As a single dad wading back into the dating pool, Daniel Ruyter was surprised how many women lost interest when he revealed, always in the first conversation, that he had a son.
"At first I took it personally," said the Orlando information technology analyst, who was 32 when he divorced and got joint custody of his then 5-year-old son. "I found it very arbitrary that before they got to know me, they had decided against me."
But as Ruyter cycled through "close to 100" first dates and a few long-term girlfriends (a scheduling feat, considering half his week was devoted to his son), his romantic standards heightened in ways they may not have pre-fatherhood. He broke off one relationship because her dream of a downtown condo didn't fit with his need for a yard and swing set.
DATING A SINGLE DADAdvice from Christie Hartman, a research psychologist, dating coach and author of Dating the Divorced Man: Sort Through the Baggage to Decide If He's Right for You (Adams Media):
- Go slow and leave it up to him to decide it's time to introduce you to the kids, which shouldn't happen until you're moving toward a committed relationship.
- Be wary if he doesn't have your back against disrespectful kids. While it's understandable that kids might be hostile at first, you don't want a weak-willed partner who doesn't stand up for you (or himself).
- Be wary if he's prioritizing your relationship over his kids. They'll resent him and you, and do you really want to be with someone who isn't a dedicated father?
- Be wary if he hasn't introduced you to his kids well into a serious relationship. Compartmentalizing his life might mean he's not ready to move forward. Bring it up non-confrontationally.
- Don't try too hard to make the kids love you. Be a cool friend and show interest in their lives, but give them space, and don't step on their mom's toes.