The world of dating is a complex one, and no two situations are exactly alike. The same could be said for situations involving children. Single parents often have little to no guidance on how or when to get their children involved in their dating life. While this article cannot cover all the complexities of this topic, I hope to shed light on some of the most common scenarios.
Prior to writing this article, I reached out to a number of single parents, and those who have been involved in a relationship with a single parent. I wanted to share the different perspectives of each, in hopes of expanding our understanding of this unique paradigm in dating.
In most cases, I was advised by single parents, that they preferred waiting to introduce children until the relationship became serious. The general consensus is that it’s wise to wait until both people involved reach a level of mutual commitment and the relationship is defined in more serious terms.
Slightly fewer parents introduced children as soon as the first meetup, but in the majority of those instances, those parents admitted that they would probably not do that again going forward. They would prefer to wait until a more serious relationship takes shape. In more rare cases, children were withheld from meeting their parent’s dating partner until talk of marriage (if not until marriage in extreme cases).
Based off the perspectives given, and my own experience, I agree that it’s wise to wait until a relationship has taken on a serious nature. This helps to protect the child, who may start to feel attached to their parent’s partner, in the event that a breakup occurs.
I do believe there is – at best – a healthy point of transition from single parenting, with a child as the priority, into marriage, with the partner becoming the priority. The difficulty on the single parent side is that, in most cases, the single parent has had custody of the child since birth. The child has been a constant in the parent’s life, and the parent has been the sole investor into the child. By the time a potential partner comes into the picture, it can be very difficult to make the mental changes to see the partner as an equal. When it comes to decision making, opinions on co-parenting, discipline, etc., the single parent feels intruded upon. This person was not around from the beginning, so allowing new input, or changes to the way things have always been can be very difficult. A child may also be very resistant to someone else’s presence in the relationship and push back on the idea of the new partner becoming a parent figure in his or her life.
In order for respect and a healthy, consistent environment to exist, priorities should shift once marriage has occurred. While it may be very difficult for a single parent to allow their partner to step into a priority above (or equal to) their child, the overall respect and health of the relationship will depend on it. Ideally, both individuals should be seen as equal authority figures, though it may take some time to get there.
From The Perspective Of The Partner
Patience and understanding are really the common themes among those who have been involved in single parent relationships. Single parents usually have less free time, stricter schedules and fewer opportunities to meet or go out. Their children are their priority.
Being patient during the initial phases of getting to know a single parent, can be a much slower process. There may be more apprehension and skepticism until they feel certain that they are getting involved with a safe person. There are unique hurdles and challenges that can present themselves at the onset of the relationship. And in some cases, an individual can feel entirely unimportant because a single parent spends so much time with their children.
There are no secrets or shortcuts to making this work. To date a single parent, you will have to understand that their child will come first for a time. It will require incredible amounts of patience and a desire to show you are truly invested by sticking around despite the hurdles. But don’t feel obligated either. Even single parents need to show interest and make time for relationship if they are truly interested in having one.
Whether you are a single parent or a person open to dating one, the willingness to consider another person’s heart, feelings and interests are paramount. As long as two people are willing to invest, sacrifice where necessary, be patient and look to the interest of the other, anything is possible – no matter how difficult.
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