Ex-Etiquette Column

Articles on dealing with the "ex" in your life--anyone's ex--yours, their's, even "ex"tended family.

How do I Deal With Being the Last to Know EVERYTHING?

Q. How do I deal with being the last to know EVERYTHING? It’s like my fiance is still in a relationship with his ex–and then there’s me.

For example, the kids had a doctor’s appointment. They all ended up at our house afterwards. Evidently there were plans to go to ice cream after the doctor’s, but everyone forgot to tell me. So, my guy, the ex, their kids are all saying, “Let’s go!” and I’m wondering, “Where?” I caught on and jumped in the car, but I feel like I’m the odd man out. When does this normalize? When do I get to have a relationship with my just my fiancé? Not his ex, not his kids?

A. Never? You’re marrying a man with children and that relationship is forever. They aren’t going away. Considering what parenting plan mom and dad follow, your private time will be when the kids are with their mother. If you’re looking for something else, this may not be the guy for you.

If it is as you have explained, it does sound like dad is pretty close to his ex–and if he doesn’t watch it, those blurry boundaries can get messy. Then you have confused kids and angry fiancés. Dad has to reassess his priorities. In other words, you can easily be successful at co-parenting and not spend the afternoon having ice cream with your ex after a doctor’s appointment–even if you invite your kids and your fiancé. Too much togetherness can be really confusing for everyone, particularly the kids.

There are certainly times that are appropriate for exes to spend together–their kids’ birthday parties, if they get along well enough, possibly watching the kids’ extra-curricular activities. Just be careful. Most kids of divorce pine for a time when dad and mom will get back together. All this hanging out can certainly look like that might happen. It would be very easy for the kids to see you as the interloper standing in the way of their mom and dad reconciling. If it gets to that point, it will be difficult to go backwards.

So, if this is the man you choose, you will not have a conventional relationship in the sense that it’s just you and him sailing off into the sunset. The parents have an already establish parenting plan that they feel is working. Based on that, this is solid ex-etiquette advice: Don’t try to establish new policies by yourself. Coordinating efforts with exes, fiances, and kids is a well- choreographed dance. Dad should take the lead.

Your first step is to have a talk with your fiance (dad). (Ex-etiquette for Parents rule #8, “Be honest and straight forward.”) It sounds like no one has truly considered what your role should be in this family. That would be a great place to start the conversation. That’s good ex-etiquette.


Ex-Etiquette®, runs in countless newspapers and websites all over the world. It is written by Dr. Jann Blackstone, who specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. Dr. Jann is the author of seven books on divorce, remarriage, and co-parenting, specifically, Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce and Separation, and other Ex-etiquette books 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.

2 Responses

  1. maryann

    My partner invites his ex and children to have very long stays at my house (2 months) without telling me. It causes so much sadness. I totally have the ability to get along, but once they bypass me, its nothing but hurt and fear. They intentionally make plans without me and I’ve lived with him for 22 years. The ex bad mouths me in her state, I have a friend who works with her and tells me, and the son is disrespectful when in my home. We lived far away, but now that husband has built a nice home in Hawaii, they pretty much move in several times a year. different family members. Everyone acts like I have an attitude. In fact, partner blatantly lies and says he discussed it with me. As if any woman on the face of earth would forget an ex or a mean step son is coming. I totally get that he should put his children in high regard, but he never teaches them or the ex to respect me. It is infuriating. I met this family 10 yrs after their divorce, but it feels like they need to blame me for their fathers/ex failure.

  2. Melissa

    Any man with children who remarries and does not make his union with his wife the top priority is being unfaithful. Period. All actions regarding other members of the family including the extended family should spring from his absolute respect for his wife and her needs. She should be consulted first and always on all things relating to her world with him. After all, he knew what he was getting into when he remarried a human being.

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