You really can't believe your luck. A handsome man, well built, great smile, is smiling right at you. The two of you strike up a brief conversation while in line for lattes. He's witty, charming, and obviously interested in you. He asks if you're free for dinner tomorrow night. Well, you are now! You write down your number on his coffee cup and float off and into the rest of your day.
He picks you up on time and takes you to a restaurant you've been dying to try. Over appetizers, you two flirt and laugh. You toast to chance meetings. During the main entrees, you switch to more serious topics, work, politics, growing up. You both stay away from the cursed past relationships. Who wants to hear about that on a first date?
By dessert, you're gazing into his eyes and playing footsies with him under the table. Oh yes, you think, this man has definitely got your number, all right...then his phone rings. He looks at it, then excuses himself for a moment to take the call. What? Is he some sort of player or something?
He comes back to the table and says, "Sorry, that was my daughter. Now, where were we?"
Now you change gears a bit to find out that Mr. Perfect here has been divorced for a year and has two children under the age of 8.
This scenario is not so uncommon. 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce, so your chances of meeting a man who's been married before and has children are pretty good nowadays. And though this should, by all means, not be a deal breaker, there are some things you need to know about dating a man who has children from a previous relationship. Trust me, I know. I was with a man for five years who had a child and an ex-wife. It's a situation that requires a lot of patience, understanding and selflessness.
- His Kids are Number One in His Book. Never for a moment think that you are going to come first. His child is and should be his priority. You must honor that. Never ever compete with his children for his time or affection. You try and you will lose. If you understand that at the beginning, you will be less likely to take it personally or sometimes feel rejected. And if for some reason his kids don't come first, what kind of man is that?
- Be Flexible. I can't tell you how important this is. Plans will change. His daughter will get sick or miss him. His son will have an important basketball game. His son's teacher will need to see him. His ex will want to change weekends. The more understanding you can be, the more he will appreciate you. Chances are, he's already dealing with an ex-wife that isn't very accommodating to his wishes, or has a life of her own! Do you really want to be a repeat performer? I'm not telling you to become a doormat, but give the guy a break when things are out of his control, which they will be.
- Don't Be in a Hurry to Meet His Kids. Now this may sound slightly counter-intuitive, but trust me on this one. Men do not want to bring a woman into their children's lives when they themselves may not really be sure of where the relationship is heading. And they shouldn't. A child can get very confused if there are new "friends" coming in and out of Daddy's life. What if the two of you don't stay together for long and the children get attached?
A CONSIDERATE father has to take into account perhaps not just the child's feelings, but maybe the ex as well, who will surely hear about you from her child. Let him slowly ease you into his life when he feels comfortable. You will feel that much more appreciated when you are actually introduced when it's his idea and you're not pushing him. And if you and this man are meant to be, this time will just be a drop in the bucket.
- Speaking of the Ex. You may or may not have some flack in this area too. There are ex-wives out there that are lovely and kind and you'll get along with. So just keep in mind you have THEIR child in your company. Be very cordial. Treat them as you would want to be treated if you were in THEIR shoes.
But there are also some ladies out there who like to use their children as pawns to get back at their ex-spouses. I know a woman who gave her son a witch doll named after her ex-husband's new girlfriend. There really isn't much you can do about them except the old "Thumper" defense, which is if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all. Never talk ill of their mother in front of your man's children, even if she is the devil incarnate. Just concentrate on the good and remember she is their mother. (And I'm pretty sure there is a special hell for people who use their children to get back at an ex.)
- Don't Expect All of His Time. Keep your life busy because you will probably have some free time on your hands. That's FINE. One divorced dad told me he liked to date other women with kids from a previous marriage. That way she had her kids every other weekend and didn't expect to see him as much. A father may have his children two weekends a month and maybe even want some alone time or to see his buddies. Hey, that's fair! So, having your own life and your own plans can also be very attractive to a man with limited time and energy.
- Don't Try To Be a New Mommy. Unless the two of you are getting married, or he's a widow and you're adopting his child, that child (or children) already has a mom. It is not your place to discipline them. And be careful about handing out your expert advice that you saw on Dr. Phil. Parents can be sensitive, especially when someone who doesn't have kids tells them what they are doing wrong. You can offer to help, but leave the down and dirty to Dad.
This may all seem overwhelming and may SEEM not worth the hassle to some, but it's really more about being objective in an emotionally charged situation. A woman who can step back and see the whole picture, is a woman who doesn't take everything personally and isn't acting like a selfish, scared child herself. That is an attractive woman to any man. And a man that has practice giving unconditional love to a child is a better man for you as well.
Lora Somoza writes a love and sex advice column and has written the book "Bliss in the Bedroom." Both can be found at www.blissinthebedroom.com.