Dear Mr. Dad: I am currently dating a divorced father of two. I am having trouble communicating to him that being a good father does not exempt him from being a good partner. How can I get him to see my point of view without putting him on the defensive?

A: In a perfect world, you’re right–being a good father wouldn’t exempt your boyfriend from being a good partner. But I have to tell you that most single dads would make the same choice. Their priority is their children—giving them stability and protecting them from going through another breakup. When dating a divorced dad you have to understand that his kids are part of the package. You can’t have one without the other. And if you ever put him in a situation where he feels he has to choose between the kids and you, he’ll go with them every time.

This isn’t to say, however, that your boyfriend can’t become a better partner. Iin fact, it’s possible that his lack of partnership skills contributed to his getting a divorce from his kids’ mother and there could be lots of room for improvement. But even if he puts his heart and soul into building a relationship with you, his focus will still be on his kids.

You’re walking into a very tough situation–one where the odds are not in your favor. But with work, understanding, and commitment–on both your part and your boyfriend’s—it is possible to build a life together. You’ll both need to be patient and keep your expectations low. Even after you get over the initial hurdles with your boyfriend, you’ll still have to build relationships with his children. Depending on the kids’ ages, that may happen slowly or not at all.