April 02, 2023
Jewish Matchmaker Journal: Dating Someone With Children
Many Jewish singles without children prefer the same in a partner. Not a problem if you’re still in your 20’s, but once you move into your 30’s, you begin limiting your options if you won’t consider a partner with children. If you’re in your 40’s and 50’s, it’s even more of a limitation. Dating someone with children from a previous marriage can initially seem overwhelming, but if the relationship progresses slowly with thoughtful consideration and an open heart, partnering with someone who already has children can be richly rewarding. Being a step-parent will open up a entire new world of love in yourself that you cannot currently imagine. Yes, there will be stressors and frustrations and a myriad of emotions, but the opportunity for deep personal growth is off the charts.
The key to making this relationship work is to approach it with patience, flexibility, and a willingness to embrace the role of a supportive partner and potential step-parent. If you’re open to the idea of dating someone with children from a previous marriage, here are some tips on how to navigate the waters:
Be prepared to take things slow
When dating someone with small children from a previous marriage, it's important to take things slow. This means being patient and allowing your partner to set the pace. Children need a lot of time and attention, and it may initially feel that your partner is focusing more on the children than on your relationship. If you are insecure or jealous, those ugly emotions will come out in full-force. Acknowledge them, face them - this is your chance for unprecedented personal growth. It’s not a competition between you and the kids and these are not productive emotions for any relationship. Expecting or demanding that you always be first priority is narcissistic and unrealistic. Instead, show understanding, focus on the big picture, and lose the insecurities. Your relationship with your partner will grow even stronger for it.
Be flexible and adaptable
When dating someone with children from a previous marriage, you need to stay flexible and adaptable. Plans for alone time often change at the last minute due to a sick child, a change in schedule, or some other unexpected circumstance. This is your opportunity to hone a crucial life skill - going with the flow. Our journey in life is riddled with ups and downs, plot twists, and unexpected events. The more we resist them, the more stress we experience and the less we are in sync with the universe. Coming to this relationship with understanding, flexibility, and adaptability is crucial. Again, it’s not a competition. Plans change but there will be other opportunities for alone time with your partner. Unless the situation really becomes unreasonable, be willing to change plans to accommodate life’s hiccups.
Build a relationship with the children
When dating someone with children from a previous marriage, it’s vital that you build a relationship with the children as well as with your partner. Invest time and attention in getting to know them as individuals. Build trust and rapport. Show an interest in their hobbies and activities and be willing to engage with them on their level. It may be necessary to openly state that you are not trying to take the role of natural parent - you are there as an additional loving support to their parents. Showing genuine concern, investing time in getting to know who they are, and proving that their needs are important to you will go far in forming a real bond.
Respect the co-parenting relationship
If your partner shares custody of their children with their ex-spouse, it's important to respect the co-parenting relationship. This means avoiding any actions or comments that could be seen as undermining or disrespectful to the other parent. Be supportive of your partner's efforts to co-parent, and be as cooperative and collaborative as possible. There may be times at the beginning of your relationship when your partner will need to do some “family stuff” that doesn’t include you. Support their attempt to keep things as normal as possible for the children. You don’t have to be included in every event or outing. And don’t freak out if your partner has to spend time with their ex. That relationship is over, you don’t need to feel threatened by it.
Be patient with the ex-spouse
When dating someone with children from a previous marriage, you will likely have interactions with the ex-spouse. Be patient and respectful, even if there are conflicts or challenges. Remember that the ex-spouse is an important part of the children's lives, and your goal is to maintain a cordial relationship for the sake of the children. This is not always easy, depending upon the personality of the ex. Focus on rising above any conflicts and staying objective.
Consider your role as a potential step-parent
If your relationship with your partner becomes serious, you will need to consider your role as a full-time step-parent. You will directly impact the lives of these children and it’s up to you to make the impact a positive one. Talk with your partner about their expectations and boundaries for you as a step-parent. Be sure to clearly outline your responsibilities in the role and get in sync with your partner.
For all the bad rap that step-parents get in fairy tales, being one is a chance to shine in the love department. We have an unlimited supply of love and the more people you have in your life to shower it upon, the better. And just think of all the love you receive in return!
Dating someone with children from a previous marriage can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it also comes with unique challenges. By approaching the relationship with patience, flexibility, and a willingness to embrace your role as a supportive partner and potential step-parent, you can build a strong and loving connection with your partner and the children.