I am a package deal.
That is a phrase I have continued to tell myself since entering the dating scene. I say it because it's true. You see, I was previously married to a woman for ten years. From that relationship came four wonderful children who are the lights and loves of our lives. Seven years into our marriage I made some hard decisions. The most monumental of them all was coming out to my wife. Everything about being gay and living a life of authenticity felt like a fantasy to me. I didn't know what to expect, what to believe, or where to begin. I just knew I wasn't straight and living in that closeted space was destroying my life.
People often ask me what the hardest part of the journey out of the closet has been. That is a difficult question to answer. Coming out was hard because you'll never get a chance to go back in the closet—once you are out, you're out. Divorcing my wife was hard, because it meant that everything comfortable and "normal" in our lives would be disrupted. Losing friends and family members to bigotry and ignorance was difficult.
So why do we come out? What compels us to turn our whole world upside down?
For me, it was the prospect of love and companionship.
I had a desire to love and be loved fully. My wife needed someone who could love her more completely than I was capable of doing. Coming out and divorcing gave me the ability to build a new foundation of authenticity and create transparent walls of honesty.
Dating has been hard. Have I become too picky (is that even a possibility)? Am I too unrealistic? Have I just not found the right guy that justified turning my whole world upside down?
I have learned at least one lesson in post-coming-out life—when you date a man with kids, you get the whole package. I am a package deal. I come with children who want to feel safe, loved, and valued. They must feel included and cherished, not treated as accessories or roadblocks.
It isn't always a burden to date men with children, just know that when you date a man with kids you date more than just a single guy. When you date a dad with kids you should expect runny noses, messy hands, stuffed animals, temper tantrums, finger paints, dirty shoes and puberty. However, you can also expect extra snuggles, inappropriate questions, early bedtimes, lots of learning opportunities and even a few glimpses of unconditional love. Don't say I didn't warn you…it's a heavy haul, but I wouldn't imagine having it any other way.
To the single men with kids who navigate these waters—keep your sails to the wind, brothers. You most likely turned your whole world upside down for this, make it worth it (because your whole package is dependent on you.)