Dating – with Children
Not too long ago, being gay meant having no children in your life. Conservative family courts often kept gay parents on the margins of their kids’ lives, and many gay or lesbian people put their creative energies into career or volunteer work instead of the joys and hassles of raising children. No longer. Now a gay parent is much more likely to be actively sharing custody or childcare responsibilities. And an increasing number of gay men and women are choosing to become parents in ways that are totally separate from marriage and divorce, perhaps through surrogacy.
Not all gay parents are already in relationships; some are single. And that can give a bit of a twist to the process of getting involved with someone. If you’re a parent, a little clarity about your situation is in order before you start to date. First, recognize the obvious: being a parent doesn’t mean you have no need for emotional, physical or romantic intimacy. Many parents feel guilty when their needs conflict with those of their kids. Don’t. You’re going to be happier and more available to your children if you also take care of yourself.
Don’t hide the fact that you have kids from potential dates. At the same time, you’ll want to give some thought to how you want to mix it up. If you have custody every other week, you may envision maintaining your non- custodial weekends as date weekends. But if your relationship starts to deepen, that arrangement is likely to be problematic. At some point, the worlds of parenting and dating are going to overlap.
When it’s time for your kids to meet your new guy, a little foresight and preparation will go a long way. Keep in mind that children, especially younger ones, don’t necessarily need to meet everyone you date if the dating is still casual. Kids don’t understand the process of dating. They can become confused or anxious if they meet too many unfamiliar adults. Consider making the introductions away from home at a more public or neutral location. And let your kids know that you expect them to be polite.
As a parent, your obligations are to your children are, well, obligatory. That means dating is going to require thoughtfulness and negotiation on your part. How involved do you hope for a boyfriend to be when it comes to your kids – sharing meals or family activities, for instance? There are times when you’re likely to feel your attention is divided. Figuring out how to address these concerns is going to be primarily your responsibility, not your kids’ or your boyfriend’s.
What if you’ve got no children of your own, but you find yourself dating a guy who does? Kids complicate a dating relationship. There are going to be times when your guy’s parental responsibilities make him less available than you would like. You’re going to need to accommodate yourself to this fact of life and decide if it feels like you’re settling for half-a-loaf instead of what you truly want.
It’s important to decide how you feel about kids. Being uncomfortable with kids doesn’t make you a bad person – but it’s likely to make you a lousy fit with your boyfriend-daddy, no matter how much you may like him. Boyfriends with children come as a package deal.
Communication is important in any relationship, but it may be especially important in relationships with children because there can be unspoken expectations. Each adult need to be able to talk about his expectations, and if you feel you are regularly playing second fiddle to the children, you’re going to need to speak up. Just as important as speaking is an ability to listen – to understand that your boyfriend may be feeling stretched pretty thin at times, or pulled in two directions at the same time. There may well be occasions when you find yourself deferring your own needs when the kids need their father.
But it’s not all hardship. Some men who date guys with children find there are reasons to really enjoy the arrangement. Kids can provide you with an excuse to do the fun things you want to do anyway, but avoided doing because you felt out of place! Children can be fun and lovable. Helping to care for them can be rewarding, and dating a man with children can be, too.
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