Q: My ex and I went on our first date on Valentine’s Day. Although we broke up four years ago and we have both been in relationships with other people, every time the day rolls around I get a little nostalgic and consider contacting him. I hear he’s not getting along with his current girlfriend, and I’m thinking this time of year might be a good excuse to get in touch. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: I often refer to the 10 Rules for Good Ex-etiquette in this column, but there are actually two lists of rules – one for parents and one for those who do not have children. Many of the rules are the same, the main difference is that the Ex-etiquette rules for parents stress putting the children first when making decisions. (Rule No. 1) For the answer to your question, I refer you to the other list, simply the “10 rules of good ex-etiquette,” which begin with taking responsibility for your own actions and “owning your own stuff” (Rule No. 1).
That means, to begin, you have to ask yourself why you really want to revisit this relationship. Do you want to go back with this guy? Sleep with him? Have coffee? Go dancing? Reminisce? Or are you just bored? You said it yourself: You don’t feel like this at any other time but the anniversary of your first date – and here it comes again, so there you go again.
You also have to consider that although Valentine’s Day has come and gone four times since your breakup, neither of you has made the call.
Good ex-etiquette also suggests that exes are exes for a reason, and former couples should be careful to not be swayed by the emotions holidays can conjure up. Truth is, if there are no kids to consider, former couples can be a little more frivolous about revisiting an old relationship – they are “consenting adults,” but it’s also important to be honest with themselves and each other (Ex-etiquette Rule No. 7), and be prepared for the fallout just in case one becomes more invested than the other.
There’s something else to consider: You said your ex is in a relationship and that relationship is a little rocky. I get the “all’s fair in love and war” philosophy, but if you know this isn’t going to go anywhere, why bother? Sounds like he may have enough on his plate right now – and so do you.
Both the 10 Rules of Good Ex-Etiquette and the 10 Rules of Good Ex-Etiquette for Parents can be found on the Bonus Families website, www.bonusfamilies.com. Key words: ten rules, 10 rules.
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.