Just what exactly is Step Dating and why should you know about it? Step Dating is dating that occurs when one or both people involved have children. It is unlike other dating because it automatically involves more than just the two of you — the needs and welfare of children are intimately involved.
Given the high rate of separation and divorce, there is a good possibility that many people will find themselves in a dating relationship that involves either their own or another person’s children. It is wise to have some fundamental knowledge of what to expect in a Step Dating relationship.
Learning about the unique challenges of Step-Dating can be the difference between having a successful or unsuccessful relationship.
It is crucial that couples embrace the magnitude of the experience that they are entering into, particularly once they choose to involve the children in their relationship. There is no way around the fact that relationships involving children require an obligation to their best interests, a willingness to consider every facet of the relationship from various points of view, and a level of maturity on the part of both adults that will allow them to work together proactively and cooperatively. That is where consciousness enters into the equation.
Consciousness and the need for it is a theme that weaves throughout all relationships involving children, be it during step dating, during remarriage, or after a couple has formed their new family. It can even begin at a very early stage, even before the couple comes together.
Conscious Dating involves having a clear vision of what you desire in life; your purpose, values and the requirements that you are looking for in a relationship. It involves being very truthful and clear about what it is you are intending to create in terms of a healthy relationship and also what you are not willing to accept in a relationship. The considerations and issues for single parents and singles without children will obviously be very different.
The single person, for example, should ask him/herself, does the relationship I envision for myself involve someone else’s children? Single parents should be aware of what they are looking for in a person that could become a potential stepparent to their children. These are honest, fair and important considerations that individuals need to be willing to make to be true to themselves, and if they are hoping to build relationships that will ultimately be successful for them.
The need for a conscious approach to step dating naturally flows into a consciousness around the issues that the couple will face once they develop a relationship. Step Dating has much in common with living in a stepfamily, and the complexities that get played out here require that the adults are aware of the dynamics and do not get tripped up by some of the common myths that prevail. Here are just a sample of the issues and myths that you can expect to meet up with in a step dating relationship:
1. Myth for Single Parents — Your partner should unconditionally “love” your children — if they love you they will love your children as they do their own.
This is an expectation, whether articulated or not, that leads to intense frustration on the part of both the biological parents and their partners. In my experience, most stepparents report not having the same kind of “love” for their stepchildren as they do for their own biological children.
This is not to say that they don’t care for, respect, like and provide for their stepchildren in a way that expresses an interest in their well-being; in fact this is exactly what stepparents can do. But the adult relationship shouldn’t hinge on having the same strong bond that biological parents have with their own children. Especially in the early stages of a step dating relationship — to expect any kind of a significant bond to occur will certainly be cause for disappointment, frustration and even resentment.
Relationships take time, and ofttimes love between a stepparent or potential stepparent and stepchild can evolve gradually. While not absolutely essential for a successful relationship, love can be a wonderful gift for all involved if it develops naturally.
2. Myth for Singles Dating Single Parents — My role is to co-parent with my partner and to become an equal parent in the raising the children.
Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the responsibility of the biological parent to perform as the primary parent with his/her children, especially during the dating phase. The role of the step-dating partner is to take on the role of a friend, a coach or a mentor to the child(ren), and the main task is to build trust in the child.
Being in a hurry to parent, discipline or take an authority position with your partner’s children is not only unhealthy and confusing for the children, it is also a recipe for relationship disaster. Supporting your partner in parenting and eventually sharing some of these responsibilities is something that should only occur after a significant period of time has passed in a committed relationship.
3. Myth for Everyone — Love Will Conquer All! Those other people in failed step dating relationships or second marriages involving children just didn’t love each other enough. But We Do!
Most couples who start out Step-Dating and move on to develop a permanent commitment loved each other intensely and believed they had what they needed to make it work. They may even have known that it wasn’t going to be easy. But, believing that love will overcome everything and prevent the challenges of step-dating or stepfamily life, is a nave idea. Love is undeniably essential, but learning specifics about what to expect and planning for it, will help couples make better informed relationship choices.