Q: My boyfriend’s ex continues to call him with her emotional issues: “Happy anniversary, it would have been 33 years” and “It’s been four years since my mom passed, I need to talk.” He tells me when she calls him, so that’s not the issue. They are both in the same line of work, and they have that in common. I haven’t said a word to him, but I’m wondering if I am over-reacting. He says he wants to maintain a friendship for the sake of their grandchildren. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: According to good ex-etiquette, your boyfriend is right — maintaining a good relationship with an ex is important, but it’s done for the sake of the children, or in this case, the grandchildren. Relying on each other for emotional support, especially when one or both have moved on, is inappropriate.
It’s up to your boyfriend, however, to set the boundaries. Since he’s not, it’s either because he doesn’t want to or because he doesn’t know how. Relying on ex-etiquette rule No. 8, “Be honest and straight forward,” will help him be honest with you by being upfront with the notion that he may like the emotional involvement … or with her that he has moved on and she’s going to have to get her emotional support elsewhere. At this point he really just needs to do some soul-searching and take a stand.
This is where some ask, Why can’t your guy have both — an emotional connection with the ex and a new relationship with you? After all, he’s not sleeping with her. Truth is, I have never spoken to a woman who feels it’s OK for her guy to have a special emotional connection with another woman, ever. So, in response to your question about whether you are over-reacting — how you are responding seems to be human nature — how you communicate your discomfort — that’s when you enlist your knowledge of good ex-etiquette.
In my book, “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” there is an entire section on “Tact and Timing.” Start by staying as calm as possible and look for a time when a discussion on this subject does not seem out of place. For example, the holidays are right around the corner. You may want use that as the catalyst to discuss how you will celebrate and with whom — and ask your guy where his ex falls in the big picture. Remember to consider, ex-etiquette rule No. 10 during your discussion: “Always look for the compromise.” And hope that his ex isn’t the only one emotionally depending on their relationship.
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: