Dear Dr. Romance:

I've run across your Happiness Tips and am enjoying reading them.  I'm a divorced woman in my late thirties and I do not have children.  I've accepted the fact that most of the men in my age group will be divorced and most of them will have children on top of that.  I don't mind either.  Matter of fact I'm dating a wonderful man that has full custody of his two children. So to get to the point, I'm looking for some information on how to develop this relationship further. 

We are beyond the beginning stages and have decided to be "exclusive".  I find tons of information for the single Dad, but nothing really for me.  I just need some reassurance that this can work out and things to watch for.  I really don't like being blind sided.  Maybe something to shed some light on what he might be thinking.  I know that I can only know what he is thinking for sure by talking with him, but we don't get tons of alone time.  He's a busy Dad.  I know that we are on opposite sides of an idea sometimes – once he told me that he's spent more time with me than he has anyone else he has dated since his divorce.  I was flattered and pleased, but at the same time – this is the least amount of time I have spent with a boyfriend.  I just feel like I'm in left field once in a while.  Do you have any recommendations of some books or websites?

Dear Reader:

There are a couple of things you need to do here, in addition to establishing your romantic relationship with your man.  If you and your man are going to be exclusive, that means the relationship is getting more serious, and you need to start establishing some relationship infrastructure.

First, you need to make sure his kids are OK with you dating their dad.  If you haven't met them already, I recommend that he introduce you as "a friend" and that you act as friends, nothing more, around them in the beginning, until they have the chance to get to know you.  Many couples create disaster by forcing a new romantic partner on the kids, which sets the situation up for a lot of anger and rebelliousness. 

These kids have lost a mom in some way -- either she died or they went through a divorce -- which is traumatic for the kids.  They aren't going to look kindly on the woman who 'replaces' their mom, unless they feel they had some say in the choice. 

Second, if the relationship goes forward and progresses to living together or spending a lot of time together, you and your man need to talk about parenting issues.  Are you going to have some power to discipline the kids? Will you have a say in how they are raised?  These issues can become very divisive, if they're not worked out beforehand.  This is another good reason to spend time around the kids, to see how the family system works. If the kids already know you and their dad are dating, give them a chance to express how they feel about it.  Get together as a group and do things the kids would like to do as often as possible.

If he has been doing things with his kids without you up to now, this will give you both a lot more insight into how well you get along and work together.   "Dating Guidelines for Single Parents" will help you understand what is involved in being a single parent who dates. "The Challenges of Blended Families" will show you some of the challenges you will face and help you handle them. You can share it with him.  Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things that Can Ruin Your Relationship will give you a lot of tools for talking about those issues as your relationship deepens.

Good luck, it sounds as if you're off to a good start.

Money Sex and Kids k

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Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.