10 Rules of Good Ex-etiquette (No Kids)

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Q. I have been with my boyfriend for three months. His ex won’t leave him alone, and he won’t do anything about it. I want to tell her to stop, but he won’t let me because he says that would embarrass him. Do the rules of good ex-etiquette still apply when you are not married or don’t have kids?

A.  When it comes to breaking up, people go a little loco and reason often goes right out the window. Jealousy, envy, anger, resentment, hurt, or even relief, are feelings we all feel, no matter our age or marital status.

I often refer to the 10 Rules for Good Ex-etiquette to help exes deal with breaking up and start over, 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 #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 #1).

If you don’t share children, why would you ever need to talk to an ex? It could be because you might still share a business, an animal, or work at the same place. It may not be your ex you must contend with, but your partner’s ex or your sister’s ex. With that in mind, here are the 10 Rules of Good Ex-Etiquette (for breaking up and starting over when kids are not involved) and some suggestions for when they would apply:

  1. Own your stuff. Fault and blame is a waste of your precious time.
  2. Stay calm when confronted (or confronting someone).
  3. No badmouthing. (Keep gossip to a minimum if you can.)
  4. Set clear boundaries. (What are your deal breakers?)
  5. Don’t be spiteful.
  6. Don’t hold grudges.
  7. Use empathy when problem solving. (Put yourself in their shoes.)
  8. Be honest and straightforward.
  9. Respect each other’s turf.
  10. Compromise whenever possible.

So, let’s see how the rules apply in a practical application:

Even though your boyfriend may like that two women are fighting over him, as his girlfriend, his allegiance should be to you. That means it’s up to him to set clear boundaries (rule No. 4) with other women. If he doesn’t want to, that’s a big fat red flag, so take note. Is it a deal breaker? He doesn’t want the same thing you want — and that’s where it is important that you are clear with your boundaries–and respect his turf (rule #9). It’s not up to you to make him toe the line or manipulate him into wanting an exclusive relationship.  What do you BOTH want?  rule #10, (Compromise whenever possible.) The more honest you can be with each other right from the start, the better. (rule #8) That’s good ex-etiquette.

So, here’s another scenario where relying on the rules of good ex-etiquette can help:  You had a bad break-up and you and your ex end up at a party together. Do you stand in the corner gossiping (rule#3, don’t badmouth), throwing hate stares at each other, drink a little too much and try to push each other’s buttons? After all the $#%$!! did whatever he or she did and left you high and dry–or you left them high and dry. Only if you want to fuel the fire and look like an idiot for perpetuating the drama. You begin to get over it by following ex-etiquette rule #1 (Own your own stuff.) Fault and blame just keeps you in the past, stuck reminiscing about a relationship that is no more. It’s done. It’s done. It’s done.

If he or she says anything and gets in your face, move on to rule #2, (Stay calm when confronted). Out of respect for the host or hostess, you don’t make a scene, rule #7 (Use empathy when problem solving). In other words, would you want someone to act like that at your home? Out of respect for yourself, you rise above it. You don’t hold grudges (rule #6) and you’re not spiteful (rule #5). Way easier to move on when you let all that stuff go–because ultimately the goal is to successfully start over.

If you analyze these two scenarios, we’ve applied every one of the rules of good ex-etiquette. They are a great guide and a simple resource when you don’t know where to turn when dealing with an ex. Works every time.

Check out the original ten rules of good ex-etiquette for parents.

Dr. Jann Blackstone specializes in child custody, divorce, remarriage, and stepfamily mediation. She is the author of seven books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, Ex-Etiquette for Weddings, and Ex-Etiquette for Holidays. Dr. Blackstone is also the founder of Bonus Families,501 c3 non-profit organization dedicated to peaceful coexistence between divorced or separated parents and their combined families.