Dating A Gay Single Parent…
Are you seeing someone who has a kid? Try these smart tips to navigate the situation.
ou’ve just met the guy of your dreams—tall, great body, smart, hilarious. Then he tells you he has a kid. At first you’re shocked. You tell yourself it won’t work. Next, you convince yourself it’s no big deal.
Well, it’s totally normal to be a bit overwhelmed. After all, dating a gay man or a lesbian with
a child entails much more than tagging along for a day at the zoo. But it isn’t impossible if you follow these tips.
|Well, it’s totally normal to be a bit overwhelmed.|
Expect an ex
“Dating a person who has children might mean you have to deal with issues involving the ex,” says Ken Voorhees (www.kenvoorhees.com), a psychotherapist in private practice in New York, who deals frequently with both gay/lesbian and family issues. “This person’s relationship with his or her ex could be an extra strain on your relationship as well.” Unless he or she opens up about the ex, your job is to be patient and silently supportive. Let your date know you understand that the issues can be complex and that you’re there to listen or to talk.
Remember, the guy’s gonna be busy
“Being a parent is a big job and it means the other person won’t always be available to lead a glamorous life,” says Voorhees. In other words, you probably won’t be jetting off to Europe for the weekend (or even the Poconos). And forget sleeping over whenever you want. Just ask Steve, a marketing executive in New York who has a teenage daughter. “At this time in my daughter’s life, there are a lot of events I have to attend—school functions and the like. It takes time out of my schedule, and the guy I’m dating will need to understand that.” The smart move on your part is to offer help—finding a babysitter, returning overdue movies at Blockbuster, picking up groceries on the way home, etc. Also, let your date know that you’re willing to work around his or her schedule. That might mean lunch dates rather than dinner, but in the end, it’s about spending time together.
Find ways to bond with the kids
There will come a time when you and your partner feel it’s OK for you to develop a relationship with the kids. What you do, of course, depends on their age, but the idea is to make the children feel comfortable around you (without bribing them!): Set up a kiddy
pool in your backyard, offer to help with homework, teach them your famous John McEnroe backhand. Whatever you do, now this is your time to shine in their eyes (and in their parent’s as well).
|The idea is to make the children feel comfortable around you.|
Don’t try to be another parent
At the same time that you’re bonding with the kids, the last thing you want to do is overstep your boundaries. Come sweeping in after two dates and tell them what time to go to bed or how to handle a fight at school, and you’re instantly the wicked boy- or girlfriend. Another huge no-no: fielding questions that only a parent should deal with. “If a child asks you a tricky question about gay issues, sex or your relationship, play it safe and say, ‘That sounds like something you should ask your Mom or Dad about,’” Voorhees offers.
Keep your private time private
Seeing your father with a woman who’s not your mother is hard enough. Seeing him with another man? Well, that can be hard for a child to understand and handle. (And the same holds true, of course, for seeing your mom with another woman). Let your partner be your guide when it comes to holding hands, kissing or walking arm in arm. Even if the other person initiates it, don’t get carried away with your lovey-dovey self. Better to hold off than make things uncomfortable for the kids.
Validate your partner’s role as a parent
“Gay single parents often feel stigmatized about having children,” says Voorhees. So a little positive affirmation can’t hurt. Tell this person what you think is particularly admirable about his or her commitment to his child. Is it the fact that he’s never missed a single one of his daughter’s ballet performances? That she runs after her son’s new two-wheeler for hours on end? That he learned all the names of the Phoenix Suns players even though he hates basketball? Your sweetie’s ex may not be showing much appreciation of his parenting skills, so it’s nice to show that someone does notice.
Ask your significant other for feedback
After a while, it’s OK to ask your guy or gal how you’re doing with the kid, Voorhees says. Are you too pushy? Too nosy? Do you treat his 14-year-old like he’s six? You’ve got a great teacher right there, so take advantage of what he or she knows. And your partner will appreciate that you care enough to ask.
Remember, kids aren’t always the issue.
In other words, a great catch with a kid is better than an awful date with no kid. Keith, a hotel manager in Boston, had a nine-month relationship with a single dad. “I was so worried about his having a kid, but in the end, we broke up because he cheated on me. Now my priorities have shifted. I’d happily go out with a guy who has a child. I just don’t want to go out with a cheater. Looking back, it was silly I was so fixated on the kid thing.” Remember, on the most basic level, a strong relationship is based on a solid connection between the two of you. If you have that, you’re well on your way.
Stephen F. Milioti is a freelance writer and editor who contributes to New York and Salon.com.