Warning Flag: If He's a Bad Dad, He's a Bad Guy

Fotolia_62400826_XS.jpgA man who fails his kids is bad news. So as I date, this is one area in which I pay close attention. How is his relationship with his children? I ask lots of questions, listen and observe. It’s amazing how quickly red flags can pop up. Such is the case with “Jack,” a guy I met a few years ago.

Jack and I seemed to hit it off rather quickly and we started spending a lot of time together. One day, we went for a walk and Jack started talking about one of his daughters, “Chloe”. Chloe was just six years old when Jack married her mother and legally adopted her soon after. As a teen, Chloe went through some hard times. She was rebellious and had some substance abuse issues, which caused all sorts of drama in the home. Today, however, Chloe seems to be doing well—she’s living on her own, working, and a functioning member of society. I asked Jack more about his current relationship with Chloe and he brushed it off, “We don’t talk, there is no relationship and there never will be again.”

I was stunned. “Why not?”

“She’s not my blood,” he said matter-of-factly, as if this was the most natural response in the world. Not my blood? Did he really just say that? I was speechless and felt like he had almost kicked me in the gut. This was way too close to home for me. I adopted both of my daughters from orphanages when they were age two and three respectively. I love them more than I knew was possible. Seeing them in their orphanage setting and then physically rescuing them from that situation was the most awesome experience of my life. I instantly developed a profound love and respect for both of them. Under no circumstance could I ever fathom writing them off because we didn't share DNA. There are several children that I love so intensely that I would raise them as my own should the need ever arise. Perhaps Jack had no concept of what love meant.   

Several weeks later, Jack and I were having lunch and I came back to his relationship Chloe. “Chloe is your daughter legally and morally. You are the only father she has ever known. You raised her. She calls you Dad. How can you just not love her and want to have a connection with her again?”

He didn’t hesitate. “I just don’t. She’s not mine.” He sounded so cold.

I couldn’t let it go. “But my daughters aren’t mine biologically either, yet they are totally mine. I am their mother and they are my children. How can you do that? Imagine the psychological affect this is having on Chloe. It can taint her relationship with men forever.”

He literally shrugged his shoulders. Wow, he really didn’t care. The look on his face said it all. He wasn’t bothered by the conversation at all, he was simply removed and detached from it. And he thought it perfectly normal. Uh oh. This was truly disturbing.

And that was that. No need to have a follow-up, this conversation told me everything I needed to know about Jack’s character. He obviously lacked a soul and a heart. And he would never change. Did this bode well for him (or us)? No.

In his defense (if that’s even possible), I suppose I can’t fully appreciate the toll that Chloe’s behavior took on the household and Jack’s marriage. I think that he placed a lot of the blame of his marriage's demise squarely at Chloe's feet. No doubt there was still a lot of anger on Jack’s part and not a lot of forgiveness. The whole scenario was pathetic and so not right.  

This bright red warning flag was enough for me. I knew that no matter what, Jack and I were on borrowed time. Because whoever I end up with long-term must be loving, warm, and kind. He must have the ability to simply love purely and without strings attached, to be forgiving and, well, to possess a soul. Clearly, that wasn’t Jack.

While I don’t necessarily expect my new guy to love my children as much as I do, he must nonetheless be a fantastic father figure to my daughters. And if a man doesn’t have a great connection with his existing children, there isn’t a likelihood he’ll develop it with anyone new. And for me, that’s a deal breaker.

In Jack’s case, our relationship was over from that first strange conversation about Chloe. What time Jack and I did spend together after that was simply killing time. At no point was I ever tempted to move the relationship forward because I knew from the get-go that he had enormous character flaws. Did that sound good to me? Absolutely not.

Warning flags are a good thing. I watch and listen for them carefully. How a man teats his children tells just about everything I need to know.    

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