Ex-Etiquette Column

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

Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away…

Q. My friends and I just love your column. We read it every week and talk about it over coffee after we drop the kids off for school. We’ve noticed that you often tell people to move on, the relationship is not right for them. We’d like to say that it’s hard to find the right person–the second, or in one of our cases, the third time around, and advice like “walk away” seems short sided to us. It doesn’t really help us to know what to do.

A. Yes it does. You just don’t want to do it. You’ve already had a bad relationship that ultimately ended, so why settle for something that’s going to cause you pain, the kids pain, and probably face another break-up if the warning signs are right there in front of you? People should be picky. Life doesn’t just happen, and oh yeah, we broke up. People make the wrong choices, and most of the time, while we’re making them there’s a quiet little voice in the back of our head whispering, “Don’t do it!” but we don’t want to be alone, or our friends think he or she is great, or the sex is good, or he or she looks good on paper, and so we take the leap hoping it will be right this time, and oops, we should have listened to that voice because they really didn’t fit in our life and now we are all very unhappy.

People make the wrong choices, and most of the time, while we’re making them there’s a quiet little voice in the back of our head whispering, “Don’t do it!”

So, my readers tell me their story–and it’s often a concern about how the new person interacts with their kids, and they want to know how to change the new person to fit into their life and make it work. Somewhere in their letter they say, “How do I get this person to do _________, you fill in the blank…” When I see that, I say, “Red flag!” because you can’t “get” anyone to do anything. They have to want to make changes on their own or else they will resent you, or your kids, or whoever is behind why they have to change. And, we all know, resentment unaddressed, is a major contributor to break-ups.

You have to weigh the positives and negatives to every relationship. Some things can be overlooked, like they dress funny or have stupid hair. Buy some new clothes and find a good stylist. But, if they don’t like your kids or they are upset that your ex is actively co-parenting with you? That can’t be overlooked. That’s when I say, “Don’t be afraid to walk away.” You signed on to your responsibility to your kids years before this new person came into your life–and your self esteem and the self esteem of your children always takes precedent. At least that’s my take–and you asked why. I know it’s not easy–I’ve had to make that choice myself, but I can tell you first hand that it’s right thing to do.

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, 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.

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