Katy Barratt, 30, and Dan, 42, have been together for over a year. Dan has two children from his first marriage. Here, Kate reveals how dating a divorced man with a ready-made family has shaped their own relationship
I first met Dan seven years ago when he was married to someone else. They had a child, and another on the way, so although there was an instant attraction he was off-limits.
In the past, I’d always swiped left on a man with an ex-wife or kids. I pictured myself starting a family with a partner who was new to it all, too. But I’ve had to accept the fantasy of doing it afresh with someone is over; life doesn’t come packaged neatly into the boxes you want. After 30, most people come with some sort of baggage. It’s our experiences that make us who we are.
The fact that Dan was going through complicated divorce proceedings when we met again through work last year made me very reluctant to get involved. His mind was often preoccupied with the stress of the divorce, as well as the pain he felt at only seeing his children every other weekend. But Dan was also funny and great to be around. He’s more emotionally mature than the other men I’d dated and we fell in love. I find it comforting to know that unlike many of the commitment-phobic men I’ve met, he is actually capable of being a husband and a fantastic father – he’s proved that.
But being with someone who has crossed those milestones already is a journey. You will always come second to his children; they will always be his priority.
In the beginning, I would make plans for us, only for them to be cancelled at the last minute because he unexpectedly had to have the children. It was hard to deal with the contrast in our reactions when this happened. While I felt let down, angry even, he would – naturally – be delighted by the opportunity to see them.
I also expected regular phone calls when we were apart. Naively, I imagined that when he took them on holiday or away for the weekend, I’d talk to him every day. But he didn’t have the mental capacity to speak to me when he was with them.
There is this huge part of his life I have no place in. And that hurts. I’m hopeful this will change once I’ve met the children. Until the divorce is finalised, we’ve decided it’s best that they don’t know about me, but I long for the day when I can attend his daughter’s assembly or his son’s football match – to share our lives with each other completely.
It may not be typical to chat about having a baby on the third date, but that topic came up earlier for us – I can’t afford to waste time. Many of his fears about starting a family with me arise from his failings in his previous relationship. For my part, I have to accept that his ex will always be part of his life.
Dating a divorcee means I’ve faced opposition, but despite the difficulties, I wouldn’t want the relationship any other way. I love him for his complexities, not in spite of them.