A Jewish Matchmaker’s Guide to Dating a Single Parent
The longer you wait to marry, the greater the odds that you will be dating someone who is already married, divorced, and with children. Though some clients won’t consider dating a single parent with children, most of them realize that at a certain age, it’s almost inevitable, and with maturity, wisdom, love, and humor, it can turn out to have some very rewarding benefits.
First of all, be aware that especially at the beginning of the relationship, children are going to take precedence over you, and that’s perfectly normal. One of the most important things a divorced parent can do is to create a stable environment in an unstable situation. Divorce shakes up a child’s sense of stability, but if it is handled properly, the child regains their stability and securely builds upon the new reality. They will feel more secure with you dating if you handle it in a way where you are putting the child first.
When the parent is dating, the child must see that his/her needs still take precedence, and this should continue until you are a permanent fixture in the equation. You need to be understanding and flexible in this situation, and realize that this is your chance to shine. If plans change at the last minute because of a child-based emergency, don’t show irritation. Instead, offer to be of assistance, and assure your date that the evening can be made up another time. Remember that your date was also looking forward to time out with you, but this is their child, and that last thing you want to do is make them feel guilty for putting their child first.
Some of you will deal with a situation in which the child deliberately manipulates the parent and possibly works to sabotage your relationship. They may see you as trying to take the place of the other parent, and this raises their defenses. If you can assure the child that you are not trying to adopt the role of their parent, great. If however, the situation is volatile, try to stay out of the conflict as much as possible, and simply show support and understanding toward your dating partner. You can gently suggest counseling, or buy books that discuss the same situation, but do your best not to get embroiled in the mess. In these cases, it’s probably not you that is the issue. The child probably has unresolved anger that needs to be released.
As the relationship grows, your role in the household will also grow, and you will begin to feel more comfortable vocalizing dissention. Hopefully, you’ve shown maturity and thoughtfulness when dealing with the child up to this point, and your opinion can be valued. In addition, if you’ve made an effort to really get to know the child, and have spent quality time with him/her, then you have, hopefully, become an important role model in the child’s life. This is truly a gift, and one that you should revere. To have a role of influence in the development of another human being is one of life’s greatest gifts. Optimally, you will have the opportunity to play this role in the lives of your own children, but showing genuine concern and understanding toward a partner and their children, shows a truly loving and selfless character.