May 18, 2016

Dating Someone who has Children

When I started dating my now ex-husband, there was a lot of new ground for me to cover. He was the first man I had ever dated who had been divorced, and the only man I'd dated who had a child. A few years back, I had gone through a bad break up and had felt since then that I needed to be open to dating someone who had kids.

When I started dating a man with a child, I googled everything I could find about how to date someone with kids, and found this blog post to be the most helpful. I read this post multiple times and saw mention of the book Career Girls Guide To Becoming a Stepmom. I highly recommend it. I read the book and took copious notes. There were a few things that I found very helpful for me on my journey toward becoming a stepmother. 

1.  Choosing to date or marry someone who has a child is probably not what you pictured in your twelve year old fantasy about how your life would be. This will make you sad. Terribly sad. There will be tears. Lots and lots of tears. Get a good therapist and a best friend who will help you work through the grief of giving up the life you expected. 

2.  Meeting the ex-wife is not awesome. Hearing about her. Talking to her. All of it is not awesome. Your man will likely not understand how difficult this is for you. It will be difficult. Again, talk through things with an objective third party observer before you talk to your man about them. TRUST ME. This will save countless fights and nights of tears. There will be enough tears. Trust me. 

3. You're going to fall in love with the kids. If you don't, by all means do not get married. Children from broken homes need stability. They need empathetic adults who will help provide them with the tools they need to succeed in a very difficult situation. If you don't like the kid, get out. I mean it. But chances are that the child will have inherent goodness and will enrich your life in unexpected ways. Be open to that goodness. 

4. It's okay to expect respect. If the child is not being respectful to you, it's okay to say that you expect to be respected. Dad will support you in this if you've picked a good guy. If he doesn't support you in this, consider if that is something you are willing to choose for your life. If he supports you, it's likely that the child will respect you. You teach people how to treat you, and it's your job to set the boundaries of what you can and can't tolerate in your interpersonal relationships. 

5. Sometimes you're just not going to want to be around the kid. From what I hear, this happens with your own children as well, but I do believe that the dynamic is different in a step family. It is absolutely essential that you take care of your emotional needs first. If you don't, you'll start to resent the kiddo and that does not help anyone. 

6. At all times, remember this: it is not the child's fault. I repeat: it is not the child's fault. He was placed in a very difficult situation by choices he had no control over. He's going to be distressed sometimes when he has to leave his mom's house or his dad's house. His world is unstable. He needs you to support him. He needs you to choose to do what's best for him even when his parents are acting crazy. Even when your feelings are hurt. Even when you'd rather do anything in the world than the thing you have to do, it is not the child's fault. It's important that you take care of your basic needs so you can do what the child needs you to. Remember in this process that it is also not your fault. You choose what you choose, but it is not your job to remedy every wrong. Only the Savior can do that.  The thing that has helped me the most is remembering that I am an empathetic adult who is here to help the child become an empathetic adult. And that means letting go of the things I can't control, withdrawing from situations when I need to, and being open to love when it's available.

Let me end by saying that my relationship with this little guy, has easily taught me the most about life and about the kind of person I want to be. He's taught me about love and laughter and forgiveness. About resilience and humor. If you're going to date, or even marry someone with kids, you have so much to learn and so much love ahead of you. I wish you all the best.


  1. You are simply amazing Liz. That little boy is lucky to have you. And his father is even more lucky! 😊

  2. You are amazing and I love you!