The Ultimate Guide to Dating as a Single Dad

By: Michele Baird
Updated: July 14, 2021
a father with his daughter
Do you remember the emotions you went through on your very first date, way back when? The sweaty palms, racing heart, flustering your words. It was such a new situation that you felt like you were fumbling your way through it.

And guess what? It feels very similar later on in life when you try to date as a single dad. You might remember a few things that worked from the first go-around, but you’re still fumbling.

The difference is that you’re in new territory now.

Not only are you older, established in a career, and responsible for many different things - but you’re also a parent. You have to think about their wellbeing and future along with your own. That isn’t something to be taken lightly.

This process might look a bit different than before, but rest assured — you can do it. You are capable of many things, and finding happiness is on that list. 

Let's look at how to date as a single dad.

Navigating the Dating Scene as a Single Dad

At the end of the day, you want to come away with an enjoyable experience. You don’t want to be miserable while looking for love. The stress of dating can bring out that emotion.

Going through this process doesn’t have to be like that. There are many things that you can do to make dating as a single dad quite pleasant. We have compiled a list of things to do to help you experience this new season of life in the best way possible.

Think About What Situation You Want

The last time you were in this situation was likely under different pretenses. With your life as it is now, what has changed for you? 

What do you find yourself looking for right now? What is your overall goal for this period in your life? Do you want to:

  • Get out and meet some new people?
  • Enter into a dating situation?
  • Explore a long-term relationship?
  • Find the next spouse?

Each circumstance warrants different preparation and insight. If you are just looking to meet new people, for instance, you don’t have to worry about whether their life goals are compatible with yours. You can be more carefree in who you choose to engage with.

On the other hand, if you are looking for your next partner for life, you might want to think of a way to find out if they are Republican or Democrat. You won’t want to just pick one of the first people you see on your dating app. Having this goal will necessitate more learning about the person and the life they lead.

All things considered, you want to find a person who is compatible with your life and the goals that you have for yourself.

Consider Your Hard Stops

We all need to think about what lengths we would go to for a relationship, even if we are young with limited responsibility and obligation. But when we are older and more established in life, we need to consider more. This is due to the roots we have planted and our plans for ourselves now and in the future. 

Some of the things to think about include:

  • Would you be willing to relocate for a relationship?
  • What morals and mindsets are you not willing to negotiate on?
  • Do you want more children in the future or not?
  • What are your thoughts on a different religion?

If there are some things that you just don’t see yourself swaying on or that go against your beliefs and opinions, you want to make sure that you don’t enter into something serious with someone fully committed to them. That wouldn’t make for a great relationship. 

These could be simple things like vegan vs. not or city life vs. country. But they could also be more serious. 

Perhaps you are Jewish and would want to raise future children Jewish. You probably wouldn’t want to enter into a relationship with a devout Catholic who has a like-minded family going generations back. That scenario is unlikely to play out how you want.

“Becoming a good father is not about learning five practical handy techniques that can be pulled out of the kitbag whenever they are needed. It’s a mind game. It’s about having a set of attitudes and ideas that shape what you do in the thousands of different situations you find yourself in as a dad.” – Tony Payne

Decide When To Introduce Your Kids

One of the most significant components of your older adult, single dad life is that children are involved. If you are only looking to find someone to casually date, or just looking for friendship, it may be best not to bring them around your children. 

This is not only because you want to refrain from introducing your children to a slew of new people who may or may not stick around for long. It’s also because your children are likely to be feeling loyalty to your ex, their parent. You don’t want to put them through the difficult emotions that go with that unless you've decided on a long-term partner.

With that being said, if you are looking for something more serious, you will need to eventually make the introduction and see how the two parties interact. It’s best to introduce the conversation in advance and not overwhelm your children with information or an unexpected meeting. 

Things To Remember:

  • Be sure to allow them the opportunity to ask questions. 
  • Be sure to understand that this is a new and confusing time for your child as well. They are navigating a completely new territory just like you. 
  • Allow them the space to express their emotions and concerns. 

It’s also important to tend to the emotions of your new partner as well. It can be difficult to find a balance with all the new elements combined. Take the time to have a conversation about their emotions going into the first meeting. You should also have a debrief afterward.

As time goes on and it becomes more serious, be sure to incorporate a conversation with your partner about your parenting expectations. 

Some relationships bring in a parental responsibility with the role of a new step-parent, while others stick to the child’s legal parents as the only enforcers of rules and behavior. It’s important to have this decided upfront to avoid any tension in the new relationship. 

Don’t Go Too Fast

It’s important to take your time when entering this new phase of life. Rushing too quickly may lend itself to disaster. You want to step slowly into a new relationship to make sure that it is a healthy one.

Often it’s tempting to rush into something new and exciting. Some will throw caution to the wind and go full force into a new experience. You want to avoid having a new relationship take the same route as your previous one, especially with children involved. 

Therefore, take your time to get to know the person you are engaging with. The best way to build a friendship and relationship is to be your natural self. They need to see who you are in a relaxed state, not stressed out from trying to do everything right and right now. 

Additionally, in this stage of life, your natural self is busy with many competing obligations like:

  • Parenting
  • Work
  • Family

You need to devote your full attention to each life responsibility so that nothing falls to the side. Therefore, make sure that you allow an appropriate amount of time to each without shortchanging yourself or stretching yourself too thin.

Permit Yourself To Leave

Some of us may have rushed into marriage too soon the first time around. And some of us have done that with relationships as well. One key thing to remember is that you can always step back and reassess.

It’s important to know that just because you have gone on a couple of dates with someone, it doesn’t mean that you are tied to them. This round of dating and relationships is likely much different than before. You have specific things you need and want out of it. If, after a while, you don’t think that it’s a good fit - permit yourself to leave.

You don’t owe it to the other person to stick it out and see if it works. You are more likely to owe them the respect of acknowledging the incompatibility when you see it. They want to be happy just like you do, but they also don’t want something to drag on if it isn’t going anywhere.

So do yourself and them a favor and be realistic about where you are. You do not have to explain your instincts and feelings to anyone, even yourself. If your gut tells you this isn’t what you’re looking for, then go with it. 

And when you do go with it, don’t look back. Don’t allow yourself to feel any guilt. You deserve to be happy, and you are also allowed the right to be selfish in your wants.

You Can Do It

So as you can see, dating as a singl dad is not the same as it was when you were in your teens. It’s not as easy as going up to your crush and asking if they want to go out. As an adult, more components play into the dating scene.

Whereas before you could go to a movie, hold hands, hang out and not stress about anything further, the steps are a bit more detailed now. As an adult, you have priorities and commitments, as well as strong opinions and morals. All of those have to be taken into consideration for future relationships.

Not only that, but you have children now. They are your top priority, above all else. Not only are you looking for somebody who will make you happy, but they also need to make your kids happy. 

The steps are a bit different from your younger years to now, but you are different as well, with different ideas and expectations. 

And now you know what it takes to enter into a healthy and strong relationship. Although it may take longer to find the right one, know that you are doing it the best way for you and those you love. 

Be patient with the process and trust in yourself. You know what you want and what will make you happy. Know that it’s out there, and you will find it at the right time.