Dave asks: My new girlfriend is a single mom with two children, ages 9 and 7, from a previous marriage. We’ve been seeing each other for a few weeks, and I care about her very much. However, since I’ve never had children, I could use some help. What do I need to know about dating a single mom?
It’s true that dating a single mom is different from dating women who don’t have children. Her time is limited, and much of her energy goes toward taking care of her children, but she’s also more clear about what she wants in life. The following tips for dating a single mom will help:
- Accept that her top priority will always be her children. In other relationships, you may have been able to gauge a woman’s feelings for you by how much time and energy she put into your relationship. When you’re dating a single mom, this isn’t necessarily the case. She may not have the time to see you as often as she’d like, and it’s not always as simple as hiring a sitter to go out. Instead of taking the limits on her time as a slight, learn to look for other expressions of her feelings for you.
- Let your girlfriend discipline her own children. When you’re dating a single mom, let her handle the kids’ discipline. The only exception to this rule is if she specifically asks for your support or help. If you have concerns about the kids’ behavior, talk with your girlfriend about it privately. Never attempt to handle the issue yourself without discussing it with her first.
- Stay clear of any drama with her ex. If there’s tension with her ex, let your girlfriend handle it. Of course you can support her and encourage her, but don’t contact her ex on her behalf or get involved in an ongoing court battle over their custody agreement.
- Pace yourself. It’s important to give your relationship time to develop. Don’t rush into moving in together or getting engaged. Instead, take it slow and focus on developing trust before you take your relationship to the next level.
- Offer her your emotional support. As a single mom, there is a tremendous amount pressure on your girlfriend to provide for her children financially and emotionally. Be the kind of boyfriend who can listen to the things she’s going through without trying to “solve” every problem for her. She’s strong, and she will work it out in time. Offering support and encouragement along the way will help you build a stronger bond together.
- Be trustworthy. As a single mother, your girlfriend may have experienced situations previously where she depended on someone who was not trustworthy. Set yourself apart by being someone she can trust. Be responsible to her without being responsible for her.
- Allow your relationship with her children to develop naturally. Don’t try to be too much too soon to either your girlfriend or her children. If you’re not sure about how involved you want to be with the kids, be up front and honest about that. Talking about it can ease both of your concerns. At the same time, it’s important for both your girlfriend and her children that you don’t begin to take on a role that you can’t maintain for the long haul.
- Listen to your intuition. You’re the only one who can know whether dating a single mom is right for you. Don’t get caught up listening to family members or friends who will try to discourage you or suggest that she’s just looking for a father figure. This is rarely the case. Pay attention, instead, to the woman you know and the relationship you’re building together.