that sole responsibility for two children was definitely taking its toll on my cousin’s finances. R.J. says that this was the hardest thing for him do since he had always prided himself on being able to “wine and dine” the ladies….

4. Variety is the spice of life. The last thing you want to do is enter a long-term relationship with the first woman you go out with. You may feel loved and needed-perhaps for the first time in a long time but chances are you may not be ready for a long term commitment immediately after becoming widowed or divorced. Try dating a few people first.

5. Hi, my name is….When you introduce your children to your girlfriend for the first time, don’t set your expectations too high. No matter how much you want it to happen, your new girlfriend and your kids probably aren’t going to be instant best friends. Relationships take time to develop. (So what if R.J’s oldest daughter Leah wouldn’t let his current girlfriend touch her, or talk to her or even look at her when they first met? They have taken the time to get to know each other and Leah now runs to give her a hug goodnight!)

Eugenia Parrett, Graduate Research Assistant

Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative

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