When You're Dating A Dad

There are special challenges when dating a parent, especially for gay and lesbian partners.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

here are special challenges anyone faces when dating someone with kids, but it can be especially dicey for gay and lesbian partners when the kids aren't cool about their parent's orientation.

First, let's review some basic tips for interacting
They'll start to like and respect you only if you earn it.
with his kids:

  1. Don't try too hard to win their affection. They'll smell a rat and you'll pay for it. They'll start to like and respect you only if you earn it.

  2. Look for common interests. One thing that can help you ingratiate yourself to his kids is looking for common interests. These are great foundations for building a solid relationship.

  3. Avoid bribes. Kids are smarter than you think. Manipulation is always a turn-off, no matter how cool the bribe may be.

  4. Be patient. Good relationships aren't formed overnight. Take time to get to know the kids and let them get to know you.

  5. Understand their feelings. Many kids are jealous of their parent's new partners. You are, in effect, taking away time the parent was spending with them. Be sensitive to this and — no matter how much you want to see your man — be sure to give the kids some daddy time, in addition to doing things as a group.
Now, let's talk about kids' issues with orientation.

"It was tough on our kids when my wife and I got divorced," Thomas recalls. "They didn't take it well when their mother started dating, but when I came out it was even worse."

Though the kids had never been gay-bashers, they began making rude comments about anyone Thomas was dating. "I realized they were blaming my boyfriends
I realized they were blaming my boyfriends for the divorce.
for the divorce, because there didn't seem to be anything 'wrong' between their mother and me."

To help the kids deal with the divorce and the change in orientation, the family went to a counselor.

"They came around eventually, but I was very careful about introducing them to the men I was dating," Thomas says. "In fact, I generally didn't until I was very serious about someone."

It paid off. "The kids knew I was dating, and when I started seeing Daniel exclusively, I let them know. By the time they met him, they'd had time to get used to the idea — they'd seen pictures of us together, etc. I think it helped them process the whole thing and give Daniel a fighting chance."

For his part, Daniel kept a few key things in mind as he began getting to know Thomas' children. "He'd told me they resented his lifestyle, so I tried to stay sensitive to that. On the few occasions they made snippy comments, I didn't take it personally. I did, however, acknowledge their feelings and let them know I hoped they'd eventually feel differently about me and their dad."

Eventually, they did. "It was rough sometimes," Daniel recalls, "but they're genuinely good kids who were simply having trouble dealing with a lot of change. I asked them to be respectful of my feelings, and said I would be respectful of theirs, and together we established détente. Now, we're all very happy."

Margot Carmichael Lester is a freelance writer based in North Carolina.
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