Conscious uncoupling and co-parenting are phrases you often hear on TV or read about in parenting blogs. Yet it’s real life for many former partners who’ve created children but no longer wish to remain in a relationship together. An overwhelming number of women (nearly 82 percent of custodial single parents nationwide are female) are left with the primary responsibility of raising children in their household once a relationship goes south. And the media loves to focus on the fact that in 2011, about 68 percent of the Black women who’d given birth within the previous year were unmarried. But here’s something all guys should know and man up to: A failed relationship—or the lack of a real one to start—is no excuse for being a nonparticipating father, regardless of how you might feel about your child’s mom.

In my practice, I’ve encountered many guys like Ty.* He dated Karen,* a smart, attractive woman with whom he enjoyed spending time. She respected his career, he liked her independence. When they met, their chemistry was instantly palpable, and they were soon an official couple. But once their active sex life led to parenthood, without the benefit of marriage, their casual elation as a boyfriend and girlfriend was suddenly bogged down by fear and the realization that they lacked the foundation for long-term compatibility. Then their relationship changed. They spent less time together and had more quarrels. Their intimacy and active communication dwindled. Ultimately, despite some effort by both, they called it quits.