Do’s and Don’ts of Dating a Single Dad

Single dad with child

Dating a single dad has its challenges, but you shouldn’t let the difficulties dissuade you, as it also has its upsides. If you’re interested in dating a single father or are already seeing one, you’ve likely accepted that your relationship with this person differs from the others.

Fortunately, we have some tips to help you if you’ve met a single dad and want to know what to do to make it work. We’ve given you the best do’s and don’ts to help you navigate this unique relationship dynamic that can turn into something special with the proper guidance.

Why Is Dating a Single Dad Different?

So let’s address the ‘giant’ elephant in the room. The critical difference between a regular man and a single father is the fact that your man has children. His priorities are considerably more child-focused – but that’s OK! Children also mean he may not always have time for you or spontaneity.

So, ask yourself: can I accept that he might not put me near the top of his list until he’s ready to commit and have me as a parental figure in his child’s life? If so, you’ll likely have a chance at a happy and loving relationship.

Another difference in dating a single dad is that they don’t think the same way as other single men. Most single dads are much more attentive to your well-being. They care less about appearances and more about what they (and you) can bring to the table to ensure all parties are happy, healthy, and prosperous.

Single dads can be more guarded and standoffish because they don’t like to waste time. This means they generally look for long-term relationships, not short-term ones like most other men. They have a decent idea of what to look for in a woman, and once they have it, they don’t let go – especially if they want a mother figure for their child. 

This can be a refreshing positive when you’ve come from a long dating history with men who did not know what they wanted. These are only a few differences surrounding dating a single dad compared to childless partners, and you can see why it’s attractive for many people.

What Are the Do’s of Dating a Single Dad?

If you’ve read this far, you’re likely wondering how to navigate dating a single parent and ensure the relationship is flourishing. After speaking to experts on the topic, we’ve compiled the five top tips (dos) you need to know about dating a single dad.

1. Do Be Patient and Open to Listening

It is apparent that at this point in his life, he’s been through a lot to eventually end up as a single parent – be it because of a nasty divorce or unfortunate death. As his partner, you will need to exercise much more patience than in a standard relationship, as most single fathers are far more sensitive than you might believe.

For example, you may be constantly interrupted by his children’s needs, even when the conversation seems important. This can make it seem frustrating to talk to him, but if you both set an appropriate time, you will find that the discussion will be a priority for him, and you will be less likely to feel like you aren’t being heard. He will feel like he is not having to choose his children over you or vice versa.

Ultimately, you need to listen to his needs and be patient while he establishes a new normal with you and his children


So, be open to listening when he needs to talk about his feelings. Try not to take it all personally, and you will find that he will open up more and more about how he feels. Many men feel unheard, so hearing his needs as he hears yours is critical to enjoying a successful relationship.

2. Do Understand His First Priority Isn’t You

When you look at a father, the first thing that seems the most attractive is how he handles and cares for their children. 

Unfortunately, this can be a dual-edged sword because when you’re dating a single dad, it is essential to remember that this means his number one priority will be the children. In fact, a considerable percentage of his day is split between his children and work, so there might only be a little time for you until he decides (or you both do) that your relationship is serious.

However, this does not mean that he won’t value you or prioritize you in his daily life; it just means that sometimes plans with you may be canceled due to his children’s needs, and you will need to understand this if you want something serious. 

This is a crucial point to accept and come to terms with; otherwise, you will continue to feel as if your worth is not high enough on his list when the opposite is true, leading to problems and an eventual breakdown of the relationship.

You will also have to grow accustomed to spending time with him while his children are present, and sometimes it can be frustrating. But as long as you have a clean line of communication, you should be able to slot in that alone time you both need to keep a relationship flourishing.

3. Do Plan Alone Time in Advance

Now that you understand his priorities, you both will need to openly communicate about when you can share one on one time, and to do that; you will have to plan dates and activities in advance.

Yes, we know this can take the spontaneous flare and sparkle out of things, but you must understand that he has multiple roles that he takes on a daily, and the freedom of being a single man is a thing of the past to him. Therefore having a planned time will make it easier for him to help prioritize your relationship together and keep the romance going.

4. Do Help Out if You Can

When we say help out where you can, we don’t mean take it all on. Be bold and ask how you can help with the parenting so that you stay within the boundaries he has in place. In addition, if you ask him where he might need help, you can ease his burdens and build your relationship by showing you can help support him when he needs it.

Since most single dads value actions, it will also show that you are dedicated and genuinely care for him and his and his children’s well-being. It will also help clear his schedule so he can devote more time to your relationship with him. 

5. Do Accept and Bond with His Children Equally

If he only has one child, it can make things significantly easier when it comes to bonding. But if he has multiple children, it could make things a little more complex. That’s why it’s best to put your best foot forward with them and equally care for them and pay them attention to ensure you’re not picking favorites. 

At the end of the day, the budding relationship you will share with his children will determine if your relationship with him continues. So, take bonding with them seriously, as they will be in your life forever if you consider their father a life partner.

What Are the Don’ts?

Now that you know the dos of dating a single dad, we want to share some don’ts. If you know the don’ts, you can avoid encountering a falling out with your partner or potential partner. You will also have a better chance of having and maintaining a healthy romantic partnership. 

1. Don’t Get Jealous – Adapt Instead

This is incredibly hard for most women, and it is entirely normal. Sometimes you will wish he would just prioritize you over his children. Having these thoughts or feelings doesn’t make you a bad person. Still, it is one of the toughest challenges you will have to overcome – especially if you struggle with jealousy.

You’ll need to keep it in check and constantly adapt to the dynamic of dating a single father. The better you adjust and the more you can reject jealousy, the better your relationship will be. His children will always have to come first, but you can earn a spot there, too, if you’re open to creating a life with a single dad.

2. Don’t Pressure Him

A huge mistake that many people make is that they often place extra pressure on their single-parent partners. You might be tempted to apply too much pressure in areas like commitment or alone time, but this will only put your relationship on rocky shores. Try to remain flexible with your time, and the act of compromising will be your best friend.

Ultimately, pressuring your partner will only add to their full plate; eventually, that added pressure will be too much, and your relationship will suffer. If you desire them to commit more time to you or open up more, you will need to exercise that patience we mentioned earlier. 

Single fathers don’t open up as quickly as some single women do. It may be a long while before he feels he can openly depend on you to hear him out. Eventually, you will reach a point where you can openly communicate about matters surrounding his children. 

Remember when communicating not to pressure him into anything he doesn’t want to do, especially concerning his kids, as that could end with you drawing the short end of the stick.

Woman Arguing with Man

3. Don’t Try and Discipline the Children or Be Their Mother

This right here can end a relationship quicker than most other things. As much as you will be compelled to take on a motherly role, taking things into your own hands may push you further away from your partner.

Disciplining the children without having an in-depth discussion first could undermine your partner’s teaching. Or your discipline style may be forbidden to use in their minds. There is an unspoken boundary when disciplining another person’s child. You should only do it if you have permission from the parents (if his ex is in the picture, you need to take her wishes into account, too!).

Avoid acting like their mother unless the dynamic calls for it and your partner has no problem with it. Trying to replace the children’s mom may be detrimental to your relationship with the kids themselves and could cause strain in your relationship with their dad. 

You could never – in most cases, replace their mother, and you shouldn’t force it onto them. Respect their wishes and your partners while staying true to yourself, and you’ll encounter fewer problems in your relationship with a single father. 

4. Don’t Set High Expectations

Some women place the same expectations as a single man onto their single-dad partner. This dynamic is entirely different, and while we don’t expect you to completely throw your expectations out the window, they will need to be adjusted.

Setting high expectations will only set you up for disappointment and waste your and his time. Before diving head first into this relationship, you will need to talk about your expectations and how you can make compromises to ensure everyone’s needs are met – including the children.

5. Don’t Cross Boundaries

When you have expectations, talk. It would help if you also discussed boundaries. Many single parents will know exactly how far into the family dynamic they will want to include you in and will express it to you. You will likely have to deal with the mother of his children, and those boundaries will need to be discussed.

Once you have had this conversation, you must respect the boundaries they put in place. Even when it may involve you directly, you will have to turn to your partner and have them give you the solution.

This ensures they feel confident that keeping you around their family is okay and that they can trust you to respect their children and parenting style. This does not mean you shouldn’t set your own boundaries. Be clear and explain why you need your limits too.

What to Keep In Mind When Dating a Single Dad

Having a partner with children may seem daunting to most without children, but it can be a beautiful experience and can often lead to a long-term relationship. Watching your man and how he treats his children can tell you so much about the person he is.

It also gives you a great idea of what kind of dad he will be if you both decide to have more children. When dating a single father, you will also be able to experience life differently, and you may even be better equipped to handle life’s punches since he has already learned some of them before you’ve had to.

Lastly, single dads are often far more tentative and loving than some single men. They love you as you are and may even appreciate you a lot more than a child-free one would. According to many women, single dads active in their children’s lives are the cuddle bears and the primary protectors in the dating world. So if you date one, you should be prepared to encounter more ‘Alpha’ male tendencies. 

Key Takeaway – Remember Happiness Is Possible

It doesn’t seem easy to date a single parent, but we promise that with these do’s and don’ts, you will be much happier for it. If you’re looking for something different and have the patience to unlock a happy long-term relationship, then this will all be smooth sailing for you.

According to recent statistics, there are thousands of single fathers globally. It is estimated that about 37.8% of single fathers are divorced, 16.8% are separated, 41.1% have never married, and 4.3% are widowed. Many of these men are interested in finding love again, but it can be complicated when children are involved

A happy and loving relationship is possible with a single dad; it just requires a little extra hard work than a normal relationship. Should you struggle, just know that even if you aren’t the top priority, it does not mean he doesn’t care. 

Should you both be prepared to put in the time and effort and get along with his children, you’ll likely build a beautiful, long-lasting relationship.

Abigail Langton
Abigail Langton

Abigail Langton spends her time deep diving into the facts readers want to know about current dating apps online. You'll find her breaking down the latest price points and how to stay secure dating online.