Does Dating A Single Dad Mean I Have to Do All the Heavy Lifting?


I’m 36 and like kids. He’s been divorced for 6 years and has a 7-year-old daughter. He’s told me he prefers to date women with no kids as we have more free time. He has 50/50 custody. It’s been nearly two months since we have started dating each other. Because he’s a very involved father, we don’t get to see each other often, which I’m fine with; I wouldn’t even date him if he wasn’t an involved dad. Sometimes a few days will go by and I wouldn’t hear from him, and it seems lately I’ve been making all of the plans. Not sure if he’s just getting lazy or just so busy that me taking over all the planning is one less thing he has to worry about. He looks forward to us spending time together and we get along great. I feel really comfortable with him. Like I can be myself. But I’m not sure I want to be the one taking all the initiative? Is this what it’s like dating a single dad, or is it just THIS single dad?


Great question, Erin.

Your question isn’t specific to divorced dads but it is endemic to divorced dads.

Meaning: there are lots of men who will date you but are too passive, lazy, insecure, busy or ambivalent to be good boyfriends. There are just MORE who are single dads.

there are lots of men who will date you but are too passive, lazy, insecure, busy or ambivalent to be good boyfriends.

Why? Because single dads have a very valid built-in excuse for why their limited attention is all they can give. You can’t really argue with a guy who says he wants to be a good father.

Having never been a divorced father, I want to tread lightly. But, from my vantage point, if your guy is divorced for six years and has a 50/50 custody situation with a 7-year-old girl, he and his ex should have a pretty good rhythm that leaves him a reasonable amount of free time on either weekdays, weekends or every other week.

So it’s not that I don’t believe him — or any man — who has important parental obligations that come first, but rather, I believe my own rule about guys: “men do what they want.”

If he wants to call, he’ll call. If he wants to see you, he’ll see you.   If he wants to make plans with you, he’ll make plans with you. If he wants to commit to you, he’ll commit to you.

And if he doesn’t — if you’re the easygoing, patient, “I totally-understand-you’re-a-single-dad” woman who is not getting her relationship needs met, you need to tell him just that.

“Hey, Dan, it’s been fun getting to know you these past few months. I really enjoy our time together and appreciate how important it is for you to be a great father. However, I feel like I’m always the one taking the initiative to see you. It’s not like I’m keeping score or anything, but when I have to do all the reaching out, I don’t feel particularly valued or cherished. Do you think we figure out a way to set up a regular schedule when I can expect to hear from you and see you so that we can both get our needs met?

It’s not an insult. It’s not an attack. It’s an observation about your own feelings that give him an opportunity to either step up or step out.

This is who he is. This is what he’s able to offer.

Chances are, he’ll hear you, acknowledge you, and maybe even try to accommodate you, but I wouldn’t expect much to change. This is who he is. This is what he’s able to offer. It’s up to you, as CEO of your love life, to decide if he’s worth keeping around when you have to do all the heavy lifting. Personally, I think every woman is worthy of a man who makes an active effort to see her and I would hold out for no less.



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  1. 1

    I am especially qualified to comment on this post because I have been dating a divorced guy for the last 6 weeks, and things are going very well.

    The man I’m dating, however, texts or phones me every day. He does 99% of the initiating of contact; in fact, I think I have only initiated contact 2 or 3 times. He also does pretty much 100% of the setting up of time to see each other and making of plans.

    I give these details because I think this is a huge part of  why  our situation is going so well. Evan is absolutely right when he says that men do what they want to do and this is something I have particularly learned with the guy I am dating. A relationship works best when a man is making a consistent effort and doing a lot of the initiating. When you have to push him along or reach out too much, it means you are having to force things to an extent, and that simply does not work well. And it doesn’t work at all with an assertive, masculine man. Something I’ve learned is that the guy I’m dating really prefers to be the one driving the relationship – if he is not making something happen, he either doesn’t want it to happen or he has a very good reason for it.

    That said, there have been times when I have definitely had to be understanding where my guy’s kids are concerned. I will not offer too many details because I don’t want any significant part of this thread to be about me or my relationship, but as a woman with no children who has never really dated a man with children before, I have had to make some concessions and adjustments to my way of thinking. It is a totally different space to be in to date someone who has people in his life who mean a huge amount to him and who come before you do. It’s a shift in perception which I, and I think certainly most people without children, are not used to.

    The guy you’re dating  should  be a good, involved dad. But he should not make you feel like you come last and that you’re not worthy of his time and effort. I know how important my guy’s kids are to him, but he always makes me feel like I am  also  important (not first priority, but important enough).

    I offer my perspective because I don’t think the OP should settle for what she is getting. I’m sure he’s a lovely guy, but it just sounds like it’s a one-way street that is going to make her miserable in the end.

  2. 2

    I agree with Clare,   having dated plenty of single Dad’s (and a single Mum of 2 myself) I’ve experienced more of the ‘only available on my own terms’ kind of guys than not.

    I have finally met a guy who initiates (more than I do), let’s me know his schedule with work and kids and sees me when time permits.   Mark’s advice is spot on,   let him know where you’re at.

  3. 3

    I agree with Evan. I’m a 50/50 dad myself and have been for nearly two years. Depending on where we are in the cycle it means I might need to plan a bit further ahead than “let’s meet tonight”, but I have no problems communicating and setting up dates.

  4. 4

    Like others, I call bullshit. The OP will only be disappointed in the end, I don’t care how nice this guy is…

    My boyfriend, father of 2, made me a priority from day one and did so without missing a beat with his visitation schedule.

    A man can use excuses for years, but in the end what you see is what you get. I accepted such lame excuses from my previous boyfriend – who wouldn’t, when a guy is being a “good dad” and prioritizing his kids? – but found out the hard way that I’d made the wrong choice after 6 years. That one abandoned me during a major crisis, during a week when he didn’t even have his kids! He was just incredibly selfish, and the kids were nothing but a convenient excuse all along. The worst part was by then, 6 years in, I really loved the kids. So I had to leave them too. (There be were other issues that led to this decision, but that was the last straw. It was heartbreaking, and one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.)

    Do not do this to yourself, hunny. Do not waste time on those who don’t make you a priority. Get out now and find a man who makes sure you know you are important, no matter what!

    1. 4.1

      I agree!

  5. 5
    April H.

    I date a divorced dad with 50/50 custody and two kids. We’ve been together a year and a half.   This is my first time dating someone with kids, so I didn’t know what to expect. However, when he says he’s going to do things regarding us, he does them…without fail. While he may be a little more tired than I am (I don’t have kids but I am in school full-time) and I suggest a tad more of the “getting out of the routine” plans, he’s pretty on board with everything. If I find a way for us to get away to Cuba for a few days, he is quick to arrange everything with their mother, whom he has that “kid swap rhythm” with.

    Even with our jobs, him having custody of 2 boys, and me being a student and a homesteader, we’ve still gone and done a lot of things in our short time together. And sometimes doing nothing is really great, too. (Spectacular, actually!)

    So, I am going to have to agree with Evan. Men do what they want to do. Or rather, PEOPLE do what they want. If he wants to be with you, he’ll show it by his actions.   If he doesn’t, he’ll show it by his actions.


  6. 6

    I remember my Divorced-Dad experience like it was yesterday. It was actually 21 years ago. And after that experience, I told myself, “no more Angel of Mercy” and “no more emotional re-hab.”

    I agree. A guy who wants to be a Good Dad is to be admired and supported. After all, “a child never asks to be born.” Me? Genuinely? I was appropriately supportive and took active interest in the troubling concerns he’d present — at his own pace. Wow. I guess I went forward thinking, “I’ll take the approach I would like if I were the parent.” Reserving judgements. Commentary only when recruited/asked. I remember a discussion when we were taking about daycare. I said, “Well, I’m sure if you asked a kid, ‘do you want to be cared for by a nanny or babysitter instead of a parent?’ that we’d know how the kid would likely answer.” The lead to a thoughtful and sensitive discussion. I listened. He was so “at odds” with how his failed marriage could affect his child.

    And then it happened. He went on a golf trip. He met a woman. He was madly in love. And I realized what I had morphed into being: a confessor; a friend. Over a breakfast meet up, he proceeded to tell me how wonderful this new woman was and how “she’s a lot like you!” (Said with genuine enthusiasm.) I brought a coffee cup up to my mouth…trembling in trying to do so. I put the cup down…and kindly said —

    “I am crazy about you. I always have been. But I cannot do this anymore. Can you please take me home?”

    He spent the remainder of the car drive exclaiming how he “didn’t know! I didn’t know.” And I just chuckled to myself thinking how much of a waste of time this had been — a way of buffering the hurt. I opened the car door and let myself out. I looked into the car and said, “I really hope you have a wonderful life. I really do!” And that was that. He would go on to a second gf and that would be the one with two more kids. I am childless. And they are divorced.

    The way I am CHOOSING to decide this, Evan? There are broken people. There just is. And while I can be a good friend, I’m not at all convinced I am supposed to her there to have their challenges (shortcomings?) suck the life out of me. There are broken people. Perhaps I am one, too? But at least, I did not convince myself to take on a loveless marriage. And a parting thought?

    I have a remarkable dog as a companion and myriad, MYRIAD good friends and neighbors. WHO KNEW that I would be doing this alone though?

    Thanks for this lovely opportunity to share thoughts. I am so very convinced that, somehow, I was supposed to help the divorced dad discover more about himself. Did I benefit vis-a-vis a lifelong match? Companionship? Nope. But gosh…he hasn’t either. And to that I say — “Wow.”


  7. 7

    I have dated divorced dads almost exclusively since i turned 34. Just comes with the uhm, the age, right? And, as an aside, have just signed a lease with one who’s been my boyfriend for a year 😎 What the OP described is not at all normal, period, full stop. There are divorced dads like that but you have to simply weed them out. They are using their kids as an excuse and that’s that. Evan is right on the money.

    1. 7.1

      For that matter, there are guys like that at every level and every stage of life.

      My (limited) experience of dating divorced guys (sample size 2) is that they are actually very loving and responsible, the good ones anyway. I often say that along with the downsides (possible trouble with the ex, custody issues, missed dates, child support payments etc.), there are quite a lot of emotional upsides. A dad knows what it is to be selfless, responsible, supportive, emotionally available and committed.

      In any case, that is what my current boyfriend is like (a dad of 2).

      Not making enough effort in a relationship is by  no means a single dad thing – any person really can exhibit this tendency. But the thing is to say no thanks to such people.

  8. 8

    His reasoning for dating child-free women should have been a huge clue to what you are dealing with. The opening salvo is hypocrisy. That hes a selfish dolt is not shocking lol.

    1. 8.1

      I would argue with that. I prefer dating child free men and I don’t see it as selfish but rather practical.

      1. 8.1.1

        I’m not talking about people without kids preferring to date child free people. I’m talking about men with kids choosing to pretend they aren’t subject to the same dating rules as women with children. Having children narrows your dating pool substantially.   If those children have health issues, your dating pool is essentially nonexistent.   You cant get on your high horse when you have kids and pretend child free people should  lavish attention on you. I say this a mother of one child who is autistic.   The truth is most people aren’t looking for relationships,   they are looking for accommodating situations. This LW got sucked into that trap.

        1. sylvana

          I have to agree. He prefers to date women without children because they have more free time. So he wants what’s most convenient to him, expecting her to make sacrifices he does not want to or cannot make himself. Sounds like he wants not much more than a guaranteed lay whenever it’s convenient to him.

  9. 9


    I also share 50/50 custody with my ex husband. We do week/week. And to be honest when my son is not with me I have so much free time I don’t know what to do with myself. And also I work full time and have hobbies. So no, your boyfriend does not have an excuse of not having time because of being a good dad. His is absolutely free 50% of his time. And how hard is it nowadays to drop a text and arrange a date?



  10. 10

    I will jump in here again. A many can be so wracked with guilt/grief/confusion about his child being raised in a broken home, that he certainly can’t make himself available to you. Even though divorce is so COMMON nowaday, he may be so emotionally strained, if not, completely emotionally unavailable for you. He doesn’t know his own emotions fully. So he shuts down. Focuses on the kid — EVEN THOUGH he may be available for you 50% of the time. And…who wants to be with a guy who doesn’t even know himself and his emotional torment? Watch for excessive drinking and other foolish decisions in his life when he’s not “Daddy Time.” THEN he can perhaps “hold it together.” But when his ex has his child? Stupid behaviors can happen. And he certainly won’t be calling YOU, nor should you begin to THINK this many his the support and care you want/crave/desire/need.

  11. 11

    If you were dating a man who didn’t have kids and after 2 months he started letting days go by without contact, stopped making plans leaving it up to you to do so…what would you think?

    I would think the guy was either losing interest in me, trying to keep me as an option while not moving forward, or both. Just because the fellow Erin’s dating  has  kids doesn’t mean he isn’t doing the same thing. Two months is a typical time frame   for someone who doesn’t want to move forward to pull back.

    I’ve read stories of how frustrating it can be for people who both have kids to date. Just because they don’t have full custody, doesn’t mean they can always be kid-free on the same days. I don’t think it’s necessarily hypocritical of him to prefer dating child free women – after 6 years divorced he may have found they are   easier to see more often. The fact that he’s not seeing Erin very often even though she’s child free and he is child free 50% of the time may be another tell that he’s not quite that into this.


  12. 12

    He’s just not that into you. End of story.Ironic that he wants to date a woman without kids because she has more time.

    1. 12.1

      Exactly what I was thinking.

  13. 13

    I dated a man for 18 mos who claimed he wanted to marry me but couldn’t due to the needs and financial constraints of his 14 and 16 year old sons. He asked for me to wait until the kids were “launched” – at least three more years and we could marry then. He said this is what a responsible” Dad must do. Can I get your feedback? I eventually ended it because the financial situation kept getting worse, not better, as the kids demanded more and more and he refused to say no due to “divorce guilt”. He told me “you’ll never meet someone that loves you as much as me” when I left him but if someone loves you, don’t they find a way to marry you, despite $ and teenager drama? I felt like I was just there to comfort him when his kids werent around…

  14. 14

    First I find it interesting or funny when someone with kids wants to only date someone with no kids. I’m a single mom of one and all I hear from men is “there’s so many single moms” and not in a nice way. I almost feel it’s unfair for me to even only want someone with no kids.

    But anyways I’m trying to understand why she should give him a chance to step up. You say if a man wants to do something then he’ll do it. If he wants to call he’ll call, etc. But it’s obvious he’s not doing that. I feel like her expressing herself is a waste of time. Am I wrong? I guess I want to know if the guy isn’t already doing these things that men say they would do if they were interested, ie calling, making plans, should we as women really give them that opportunity to step up?

    Being a single mom and also being single for the last 6 years I feel like he’s not that interested. Or interested enough to make the effort. He’s had years to balance the life as a single dad. He could step up and go right back to no effort.

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