Dating a man with a child can be challenging, but also rewarding .Especially if the child is young and your boyfriend is not the custodial parent, as your relationship with your boyfriend deepens, it's more than likely you will have contact with the mother of his child. How you handle that may also affect your relationship with your boyfriend.
Take it Slow
While your first instinct may be to introduce yourself to the mother of your boyfriend’s child, let your boyfriend take the lead on the time and place. You do not want his child's mother to misinterpret your intentions. She may be afraid that you will come into his child’s life and then quickly disappear. If she is a single mother, she may feel lonely when her child is away. Licensed clinical social worker Sharon Klempner notes that some single mothers "feel woefully out of the loop, somewhat of a 'lonely only,' especially when their children are at the other home." She may also feel that her child will prefer you over her. While these fears may seem irrational, it may be difficult for moms to realize they will have to share their children with others.
When you do meet her, do your best to be positive and reassuring. Listen to her concerns regarding your involvement with her child. If you and your boyfriend have not discussed what role you will play in his child’s life, make sure you do that before meeting his child's mother. According to James Bray, contributor to the APA Help Center, in the beginning you may want to "simply monitor the children's behavior and activities." This may prevent you from stepping on anyone's toes, as well as giving you the opportunity to learn routines. If she brings up her concerns, you can explain what you feel your role is in her child’s life. Your boyfriend should be present and vocal during these conversations. He needs to show her that he will act in his child’s best interest, but that he will also support you.
Have Realistic Expectations
Don’t plan on any girls’ weekend getaways anytime soon -- if at all -- with the mother of your boyfriend's child. It’s unlikely that you and the mother of his child will be friends. However, you can expect to remain cordial toward her. If you interact with her in-person or over the phone, do your best to smile and appear friendly. Make conversation if possible. Remember that his child will witness how you two interact. If his child sees you and his mother interacting positively, he will most likely feel good about you dating his father.
Embrace the Challenge
If your relationship progresses, you could be part of a big, beautiful family. While break-ups and divorce can be difficult for children, seeing their parents in healthy, loving relationships can outweigh the bad. In addition, modeling compromise and compatibility with your loved one’s ex shows him and his child that you truly care for them.
Ashlea Campbell writes about families, relationships and health-related issues. In addition to writing professionally, she teaches writing courses at Collin College in Plano, Texas. She holds a Masters degree in English education from the University of Kansas.