Falling in love with a person who has a child can be scary and overwhelming—a whole lot of serious within a short time. But take it from me—it can open your eyes and your heart in ways you could have never imagined and will be unlike any other relationship you ever will have.
Imagine meeting someone who fits your every wish, someone who is overwhelmingly made for you and fits all the love story clichés, like making you forget every single other person in the world…except the one other person he can’t let you forget—his kid.
I am 23 years old, a recent college grad, and have been in a relationship with a man from my small hometown for only about five months. I never imagined myself dating someone who had a child from a previous relationship—not that I was against it but it just didn’t cross my mind as a part of my “plan”… especially because I myself am a child of divorce and have a stepfather.
My boyfriend has a three-year-old little girl from an ex-girlfriend of five years. I met him only about four months after his relationship ended and I jumped headfirst into a whole new scene I had never been a part of before. I have learned so much already, but I am well aware that I still have a lot to learn down the road. I had noticed that there seems to be an increase in relationships involving people who have children from previous relationships and I would have loved to have a little advice beforehand myself. The following are a few little hints if you really want to make a relationship work with a mommy or a daddy:
1. Realize that their child will always come first.
Always. Get the idea that they won’t out of your head. All potential exciting plans can and will be canceled in a 10-minute span if baby is sick or the other parent can’t take them. This is different from people who start out dating with no one else’s schedule to manage but their own. You will need to be able to be flexible and agreeable to this because otherwise it will create a rift. Dinner, drinks, movies, trips, etc. will always be there—the baby will not always be little. Be understanding and patient. If you are dating someone who doesn’t put their child first, then you should not be dating them in the first place—plain and simple. It is their job as a parent to do so; it’s not an insult nor neglectful toward you.
2. Realize that the ex will forever be in their life.
There will be pictures you will see, there will be shared friends between them, there will be a lingering reminder every day that you look at the baby the two of them made together-that person will never be a thing of the past.
Your significant other will still think about how the “family” between them didn’t work, and maybe harbor bitterness for a while. While other relationships exist where the ex will never been seen or spoken of again, 90% of the time in a co-parenting situation, you will be interacting with them often. Get used to it and keep your jealousy intact. It didn’t work out for a reason and the age old “regular girlfriend/boyfriend” jealous-type behavior like “Why are they texting you?” “How come you needed to go to their house?” “Why did she tag you in that picture?!” need to go out the window—it is for their child. You should be them a lot of credit for being amicable to each other (if they are) and patient and supportive that they will get there (if they aren’t). Accept it and be confident in YOUR relationship.
3. So maintain a great relationship with the ex.
This seems to be something I have observed with other relationships similar to mine. Your attitude will determine everything. It is 100% the difference in having this situation be dramatic and hostile, or having it be a friendship. This person will be very wary and cautious of you, you will have a major role in their child’s life and they want to make sure it is only positive and healthy.
Show that person that you are serious, that you are invested, responsible, and respectful toward the biological parents’ relationship and role 100%. Depending on how involved the other parent is, there is no reason for you to be the “mother” or the “father”—they already have one.
Watch what you say to other people, do not judge or critique their parenting skills, be as polite and kindhearted as possible. It makes it easier on the child, easier on the ex, and will generally create a peaceful life you want to be living. Consider yourself all a part of one big team working to make that little baby have the best life possible—you all pull your weight and check your resentment at the door.
4. Make a good impression on your significant other’s family.
You aren’t looked at as a fling—you are immediately looked at as a potential spouse and parent. They were probably close to their grandchild/niece/nephew’s parent and they will always be in the family’s life as well. That child is shared between family and while you might feel like you are being compared, don’t take it like that. They want their son/daughter/sister/brother HAPPY first and foremost and if you are the person who can make that happen, they will accept you into their family.
5. You will know how he would act to YOUR children should you choose to have kids with him.
My favorite moment is having my boyfriend’s little girl crawl into bed with us at 5AM and snuggle with us; it makes me dream of the days when it will be us 3 and then another one or 2 that are mine and his together. My heart warms up when I see him tickle and play with her, when I see this big burly tough guy braiding hair or building her a Barbie 4 wheeler. It is an intimate and personal side of them that you don’t get to see normally until you are a biological part of that picture as well. It’s like watching a window into the future and knowing that he will treat your babies like gold, just like how he treats her. That kind of reassurance takes the guesswork out of wondering “Will he be a good dad?” He already is.
6. He’s looking for something serious.
Most relationships that I had been in before, it was madness to talk about buying houses, getting married, planning for a financial future together, such serious things so soon. But this man of mine had already figured out how he wanted his life to go. He lost the self-centered way of thinking that my prior loves had possessed; he was living for his little girl and now living for me. Having his daughter changed him; it made him stable, it made him more responsible, and it made him aware of the future a lot more than he did before having her.
7. You fall in love with not one person, but two.
The very first time I met his daughter, I was brimming with anxiety. It was only our second date and I was worried that I would meet her and fall in love and then come to find out-him and I wouldn’t work. I wanted it to be the opposite, I wanted to know him and I were going to work out BEFORE meeting her. That was not his way of thinking however, he wanted to see how she was with me and have her grinning vote of approval before investing any more. And let me tell you, one look at that smile and I was gone. I fell head over heels for a little blonde-haired angel. And maybe it’s just me, as a teacher I am pre-programmed to love children but oh my, this one. She was the exact replica of the man who was stealing my heart and I was no longer immune to them both. That kind of package deal is horribly intimidating because what if you wind up liking one and not the other?! What if the child hates your guts? Most parents will say that they couldn’t date someone who their child didn’t approve of, but the age-old “wicked stepmother” or “evil stepfather” haunted my stereotypical nightmares.
That fear gets washed away every time she runs over to me or squeezes my hand when she is sleeping. I am in love with her almost as much as I’m in love with her daddy. That is a whole lot of love to get tossed your way in a short amount of time and sometimes you want to explode. But it is the closest feeling I have ever felt to magic and I will never forget it. The fear of potentially not being with him and losing her in the process is always in the back of my mind, but the idea that maybe I could have them both in my life forever completely trumps it.