Q. My fiance and I have been living together for about a year. Our wedding date is coming up and because he shares custody of his two children, he would like me to meet his ex before we get married. I’m not sure why it’s necessary. I have nothing to say to her and have no idea what we could possibly talk about, but he’s adamant. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. Good for your fiance. He has the right idea. Good ex-etiquette is to have that talk. The best ex-etiquette would have been to have talked a year ago when you were planning to move in with the children’s dad.
Moving in is a commitment and it’s a bigger commitment when there are children involved. You’re not just moving in with a boyfriend or a girlfriend, you’re now taking on the responsibility of being a role model. It’s a big deal. What you could have talked about with her was the children—house rules, their school work, ask her opinion about how to handle their extra-curricular activities, bed times, food preferences–these are just a few things that come to mind. Most importantly, the three of you must figure out how you’re going to problem solve. Get something in place now so you know what to do when you don’t agree because there will be a time and if you don’t have a plan in place, it’ll be a mess—and the kids are watching.
For those of you who think I’m crazy for even suggesting the three adults get on the same page—these kids are going back and forth between the parent’s homes. If you’re putting the kids first (Ex-etiquette for Parents rule #1), you do what you have to do—and that may include being cordial with your husband’s ex because you married a guy with kids.
What if someone ran off? What if you are the one he ran off with, do you still talk? Yes, if you can, but you don’t do anything that’s not in the best interest of the children. That means it’s the ultimate goal to interact, but if you’re not ready, for now, just don’t badmouth their mother or father. (Ex-etiquette for Parents rule #3) Be polite and cordial when you see each other when the kids are around. You don’t have to be best friends. Do your best to compromise when looking for a solution. (Ex-etiquette for Parents Rule #10). You’re doing this for the kids. As I’ve said many times before…they didn’t ask for the break-up.
As a little side note: I always find it interesting that parents have no problem calling the parents of their children’s friends just to check in prior to their children spending the night, but they rarely think to meet their ex’s new partner who will actually live with their children. Granted, they also live with their other parent, but more often than not, exes don’t talk. You’re lucky, if Dad wants you to meet Mom, it sounds as if these parents are doing their best to co-parent. Do your best to help. 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, 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.