Parenthood & Dating: Tips on How to Nurture a New Relationship
Earlier this year, I endured another one of life’s raw disappointments in the relationship division when I ended an eight-month union with a man who had a six-year-old daughter. Dating a dad was a first for me, and had I known prior the difficulties involved in taking on such weight, perhaps I would have been more prepared for and capable of what lay ahead for our future. Having no children of my own yet definitely made it challenging for me to empathize with the trials going on in his world, and I think he forgot how to relate to those of us who were not parents.
I definitely appreciated certain aspects of him because of his title. I thought dating a father would consequentially make him more responsible, mature, selfless and stable. I probably cared for him more quickly because I knew he most likely already possessed those traits, which made the trust in him easier. And all of those qualities were there. What wasn’t however was his willingness to set aside a place for our relationship aside from his parental responsibilities. Obviously, I know you can’t flip the switch to “off” once you’ve had children, and I was more than understanding about this fact. Situations occur where the children have to be cared for, emergencies happen which means your plans can go out the window at the last minute, and sometimes, your relationship takes the back seat.
Aside from the abovementioned contingencies though, it is essential to the growth and fusion of your relationship with your significant other, to be fully invested in and mindful of the times that do belong to just the two of you. When you are together, of course it is natural to bring up your children, to be proud of them, to boast and regale your partner with stories about how wonderful they are; but even those stories have their place. You two are still individuals, with something very special happening between you – so focus on that for a while. Get to know that person as much as you can, and conversely, share stories about yourself, your past, who you were, how you became the person you are today. Especially, so that they get a glimpse into your unique and interesting life before you were a parent. Make it a point to go an entire evening without the conversation reverting back to the last trip you made to Sea World, or how your ex didn’t bring your son home on time the other night. Enjoy adult conversation, or hell, bring out your inner children yourselves!
Even with such a rewarding designation, it is easy to forget that you exist still outside of the role you play every day. Balance is key, and just as you do not neglect your position as someone’s mom or dad, it wouldn’t be fair to neglect your role as a partner. Learn to let go a little if your child is at the age of semi-independence and you have responsible family or friends willing to babysit for a day, or even a weekend. Plan getaways with your partner, make the effort, and don’t always talk about your kids when you do have that time together.
In hindsight I realize I never did learn all that much about the man I was dating – where he came from, what his passions were besides his daughter, what his future entailed – because she was his whole world. He had forgotten himself completely, and after a while, I realized I didn’t find him interesting. That is not meant to sound selfish or unsupportive, but you can’t just forget about your passions and neglect your own interests simply because you’ve created life outside of you. Sacrifice is a requirement in every aspect of life, and although it’s difficult having to juggle parenthood and an infant relationship, making them once in a while will be the deciding factor in your success as a couple.
Written by: Sena Schmidt