Dating with Children – It’s Complicated

So, things didn’t go the way I envisioned when I was a child. I didn’t fall madly, head-over-heels in love with some amazing guy, get married, have 3-4 kids and live happily-ever-after! Instead, I had kids too young with the wrong person and am now doing the best job I can as a single mom without a loving and supportive husband. BUT – I still have that desire, that yearning, to find a partner, to share my life with someone.

 When I left my ex-husband April 17, 2002 – I knew I wouldn’t date again right away. I was 3 months pregnant with our second child for starters. Secondly, it took almost a year until we were legally divorced, and I just didn’t believe in dating while I was married – whether we were “together” or not. Even then, I didn’t jump right into dating. I was going to school, working towards a degree, trying to make a better life for myself and my kids, become self-sufficient enough to support us. Once I graduated college, moved to the city and got a job – then I started dating and naively thought it wouldn’t be long before I’d find someone to partner up with, that would be a great step-dad and that I would fall deeply in love with.

 The first guy I really seriously dated was someone I had actually known in High School. My mom had thought we would be perfect back then, but I was still in High School and he was in college. She also liked that he was pre-med and going to be a doctor. Well, he didn’t end up going on to med school, but he had a good and stable job. He had never been married, didn’t have kids, but loved kids and had a very close-knit family. He was the only white person I’ve ever met who was 100% something, and in his case that was Polish. He met the kids fairly quickly, which kind of made me nervous when the first question out of my 5-year-old eldest daughter’s mouth was “are you going to marry him?” Yikes! We dated for about 9 months, we spent time with and met most of his family, his aunt made the girls painted polish eggs for Easter, we hung out with his friends on weekends my girls were with their dad, he tolerated my cat even though he was super allergic. After 9 months, however, I still just felt like he was mine and the kids’ buddy. There wasn’t any “spark” there. Neither of us had said I love you, and I was pretty sure it was because neither of us did. Of course, after I ended things, he called me drunk and professed his love for me! It just wasn’t there for me though.

 The next guy I dated was Mr. Political which was perfect because I love politics! I think we met online somehow, but I don’t really recall. He was good-looking, smart and there was definitely that spark. We would IM all the time at work, talk for hours, he was a perfect mix of flirtatious and intelligent. Only problem was, he lived in Milwaukee! He contemplated moving to Minnesota for a while, as he had gone to school here, but once he decided that he was too grounded in Wisconsin politics and didn’t want to start from scratch in Minnesota then it fizzled as neither of us would do well in a long-term long-distance relationship, and moving my kids away from their dad at the time didn’t seem like an option.

 So, now we come to Mr. Sexy Marine! I still need to catch my breath a little when I think about him, and especially about him cooking breakfast for me in his boxers! My step-sister’s husband is a Marine and we had reconnected (our parents divorced back when we were like 11). She was talking one day and was like, Oh – I know the PERFECT guy for you. She told me his name and then she must have said something to him, as he sent me a message on Myspace. We went out a few times. We talked on the phone some, but he was NOT a big talker and it felt like pulling teeth to get him to open up. He was another never been married, no kids guy, which I was totally fine with. However, sexual attraction only lasts so long and I just wasn’t the kinda girl he could see himself settling down with as I wasn’t from the south and was too many shades too light (nor, in all honesty, was he for me – there just wasn’t enough deep conversation).

 March 2007 I decided that I didn’t go out and DO enough fun things on the weekends that my kids were with their dad. That all my friends ever wanted to do was sit around and drink, and that I was going to change that even if I had to start doing things by myself. So, as part of that, I added a bunch of local musicians as friends on Myspace, so I could get updates on local shows and such. Well – one of those artists – hit me up and said I looked familiar. It was on from there! We chatted on Myspace a few days, then exchanged numbers, talked on the phone a few times, then he came over to my house after my kids had gone to bed. It was always so hard with the girls being so little to really see anyone other than every-other weekend when they were with their dad. I don’t have a super close family and most of them live out in the suburbs. With he and I though, it was a little bit easier as he was a musician and used to late hours/would come over after a show when the girls were asleep. By the end of April, we had already professed our love for each other and the girls met him shortly thereafter. My kids were 4 and 7 at the time, and they just thought he was the greatest guy they had ever met! It would still be awhile before I would meet his kids. For one, his situation was just complicated, and for 2 – his second daughter wasn’t even born yet. She was born in July.

 I am not going to go through all the ups and downs that this relationship went through, but I thought 100% – no doubt in my mind – that I had found the man I was going to blend families with and spend the rest of my life with. His youngest called me mom, his oldest was amazing and my girls looked up to her. My oldest wanted to change her last name to his, and for years hyphenated her last name with his, so much so that some people at her school assumed that was her last name and even printed it on a program for her piano recital. I got along with and adored the majority of his family and loved spending holidays with them and wanted his mom and dad to be my in-laws. Most everyone who met him thought he was amazing with the exception of a couple of people who were very negative and I’m sure that negativity seeped into our relationship some. My girls were right at that age where they were still so open, where they weren’t overly used to it just being the 3 of us and welcomed someone else in. It just felt natural. Until, it hit a plateau and didn’t. Everything happened so quickly in the beginning but didn’t feel rushed. He introduced me to people as his future-wife after 4 months, but then acted like I was a crazy person for expecting us to move-in together after 2 years. I probably held on much longer than I should have, and then even after I let go I couldn’t really let go and got sucked back in. October 2010 he finally told me that he was letting me go because he loved me but knew he could never give me everything I wanted. I was devastated. After talking to him all the time for almost 3 ½ years, we didn’t talk at all for an entire month. But, then we did and fell right back into old habits. I saw him for my birthday, took him out to dinner for his birthday, celebrated Christmas together, celebrated Valentine’s Day together – but as he reminded me that we were not really a couple I finally was like, Well, then we should stop acting like it. Four years after we first met we finally stopped acting like an in-love couple.

 There have been some growing pains. The girls were pretty upset at first, but I think at the same time relieved. They were kind of to the breaking point and sick of the whole thing too, like Lets either just be a family or not already! There were people who said I should have nothing to do with him ever again if I ever wanted to move on. However, I couldn’t do that to my girls like my mom had done to me when I was little, as he’s the only guy that they’ve ever been attached to like that. He was there for them way more than their dad ever was. Plus, I didn’t want to be gone from his or his kids’ lives either. So, slowly over the past 2 ½ year we have worked hard at becoming really good and supportive friends. And that is where we are at now. Whether that scares some guys away or not, I have no idea.

 Since that breakup I have tried to date. First date was with a guy about 12 years older than me who lives in a really nice house, never married, doesn’t have kids. That went nowhere fast.  I dated someone I had only known professionally before and was pleasantly surprised when there was that instant spark there – but, he had recently been heart-broken and wasn’t ready for a relationship. I’ve met a guy at a bar who was hot but nothing emotionally there. I’ve gone out on a date with someone I had zero attraction to, but who offered to buy me sushi! I fell back in with my first love, the only man besides the musician who I had ever loved or envisioned growing old with, but for whom timing just never seemed to work out. And it wasn’t right this time either. I have done the online dating thing. I went out on dates with 3 different guys in one week once, that was mentally exhausting. I’ve gone out with guys who look great on paper. I’ve talked to guys who have kids, guys who don’t have kids. Guys who swear they want a relationship but then back-off after 4 dates because they realize they really aren’t ready to be dating. 

My kids haven’t met anyone I have dated besides Polish and Musician. They know I date. They’ve seen pictures, heard names, overheard stories, but nobody has made it that far, the one person I have talked to the most and had the most spark/connection with will probably never be ready to go there as sad as that is for me to say because I am just in awe of him and he still gives me butterflies every time I think of him! He is single with no kids and I find myself in this odd predicament. I am hesitant to date someone with kids again, because I have gotten SO attached twice before – and the first time those sweet little girls called me Jennifer instead of Mommy about crushed me. But at the same time I find myself attracted to these guys without kids, or this one in particular, who I’m like “We would be PERFECT together, if I didn’t have kids” But, I do have kids, and I’m glad I have kids and they are my everything. But dating someone who doesn’t have kids and doesn’t intend to ever have any, is kind of tricky. It could be fine for a while, but are you ever going to move forward? Are they ever going to want to meet your kids? Are they going to be understanding of the fact that you can’t fly to Vegas this weekend or drop everything to spend an entire weekend with them in bed???

I don’t know, I’m to the point now where when I am getting ready to go out and my kids don’t want me to because they want me all to themselves I am saying more and more – I would rather spend time with you than go out for drinks with some random guy from Okcupid who will likely be a dud anyways. I am getting more and more to the point where I’m not sure I really even feel like putting in ANY effort towards dating or a guy, especially since it always feels like I end up putting in 95% of the effort anyways. If someone wants me, they can start putting in the effort! I still want love, I still want a partner, but I’m trying to wrap my brain around the fact that that may not happen before they both turn 18 and leave the nest. Not everyone can find someone like my mom did, who was willing to date a woman with 4 kids and take us all on as if we were his own. I need to stop comparing myself to other people I know who seem to find great guys so easily, because they might look great on the outside but they don’t stay with them so obviously something was missing!

Part of me feels like I have failed as a mother because I haven’t been able to give my girls that security that comes with a family unit that includes two parents, because I haven’t been able to show them what a long-term committed, healthy, in this til the end relationship looks like, I haven’t been able to model for them the kind of relationship I hope they find for themselves some day. But, the three of us have had some pretty amazing adventures together and even though life for us is a struggle financially most of the time still, we have it pretty good. If somebody wants to be a part of that, contribute to that, share in the love – GREAT! If not, that is my reality and I’m not going to feel sad or beat myself up with “what is wrong with me????” about it anymore!


4 thoughts on “Dating with Children – It’s Complicated”

  1. Hello and thanks for passing by my blog.
    And thanks also for being open and share your story. You may or may not find that loving partner but you need not beat yourself up. As you may already have experienced, even if this partner were to show up, it may not be what you expect. All the same, me wish you all the luck in this. And greetings to your lovely daughters


  2. I know so few really happy and well-matched couples, but lots of well adjusted, loving, happy families like yours seems to be 🙂 It sounds like you have a great relationship with your children and that is such a treasure!


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