Welcome to the wonderfully convoluted world of co-parenting! If one doesn’t know what to expect going in, they may find themselves dealing with some very negative situations and feelings that hurt both their co-parenting relationship and their children.

 I’ve been on both sides of the coin. I used to be the woman dating the guy who had a child. Then I became the woman who had children with the guy who already had a child.

I want to talk about the “girlfriend” perspective for a moment; the woman who’s dating a man who has a child outside of his relationship with her.

There’s nothing quite as challenging as having a man you’re head over heels in love with but he still has a very active tie to his past via his child(ren)’s mom. Unfortunately, many girlfriends put on a brave face through courtship and engagement, but at some point, how she really feels slips out and it’s usually not pretty.

Here’s what I’d like to tell you. It’s natural to feel somewhat threatened by the mother of your significant other’s child. The wrong thing to do is make subtle and overt attempts to distance the child from his/her mother so that you can enjoy what looks to be a “perfect family picture”. Spoiling his child and trying to win them over with gifts and activities so that they enjoy your company more than the mother’s company is manipulative.

That would be the wrong move, not to mention selfish.

What you should do is place yourself, even if for a moment, in another woman’s pumps.

Let’s just say that you and your significant other have children together. If, God forbid, the relationship went south, how would it feel if another woman entered your ex’s life, started wanting your child to call her “mama” and trying to influence the child to move in with her and your ex as soon as she was legally old enough to do so?

Don’t worry girl… I can see the veins popping in your forehead from here. Remember that perfect family picture I mentioned earlier? Go ahead and wipe that out of your mind. Your family dynamic will forever be different because the love of your life has a child with another woman. Unless something tragic happens, that child will remain outside of your household and therefore, you must accept that at least for you, the dream of having a traditional relationship with only you and your man to deal with is not going to happen. Shake the fairytales quickly.

Here’s some key things to keep in mind when dating a man who has children:

1. There are two sides to every story concerning his past with his child’s mother. Trust and believe that he’s going to give you the most unpleasant side so that you won’t feel threatened. But the truth is, there weren’t all bad days, thus their having a child or children together. There’s no side to take when it comes to your man and his child’s mother. Keep the responsibility of both parties in mind, and that’s the wellbeing of the child. You’re not there to judge his past or hers so don’t get dragged into the middle by either party.

2. If you go into the situation thinking the mother of his children is the bad guy, you’ll have a hard time shaking this image, no matter what she does. Be leery of men who are always speaking negatively about the mother of their children. Why? Here comes #3…

3. Unless you are physically unable to bear children, always keep in mind that the woman he has a child with now you could very well be in her shoes one day. We’d all like to live happily ever after, but the truth is some relationships don’t make it. It’s important to see how a man handles situations in life that aren’t always ideal. It takes an extraordinary amount of maturity to co-parent and do so respectfully. If your man has nothing good to say about the mother of  his children all the time, just remember, “She could one day be ME. Do I want to be disrespected like this?” The true test of a man’s character isn’t in how he deals with people he likes but how he deals with people he’s no longer on the best of terms with. In your mind, you may feel his criticism is justified, based on his information to you and your limited observations. But again, keep in mind that it’s important to see how a man handles a situation where two people aren’t on the best of terms, particularly when children are involved. Can he remain respectful and still hold to his parental duties? Keep your eyes and ears open.

4. You cannot erase his past. That means, you cannot make the mom go away and you can’t try to find subtle ways to erase her from the life of your man also. It takes maturity and self confidence to date a man with children. If you need every last drop of a man’s attention, you may want to reconsider dating a man with children. The last thing you want to do is resent a woman you don’t know or children you did not give birth to. It is true that some co-parenting relationships do not have good boundaries. But this is just as much his fault as it is the mother’s. Do not tolerate disrespect. If you feel that he isn’t able to keep his relationship with the mother of his children appropriate, then you may need to consider walking away for your own dignity’s sake.

5. Keep in mind, it’s just as hard for him to try to be a good father to his child outside of his relationship as it is for you to deal with it. Because of his choices, he now has two or more women in his life that he must find a way to engage and respect without offending any of them to the detriment of his child or children. Sounds like a tight rope, right? You can make it easier if you keep the right attitude. Support him being a father to his children and spending quality time with them. Commend him when he is respectful of his children’s mother. Respect for her is NOT disrespect of you! Again, keep in mind “she is me” when you want to fly off the handle and become offended. All it takes to become her is a pregnancy and a break up. You want any children that come into the relationship to feel and receive love from everyone, including you.

In part 2, I’ll  give the “baby mama’s” point of view. You don’t want to miss it!

Have you had negative experiences dating a man with children?