Dear Justine,

I’m a 28-year-old woman and I’ve never dated a guy with kids before. I’ve never even dated a guy who was divorced before! But, this really handsome divorced guy with a 4-year-old daughter messaged me on JDate. He’s 36, older than I usually date, but his profile was so charming that I couldn’t resist meeting up with him. 

Well, I’m glad I did, because he’s wonderful. We’ve gone on six dates and he treats me like gold. For example, I had to reschedule our third date because I was sick, and he ordered me some takeout Chinese as a surprise! Anyway, I haven’t met his daughter yet, but he talks about her on our dates all the time. It’s very sweet… but I’m not really sure how to respond – some of the things he talks about are so “adult,” like choosing her elementary school. What am I supposed to say? And what I am getting myself into here? Am I too young for this? Maybe I should go back to dating guys my age?

-In Need of Parental Advisory


Dear “Parental Advisory,”

The bottom line: the decision is yours. If you are most comfortable dating guys with the same “profile” as you – your age, no previous marriages, no kids – that’s your call. Feeling comfortable with whoever you’re dating is crucial.

But, allow me to make a pitch for this guy (who sounds lovely). You say that he “treats you like gold;” don’t think that’s unrelated to him being a dad and having experience with women, including his ex-wife. Being divorced carries a weird and undeserved social stigma. While his divorce may have been painful and messy (or may not have been – many divorces are pretty straightforward), people gain a lot of relationship experience from… being in relationships. Would a 28-year-old guy who has never had a super-serious girlfriend know early on in your relationship that you’d really like him to send you Chinese food when you’re sick? Or would he have any clue what to do when you’re not feeling well around date #3? Don’t underestimate the value of experience, and definitely don’t assume there’s something wrong with a guy because he’s divorced. It may simply be that his relationship with his ex was flawed, and he may have learned a lot from that relationship, and you could be the beneficiary of that learning process! You must get to know this guy much better before you make judgments about why he got divorced.

In terms of his daughter: that’s a little trickier. Listen, his daughter is probably the most important person in his life. Her getting a good education is a high priority for him. He’s not looking for you to go on Amazon and buy a book about elementary schools so you can give him tips. He wants you to be interested and supportive. The best way to demonstrate interest and support is to ask questions and listen to his answers. It doesn’t matter if your questions feel (or sound) silly; what’s important is that they are sincere, because your sincere interest in his daughter will come across to him.

Definitely do not worry about meeting his daughter at this stage. His willingness to introduce you to her is likely related to issues that have nothing to do with how much he likes you, such as his relationship with his ex and his desire for his daughter to have stability in his life. It sounds as if he likes you a lot and is probably picking up on your worries about “What am I getting myself into?” As time passes, and if he gets the vibe that you’re comfortable in the relationship, he’ll likely feel more comfortable introducing you to his daughter.

And finally: you’ve got physical chemistry with this guy. That’s really important. Would you rather be with a guy with your same “profile?” Or with a guy with a different “profile”… but who you like kissing?

Justine Borer is a family and matrimonial lawyer practicing in New York City. In her spare time, she loves to write, act, do pilates, and spend time with family and friends.
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