Q: I am dating a man who has recently separated from his wife. We have decided that we are dating each other exclusively and we are both excited about this new relationship. The trouble is, it’s his wife’s birthday tonight and he is going to have dinner with her and the kids. I am feeling really uncomfortable — even jealous, and I would like to know if this is good ex-etiquette. If we are exclusive, should he be having dinner with his wife and children?
A: Recently shmecently. The guy is married. Granted, it takes a while to get a divorce, but it sounds like he hasn’t even filed. The most turbulent time in a relationship is right after you separate. Most are angry and hurt and have a very difficult time communicating. If he is attending his wife’s birthday dinner so soon after separation, it sounds as if these two people have an amicable break-up and will co-parent very closely. This is commendable and in the best interest of their children. But, take note: Most who separate attempt reconciliation at least once, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they try it just one more time. To commit to another relationship at this point is not good ex-etiquette on either of your parts. The future has too many “what-ifs.” His responsibility at this juncture is to address the issues with his wife and children, get his ducks in a row, and then he will be free to start another relationship. Being upset that he’s spending time with his family will just complicate his transition — and seems like a very unfulfilling alternative for you.
Looking down the road, if this does work out, life with him will not be like a first-time relationship — you will always have to share him. Not share as you might think — share in the sense that he may continue to consider another woman’s feelings even though he is not physically involved with her because she is the mother of his children and they share custody. This is a difficult concept for first-timers to get. They take it personally, think it means that their partner will always prefer the ex to them, and get themselves into “either/or” ultimatums, when that’s not it at all. If this man and his ex co-parent, they must communicate, take into consideration each other’s feelings on a subject, and then compromise in the best interest of the kids. That’s hard to deal with when you are worried that your guy and his ex might run off together at the drop of a hat. Many in your position find themselves so jealous they just can’t handle it — which makes the new relationship impossible.
At this point I suggest you put the dating exclusively on the back burner for a while and let him get his life together. Better yet, even though you have said you are very excited to start this new life, take a look at why you are so quick to commit to a man who can’t commit to you.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at: