5 Signs You're Not Ready to Date a Single Parent

Know When to Back Off and Walk Away

Man dating a single parent
Consider whether dating a single parent is right for you. Photo © Hero Images/Getty Images

Dating a single parent with kids in tow isn't right for everyone. No matter how much chemistry you share, or how much you value your relationship, there will be times when the kids will interrupt your flow. You'll plan a special outing and—boom—someone gets sick. Or you've had a long day and just want to unwind, only to find the kids ramped up and rowdy. Dating into a larger family has its perks, but it's also a challenge—especially for fist timers.

So how can you know up front whether dating a single parent is right for you? Here are several reasons why it might not be a good fit:

5 Signs You're Not Ready to Date a Single Parent

  1. You're jealous of her kids. Okay, let's face it. No one really likes sharing their mate. Jealousy is in our nature as human beings. But when you're dating a single parent, being jealous of her kids will get you nowhere. (Well, that's not quite true; it will send you out the front door—quickly!) While there aren't many dating issues that are black-and-white, this is one of them. If you're jealous of her kids, you're setting your relationship up for failure. There's no gray area here. Being jealous puts her in the middle, which leads to more tension than most relationships can handle. So what are you supposed to do? When you experience jealousy, stop and acknowledge the emotion you're feeling. If, after giving it some thought, you think the issue is worth bringing up with your mate, find some time when the two of you can talk quietly (maybe after the kids are in bed). Let her know how you're feeling and talk about what you both value in your relationship and why it's important to you. Then, explore how you might be able to share little 'reminders' of how much you each value your relationship in the hectic mix of your everyday lives. 
  1. You're looking for spontaneity. If you've never dated a single parent before, you may be used to some degree of spontaneity in your romantic relationships—especially in the beginning. There's just something about being able to drop everything and go off by yourselves that helps to cement your bond. Or maybe you love to travel and can't wait to surprise her with tickets to London or Rome. While that's a beautiful gesture, it may not be possible for a single mom who's parenting entirely on her own, with no co-parent, no family nearby, and no backup child care plan. If that would be a dating deal breaker for you, then you probably won't do well dating a single parent.
  1. You resent biting your tongue and letting her parent. Especially in the beginning, you should anticipate biting your tongue a lot. Your mate has been parenting on her own for years already, and she's probably not interested in having you step in and critique her parenting style or discipline tactics. The best thing you can do? Wait for her to ask for it before sharing your opinion. (Unless, of course, you're telling her that she's doing a great job with her kids!) Remember, too, that even newly married couples who live with their step-children often hold off on disciplining one another's kids until they've had sufficient time to 'earn the right' to be a co-disciplinarian.
  2. You want to control the timing. Speaking of timing … When you're dating a single parent, you have to respect his or her timing when it comes to introducing the kids and taking your relationship to the next level. One issue, in particular, that many new couples argue about is showing affection in front of the kiddos. It can be downright hard to hold off on taking her hand, draping an arm over her shoulder, or kissing her when and how you want—whether the kids might walk in or not. But until she is comfortable, you have to respect her timing. To push her is to make her feel like she's caught in the middle of doing what's right for your relationship and what's right for her kids. And that's a position you may not want to be in for long.
  1. You don't like kids. This should be a no-brainer, but you'd be surprised how many people (men and women, alike) think they'll get over it in time … only to rediscover later that they never wanted to live with or help raise someone else's children. If you feel this way, own up to it from the start and avoid investing your time and your heart in a relationship that will fail. A similar issue is wanting children of your own when your mate has expressed that she (or he) doesn't want more children. While either of you could change your mind down the road, there's no guarantee that you will. And that puts a lot of pressure on both of you.

Only you can truly know if you're up for dating a single parent. While there are a million bonuses that come with dating into a family, there are some challenges that can be hard to overcome—especially if this is your first time at the rodeo.

So above all else, be respectful of your mate. If it's time to say good-bye, do so lovingly and without dragging it on or assuming things will change.