The Complexities of Dating A Single Parent



I met a guy on a dating app who is a widower. This is my first experience dating a widower and was wondering if you can offer any advice. His wife passed away 2 years ago from cancer. I am the first person he has dated since before his marriage. He is a single dad with 2 boys age 12 and 16. I am a patient person but I am not sure I really know the extent of what am going to experience if we end up in a serious relationship. As of now his son's do not know that he is dating. He cancelled 2 of our dates, the first one because of his nerves which he admitted and asked for a raincheck. We went to dinner and it was great. Another cancellation was because of scheduling with his sons.


The last date we had was at his house we just ordered food and watched tv. We have been seeing each other for bout a month now. He has spoken about me meeting his friends and always references things in the future that we should do. There are times where I feel like he is pulling back and then it makes me question things. I know he wants to take things slow but I am not sure how to determine if he pulls back because of fear or disinterest. I could not imagine losing a spouse so I empathize with the situation.


I understand his kids are his priority as I feel they should be. The last time I was at his house he mentioned that he will introduce the boys to me as a friend, it didn't happen because they were in the basement with their friends. I am having a difficult time because this situation is different than guys I have dated in the past. I have learned not to make yourself too available at the beginning of a relationship but when you want to plan a date with someone who has a lot on their plate with the kids and not much assistance how should I proceed. I don't want to push him away.


I have tried to read articles about dating a widower. Do the same dating guidelines apply when you are dating a widower with kids? At times I feel like I should end things before they get more serious because of my own fears and concerns. From what I know so far, I really do like him so I would appreciate your thoughts.


I first want to address the whole "don't make yourself too available" stuff.


That idea may have been prudent ten years ago, before dating apps, but in 2020, there's no time to play such games. That doesn't mean you have to glom on to someone after the first date, but you definitely should not make people jump through hoops. Availability is key in today's dating times. It's far too easy for people to move on and match with someone else. Not to mention, people have been so beaten down by the constant ghosting and un- matching, they're more likely to move on faster than they would have before we were all attached to our phones.


TL:DR: Don't play games. If you want to see someone, accept plans. If you like someone, let them know.


Now, as for his children:


Dating a widower and dating a widower with children are two entirely different animals. I was raised by a widowed Dad. There's a lot of emotion swirling around inside someone who is grieving the loss of their partner. My Dad met my step-mother fairly soon after my Mom died. To his last breath - 35 years after she'd died - my father still carried a sense of obligation to my mother. It took him two years to clear out her closet. That's how guilty he felt at the idea of moving forward.


When you have kids, it's impossible to fully move on from a dead spouse. There is no escaping their memory. Every time they look at their children, they see glimpses of the deceased parent. It's great that you understand that his children come first, but it's important you grasp what that really entails.


Dating as a widower with children is fraught with emotional landmines. They have more to consider and protect. If you really like this man, stick it out, but only do so knowing it's not going to be easy. It's good that you understand that his kids are the priority, but it's imperative that you also accept that will never - and I mean never - change. You will NEVER be his priority. His kids will be 25, 30, 40 years old and they will come first.


I am offering such an impassioned plea because my step-mother never accepted this fact. Outwardly, she displayed love and affection. Inside, she carried resentment for my sisters I for the entirety of her marriage to my father. After he died and she inherited the bulk of his money and estate, she cut us out completely and left all of it to her sons. While, financially, I'd be in a much better position today had she not done that, it was the realization of her true feelings that broke my heart. Money can be made. I'm a hard worker. I don't need much. I thought she loved me and she didn't.


"Never date a man with kids," she said to me a few weeks after my Dad died. I should have seen it coming.


If you feel you will develop even an ounce of resentment for those kids, walk away now. Only stay with him if you can love his children as your own. That's his biggest concern. It's not just the pain of losing someone else or worrying what people - including his kids - might think if he moves on that worries him. It's whether or not his decision to date you will negatively affect his kids. Period. They have experienced a profound trauma, one that will inform the rest of their lives and future relationships. His priority is that he not do further and irreparable damage to his kids.


None of this means he won't cherish you. Before he went in for the surgery that led to his death, his doctor asked him the secret to an almost forty-year marriage.


"I don't just love my wife," he'd said. "I adore her."


And he did. My step-mother loved him right back. That's what I always remember when I feel my resentment for her rise to the surface. She may not have loved us, but she was crazy about my Dad. She was his port in the storm, and while I hate what she did to me, I love her for loving my Dad.


This man can love you completely and still prioritize his kids. It's not an either or situation. No relationship is easy. They all have their uphill battles.


If you want to be with him and you think he's worth and will appreciate the compromises you'll be making, accept that the relationship will have its ups and down for the next few years, until the kids are self-sufficient and grown. Having a life of your own and being emotionally self-sufficient helps no matter who you're dating, but those traits are invaluable when you're dating someone with children. If you truly are okay with his kids coming first, you should be fine. But if you're not, I would consider ending things.

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