If you are a single person on the dating scene today, there is an excellent chance you will someday be dating a partner with children. And of course, if you are already a single parent dating, you will definitely be in a relationship that involves your children and potentially your partner's children. In both cases there are some things you should know as you head into the step dating realm.

The term Step Dating is applied when two single parents date or when a single dates a single parent. We refer to is as "Step" Dating because the dynamics have so much in common with living in a stepfamily, or a blended family for that matter.

It is important for single parents and their partners to be aware of these dynamics in order to navigate a successful step dating relationship while also safeguarding the rights and interests of the children. It is particularly important if they are embarking on a serious commitment that may lead to remarriage. If it sounds easy, it isn't; just ask anyone who has been there and they will tell you that there are many myths that lead people astray and at a basic level, it is not easy for partners to talk about or address the somewhat sensitive issues that arise in a step dating relationship. Let's touch on two common themes that tend to trip people up, both of which revolve around a misunderstanding of the role love plays in step relationships.

1.) Biological parents are of course not just looking for a potential mate, but are hoping to find someone that could be a suitable stepparent to his or her children. In doing so, their enthusiasm about a new relationship, can often translate into expectations that their dating partner will "love" their children. This tends to put a lot of pressure on their partner, whether they have children of their own or not and it is simply not a very realistic expectation. It is very important for people to know that loving the other person's child(ren) is not a prerequisite for a healthy adult relationship or even for a successful step family. As the relationship progresses, the requirements include having a healthy concern for the well-being of your partner's children, ability to understand, respect and protect their rights, and a willingness to serve as a role model and friend to them. But the pressure to bond with and or love another person's biological children in the context of a step dating relationship almost always backfires and actually makes it harder for individuals to get to know and get close to their partner's children. It can also create resentment between the partners if unrealistic expectations go unchecked and unmet.

2.) It is a common misconception in dating relationships of all kinds, that Love Will Indeed Conquer All. The truth is, that almost all couples who enter into step dating relationships and certainly the majority who go on to make a remarriage commitment, on some level trust that their love will get them through and yet the stats tell us a very different story. We have a divorce rate in second marriages with children that hovers around 50-60% in Canada 60-70% in the US. So love alone is not saving second marriages from the clutches of separation and divorce. When you cite these alarming statistics, people often respond by saying that "those other couples just didn't love each other enough", but WE DO! Being naïve about what is required beyond love in any relationship, is a recipe for disaster and even more so in highly complex step relationships.

Love is undeniably very important but learning what you can expect in your relationship, how to plan for it, and how to make good relationship choices will significantly increase your chances of success in step relationships at any stage. The reality is that step dating relationships and the step families that often result from them are more complex and come loaded with challenges that couples must prepare themselves for, in addition to cultivating and nurturing their love for one another. The following Seven Steps are highly recommended to assist couples in making good relationship decisions and facing challenges they can expect in a step dating relationship.

1.) Get clear on what type of relationship you are looking for, what matters to you most and what you are willing to commit to in a relationship.

2.) Get to know each other and the children involved, Very Well, over a significant period of time.

3.) Observe how the children respond and interact within the new relationship.

4.) Learn everything you can about step family dynamics which are alive and well during the step dating phase.

5.) Discover what your roles with each other's children, should be at the various stages of relationship development.

6.) Be honest with yourself about whether this is the right relationship for you. Don't be afraid to recognize red flags or warning signs that may be telling you this is not the right relationship for you or for you and your child(ren). Now is the time to be choosy.

7.) Don't avoid the tough or sensitive issues and if you are having difficulty discussing certain things with your partner, seek out professional support to assist you in having those all too important discussions. If you are finding yourself resisting asking a question or bringing up a particular issue, chances are these are the very things that need to be addressed if the relationship has any chance of progressing forward.

From step dating through to remarriage and second families, couples are required to be aware of what, beyond love, is required to make their relationships work. It begins with being able to balance the feeling aspect of romance and love with an emphasis on knowing what you are looking for in a relationship (your requirements) and making conscious choices that will satisfy your needs and requirements. There is a lot at stake for single parents and singles dating single parents and the importance of balancing your head's intentions with your heart's inclinations is undeniably essential.

Author's Bio: 

Yvonne Kelly, MSW, RSW is a Certified Stepfamily Coach and a Licensed Relationship Coach. She founded The Step and Blended Family Institute. Yvonne coaches step dating couples with children, offers Remarriage Preparation and coaches existing stepfamilies to achieve success. To learn more about how to safeguard your step relationships or to find out more about free teleseminars offered on Step Dating and other topics go to
StepInstitute.ca.