When a dad is single and has children—whether as a full-time dad or sharing custody—dating can be a particular challenge. Before he had children, defining the ideal girlfriend might have been more about her having fun, being playful, being really cute and attractive, and being a good friend. But once children are in the picture, a man needs to look for more than just those things. The important character traits in a potential companion have new meaning when the single dad takes into account the potential of a relationship that involves his children.
So, what kinds of traits should a single dad look for in a companion that will be attractive to him and a positive for his children?
- She should be patient. One important characteristic for a single dad’s companion is patience. Kids need to feel that the adults in their lives are patient with them during their growing up processes. Dads know that even the best kids can test their patience, and any potential girlfriend or companion exhibit patience in a variety of settings. Dads need to evaluate how their dating companions react in situations where patience is needed.
- She should be "your type." A single dad should feel attracted to the possible companion and feel a connection to her. It is not enough to only see her as a potential stepmom for his kids. The couple needs their own spark and to enjoy each other’s companionship in order for the kids to be open to a relationship with her. Your potential companion needs to take pride in her appearance and be someone your kids would want to be around.
- She can love your kids like her own. If your potential girlfriend has kids of her own, she should be open to bringing other children into her life. The single dad should observe how she interacts with other children—her own or others. He should watch to see if she really enjoys being with them.
- She is able to be tough. Many girlfriends try too hard to get the kids to like her and end up being manipulated by them. She needs to be able to be tough enough to not give in and still be a good listener and a good friend.
- She is internally secure. The potential companion will likely have some interaction with the kids’ mother and that can often be problematic. Insecurity can ruin a relationship faster than almost any other trait. A single dad’s girlfriend needs to be secure enough with herself that she will not create drama or play games because she is jealous of an ex-spouse.
- She is authentic. Children can sense when an adult is being deceptive or phony with them. Your future companion should not be fake or try to be someone she is not. As you observe her in situations, watch for signs that she may be less than authentic in how she acts and reacts.
- She listens and communicates well. There is no more important predictor of the quality of a relationship than how the communication patterns work. Single dads need to be aware of how effectively a possible companion interacts with others, listens, and speaks in social settings. Does she listen well to you? Does she communicate facts and feelings honestly but kindly?
- She sees the good in others. Sometimes we have friends or acquaintances who complain about, demean or others. A good companion for a single dad with children will look for the good in others and will speak positively of them. Someone who always seems to find the worst part of people will not be a good match for your children.
- She is a good friend to you and others. Friendship is among the most essential elements of any relationship. Does your intended companion show respect and loyalty in the relationship? Does she care about how you are feeling and what you are experiencing or is it always all about her? Seeing how she acts around you and her friends will offer some important clues about how she will act around your children.
- She demonstrates self-control. A companion who is in control of her life and makes decisions based on values and principles rather than on a whim or in the heat of the moment is one to be sought after. If she cannot be in control of her situation or if she is impulsive and lacks self-control, she could be a liability to your children in a relationship.
Children who are with a single dad need some extra care and concern. And while dads need to have social interactions with adults in adult situations, single dads need to make sure that the companions with whom they spend time and get close to will be a good fit with their children and their family situation. A little objective attention to these kinds of character traits will help make the connection of your companion to your children a much better experience for you and for them.