Q: I have been in a relationship with a wonderful man for the last eight months. He has a 3-year-old son from a previous relationship and I have a 3-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Everything in our relationship seems to be perfect with the exception of one thing. He’s planning to go on vacation to the Caribbean with his ex and his ex’s parents.
At the beginning of our relationship his ex took their son to see his paternal grandparents for two weeks. He has just taken his son to his parents for 10 days over Thanksgiving (she was there) and also took a couple short trips that included overnights in the same room. We have not taken any trips. Am I wrong to be bothered by this? Do all these trips really have to be with his ex? Is this really the best thing for his son? What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: I always find it interesting when people ask me if it’s wrong to feel a particular way. Most of the time, it’s women — and it’s either anger or jealousy that they are battling. I am a firm believer in trusting your gut, and strong feelings that have your gut twisted in knots are usually warnings — or red flags pointing out a problem.
That said, there are some very huge red flags waving throughout your question. The brightest is that your boyfriend has not been broken up with the mother of his child for that long and they seem to continue to be quite emotionally entwined – let alone going on at least four trips in the time you have been together. My first question would be are you sure they have really broken up? If the answer is yes, then, like many others who believe in co-parenting after a break-up, they may have good intentions thinking that going places and doing things together are in the best interest of their child — and it is — to a point — but when you co-parent so closely that the boundaries seem blurry, it actually extends the child’s period of adjustment and it makes it very difficult for the parents to move on.
So do all these trips really have to include the ex? Good ex-etiquette says, of course not! As a matter of fact, they probably shouldn’t if your relationship is to progress to the next level. Sounds like Dad and you need to have a heart-to-heart to discuss what you both expect from your future relationship, but more important, exactly how to handle the past.
Try taking “the BEFORE Exercise” together. It asks you both to envision the exact relationship you want and asks specific questions that will help you establish your relationship boundaries and enable you to go forward. It can be found on www.bonusfamilies.com. Key word: Before
Finally, you both moved from one relationship to another very quickly, and once it all settles in, I wouldn’t be surprised if either of you opt for some exclusive kid and me time.
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: