Q: I’ve been divorced for 10 years and I am now engaged. My fiancé has two adult-age kids. I also have two adult children.
My fiance’s ex “came out” 10 years into their marriage and has been with her partner ever since. We four are very cordial – for the kids on my part, but for him I’m not so sure. They raised kids together and I fear they have a special bond. We have spent a few holidays together and keep their traditions. He sends pictures and texts about special events she misses. I’m worried he’s not over her. Now what?
A: New partners often worry that exes have a special bond based on all sorts of experiences – from raising children to weathering life’s trials, and they let that concern play with their head. In your case, your fiancé and his ex may be even more casual in their interaction because she is now openly gay and both may have accepted there is no chance of reconciliation.
Of course I’m just guessing, but if you are concerned, that’s the conversation you should be having with your fiancé. Discuss the boundaries you think are appropriate and come to an agreement. Be careful. “Fear” of a bond can make you resentful and spiteful which overtly breaks ex-etiquette rule number No. 6. (Don’t be spiteful.) Have that conversation as soon as possible.
I have to say, however, it’s good ex-etiquette when parents keep each other up to date on their children’s activities. Of course, texting every day just to say hi is inappropriate if you are in a new relationship, but even adult children have issues that their parents need to discuss.
Aside from maintaining past traditions, which you say you do and is also good ex-etiquette, there may be medical concerns, graduations, college, grandkids, birthdays, marriages, funerals, the list can get pretty long. I always find it amusing when parents tell me they won’t have to interact with their ex once their child turns 18. That’s just not true.
Finally, you can’t control how your fiance feels about his ex, but I will give you the same advice I often give to new partners – don’t compare. It undermines your self-esteem and ultimately your relationship.
Everyone has an ex and they are an ex for a reason. You really don’t know how he feels – and that’s the problem. You are comparing how you think he feels to how you think he feels about you. That would make just about anyone feel unsure and insecure. Start talking about what you want in a relationship and listen to what he wants and then create that relationship. It sounds like that’s exactly what his ex did.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.