Q. Last month my husband and his ex called each other over 49 times and texted over 100 times. Here’s the kicker, they have one daughter together who is 27. This month they have called 15 times and it is only the first week in June. I approached my husband about this several months ago and told him that communicating that much was not right. He said he would stop and did for several months, but this month it has picked up again. It appears he doesn’t just talk about the kids, but about our relationship as well. So, is the constant communication between these two appropriate? What should I do? What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. OK, the obvious red flag here is that your husband and his ex are talking a lot—and the implication is that there is no special occasion, like their daughter getting married or she’s just finished graduate school–because that might be a reason for increased communication—therefore, with the information you have given me, you want to know if their constant interaction is appropriate.
No, it’s not. It sounds like they continue to be emotionally connected even after their break-up, but the bigger red flag is that you have resorted to checking the phone bill—you know exactly how many calls and texts go between them each month. You know exactly how many calls have already been made this month. Even if you don’t think they’re having an affair, you’re acting like they are. Truth is, any relationship cannot flourish when a partner engages in that level of intimacy with someone else. It’s time to get some help—both personally and for your marriage.
That said, what is good ex-etiquette between exes? If you read this column you’ve heard me say, “cordial, not cuddly.” That means be polite for the sake of the children, or whatever you must share after the break-up so that you can continue to make good decisions together, but too much togetherness can be misunderstood—by everyone concerned. Kids misunderstand and think their parents are getting back together—and then if they don’t, they’re heart-broken and must deal with the divorce all over again. Exes can misunderstand, remain dependent and emotionally tied, and can possibly cross the line.
That’s why people who must interact with their ex must agree on clear boundaries waaaaay before they get involved with someone else, and then everyone, from ex to new partner, has to understand their place and never cross-over into each other roles.
Bottom line, if you’re married, that’s your confidant. That’s your “go to person.” You don’t call up the ex and pour out your soul when you are married to someone else. If you feel compelled to do so, do some soul searching, fast.
Finally, your husband’s daughter is 27-year-old. She should be on her own—and so should her parents if they are no longer together. Considering the circumstances offered, there’s nothing your husband has to talk to his ex about 100 times a month. The fact that you have to tell him that is the biggest red flag of all. Ex-etiquette for Parents rule #8, is “Be honest and straight forward.” Sounds like it’s your husband’s turn—with you, with his ex, and with himself.
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.