September 1, 2013

Ex-Etiquette: Fiance's warmth with his ex benefits kids

By JANN BLACKSTONE

Q: I've been dating my boyfriend for two years and something he does has always bothered me -- he hugs his ex hello every time he sees her. It doesn't bother me when he does it with anyone else, but with his ex -- no! They were married for 10 years and have been divorced for five. They have two kids, now teenagers, but they are supposed to be done. Now that we are about to be married I want him to stop hugging her hello. He reads your column every week. Tell him it's not good ex-etiquette. 

A: It sounds as if you're telling me your fiance usually greets friends with a hug, but when he does it with his ex, it makes you jealous, and now that you're going to get married you feel like you have the right to tell him to stop.

You don't think he'll take your request seriously, so you want me to tell him to stop under the guise that it's not good ex-etiquette.

I can't do that.

I suppose if he were groping her at the same time, that might be reason to say, "Stop!" but it sounds as if this is a typical greeting. He's not singling her out, it's the same friendly hug he uses to greet other friends. After a 10-year marriage and five years divorced, his relationship with his ex has grown to something resembling friendship, and that's great for the kids.

So unless there's an obvious spark that validates your jealousy, it's time to take a look at what has prompted your concern.

Truthfully, if this has bothered you, you should not have suffered in silence for two years. You should have talked to him about it when the two of you decided to be a couple. Not everyone understands comfortably interacting with an ex, but it's actually commendable if it's done for the sake of the kids. (Ex-Etiquette rule No. 1, "Put the children first.")

Keeping silent just allowed your insecurities to brew and didn't give him the opportunity to reassure you by telling you how he sees his relationship with his ex.

It's not too late to tell him the truth. Consider good ex-etiquette rule No. 8: "Be honest and straight forward in all your endeavors." But when you talk, remember to concentrate on your relationship with him, not on his relationship with someone else.

Finally, feeling as if you can come clean with your real feelings now that you're going to marry is a big red flag.

I can't think of a behavior that's OK when you're engaged, but not OK once you marry.

Commitment is commitment -- first in the asking, then in the living of it. If you feel you will have power over his behavior because you will marry soon, there's a problem.

Sometimes changing a label can change your outlook. Try referring to her as the children's mother rather than "his ex." Puts it in the proper perspective. That's good ex-etiquette.

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:

drjannblackstone@gmail.com

 

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