You know what women find sexy? Among other things, great fathers.
Jordan recently did a podcast with two of our bootcamp alums — both of them single dads — to discuss how the program made them a better man, a better father and a more attractive prospect to women. It was a fascinating look at single dads and dating.
Of course, these three qualities are deeply connected. It can often feel like having a successful family competes with having a successful dating life — there are always trade-offs, for sure — but as we’ve discovered, they can also go hand in hand. After all, the skills, traits and accomplishments required by each of those roles can just as easily reinforce the other.
After diving into this important topic, we discovered some fascinating insights about single dads and dating, and specifically how single fathers can thrive in this arena. Starting with the fact that it’s not just possible to go from being (just) a single dad to a sexy dad, but in some ways easier.
What Science Says About Being a Good Dad
First, let’s talk briefly about what scientific research says about the relationship between parenting skills and attraction. Not surprisingly, they’re closely related, and understanding the connection can make you into a better man and a better partner. Here are the highlights.
- A good sense of humor and the ability to crack a joke. Joking around with your kids helps them to develop highly attuned social skills, according to a presentation at the Economic and Social Resource Council. In turn, you remain in a playful and social mode, which can make you more social, outgoing and present when you meet new women. One of the first things I teach guys is to make their approaches more light hearted and less serious — just like children do.
- Clinginess. Clingy parents, as we know, can pass on certain complexes to their kids. That’s what Neil Montgomery, a professor at Keene State University in New Hampshire, has found through his research. The same applies to women. Giving the woman in your life some space, giving her room to want you back — these can nurture attaction. Nothing is going to suffocate a potential relationship and kill attraction faster than being the guy who’s constantly around, demanding attention. The strength and independence (as well as the mystique) that comes with healthy distance is something fathers can appreciate more than others.
- Compassion. Highly self-critical people tend to be more critical of others — and that’s no fun for anyone. (Dr. Kristin Neff has a whole book on this topic worth checking out.) Being more non-judgmental — something all parents must learn to cultivate — makes you easier to talk to and less critical of the flaws of others. That’s going to go a long way toward making you the kind of guy she wants to open up to and spend time with.
- A positive attitude. One thing I’m always telling guys about how to talk to girls is to stay positive. Negative energy, as we all know, is a major attraction-killer. It also makes for bad parenting, which is why fathers who are positive can see remarkable results at home and in the dating world. Negative parents, in contrast, tend to have aggressive kids, according to a University of Minnesota study — and probably less-than-fulfilling romantic relationships.
- Patience and perspective. Romantic relationships require a certain forgiveness and patience that also make for healthy parenting. Practice not getting rattled at home, and watch that patience translate on dates. If a woman you’re dating is being a little difficult — as is bound to happen from time to time — the best thing you can do is maintain your own equanimity. Getting swept up in whatever is agitating her (no matter how well-founded and reasonable it might be) isn’t good for anyone.
- Practicing what you preach and providing support. Iowa State University talks about four different kinds of parenting styles. The most effective style includes instilling high standards, but also good behavior modeling and lots of support and communication. What’s more, good parenting — just like being a good boyfriend — means that you should be willing to change your mind and appreciate another point of view in a relationship.
So all around, the literature shows that being a good father and being a good boyfriend — which can easily feel like full-time jobs — are not just related but contiguous. Which is great news! Once we can appreciate that they require similar skills, they can actually be totally complementary.
What Our Single Dads Taught Us
The discussion on the podcast provided great anecdotal evidence to the research. Their advice is highly personal and incredibly valuable for all single fathers. So what did we learn from our single dads?
- Self-awareness is the skill on which all other skills are built. Dave, one of our single dads, was having a really hard time with his ex. She wasn’t respecting his time or the needs of their daughter. So how did he change things for the better? He started out with a self-assessment; He thought about why his ex’s behavior was a problem for him. He considered how he was going to talk to her so that he’d get results beneficial for everyone and not just cause a fight. “You have to get yourself in a position where you’re comfortable and confident,” he says. Knowing what to do in any given situation often comes down to knowing yourself. For Dave that meant explaining to his ex that if she was late getting their daughter that he was going to lose sleep, which would impact his performance at work, potentially costing him his job.
- Have a good relationship with the mother of your children. When you have a child with someone, you’re almost always in a relationship with them for the rest of your life. That relationship can be financial, but it’s also parental, familial and, on some level, emotional. You don’t have to like her, but you do have to work with her. This is going to make your life easier, even if it’s hard to move into that space. What’s more, it’s going to make you look like a mature and responsible man to other women, to say nothing of the emotional benefits for your child.
- You need to live life for yourself. Which is different from being selfish and short-changing your kids. By living your life for you — and not orbiting exclusively around your kids or even your ex — you’re setting a good example for your children. Single dad and AoC alum Tom has a 14-year-old son who was nine when he entered the program. “I had life on cruise control,” he says, recalling a period when he wasn’t really living life to the fullest. Now that he’s taken a more active role in living his own life, he’s a better role model for his son, and they enjoy a stronger relationship as a result.
- Make time with your kids meaningful. Tom also noticed a change in how he spends time with his son. He used to do anything to avoid meaningful interactions. Now they go on adventures together rather than just vegging out in front of the television. “When he was younger I didn’t really know how to be a father.” Now he emphasizes having meaningful time with his son, which is far more enriching for the both of them.
- Be honest about what you want in life. One thing holding Tom back in life was not being honest about what he wanted out of it. “You’re going to be angry with yourself if you’re not having your needs fulfilled,” he says — and that can include a healthy social life, a degree of independence and a support system in place. That’s going to lead to a lot of passive-aggressive behavior and anger management issues. Neither of those are a recipe for success as a father or as a man. On the other hand, being honest about what you want out of life is often the first step toward getting it.
- Your kids will start making friends for you. Dave’s daughter isn’t the most confident girl by nature. So he used to take it upon himself to introduce her to other children her age. By doing so, however, he began to teach her confidence (yet another experience that bridges the parenting and dating worlds). Now she runs up to other children and introduces herself. In doing so, she’s helping Dave to make new friends with their parents. Adorable and inspiring.
- Women love children. Another lesson from Dave: He spent a lot of time worrying about how to introduce the idea that he had a daughter into his dating life. Then he realized that for many women, having a daughter was an added attraction, not a problem, especially when he embraced it. “I have this adorable, smart little girl,” he says. “Who wouldn’t want to be around this?” Stop seeing your kids as a liability in your dating life and start seeing them as assets. They are a unique part of you, and they are teaching you things about life that most men simply don’t know.
- Be willing to learn from your children. It’s a bit of a cliche, but your kids can teach you as much as you teach them. Jordan quickly noticed that kids often assimilate our material more quickly than adults because they have less baggage and emotional roadblocks. When you see your kids practicing what you preach, don’t be afraid to learn from their example. When they challenge or contradict your assumptions, take it as an opportunity to grow. Children have a wisdom parents have long forgotten — the same wisdom, by the way, that can make you unstoppable in the dating world.
All of this boils down to one thing: Not only can you be just as attractive as a father as you were when you were childless, you can be more attractive. In many ways, dads who are doing it right have a significant advantage. It might take some getting used to — it might even push you to places and attitudes you aren’t yet comfortable with — but the moment you connect these two important parts of your life, you might just find that being a great father and a great boyfriend go hand in hand.
For more on single dads and dating, be sure to explore our blog.