After the end of my 18-year marriage, the idea of having a boyfriend and dating again after my divorce seemed bizarre yet exciting. My children agreed with the bizarre part.
They were happy for me to have someone special in my life, but they had reservations about how it would all play out. Because of the experiences my older two children had with their birth father, I knew it would be a challenge for them to trust again.
And because we are such a close-knit family, they were concerned about being displaced. My oldest has warned that she is the permanent owner of the “shotgun position” in my car. But I think their biggest fear was being forced to hang around a dude that I adored but they certainly didn’t. Naturally, I was nervous about introducing them to the man in my life.
Thankfully, it didn’t take long to easily identify at least five signs that made this man a great fit for my children. The first was obvious before he even met them.
1. He Respected My Need For Time With My Children:
He supported me in placing my relationship with my children over my relationship with him. We both believe that in a committed relationship, couples need to have a certain amount of child-free time together. But in this busy season of our lives, he understands that they need a great deal of my time.
For all the child-related interruptions, activities and dramas, my considerate man has never begrudged my children their mamma. When I first started dating him, I could see how patient and supportive he was when he always encouraged me to place my kids above our phone calls, texting, and even our ability to schedule a date.
2. He Took Constructive Steps When Trying To Fit In:
He had a genuine desire to really get to know my children. I am lucky because this guy is FABULOUS with all kids. Children intuitively know that he’s happy to plop down on the ground and get goofy. So my two younger ones took to him fairly quickly. But he is also more than willing to invest the time and effort it took for my older two.
He’s found shared interests with each one and offers them encouragement and genuine understanding. My children know he would do anything for them or for me. And it was very important to him that they feel comfortable with his presence in my life.
With his jovial nature, he helped them feel at ease when the two of us show affection to each other (because my children never saw their father and I in that way!). My boyfriend would holler, “Hey guys, look! OLD PEOPLE KISSING.” He would then proceed to pepper my face in kisses. In about two seconds, my kids went from horror to rolling their eyes and laughing.
3. He Shows Insight Into What My Kids Need:
My boyfriend really wants to help. My older two children do not have contact with their father. I try to compensate for this but worry that I could fall short in guiding my teen son into manhood. My boyfriend is acutely aware of my concerns. He often thinks of activities that I can do with my son, or he suggests bringing my son along with us when we attend movies or events that have any hint of a masculine undercurrent.
The three of us have gone to a gun show, motorcycle race, played paintball and watched many action-filled movies. I’ll always be grateful to my boyfriend for supporting my son and even my girls in ways that I had hoped their father would but hasn’t. This willingness to help me add a masculine perspective to our mommy-only home went a long ways in showing me just how wonderful he was for my kids.
4. He Respects My Kids Boundaries:
He has very healthy boundaries. Even though two of my children are not close to their father, the other two do have a relationship with their dad. My boyfriend respects this and would never try to displace him. My guy diplomatically supplements when appropriate, but never steps on toes.
Additionally, he has always been respectful of the children’s boundaries.
Very quickly, my littlest one wanted him to carry her to bed and kiss her whenever he would visit in the evening. She threw some pretty heavy hints his way. He very gracefully sidestepped just until he’d had a chance to privately ask me what I was comfortable with, and confirm that he was interpreting her requests correctly.
His level of involvement has always been appropriate for who he is, a positive male figure who cares deeply for them. He never parents them unless I’m not actually present at the moment, or he is gently encouraging good behavior. I do believe there are families who are quite healthy with a “step-father” acting as a full father. But our arrangement gives us the balance we need at this time.
5. He Is An Excellent Father To His Own Children:
When he and I shared parenting stories, I could hear how similar our styles were. I saw him interact with his children and recognized a kindred spirit. He has two grown children that love and admire him and a five-year-old that believes he hung the moon and stars.
He is a rock for all three, freely providing them with security, love, affection and guidance. The more I get to know him, the more I realize that I have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to achieving a healthy dynamic between my children and boyfriend. He has far exceeded my expectations. We are taking our time with decisions about our future. Either way, I have no regret about bringing this man into the lives of the people that matter most to me.