The 8 Biggest Things Single Dads Want From Their Next Relationship (As Told By A Single Dad)

Photo: courtesy of the author
8 Important Things To Remember When Dating A Single Dad

We've both got some history under our belt, kids, and some requirements for what's okay and what we simply won't ever do again. (Red Flags, we like to call them.) As we navigate "dating" again, we quickly realize the rules are very different. Our experience gives us some distinct advantages in terms of recognizing what we don't want. And perhaps our unfinished wounding might keep us from starting the dating process again.

I've got two kids and a full-time job, but I'd still like to find time to be with someone. But there are some rules for dating a single dad:

1. Let's not rush into things.

I will admit that getting back out there, for me, as a man, initially was about sex. Today, I think sex can get in the way of learning if you like the person. And if you're going to do more than lay around in bed with this person, you might want to go easy on the seduction moves at first.

Get to know if you like talking to, as well as looking at, your potential partner. I don't have any hard rules on this. But if you slow the drive to the bedroom you might avoid getting mixed up in something purely physical. It can blur your vision when trying to figure out if you want to hang with this person for the long run.

RELATED: 4 Honorable Reasons Single Dads Are Secretly TERRIFIED Of Dating You

2. 100% pure connection.

Half my life is behind me. I have two beautiful kids. And I'm happy with myself, just as I am. (I'd like to keep getting fitter, but my joy is genuine.) On several previous online dates, I found myself sitting across the table from very attractive, usually younger, women who had nearly nothing in common with me. I could see myself eyeing their bodies and trying to imagine the sex, but I stopped myself, pretty quickly, even with the fantasizing.

It takes a lot to get to a second date with me. Today, I'm even getting pretty stingy with first dates. I don't want a "date." I don't want nice. I want my next relationship to start out with the potential going the long distance. I've never been a casual dater.

3. Another parent.

If my date doesn't have kids, they probably don't have much in common with me. At our age, kids are either a choice you made or one you didn't. And nothing against the non-parents in the group, but I'm so wrapped up with my kids, that if you don't have that same passion and joy, we're probably going to have to look for things to have engaging conversations about.

If you have kids, we've got an immediate starting point for everything. Trying to talk about your kids with a woman who's not a mom... Well, they just don't get it.

4. No games.

Games of any kind are an immediate timeout. Passive aggressive might have worked in some other decade, but as adults, we should've gotten that silliness out-of-the-way. One thing I will tell a first date is, "You can ask me anything. In fact, I prefer the hard questions. I'm trying to learn the answers myself. I will always try to answer honestly." And the one relationship I've had since my divorce went right for it.

And while we are no longer a relationship we went through the whole process — getting to know each other >> dating >> breaking up — without any drama. None. We're still friends. That's how it needs to be. Let's do without all the crazy stuff.

RELATED: 8 *Golden Rules* Of Dating A Single Dad (As Written By One)

5. Brutal honesty.

If it's not a fit on the first date I'm going to try to let you know as gently and as quickly that it wasn't a fit. I think that initial attraction is something that we can't really control or completely predict, but I also don't think we can do without it.

I have created a dog metaphor to help me explain what I'm talking about, and I usually share this concept on the first date. (Hmm. Maybe this explains a lack of second dates.) Here it is: Two dogs meet up in a park. Either 1. both tails are wagging; 2. one tail is wagging; or 3. neither tail is wagging. It's as simple as that. I was born with a Boston Terrier's body. I can be several different sizes of Boston Terrier, but if you're into whippets and poodles, we're probably never going to be a match. And there's no accounting for taste. I think some of this is hardwired.

6. Total compatibility.

If the chemistry (tail wag) is ON, there are still a ton of steps along the path before we're in a relationship. We need to have intellectual compatibility — if I'm a reader and you're a reality TV junkie, we might not go the distance. We need to synchronize our schedules over time.

Kids, work, and all the other stuff we're just remembering we love to do have to be the priority. It may take several months to get in our first four dates, but like I said earlier, we shouldn't be in a hurry. And then we've got all the negotiations about how and when we want to see each other. (Let's not start with jumping in bed or looking at vacation calendars for a while. Okay?)

7. Fearless commitment to monogamy.

At first, divorce may seem like we've gotten the key to the kingdom of sex again. It's not that easy. If that IS what you are looking for, go for it. I won't be in your queue. If we do decide to sleep together I want to know that we've just become mutually exclusive. That might be a stretch if you're playing the field, or not sure about what you want. It's not difficult for me. By the time we get past 1st-base, I'm letting you know that I am into you. And if you want to go further, we've got to establish some mutual objectives. (If we're about to sleep together I can assure you we've had this conversation.)

8. Feeling the feelings.

Men are often accused of not feeling their feelings. And, in fact, feelings can be scary for both men and women. But as we begin navigating our time together we've got to be able to talk about whatever we're feeling. The beauty of that is feelings include the ability to fully love. So when the opportunity arises I look forward to being 100% present with my feelings.

There might have been a disconnect on those terms in my previous marriage. But I'm a learning individual. I know that I feel deeply and I enjoy being expressive of those feelings. If feelings scare you, that might be something for you to look at. Feelings are the key to compatibility, in my opinion.

I look forward to having another opportunity to learn about myself "in a relationship" at some point. I'm happy and patient right where I am. But I believe by having my priorities clear and articulated I can do a better job of finding and sorting through the process of finding that NEXT RELATIONSHIP. I wait enthusiastically.

RELATED10 Huge Downsides Of Dating A Single Father

John McElhenney is a single-dad who lives in Austin, Texas with his two teenaged kids. He is a nationally-recognized speaker and writer on the topics of parenting, dating as a single parent, and depression recovery. His newest book is Single Dad Seeks. This post is from his popular blog The Whole Parent.

This article was originally published at The Whole Parent. Reprinted with permission from the author.