Dating these days often means keeping your mind and your options open. Whether you’re exploring the crazy world of dating apps or you’re looking for love in your workplace, you never know when a new boo could come into your life. But if your S.O. has a child by a previous relationship, you want to do right by everyone involved.
Dr. Jennifer Freed, a marriage and family therapist, has some great tips for dating someone who already has a child — and she’s living proof, with 20 years of experience as a stepmother!
Don’t overstep your bounds. While dating or marrying their parent automatically gives you an important role in the child’s life, it’s up to you to define what that role means, but also keep yourself in check. Dr. Freed recommends taking a step back and earn the right to be involved, especially when it comes to disciplining the kid in any way.
The kid always comes first. “Never make yourself more important than parenting the child,” Dr. Freed says. “If it’s you versus the child, you will lose every time, because a commitment to a child is for life. The child’s needs will always come first.” So don’t even go there; it won’t work out well for you.
Be a support system. “Joining this type of a relationship is the single biggest opportunity to develop emotional maturity,” Dr. Freed says. “You don’t have the biology that puts the kid’s needs before your own, but you do have the ability to develop a desire to support the parent and child. You become the best supporting actress in that role.” And that selflessness will only make them appreciate you more.
Prioritize your relationship. Your partner might be a parent, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re your partner! Having a child can make a relationship more complicated, but Dr. Freed stresses the importance of you both taking time to develop deeper feelings for each other. “You need time to develop romance, love and sex without the child involved. Otherwise, you could be at risk for resentment,” she says.
Know the possibilities. The transition from one or both biological parents to including someone new in their life can be hard on a child. However, Dr. Freed says that, if that transition is handled carefully, having a new person to be there for them can be incredibly beneficial.
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