Q. I’ve been dating someone for about three months that I met on an online dating site. He lives about 100 miles away. It seemed like he was only available every other weekend—and when I asked him why he told me he shares custody with his ex, and he has his kids every Wednesday to Friday and every other weekend. I was shocked because he never mentioned it until I asked, which seems very weird to me. I can’t believe he didn’t tell me he has kids. It made me wonder what else he’s hiding. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. I think it would make me wonder, as well. Good ex-etiquette suggests that you don’t introduce the kids until you know where your new relationship is going—but that’s to protect the kids. He didn’t tell YOU about the kids for three months and then it was because you asked. That is of concern. Makes you wonder what his motivation was, and what else he has kept secret.
Problem is, kids are not an afterthought. They are something that should be mentioned right away. That would give you the option right from the start to go forward or walk away if you don’t want to date someone with children. That would be good ex-etiquette. Keeping secrets is not. (Good Ex-etiquette for Parents rule #8, “Be honest and straight forward.) When there are children involved, there simply can’t be any dating games.
Plus, the parenting plan you described is an equal custody share—something called a 2-2-5 parenting plan. This dad is VERY active in his children’s lives. In order to co-parent properly because these kids are going back and forth every couple of days, he probably talks to his ex on a regular basis. So, not only do you now have children in the mix, there’s an ex who could live right around the corner. You have to ask yourself—and him, evidently —are you ready for that?
There’s more…you live 100 miles apart. If you were entertaining the fantasy that this relationship would blossom, and he would eventually move to be with you—it’s not going to happen. To maintain this particular parenting plan, the exchanges are usually done to school and from school. Can’t exchange the kids daily from a 100 miles away. So, the introduction of children has definitely changed the dynamic of this relationship.
Time to initiate further conversation. But, before you do, get clear in your own mind about the following:
1. Do you want to continue seeing someone with children?
2. Do you want to continue seeing someone who actively co-parents with his ex? You will come in contact with her on a regular basis. This will not be like a first-time relationship. His allegiance will be to his children.
3. As the relationship progresses, how active does he want you to be with the children?
And, last but, not least, what was his motivation for keeping this secret for three months?
He has some “splaining” to do. Listen very carefully. 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.