Q: My ex cheated and broke up our family, which we worked hard to blend for over 20 years. By the time I left I was pretty disgusted with his antics and moved on quickly. I remarried about six months ago. My ex was awful during the breakup and made our adult children choose with whom they would spend the holidays. This holiday is different. He is texting me that he “wants me in his life so he will do what he has to do to make that happen.” I don’t know what that means, nor do I want to subject my husband to these games. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: Around the holidays I always get questions about spending time as a family even though there has been a breakup. It’s like people watch “The Kardashians” all year long and then around the holidays switch to the Hallmark Channel.
You said, “I don’t know what that all means.” Yes you do. Could be that your ex is now seeing the error of his ways, but the reality is, even if that is so, you are now married to someone else. That means your allegiance is to the man to whom you are now married so make sure no matter what your ex says to you in text or otherwise, you respond as a married woman. If you fear your ex is playing games and you want to nip this in the bud, respond accordingly.
For example, “Yes, we will always be in each other’s lives. We share children and I will check to see how they feel about us all spending the holidays together” will not give him false hope or perpetuate any games. However, if you respond with, “I want you in my life, too, and the holidays just makes our divorce all the more real,” you are fueling a very dangerous fire. In other words, if you don’t want to subject your husband to the drama – don’t. Do not say or text anything you wouldn’t want your current husband to read.
So, let’s say you are having second thoughts. You miss your old life and you secretly feel you remarried too soon. That’s actually quite a human response – and it sounds like your ex may be feeling the same way. My suggestion is don’t do anything until about February. By then the “Christmas crazies” will have subsided and you can better assess your choices. You wouldn’t be the first person to let some time go by and then feel you acted too quickly, but remember, you said you had 20 years with your ex. It’s doubtful his current actions are out of character. Did he play both sides of the coin previously? And, in the big picture of your remarriage, does that make any difference? Ex-etiquette rule No. 8 is “be honest and straightforward.” I didn’t specify with whom. In your case it may mean, “Be honest and straightforward … with yourself.” The holidays do crazy things to people. Write me again in February and we will see where we stand.
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.