When you’re dating a single dad, things are a lot more complicated than you might think at first. You’re not only dating a guy, you’re also auditioning for a part in the family.

Find out how to deal with dating a single father and navigate the dangers of this complicated relationship. From managing your expectations to knowing how to respect his boundaries when it comes to his child or children, here’s what you can expect from a relationship with a single parent.

Understand the Situation

Before you get excited, it’s important to be realistic about it. A single dad won’t have a lot of time for a relationship and his finances will also be prioritized more towards his children than towards extravagant dates or trips. Decide if you’re open emotionally to a complicated situation before you meet the kids, so you don’t end up hurting anyone.

Be Prepared to Be No. 2

Whether it’s time or money, a big part of learning to deal with dating a single father is accepting the fact that you’ll always be his second priority. You shouldn’t be resentful about the fact that you can’t be his top priority and you shouldn’t try to portray yourself as a victim because of it. If you can’t deal with the situation, you shouldn’t be dating a single parent.

Don’t Get Jealous About His Ex

Unless his ex has passed away, you’ll have to understand that he has to spend time with her for the sake of the child or children. They do share a special connection and might reminisce about the good times occasionally, but you can’t improve the situation by feeling threatened or getting jealous. As long as he makes it clear that you’re important to him, put aside your insecurities.

Single Father

Check Your Privilege

If you don’t have kids of your own, a very important part of learning how to deal with dating a single father is acknowledging your own privilege. Kids may bring a lot of emotional satisfaction, but they also take up a lot of time. A single father might is probably not connected to pop culture, so shaming him about not watching the hottest shows or movies is never a good idea.

Respect His Boundaries

When it comes to the boundaries he sets related to his children, it’s very important to respect them all the way. Whether he has certain wishes when it comes to their diet or promises to be at talent shows or games that he can’t break, it’s important to accept that he’s doing his best and you shouldn’t try to force your own opinions on these matters.

See also: How to Make Him Understand His Feelings

Don’t Criticize His Parenting Style

There are few things single parents hate more than single people giving them parenting advice. Learning how to deal with dating a single father also means that you should respect all his decisions for his kids. If you feel like you have something to add, do it in a calm and helpful way and never in front of his children.

Be a Good Listener

Even if he’s on top of everything, he’ll still need to vent from time to time. Just because his kids get on his nerves from time to time doesn’t mean he doesn’t love them more than anything. Be supportive when he needs to talk about his troubles and really make an effort to be there for him.

Accept He Won’t Always Look His Best

Just like single moms don’t always put their best self forward when dating, a single dad might also have trouble looking his best. If he’s behind on his grooming, give him a break if you’re really interested in how to deal with dating a single father.

Dating A Single Dad

Be Yourself Around the Kids

Small kids can spot fakeness easily, so try to be yourself around them. If they’re reserved when they first meet you, don’t try to shower them with gifts and attention. A bad start with the kids can be fixed, but always try to be yourself and give them the space and time they need before accepting you in their lives.

Don’t Try to Force Yourself into the Mother Role

One of the worst things you can to when you’re figuring out how to deal with dating a single father is trying to be a mother to his kids too soon. They might take a lot of time to warm up to you in that way, so don’t go too far or you’ll risk damaging your relationship with the kids and their dad.