Ask Dave-Dating When You’re A Parent
One man finds that his daughter and his new boyfriend aren’t getting along. What to do?
I am a 41-year-old gay male who was married to a woman for eight years before I came out. We have a 12-year-old daughter whom I love very much. She stays with me at least every other weekend and sometimes during the week, too. She knows that I am gay, but she hasn’t been involved in my dating life before. Nor have I had a serious relationship. A
little over three months ago, I met a guy I started seeing on a regular basis. I introduced him to my daughter about a month ago and she’s spent time with us on four occasions. The problem is that there’s tension between the two of them. She doesn’t seem to like seeing her Dad with a new friend. He may not like the fact that I’m so sensitive to her needs, which he considers catering. For example, she’s made a few rude, smart-alecky comments, and I haven’t called her on the carpet for them. I’m torn. On the one hand, my dating life is my business, not hers. I have a right to some happiness. On the other, I feel a little guilty. Any suggestions?
|She doesn’t seem to like seeing her Dad with a new friend.|
You face a growing dilemma for many lesbian and gay parents; how to juggle the roles of parent and partner without all the balls crashing to the ground. Navigating the road between having lovers and being a dad is a major stress, high on the list with other challenges such as coming out and legally protecting your rights as a gay parent.
You are not alone. The truth is that any single parent might face resistance from the child who wants the parent’s attention firmly kid-focused. But it gets complicated for gay parents, who might feel that extra twinge of guilt.
In baggage terms, being a single gay parent who dates can be a heavy load. How can you lighten the load, minimize the conflicts and keep the baggage to a couple of carry-ons? Here are a few guidelines:
Follow the dating rules for gay and lesbian parents:
Know the person you want to date before bringing him or her into your home, in front of the kids. Sad to say, but when you’re dating and have kids, spontaneity is best when, well, scheduled for times that children aren’t around.
Find out if the tension is all one-sided.
Is Mr. Right perfect in every way except for the major hurdle that he’s just not into kids? Kids are part of your package. Find out sooner rather than later whether he wants the package or if he’s only interested in you. If he doesn’t like kids and want to spend at least some time with yours, steer clear of him.
Introduce the relationship slowly.
No kid needs a new “uncle” every week. Introduce your dates as friends, and nothing more, until you are seriously involved. Gradually make it clear to your child that your boyfriend is becoming more meaningful to you.
Keep your family “alone time” sacred.
The bad behavior you might be experiencing from
your child could be how she responds to feeling threatened. Maintain your private time with your kids so they don’t feel your new guy is threatening their relationship with their parent.
|Corporate mergers sometimes take months or years of effort.|
Watch the PDA.
Know the bounds of appropriate behavior—and keep them in mind with all interactions between your date and your kid.
Keep your boundaries.
Your child is your child, not your confidante. No matter how cool she seems, and how tempting it might be to blur the roles with your child, don’t. For example, keep the details about your relationship strictly PG-rated.
Talk to your child; let him or her know where she stands.
Specifically, make sure your daughter knows how you feel about the new man in your life. The best advice for gay parents in your position is to make sure your child knows two things:
Don’t expect too much, too soon.
- She’s loved and very much a priority.
- You’re dealing with a tough situation: to either be single and keep her totally happy or to find someone to care about that, hopefully, she’ll care about too, one day. If she sees how hard this is for you, she may well make up her mind to be supportive.
You’ve brought your boyfriend and daughter together four times. I wouldn’t panic yet. Keep in mind this is her first time seeing you with any romantic interest beyond your ex-wife! Corporate mergers sometimes take months or years of effort. Why should merging your boyfriend and daughter, which probably has more heated emotions attached to it, take less time? Relationship conflicts take time to manage and overcome; there are no shortcuts. Your boyfriend is well within his right to find the role of “dad’s boyfriend” or “insta-stepparent” intimidating. Your daughter is allowed to feel nervous or upset at the thought of dad involved with anyone, let alone another man. If it isn’t warm and fuzzy like a gay version of Leave it to Beaver, that’s OK for now. Just keep trying to make progress.
Seek out wise counsel.
There are lots of single gay parents facing dating conflicts like the one you’ve described. I know several who’ve benefited from family counseling. But in addition to private counseling, there are organizations that offer information and support:
Dave Singleton, an award-winning writer and columnist for Match.com since 2003, is the author of two books on dating and relationships. Visit Dave’s website and send your dating questions and comments to him at email@example.com.
- Gay Dads Meetup (gaydads.meetup.com) provides social networking and support for gay dads across the country.
- The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Center in New York City (www.gaycenter.org/families) holds group meetings at the center, and provides resources for single gay parents everywhere via its web site.
- Families Like Mine (www.familieslikemine.com) is a website dedicated to providing resources for LGBT people and their families.