advice for dating a divorced dad?
March 23, 2018 5:55 PM   Subscribe

Hi AskMeFi, I’m curious to hear from divorced dads: how long did it take before you felt you could really date again? And how did having a child (and an ex-spouse with whom you co-parent) effect your dating life?

I’ve been dating a divorced dad and I find it hard to read his behavior, as to whether he’s just overwhelmed with co-parenting or not all that interested in a serious caring relationship. He was divorced about two years ago, his son is about five, and his relationship with his ex is still pretty antagonistic. We see each other about once a week but he can go days without responding to my texts, which feels really hurtful to me. I give him the benefit of the doubt often, but then I’ll see him on social media and think, ‘well he has time for that stupid comment thread, why can’t he just f-ing text me back?” He responds well when I initiate conversation about our dating (he says that he enjoys our time together and wants to keep seeing me) but then he sometimes just disappears and becomes non-responsive during the week. I’m almost always the one who initiates plans to meet up. When we do meet up, it’s happy and warm, we get along really well, and he seems excited to see me… and then he disappears. It feels very out of sight, out of mind. I’m super averse to being a “nagging woman” and I really hate being put in that situation. Do I try to get him to be more responsive (at risk of being “demanding” or feeling like I’m pressuring him)? We’ve been seeing each other for about six months; neither of us are seeing anyone else. He has expressed that he's still a bit reeling from the divorce. Am I jumping the gun? How do I initiate this conversation in a way that acknowledges both of our feelings (my desire for more connection and his wariness—if that is what I’m correctly perceiving)? I feel like I've been patient because I want to give this a chance and I want to be sensitive to his parenting obligations, but I also feel I can't just pretend that this non-responsiveness don't bother or hurt me.

I should add, there another question buried in here for people 40 yrs +: is it, or is it not, rude and inconsiderate to not respond to the texts of the person you are ostensibly dating, for up to 3 days? To me, this is very clear signal of how much someone is thinking about or cares about you. What do you think?

Please chime in with any insights!

I’m in my late-30s and he’s in late-40s. We both have pretty time-consuming day jobs.
posted by zebrabananafish to Human Relations (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I've been in a serious relationship with a divorced dad for several years. When we met, his divorce had been final for about 3 years and he had joint custody of three children, the youngest of whom was 9. He also had a very demanding job. The youngest of my two children was also 9. Oh, and we live 50 miles apart. So, we had our hands full at home and had some geographic and scheduling challenges to further complicate things.

But we were really into each other. Like giddy, silly kids into each other. We called each other all the time and squeezed in dates whenever we could. It was awesome. It still is.

I have found that when two people are feeling the same great vibe about each other, it's easy and obvious. You reach out a lot because... it just feels so good. It doesn't sound like that's what's going on in your situation. You have a good thing when you're in contact but there isn't a big need on his side to make that contact happen.

You want someone who's into you. Someone who wants to be in contact regularly, get to know you better, have you in his life. Go find that guy. It isn't this guy. He may be a perfectly nice guy but he's just not that into you. Don't waste time on trying to parse out his feelings. That way lies many, many wasted hours. He's not calling or texting or trying to set up dates. Those are his feelings. He's telling you clearly what his feelings about you are.
posted by MissPitts at 6:18 PM on March 23, 2018 [29 favorites]

He has expressed that he's still a bit reeling from the divorce.

This is the key, IMO... he's not over it and he's conflicted, and there's no way to tell how long his process will take. I'm the (40+) male side of this equation, (no kids, though), and I was texting 24/7 with my new love (now married). There was no reeling going on at all. Kids make it harder, for sure, but 3 days is waaaaaaaaaay too long. Texting takes seconds.
posted by Huck500 at 6:20 PM on March 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

It sounds like he's just not that into you. That or he has a lousy communication style. Either way, you're clearly not a priority, so I would find someone else.
posted by Slinga at 6:33 PM on March 23, 2018 [10 favorites]

My reading of this is that these behaviors are not related to his parenting. I know tons of single parents. I was one. It isn't impossible to date. It is even more possible when there is shared residential time. Not responding to your texts on the regular isn't cool. It doesn't sound like this is working for you, in that his level of communication doesn't match yours. Maybe you can give him a shot and tell him directly, "Look, I know you're busy, but I'd like us to have more regular communication. And as part of this, it is upsetting to me when you ignore my texts." IMHO this is totally legit. Then give him a few weeks to see if he can change.

But for clarification - what's his residential (custody) situation and how does it impact your dating life? Assuming that he has his son 50% of the time, I would totally understand that on those days that he'd be less available to communicate with you. Yet he could quickly reply to you and say "Super busy with kiddo but thinking of you! Hope that thing at work went well." This isn't too much for him to do, especially if he has time to be on Facebook.

But, the fact that things seems antagonistic 2 years after the divorce, I'd want to know a bit more about that to assess it. This might be more of a red flag. To me, it wouldn't be unusual for this guy and his ex to be communicating with each other regularly about kid stuff - "Is kid's lacrosse stick at your house? I can't find it." "Did you sign the field trip form?" "Where are the snow pants?"
Or are the antagonistic conversations about money? That can be really tough for people to work through. I hope that they have a solid parenting plan in place.
How is this antagonism impacting you?

For better or worse, when you enter into a relationship with a parent, you are also entering into a relationship with his kid and his ex.

But again, it sounds like his communication stuff has little to nothing to do with him being a parent.
posted by k8t at 6:33 PM on March 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

I agree with Slinga. I think that his being divorced and a dad are red herrings. He’s just not that into you. Six months is more time than I would have given to someone who doesn’t respond to texts for three days. (I’m over 40, for the record.)
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:45 PM on March 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

Who cares?

He doesn't have the bandwidth to meet your needs. Respectfully, bounce and take care of you. His communication style is not compatible with a caring relationship. That's all you need to know.
posted by jbenben at 6:54 PM on March 23, 2018 [9 favorites]

Are you exclusive? Days without texting/non-responsiveness could mean he is seeing other people.
posted by bearette at 6:59 PM on March 23, 2018

Sorry, I just read your question more carefully and you say you are in fact exclusive.

Anyway, I think that expecting someone you are dating to return your texts within three days (or really, within a few hours most of the time) is extremely reasonable. I wouldn't be able to date someone who didn't do that. It sucks to be in the position of feeling like you have to "nag" someone to do the bare minimum. I suggest you move on.
posted by bearette at 7:01 PM on March 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

there another question buried in here for people 40 yrs +: is it, or is it not, rude and inconsiderate to not respond to the texts of the person you are ostensibly dating, for up to 3 days?

It could be the medium. I'm 45 and I hate texting. Loathe it and will not do it. I conduct all of my social media in my browser. I stay in touch with my daily people on Facebook Messenger (or Signal) through my browser. It might be worth asking him if there's something he prefers for communication.

How do I initiate this conversation in a way that acknowledges both of our feelings (my desire for more connection and his wariness—if that is what I’m correctly perceiving)?

No. No. You know your feelings. Do not assume his. Use your words to ask him what his thoughts and feelings are.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:36 PM on March 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

It sounds to me like:
  • You want a serious relationship.
  • He wants to date, and genuinely likes you, but is not ready for a serious relationship.
  • He is not grownup enough to admit this and cut you loose.
  • Possibly he is not able to admit it even to himself, let alone to you.
Whatever, this guy is clearly not capable of fulfilling your needs right now. The reason is not actually that important, although yeah probably it has to do with the fact that he works a demanding job *and* coparents a five-year-old *and* has an antagonistic relationship with the other coparent, his ex-wife. The reason he can do stupid Facebook crap but not text you is that stupid Facebook crap requires zero emotional effort while interacting with you requires non-zero emotional effort. He has no emotional effort to spare right now.

I'm sorry, but this guy is just not in a place to be a good partner except in the most casual of relationships. I'm sure he likes you. Maybe he's a perfectly nice person. He's just not as available as you need him to be, and he's not able (or perhaps just not willing, if I'm being less charitable) to articulate that.

If you want a serious relationship, it's time to move on from this guy and find someone who's able to be as available as you need. Your needs don't sound unreasonable, but this guy can't meet them for you. There are guys who can, go find one.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:39 PM on March 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

It's fine if this guy hates texting. If that was the case, yet he was really into you, then he could still pick up the phone or use a carrier pigeon or whatever his preferred method of communication is. But he's not. He's just ignoring you. Not cool at all. Someone who wants to be with you will show you, kid or no kid. Go find that person, this one is wasting the time of both of you.
posted by Jubey at 7:40 PM on March 23, 2018 [2 favorites]

He has time to post inane comments on Facebook but not text you back? I get that you don't want to feel needy or whatever, but you're not. People who are into each other don't leave three days between texts. That is actually really rude. I don't know what's going on with him but it's not your problem to fix. You deserve someone who can match your level of attention.
posted by Polychrome at 8:31 PM on March 23, 2018

Agreed that it’s rude as fuck. I think all of us olds remember simply telling people, “I’ll call you at about 6pm” and then you make sure you’re near the phone at 6pm to receive the call. That was the etiquette. If we could manage that in 1985, it should be unbelievably easy to do when you basically have a Star Trek communicator in your hand 24/7.

Also consider the fact that maybe this dude is divorced because he ignores the people who are trying to have a relationship with him! I’m not trying to say that divorce is a scarlet letter that screams, “I suck at relationships,” but relationship behaviors do tend to repeat.

Either way, there’s no point in persisting trying to date someone who ranks you below “Which Hogwarts Headmaster Are You?” in priority.
posted by Autumnheart at 8:45 PM on March 23, 2018 [10 favorites]

I am a divorced dad who was over 40 when I started dating. 3 kids. Demanding job. Demanding time sucking volunteer work. In my opinion, I have way too little information to tell you what to make of his behavior. I also, because of my own time commitments know that if someone wants to make time for someone else of for an event or for something, they can and will find the time.

Having said that, I hate text. Very little real communication comes in 160 characters. Even if it is back and forth. I also will go days without checking my phone for texts. I am dating a woman for 6 months. If she texts me and I see it, if it is more than a quick, what time are we meeting type question, I will call her. My kids tease me about my lack of text responsiveness. Turns out they call it a phone because it is a phone. For talking. Grr. Get offa my lawn.

It sounds like some combination of really busy, maybe not into you as much as you want, maybe just bad at phone text or maybe something else. Who knows? Ask him, not us.

Try calling him. When you do speak, speak about communication style. After 6 months of dating, asking about responsiveness to texts or asking that you speak almost every day seems reasonable, not nagging.
posted by AugustWest at 10:03 PM on March 23, 2018

I agree with those above who say that you don't need to work this hard when you really click with someone and that you're probably better off moving on.

I'd also ask you to reconsider your aversion to being called a "nagging woman" or "demanding". Those are terms our sexist society places on women who dare to ask for what they need in relationships. Don't let fear of being called those things hold you back from asking for what you need. You deserve to have your needs met too.
posted by peacheater at 1:54 AM on March 24, 2018 [9 favorites]

Sure you can talk to him about the frequency of communication and your needs (this is not nagging), and if he is into you, there should be improvement on his side. I was sort of like him when I started dating again 2 years ago. I hated texting. It was making my boyfriend uneasy, and I listened, and got a lot better about responding, even though I might still relapse here and there. Sometimes if his text requires a lengthy answer, I might put it off and put it off, then feel bad about putting it off, get anxious over that, and not respond at all. I do it a lot (a lot!) less now, but it's still possible. Usually at that point I will just call and tell him I'd rather reply to his text in a phone conversation.

But: "I’m almost always the one who initiates plans to meet up." What will happen if you stop initiating for a while? Will you see each other once a month then? Less than that? That might just tell you his level of involvement in this relationship. Often people attempt to date when they are not quite ready. You can sit and wait to find out if he'll improve for another 6 months, or you can move on to dating someone who's enthusiastic about spending time with you and can't get enough of you. Latter feels so much better!

(I'm 40)
posted by LakeDream at 8:39 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm dating a divorced mom and uh, yeah, I just don't think he's as into you as you're into him. We're both in our early 40s, and while I certainly didn't love texting before I started dating, I got the hang of it pretty quick once I had a reason to do it. True, our day jobs probably aren't as time consuming as yours. But if he can't be arsed to at least acknowledge you at one of those moments when one can steal a minute for yourself (lunch, quitting time, bedtime, dawn), then there's a problem.
posted by wotsac at 9:03 AM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

I’m a post-40 guy dating a post-40 recently divorced mother of two, and even at the times we could only see each other once a week, we were in continual contact, mostly via text. This guy is clearly just much less invested in the relationship than you are.
posted by ejs at 1:30 PM on March 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Adding to the chorus, but: I have dated divorced men, including dads, and what I've found is they run the gamut from all-in to totally-not-ready, just like non-divorced men. At a certain point, everyone has a complicated past, and chalking it up to his divorce/custody is a cop-out.

I have had 2 relationships like this (neither was divorced, each blamed a different life trauma for his behavior). In one case, Non Communicating Dude went straight from not answering my calls to marrying a single mom and being an instant family man within a year of our "breakup". He just wasn't that into me.

NCD would answer when he felt like it, popped in and out of my life, and I never pressed the issue because I didn't want to seem nagging or demanding. I did this off and on for about two years with one of the guys, and it left me feeling insecure, sad, and alone. It made it very hard to actually break things off, because we would go so long without communicating, I was afraid to start any conversation about the state of our relationship. Those moments when you get together and have fun make it so much harder--they are "love kernels" and they are just there to keep you on the hook.

TL;DR, DTMFA, you can find someone who likes you just as much as you like them.
posted by assenav at 10:49 PM on March 25, 2018 [3 favorites]

My current partner was divorcing when we got together. I'm glad we're still together now, 11 years later, but if I could go back in time, I wouldn't continue to date him through his divorce. It's super hard to date someone going through that. In a lot of ways, they're still in their marriage, and to the degree they're not, they're kind of fucked up about it, and it will definitely flow into your relationship. Is it worth it in the end? It totally depends on your circumstance, but unless there's something uniquely wonderful happening, MY learning is: Don't ever do this again.

And on the texting note: I think it's okay for people to disagree about frequency of texting, but if a long delay feels bad to you, that's real, and it matters. I think if he were super into you, this wouldn't be an issue.
posted by spindrifter at 10:17 AM on March 26, 2018 [1 favorite]

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