Dating a man with a special need child

Dating a man with a special need child

In the Philippines there are a lot of single moms, but there are also single dad’s. My BF lost his wife just over a year ago and was left behind with an 8 year old girl. Not just a regular 8 year old, but a special child as they are called here. In the west we would say: a special need child.

His daughter is blind and most likely she will never live on her own. I knew this from day one, although it took a while for me to meet her.

I would lie to you if I would say I’m excited with joy over the idea of raising a special need child. At my age, I’m 55, I have finished my parental part in life, I raised two wonderful human beings and I am free to go do the things I dream of.
So falling in love with this man includes a new challenge. And maybe more sacrifices besides giving up travel.

I realise the moment we move in together there will be no turning back and his girl will be in my care. If he is off to work, I’m the one to take care of his child.
She is in and out hospital, she has yet to be potty trained and has to learn to find het way around the (new) house.
And during the last hospital week, the question popped up: Is this something I want for myself?

My friends keep telling me I should not only look at the care-taking part but the package in total: the man, his love for me and his girl, as a total. But I cannot deny that it frightens me.
Not only is she disabled, she is also not my own, I see so little of him in her and it is difficult for me to look at the compleet picture. I do tend to zoom in on all the details of guiding a blind child to adulthood.

So I searched the internet for experiences other people have, I study websites of blind institutes to help me understand. I ask for a meeting with her teacher at school and I want to know what I’m in for. I do not want to appear in the life of this little girl, only to find out I’m not up to the task. Than she will lose someone again. That would be horrible. I need to know upfront. And I know I cannot solve all upfront, but at least it gives me time to search my heart and my abilities to see if I think I’m able.

You hit this website in your search on information about dating a man with a special needs child, let me share what I learned so far:

Although he loves me very much, he sometimes is torn between his love for me and his dedication to and love for his daughter, she will always come first

Does that means, that I settle for a second best love?
No, by al means, he loves me deeply, profound and is dedicated to this relationship for 100%. But he has to juggle his time.
I learned that I have to forget all my previous dating experience when it comes to time spent together.
Although relationships always ask for adjustment from both sides, this time I might be the one that has to adjust a little more than he does.
Am I, nomad by choice, willing to settle down with a man that cannot travel, that puts his child in my care fulltime for the rest of my life?

Do I get enough out of this relationship to make it work and worth the while for me?

My dilemma is multi-dimensional. But I will certainly not back out easily, although the relationship, still young (we’ve been dating over 3 months now) is tested from day one when it comes to quality time spent together. And with tested I mean this:

  • there seems to be an interruption most of the time, either a text from the sitter or an emergency call for his return home
  • he is tired to the bone and falls asleep a lot when he visits me during the evening
  • he is pre occupied a lot over her future and her well being
  • he realises that it is a lot to ask from me and very realistic about my struggle on the subject, and at the same time he is afraid of losing me
  • we argue about how to raise her based on cultural differences more than other couples with children would do

In the Philippines special need kids are raised different from what I’m used to

It is not only the cultural differences around upbringing of a child, it is also the total care-package, or should I say: Lack of care-package, that is available.
In my country special need children get a package of personal adjusted care, created to suit the kid perfectly and provides all the possibilities to live a self supportive life (or close to one). The ‘treatment’ is based on empowerment and there are way too many opportunities to ask for (financial) help or get training.
The children are trained from a very young age, they get tested to measure progress and are under regular medical supervision.
In the Philippines this is not. There are a few schools for the blind, but only in cities and in the rural areas the best a child gets is a special child teacher program at school, if any. The department of education provides a list of government schools with a special child classroom.

Dating a man with a special need child, takes a lot of adjustment from you

When you find yourself dating a man with a special need child (In the Philippines) you find yourself in the position of an urgent redefinition of your ideas about dating, but also about your future life you had pictured for yourself.

A few first hand experiences:

  • You do not get to spent as much quality time together as you might wish
  • Romance will be far off, because the child will be always there, either physically or as a preoccupied mind of the father
  • It will be difficult for you to set and keep boundaries as where it concerns involvement in a too early stage of the relationship.

I for example, had to deal with a very worried father and hospitalised kid when we were just dating 2 months. It took a heavy toll on our relationship and on getting to know each other, because all of a sudden that seems to be happening either in hospital or in between rushing back and forth, with him being all preoccupied.

I do not think you should avoid dating a man with a special needs child, but you should consider yourself up to the task of being involved in the child’s upbringing, specially when the child is 24/7 in his care. If there is a co-parenting-agreement than you should also consider the ex partner to be a huge part of your future life. Since the well being of the child is the main concern here and both parents will have to communicate a lot.

When dating a man with a special needs child in a cross cultural relationship you face many more items to go over in your mind, for the cultural differences are already taking their toll  on the relationship, but the cultural differences involving raising a special need child are enormous. And they can put a huge strain on you two seeing eye to eye on many subjects.

How do we handle things? A few tips from every day life experience:

  • we took time without the girl to get to know each other first, for as long as possible and/or needed
  • step 2 was that we agreed on him bringing her over to my place near the beach for her Sunday swim, she loves to swim, we could eat outside and get to know each other
  • we also decided that him falling asleep in my quiet and cozy cottage was not an option all the time, so we would go out on dates occasionally, to prevent this from happening
  • he and I would spent at least one meal together during the week, like a home cooked dinner or lunch
  • we would have one afternoon or morning to go out together while a sitter took care of his daughter.

After my bonus-daughter-to-be got hospitalised I had to set boundaries to protect myself from becoming overly involved and us playing mum and dad even before I made up my mind about this adorable but strong headed child. After all the first months of a new relationship should be about fun, joy, happiness and getting to know each other. Ours seem to be about sickness, worries and changing shitty diapers in a dirty hospital.

Lucky for all of us after one and a half week she was released and she is doing great.

How do I deal with all of this? To be honest, some days I don’t!

We are not there yet. I still hesitate to take on the enormous task that comes with raising a special need bonus daughter. And for now we have decided not to move in together in any time soon and keep separate households.

Is it weird or unfair that I take my time to consider this and think this through?

Some people will say yes, that it is selfish and egocentric of me not to jump in at the deep end
Some friends tell me I’ve totally lost my mind to even consider dating a guy with a child, let alone a handicapped child.

I think for every person it is different.
Lucky for us, the partners to be, and the mum’s and dad’s out there with a special need child, we are not all the same.
There will be men and women that love to take on a challenge like this without hesitation. There are also men and women out there that have misjudged it and they had to bail out after the kid got attached.
I just do not want to be one of them.
If possible I want to be as prepared as possible, knowing what it takes and discover (maybe new) abilities within myself to guide yet another beautiful girl on her way to adulthood.

And for that I need time.
And that is my advice for you out there, searching the internet about the meaning of your feelings.

  • Take your time, without stringing him/her along. Get to get to know your partner and the child involved, slowly and thoroughly. Get familiar with the schedules, the rules, the medical history and complications and the amount of care
  • Work on possibilities to leave the child every now and than in someone else’s care, it is not up to you, but you can suggest it. You both will benefit from it
  • Do not judge yourself to harsh. It is not weird to feel some hesitation. You never imagined to raise a special need child.
  • Do keep in mind that the person whom you are dating didn’t either. No couple ever got pregnant with the thought: Let’s get us a special need child and raise it!
  • Do not be drawn into something if you are not willing to, how minor it seems, like f.e. baby sitting or feeding
  • Do not think: if they can do it, so can I. That will be a little over the top.

Here are a few quotes on special children that may help you in the process of thinking it all through:

Until you have a kid with special needs you have no idea of the depth of your strength, tenacity and resourcefulness – Unknown

Motherhood is about raising and celebrating the child you have, not the child you thought you would have. It’s about understanding that he is exactly the person he is supposed to be and that, if you’re lucky, he just might be the teacher who turns you into the person you are supposed to be
– Joan Ryan

We have no special needs children. Just children…with special needs
– Uwe Maurer

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched- They must be felt with the heart
– Helen Keller

The floor is yours, step in the spotlights!

Are you dating someone with a special need child? what are your experiences and why do you search the internet on this subject?
Do you have questions? Ask them!
Do you have experience? Share it!
Let’s help each other without being judgemental

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4 thoughts on “Dating a man with a special need child

  1. Hello
    First of all this is a good essay. And the article assumes the parent of the cd child is a really good, adjusted, fair and mature mate. I started dating a man in his fifties and I am in my sixties. His son has multiple disabilities. We dated and were very close for 2 years. The “boyfriend” did not appreciate my efforts and he seemed to be looking for a better deal. I finally decided to end it considering he ask another woman out. My advice is that if you take this on, make sure your partner is a deeply good person. I shed many tears and never felt like any kind of priority. Find someone who values EVERYONE’S life! Very painful and I now wish I had never met them.

  2. I should add that he had 100% custody. I invited them to live in my home. Thank goodness we never lived together. Now I realize I could have handled being a plus and a good partner, but some of the older singles with a cd child are looking for a loving person to help them ( like an aide). I found it isn’t love in my case.

  3. Hi Ruby, I did not let them in my life. I had seconds thoughts all over, again and again. Although I think the father is a good man, he is also a real Filipino, meaning: more absent than present int he girls life. I do not wish a future with a foreign disabled child for myself. I came here to have a quiet, simple life. Letting both of them into my life would contradict all I have chosen for and disrupt it. The father and I are friends, the child is no part of my life. Thank you for sharing your experience, you emphasized to me I made the right (but very painful and difficult) decision.