I’m on the other side of your world. I’m single and childless (those facts could fill more than just a blog with emotions and words and projections, but I’ll save that for another day), and I generally date men in the same boat. But the man that I’ve officially fallen for has a son. Before meeting this man, this was a very neutral concept to me in dating. Upon meeting him it became exciting– a little boy was already part of our future, guaranteed! And now, it still feels exciting and my eternal optimism has to admit that it’s also hard. Like, really hard.
So here I am, with the man of my dreams, who loves me deeply and soulfully, and who is just as cheesily and disgustingly emotive about this love as I am…and I’m sad I can’t spend much time with him, and I’m scared I will never be his top priority. I’m scared that this version of my fairy tale looks different than I thought and that some how I’ll never have something I wanted. Even though I’m very clear that I love this man, I still feel challenged that it isn’t just us.
Part of what makes everything so hard is knowing that this little boy needs his dad. Particularly now. And particularly as a new person is introduced into the mix. So there’s the side of me that very genuinely wants everything for this kid, regardless of how much time I get to spend with my love. And that’s the side of me that I like because she is very understanding and kind and hey, maybe my man will even love me more for it! (Did I say that out loud? Ugh.)
But there’s the other side of me that is practically screaming “pick me!” Even writing this brought tears (like real, full of pain from somewhere tears) to my eyes, and made me feel sick with disgust. I not only have these selfish feelings, but I have multiple levels of judgment around them too (note the word “selfish”).
This love feels complicated and challenging, even while it feels sweet and smooth. I both deeply understand how this man and child are a team, and I simultaneously crave my own team. For now, here’s what I’m discovering about how to date someone with a child:
1. Let Yourself Feel Bad, Some.
Feelings are feelings. The more we try to suppress and ignore them, the more powerful they become. You don’t have to act on them, but give yourself space to feel, without judgment. Because this whole thing is new and hard, and sometimes it sucks. And then be willing to gently let go. Be willing to notice what is good– and remember you are in choice.
2. Talk to Your Friends.
Man, am I grateful for my friends. This is the place I get to be a brat and say all the things running crazily in my head that make me sound like a monster. And they acknowledge how I feel, assure me anyone would feel that way, and then help me figure out how I actually want to act and what matters most to me.
3. Talk to Your Person.
This is scary but critical, so that these dark and pouty feelings don’t come out passive-aggressively when we least expect them and can’t recognize them. I tried to make it clear that I was sharing, so I wouldn’t build up a wall between us, not because I needed anything fixed. And then I shared. And he listened. And then he shared. Turns out, it’s really hard for him too. And I got to assure him that it’s worth it to me. We now have a short cut to talk through moments that come up around the schedule. And, turns out, we both feel closer to each other because we’re on the inside of these feelings, together.
4. Savor Time Together.
Talk about being present! I’m not wasting a single moment with this man worrying that I won’t get him tomorrow. Okay, maybe a tiny moment or two, but when I notice I go right back to savoring the time I do get. Each moment feels full and potent. I actually hope we don’t lose this when we’re all sleeping under one roof- it’s a beautiful practice, and it makes ordinary moments breath-taking.
5. Savor Time Alone.
I’ve always loved my alone time, but I’m as clear as I’ve even been that I won’t have that forever. Soon enough my home will be full– with at least a man and a boy and a dog. As giddy as this vision makes me, it also reminds me to savor each moment that I get to do exactly what I want, when and how I want to do it.
By practicing these approaches, I’ve landed in gratitude. This exciting time for me is actually made a touch sweeter by not being able to spend every night with this man. I get time to say good bye to my single life. As challenging as it has been at times, I’m already aware of how fondly I’ll look back on being single. This is an incredible gift. This little boy is helping me do something I wouldn’t have recognized that I needed. I get to slow down, savor and say goodbye to a part of my life before plowing ahead. Wow.
Because as challenging as this situation can feel, I wouldn’t have it any other ay. I get to trust that– not just this man, but also this boy– are exactly what I need.