What it’s like dating a man with a child in your twenties

And why I decided it wasn’t for me

For the past 18 months, I was in an on and off relationship with a 26-year-old man – who had a 5-year-old son.

This article is not a polemic as to why single men with children should be branded ‘undateable.’ I’ve heard relationships are about compromise but my experience made me realise nobody should compromise theirselves and their desires for fear of losing someone.

I had never really been in a serious relationship before. My previous relationships usually consisted of sleeping together and interacting in past-times simultaneously, such as watching films and drinking. Not technically ‘a relationship.’ Also, despite my ex’s having the emotional capacity of children, none of them actually had any.

I only found out my ex had a child a few days after we met. I was initially a little shocked but came around to the idea after remembering how much I liked him. Besides, I’d never thought about going out with someone who had a child before, I’d never had to as it wasn’t something I came across in my own world – none of my friends had children, none of their partners had children so it was an alien situation. However, I was given various words of warning; ‘it will impact your life too much’ and ‘you’re too young’ etc. etc. I didn’t take much notice, as it’s not that out of the ordinary anymore. Even Kylie Jenner is doing it and she’s younger than me.

I met his son only a few months into our relationship. You do end up staying in more when you have a boyfriend, but I was also staying in to read bedtime stories and help build Lego. My weekends had definitely changed but interestingly enough, that wasn’t what I felt, impacted my life. It was the relationship he had with the mother of his child.

I felt as though she was controlling and it felt like she always wanted to know what he was doing. That’s what really caused arguments between us. I didn’t like how she’d be messaging him to initiate day to day conversations. To me, this was still an ex-girlfriend. Another strange thing was that he was living in a flat owned by her father. It was a situation I had never been exposed to before. I think I was also jealous her too – if you ended up getting engaged and having children with this guy well, she’s done it all with him already.

The issue finally came to a head. We were next to each other in bed. We argued, he apologised but I told myself I needed to remove myself from a situation that hurt me. I started to do my own thing more and stay at mine more often. In hindsight, perhaps I should have really ended it there.

He said he wanted to live with me at some point. He decided to move out of the flat owned by his ex’s father and live with his mum for a bit until we could afford something together. This was framed as ‘he had done it to make me feel more comfortable’ but then, when we argued, it was ‘I moved out of my flat for you.’ I wanted a future with him, but there was something in my gut telling me things were moving too fast and I was entering into a period of my life I pictured happening in my 30s – all this should be happening after moving upwards in my career, travelling a little, writing a lot and taking each day as it came.

The differences of what we wanted in life were becoming apparent. My ex, although he was only 26, had been engaged twice and craved the security of a relationship where everything was pretty much planned out – live together, get married then children. I loved the thought of being able to do big holidays, move to another city and get excited about the unknown. My ex couldn’t really do a trip to Vietnam, he couldn’t part with the money and didn’t earn as much as me. He didn’t like that I was always unsure if I wanted children too. I could feel him slipping away from me as the arguments escalated. He was unsure if I could I help him with his ‘responsibilities.’

I was scared to lose him so I would deliberately discuss wanting children and pretend I didn’t really care about the trajectory of my career. I was prepared to focus on our lives rather than focus on where I wanted to go with my life. Instead of feeling content I was making progress in an industry I was interested in, I was frustrated I wasn’t more successful as I wasn’t going to be able to fulfil all my other ambitions. I was pretending to accept Vietnam wouldn’t happen and that I was going to settle down.

When we finally broke up, I was sad but it wasn’t as crushing as I thought. When he ended things a few months previous (then asked for me back because he made a ‘mistake’) I knew it already gone too far, I was compromising myself too much already. To be honest, I wasn’t content with being someone’s third fiancé either.

I would miss him very much but continuing the relationship didn’t just mean I would have settled down, but settling. Settling for a life based on compromising my own for and no one will ever be worth such a sacrifice.

I don’t know if I’d ever consider seeing someone with a child again. It’s definitely not right for me now in my twenties but, to be honest, I don’t want to think about what could be in the future either. Too much of my time has been wasted thinking about someone else’s needs. Its precious time which could have been spent turning me into the person I want to be right now, rather than trying to be the right person for someone else.