Dating A Man With Kids? 17 Things You Need To Know Before Committing
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Are you considering dating a man with kids? A 2015 study found that 12% of women would not date a guy who has kids, which means the overwhelming majority would be open to it.
Most of us grow up with a rigid belief of what the perfect relationship should look like: the whirlwind romance, a fairytale wedding, followed by an angelic set of kids (ideally a boy and a girl). But more often than not, life doesn’t mirror our lofty expectations. Life is messy, it’s unpredictable, and it’s unique for all of us.
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When you were younger, you might have learned that dating someone with kids is no-go territory. But as you get older, the chances of meeting a man you’re attracted to who already has kids increases, and you may begin to question your original beliefs.
“So he has kids… what’s the big deal?”
“This is a great sign because at least I know he likes kids!”
“He already has kids, which is fabulous because I don’t want to have any of my own.”
“I’ve already got kids, and there’s plenty of room in my heart to love a couple more.”
But other people will have things to say about it too. Your family and friends might tell you you’re crazy for taking on this kind of responsibility, while other stepmoms and dads rush to give you their advice.
If you’ve never dated a man with kids before, this will be a wildly different experience that requires a lot of adjustment. And even though they’re not your kids, they will affect every part of your relationship with this man.
Will it be a learning curve?
Will it be complicated?
But will it be worth it?
Only you can make that decision.
Pros of dating a man with kids
- He is used to having kids (which is perfect if you want kids in the future or already have your own).
- He is committed to his kids, which means he’s not a stranger to commitment.
- He won’t be interested in wasting time—if he can’t see a future with you, he’ll be open about it and move on.
- If he loves his kids fiercely, then he’s likely to love you just as deeply.
- He’ll probably want to take things slow and not rush into anything.
Cons of dating a man with kids
- His kids will always come first.
- You’ll have to work around his and the kids’ schedules.
- You’ll likely have to deal with the kids’ mom (his ex) your entire relationship.
- Everything will be loud, messy, and chaotic (welcome to having kids)!
- You’ll have to learn how to parent while also recognizing you’re not their mom.
I’ve created this article so you can walk into this situation (or run away from it) with your eyes WIDE open. There are many pros and cons, but you know who you are better than anyone else does, so only you will know whether dating a man with kids is right for you.
Here are 17 things to expect when dating a man with kids
1. The kids have a mom who is NOT you
Chances are this guy has an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend who is the mother of his kids. And whether you like this woman or not, she will be in your life as long as this man is.
The way she parents will affect you and the way you co-parent. And you will never be a replacement for the kid’s real mom.
This is what people mean when they talk about the “baggage” of dating a man with kids. You’re not just getting him; you’re getting his kids, his ex, and everything that comes along with that unit.
2. A lot will be out of your control
There will be a custody schedule that you have to fit into, along with school runs, homework, extra-curricular activities, loud temper tantrums, and more. Your evenings, weekends, and vacation times will all be dictated by the kids’ existing schedules.
No more dropping everything and booking a spontaneous, romantic weekend getaway. No more two-week vacations outside of school holidays. No more doing what you want, whenever you want to.
This is what dating a man who is busy with kids will look like. This won’t be a negative thing for some women, especially if you have kids. But it’s important to know what you’ll be sacrificing.
“If you are someone who wants to travel and never live in the same place, but the person you’re thinking of dating wants to be close-by for his kids, that’s something to consider,” says Jessica O’Reilly, Ph.D.—sex and relationship expert.
3. Your friends and family may disapprove
Be prepared for EVERYONE to have a strong opinion on why you shouldn’t be dating a man with kids.
No matter what anyone says, there is still a stigma around dating a man who already has kids—particularly if you don’t have kids of your own. Relationships are hard enough but throw in objections and comments from others, and things rapidly become more complex.
If you’re already debating whether you should date a man with kids, disapproval from others may sway your decision. But if you can see a future with this man and have room in your heart to accommodate his kids, then don’t let anyone else stand in the way of that. Trust your intuition.
4. You’ll need to be patient
There will be times when he has to cancel plans with you or can’t answer a phone call or text you back promptly. There will be moments when he isn’t able to be there for you when you need him because his kids need him at that moment too. And this can lead to a lot of disappointment or even resentment.
Dating a man with kids requires patience and a TON of it.
If you’re a single parent too, it’s essential to think about whether you’ll have time for each other along with being there for both sets of kids.
5. He may be rusty at romance
Depending on how recent his breakup was, you might be the first woman this man has dated in a long time. And that means he might be a little out of the romance game.
For example, he may struggle to express his feelings, say “I love you,” or be affectionate. He may have forgotten what you need and want as a woman. His house might be a total bachelor’s pad!
If you ever feel a little unappreciated, sit down and talk to him about it. If he’s the right guy for you, he’ll want to do better for you.
6. His kids will ALWAYS come first
You may have heard this before, but I want you to really digest this.
The most significant difficulty dating a man with kids is that his kids will always be his number one priority. And they should be. This is the sign of a great dad, and why would you want to date a guy who’s a bad dad?
This doesn’t mean that you won’t mean a lot to him or that he won’t care about you, but his kids come first. If you’re a parent, you’ll already understand this. You will be a priority to this man, but you won’t be his top priority.
I’m not saying you should let him treat you poorly or let this be an excuse for him not pulling his weight in your relationship, but there will be times he won’t be able to do what you want him to do. And you need to be okay with that.
7. Don’t meet the kids unless things are serious
If you decide to date a man with kids, remember that meeting his kids is a BIG deal and not something you should rush into. Unless you see a future with this guy and are happy where things are headed, hold off on being introduced. The kids have already witnessed the breakdown of their parents’ relationship—you don’t want to put them through that for a second time. It’s easy for kids to become attached to people, so only walk into their lives if you’re planning on sticking around for the long haul.
Some people swear by waiting until the six-month mark, while others stay away until they’re engaged (WHAT?!). Truth be told, there’s no perfect time—just make sure you feel comfortable. We recommend waiting until you’re at least in Little Love Step #7 before meeting his children.
8. Let the kids trust you in their own time
While we’re on this subject, his kids need to be ready to meet you too. Have your partner talk to them about meeting you beforehand, so they’re not shocked. Take their feelings into consideration.
How well are they coping with their parent’s divorce? How long ago was the separation? Are they ready to have someone new in their life? Dating a recently divorced man with kids will be tough.
This isn’t just a big deal for you; it’s a massive deal for them too.
Regardless of where their heads are at, let them open up to you in their own time. Don’t force or rush anything. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself or go into meeting them for the first time with sky-high expectations. The first time you meet them could be wonderful, but it could also be a disaster. Be prepared for both.
9. Don’t try to be their mother
If you’re dating a man with kids, you have to remember that these kids already have a mother, which means they’re not looking for another one. So don’t try to be another mom to them. Avoid slipping into the role of a strict disciplinarian and equally avoid the other extreme where you let them walk all over you. Find a comfortable spot somewhere in the middle and stay authentic to who you are.
10. But you have to build a relationship with his children eventually
If your relationship with this man progresses the way you want it to, then you’ll need to be prepared to build a relationship with his kids eventually. They will automatically become a part of your life. So don’t shy away from this. Make an effort to communicate with them and gradually forge a connection.
11. He needs to set some boundaries
If you’re dating a man with kids, it’s important that he sets boundaries with his kids. It’s normal for them to act out and try and get away with everything using the excuse that “you’re not our mom.” As they get older, girls, in particular, may feel threatened by having another woman around.
But if his kids are ever disrespectful to you, it’s important he calls them out and makes it clear this is not okay. He needs to set the right tone from the start, so you both know what is and is not acceptable. There should be a mutual level of respect.
12. Let him handle all parenting matters with his ex
Whatever you do, DON’T get involved between this man and his ex, whether it’s to do with a custody battle, parenting styles, schedules, or anything else. Let him take care of his own business and save yourself the headaches! They are both grown adults and are more than capable of sorting things out between themselves.
13. Have an honest conversation about money
When you’re dating a man with kids (or any man really), it’s essential to have a conversation about money. I’m famous for saying you should NEVER date a guy who doesn’t have money, and this is no exception. But if he has kids, you might need to have this conversation sooner than usual, so you can get a clear idea of where his finances are.
Is he paying child support, and how much? Does he have any outstanding debts to lawyers etc.? Even if he has a great job, he might still be in a financial pickle. And you need to think about how this will affect you and the life you want to live with him.
14. Talk about marriage and kids sooner rather than later
Do you want those things?
Does he want to do those things again?
Are you on the same page when it comes to these big lifestyle choices and values?
Because if you’re not, it’s better to call it quits now rather than build a relationship with his kids only to walk away in the not-so-distant future.
15. It will be harder than you imagine
When you’re on the outside looking in, it’s easy to plan and strategize and figure out how you’ll address all the potential issues that could arise.
But guess what?
Real life isn’t as black and white as that.
When you’re actually in the moment and living through something, your emotions will also come into play, along with other people’s emotions. This complicates things pretty quickly!
Every woman I’ve spoken to who has dated a man with kids is transparent that it has been harder than they expected it would be.
16. There will be times you feel like you have no clue what you’re doing
If you’ve never dated a man with kids before, then it’s normal to feel like you don’t know what you’re sometimes doing! When have you ever been great at something the first time you did it, right?
That rarely happens.
So get comfortable being a little uncomfortable in this new situation. Give yourself permission to get things wrong, to fail, and to find your rhythm in your own sweet time. Trust that this transition period will eventually pass, and things will get better.
17. Lean in fully to the challenge
Dating a man with kids could easily be up there with the most challenging things you’ll ever do in your life. But women who have embraced the challenge will also tell you it’s one of the most rewarding experiences out there. Maybe dating or marrying a guy with two kids wasn’t in your five-year life plan, but how often does life pan out the way you expect it to?
If you’re prepared to fully embrace this man and these kids and integrate them into your life, then this could be one of the best decisions you ever make.
Conclusion: dating a man with kids is different for every woman
Be wary of taking advice from any woman you know who has dated a man with kids or become a stepmom. You might hear stories of it being a summer’s-day stroll in the park and how the kids accepted her as if she were their real mom. The danger of this is that you then expect things to pan out similarly for you. And if they don’t, you could end up with a heavy dose of reality.
Dating a man with kids requires you to go into it with ZERO expectations. This is the only way you’ll avoid disappointment.
If you’ve dated a man with kids or are thinking of dating a man with kids, I’d love to hear from you. What was your #1 lesson learned? What turned out differently than you expected?
Or what are you most apprehensive about? What are you most looking forward to?
Tell me all in the comments below.
How about guys who use their kids as an excuse why they can’t be serious with you? I’ve run into this situation more than once. It’s a great way for emotionally unavailable men to string a woman along . . .
Hmmm. I married a man with three older kids. I have 2 younger girls. I thought it would work out fine as he was my first love before my father moved us interstate. I was alway 20yrs and started running into him again when I returned to my home state. From the start his kids were allowed to do or say anything to me. Particularly his daughter. They were downright disrespectful and rude and the husband did nothing. Fast forward 10yrs and his adult daughter introduced weed to my girls. My youngest was 12 at the time. They all withheld… Read more »
Great timing! I’m 53 with my kids 21 and 24. He’s 54 with a 7 year old. You’re right, I can’t have any expectations for this! ( but he’s such a nice guy)
I’m 54 and my kids are 36, 32 & 30 His kids are 20, 13 & 10. I have zero expatations other than to love and respect each other <3
I just ended / we ended a 3 month relationship with a man with children 14 & 17. I knew that the shared custody would keep his schedule from one week with the kids and one without. He is 55, I am 58. My children are grown; i have a 7 month old grandson. I thought I could deal with the every other week because I am also busy and have a lot of girl/male friends for going out every other week/weekend. What I was not prepared for was the cancelled dates 🙁 I though that as teenagers, the boys… Read more »
I don’t have kids but I’ve always been taught that the way it goes is God first, then spouses and then kids. It will always be that way to me. I guess I wasn’t clear on that bc his 2 kids, 9&11, were put before me. Once, his oldest pushed me (out of the blue) so hard that I fell back on my butt and he never said a thing about it to her. Before marriage I told him I wanted to have 1 baby with him. He said he would undue his vasectomy. I told him it was important… Read more »
How about a widower with adult kid’s?
After I divorced my first husband, I waited 6+ years to date. I married a man with two older teenagers. I divorced him after 4 years and later married another man with one teenage daughter. I loved them like they were my own (I have three, who were teenagers/ in college at the time) But teenagers have it figured out enough to know what buttons to push. The daughter of the latter marriage wanted her momma back, and did and said things to try to pit him against me, to start some kind of drama when there really was nothing.… Read more »
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It really depends on how the man deal with the kind of relationship with his ex n kids. I was being told to leave the house when his ex is phone calling them. He asked his son to call me mom. However every time when the kid is back from his mom, he calls my name back. As three of us( the guy, his son n me) live together, I found it really distressed that three of us have to sleep together. when we have sex we are in the living room and once his son was awake and we… Read more »