Dating a Single Dad: Your Guide

Dating 101
10 Jan 2024
15 min read
Dating a Single Dad: Pros, Cons, and 11 Tips How to Handle

You’ve met someone amazing! It’s like you’ve won the dating game. You’re loving the process of getting to know your new romantic partner. But suddenly, you find out you’re dating a single dad. Now what?

That depends. For some women, this is an absolute, non-negotiable dealbreaker. That’s fine. In fact, that’s great. You know what you don’t want and have the sense of ethics to be absolutely honest about it. For you, the adventure of dating a single dad ends before it even begins. You are free to jump back into the dating pool.

If the idea of dating a single dad doesn’t turn you off immediately, great! You can have a meaningful relationship with someone who is a single parent, but this isn’t something to rush into without a lot of thought. This guide will help you navigate some of the complex things about pursuing a relationship in the dating world with a single dad.

What to Expect When Dating a Single Dad

When it comes to dating a single dad, it’s difficult to say what you should expect. So much of that depends on your thoughts and how you see your role in the life of a single parent. Then, there’s how the single dad sees things unfolding with you. His relationship with his kids will also influence your relationship with a single parent.

The one thing that you can expect is that the single dad in your life is going to have some serious obligations that are outside of your relationship. You will have to accept that. It may be difficult sharing a guy with a kid, but do you really want to waste time on someone who can’t be bothered to be a good father?

Related reading: Male Maturity – When Does It Kick In?

Pros and cons of dating a single dad

7 Pros and 4 Cons of Dating Single Dads

No matter if you’re just dating or ready for a new relationship with a single dad, it’s important to make an informed decision before you go. So here, we’ll consider the pros and cons of dating a single father for you.

7 Pros of Dating a Single Parent

Regardless of what you’re looking for in a romantic relationship, here are some of the good things you can expect dating a single dad:

  1. Plenty of personal space: As a person responsible for kids and having job obligations, he knows what big responsibility means. So, a single dad could be perfect for you if you are looking for a partner who doesn’t monopolize your time and respects your independence, interests, and hobbies.
  2. Caring and nurture: A good parent develops an instinct to care for the people around them. That could mean he’ll bring that same caring nature to his romantic relationships and his partner’s children.
  3. Realistic expectations: A single father is a guy who has probably witnessed a pregnancy through its entirety. He knows the physical and emotional changes that happen. So, he keeps his expectations realistic about what women are supposed to look like.
  4. Greater potential for a committed relationship: This may not apply to every single dad, but many of these guys are looking to build a healthy relationship with a strong future. That’s good news for you if you are interested in a long-term relationship.
  5. Empathy and sensitivity: Ideally, a single dad has developed a deep sense of empathy. He’s also sensitive to the feelings of others and has a strong drive to be a source of comfort. If this translates into his adult relationships, you are looking at a man who has a lot of emotional intelligence.
  6. A sense of responsibility: A single dad is not the guy who is going to lose a job because he was out partying with his friends. He has his own future and that of his kids’ to think about. He’s going to be mature and responsible and live up to his obligations – at least, that’s how it should be.
  7. A potential partner for marriage and family: If things progress in your relationship, single dads have great marriage and family potential. You already know he likes kids.

4 Cons of Dating a Single Dad

He may be doting and sensitive, but dating a single dad isn’t without its downside. Here are some of the issues you’ll need to contend with if you decide to have a relationship with a guy who has kids:

  1. Forget spontaneity: It’s pretty hard for single fathers to do the whole spontaneity thing. Sure, they might pull off a surprise date night from time to time, but it’s just not going to happen very often. For example, you probably won’t be able to call him at midnight for a spontaneous late-night date. You’ll be planning this thing in advance instead.
  2. Practicality: Many single dads have a lot of financial obligations. That doesn’t give much room for a relationship that is punctuated with lavish gifts and extravagant surprises. He’s raising children, and his money is going to go to their wants and needs first.
  3. He’s connected to his ex: Sometimes, a single dad is that in every sense of the word. He’s doing everything solo without his ex-wife or partner involved. However, in most cases, the mom is involved. That means he’s going to have a relationship with her. This is going to include texts, phone calls, and getting-together for family events. He’s not going to let your jealousy interfere with his co-parenting. At least, he shouldn’t.
  4. You need the kids’ okay: Chances are the single dad you’re dating isn’t going to want to pursue a serious relationship with you if his kids don’t approve. No, that doesn’t mean his children rule the roost. Good single parents just know that it’s so important for you and their kids to click.
Single dad dating guide

11 Tips for Dating a Single Dad

There’s just no prototypical single dad:

  • The single dad dating you may be fresh out of the breakup with his kids’ mom.
  • He may have been playing the role of single dad for quite some time.
  • Maybe he and his ex were never married or even just together casually.

He could be carrying a ton of baggage, have a contentious relationship with his ex, or be way past all that drama. Still, this advice applies to almost any woman who dates a man with a child.

1. Be Honest

Single parents have some pretty big hurdles to overcome as they are going through the dating process. Don’t make things more complicated for them by being less than honest.

Are you interested in a long-term relationship? How do you feel about kids and are you willing to have a relationship with his? Let them know where you stand.

Your honesty gives the single dad a chance to make the best decision on whether to move forward with the relationship. Also, the more honest you are, the better able you are to determine if this is what you really want.

2. Set And Respect Boundaries

Boundaries are so important when you are dating a single dad. If you aren’t ready to meet them, let alone be a part of their lives, you have every right up to, including choosing not to have a relationship with his kids at all. Conversely, he has the right to delay your meeting his children even if you are eager to do so.

Think about the very sticky topic of meeting your partner’s children. Both of you are allowed to set boundaries around that, based on your own comfort level. 

Related reading: Boundaries in Relationships – Keeping Them Healthy

3. Offer Help Within Limits

When you’re dating a single dad, should you help him with his kids? That depends on what that help entails. There’s nothing inherently wrong with giving a divorced dad a hand with things in the same way that you might pitch in to help anybody else in your inner circle.

That said, this can get complicated. First, it is extraordinarily easy to cross a line from “helping” to taking on another person’s responsibilities. To make things more complicated, many women are socialized to take on mothering and household management roles, while men are socialized to be very willing to pass those responsibilities on.

Here are some things to remember:

  • They are his kids and you can say no
  • Be wary about taking on responsibilities that interfere with his bonding with his kids
  • Ask yourself – Is this helping or am I taking on his parental responsibilities?

4. Be Flexible

When you are dating a single dad, you have to expect that things are going to come up. His kids are a top priority. Chances are if there’s an illness or school event, your time with your new partner is going to take a back seat. It helps so much to be flexible.

Your being willing to move a dinner date to a coffee date so he can spend the evening at his kid’s basketball game is something that he’ll appreciate.

Remember that where there’s a single dad, there’s most likely a single mom. That means a lot of juggling schedules so that everybody can spend time building a good relationship with the children. If he has to cancel from time to time or cut a date short, he isn’t being inconsiderate. He’s just keeping a lot of plates spinning.

Related reading: Dating A Single Mom

5. Schedule Special Events

You can still enjoy amazing experiences when you are dating a single dad. But you have to plan ahead.

Single dads have so many things to consider when they make plans:

  • Their parenting time
  • Any activities their children have
  • Coordinating things with their former partner.

So, whirlwind trips and all-day experiences that are planned at the last minute are usually out of the question. But don’t lose hope. You can enjoy these things and a successful relationship with a single dad as long as you are willing to plan ahead. He’ll appreciate the effort you put in and your respect for how his family dynamic impacts him.

Related reading: Quality Time – It’s a Love Language

6. Don’t Expect Him to Rush Into Things

Falling quickly in love and dating a single dad just don’t go together. He has to balance his romantic life with the needs of his children. That means he’s going to be very careful about making any sort of commitment. Not only does he have to be sure he loves you. He needs to know that you are going to fit in with his kids as well.

If you are only interested in casual dating, this won’t affect you as much. However, if you are at the point of looking for a lifelong commitment, understand that he’ll want to be sure the two of you are a perfect match.

Don’t be frustrated if he takes things slowly. This is an indication that he doesn’t want to hurt you by making a commitment he won’t be able to keep. It also means he cares enough about his children that he doesn’t want them to bond with a new partner only to have the relationship fail.

7. Take it Slowly For a More Meaningful Relationship

“When To Meet The Kids When you get involved with a man with children, you cannot evaluate whether he’s right for you until you meet his kids. However, this presents a quandary: meeting the children too soon isn’t good for the kids, but waiting too long is risky because you may become attached to him before you’ve had a chance to see what his real life is like. The ideal time to meet a man’s kids is when you and he become exclusive as a couple—i.e., when you’ve moved out of the dating phase and into a relationship that shows promise.”

Christie Hartman, a writer and scientist specializing in science-based health

You should also take things slowly when you’re dating a single dad. Some dads will put on the brakes themselves. Unfortunately, a single dad dating may decide to rush things.

Be careful if that happens. You need to question whether he’s looking for romance or someone to take on the full-time job of raising his kids. Even if the two of you have feelings that run deep, spend time getting to know him and his children.

8. Don’t Overstep

There is no faster way to earn the ire of a man, his ex, and their children than overstepping. You can be a loving, helpful, and positive presence to a man and his children without jumping into a parental role.

Things will go so much better if you allow these relationships and trust to build naturally. You aren’t obligated to take on a parental role if you aren’t ready to do that. At the same time, you shouldn’t assume that dating a single dad means that role is even available to you.

Related reading: 7 Signs Marrying Him Would Be a Mistake

9. Let Him Handle His Ex

If you are dating a single dad, there’s a good chance his ex is going to factor into his life. You can’t control that – just how much she factors into your life. If there is a conflict of any kind, he needs to take ownership of that.

Here are some guidelines to follow when it comes to dealing with a woman who is also the mother of his children:

  • He’s an adult and can handle his own battles
  • She has her own story and narrative about their situation
  • Being confrontational with her will not make any situation better
  • Your actions with her could impact his connection with his children
  • You can have a cordial relationship with her even if he doesn’t
  • She has tough challenges as a single mom too

There’s no rule that the mother of his children must be your enemy. There’s also no rule that you have to be fast friends. Just be sure you are letting him do the heavy lifting when it comes to these complex relationships.

10. Honor the Kid’s Connection With Their Mother

After dating a single dad for some time, you will probably form an opinion about his ex. It would be best if you mostly kept that to yourself, especially as it relates to the other parent. If you must express an opinion, share it only with your new partner and far out of earshot of his children.

Here’s the truth. A child nearly always loves their parent unconditionally. They will want a relationship with their mother. This will be true if she is irresponsible, absent, thoughtless, or even abusive. There may be times when you are tempted to act in what you think is their best interests by discouraging them from having a relationship with a woman that you see constantly disappointing them. Don’t do it.

Instead, let the kids know that you will always respect their feelings about their mother. They will appreciate that you gave them space to have the best possible relationship they could with her and that you allowed them to come to their own conclusions about her.

Related reading: Unconditional Love – Fantasy or Reality?

11. Encourage Him to Focus on Himself

The guy you are dating probably spends much of his time and energy on other people. A single man or single woman with kids rarely get a chance to make themselves a priority. When you get some alone time with him encourage him to put himself first from time to time. Listen when he talks about his dreams, frustrations, and goals. No, you don’t need to go the extra mile to try and fix things for him. Just give him space to talk.

Also, encourage him to make self-care a priority. Let him know that you want a future with him and that only happens if he is mentally and physically healthy.

How to build a long-term relationship with a single parent

What About Living With a Single Dad?

You’ve been dating a single dad for a while. Things have been going great. Both of you have started talking about taking your relationship to the next level. Marriage and cohabitation are both on the table. You can make this work, but both of you need to talk about how things will work. If you can’t have very frank, very honest discussions about this, then neither of you are ready for this.

Think about all of the things that can make a relationship fail. The intensity of that increases when raising kids and another household is involved.

Bring up these subjects before you pack that U-haul.

  • How will finances be comingled
  • Will you bring more children into the situation eventually
  • How will you divide household chores
  • Are there going to be new household rules when you move in?
  • How will you talk to the kids about your plans

If you decide to go through with this, be sensitive about how your presence will impact the kid’s lives. Having a new girlfriend in the household means sharing resources. That can feel intrusive. Be respectful of their feelings as they adjust to this. Validate them and remember that things that seem trivial to you is often a really big deal to a child.

Related reading: A Guide to Growing an Exclusive Relationship

3 Conditions When You Shouldn’t Date a Single Dad

Not all women are cut out for dating a single dad, and that is perfectly fine. If you simply don’t care for children, then single dads simply shouldn’t be part of your dating life. The same is true if you tend to be jealous. He’s always going to be attached to his previous relationship in some way. And, you certainly don’t want your jealous nature to come out when a child is involved.

1. If You Don’t Like Children

You should also avoid dating single parents who have very different beliefs than you do about child-rearing. Even if you take a very hands-off approach to your role, it’s going to be difficult to watch the person you live with making choices you fundamentally disagree with.

2. If He’a an Irresponsible Single Parent

Some men are able to take on the role of single parent very well. These are usually guys who have always been very involved and done a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to their kids. Some men find the hard work of parenting to be overwhelming. They may even believe that there are tasks that women should handle. Unfortunately, these men will often use online dating to attract single women. Their goal is’t to find someone to date. Instead, they are on the search for a right person to take on their responsibilities for them.

3. If There’s Unnecessary Drama Involved

There are some single men who have a tendency to drag the person they are dating into whatever drama they have involving the mother of their children. This is the guy who is always in conflict with his ex, who will attempt to weaponize you against her and will encourage you to quickly adopt a parental role because he is eager to form a new family to edge her out. This is not a person who is capable of putting his kids first and is likely only dating to make his ex jealous.

Honest Communication And Respect Are Key

Dating a single dad isn’t easy. There’s a lot of “stuff” that can come up as you try to integrate your presence into the kids lives. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is reach out for some outside help. A therapist or dating coach can offer some helpful insights. A family counselor can help both of you navigate difficult situations and ensure a better future for all of you.

But you can have a great future with a man who has children. It takes hard work and compromise. He isn’t just a part of his children’s lives. He plays a primary role. Naturally, they are his world. That doesn’t mean you can’t be an extraordinarily important part of his life as well. If things are progressing between you, then you likely mean the world to him. Keep the lines of communication. Show respect to him, his kids, and even his ex. Soon, that first date will turn into something even more.

Dating Tips Author
Shelly Standford
After a devastating relationship breakup, I threw myself into the dating scene by registering on Hily. I had over 100 dates - some absolute disasters, some pretty average, and some that were actually great. So many stories to tell and insights to share with you guys!
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