Meet the Ex Before You Marry Him

When you marry someone with children it's important to meet the ex before you marry.

Meet His Ex Before You Marry Him

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.

5 Responses

  1. Michelle

    As a bio mom, I would suggest that a soon to be step parent uses judgement and discretion when deciding to attempt to have a relationship with your financees ex. Let me just say that my ex and I don’t have a good co parenting relationship for a number of reasons. Just prior to getting engaged, my ex and his fiancée extended an invitation for me to come to her home for dinner which was extremely uncomfortable but I accepted the invitation to benefit our 7 year old son. Soon after this, my ex started calling more and expressed more interest in co parenting. Follow up to this my ex asked me to breakfast with our son – it was during this “breakfast” get together that my ex tells me that he and his new fiancée want me to babysit during the weeks my son is in his dad’s care so that they don’t have to find and pay a babysitter when hey want to go away on weekends or if they want to have a date night. I thought this was extremely manipulative and when I told my ex that his behavior was less than acceptable, he said I was being selfish and why wouldn’t I want to watch our son so that he and his new wife could have alone time together??? Dr. Jann – your advice might work well for parents that have a geniune interest in doing what’s right for the children but for parents who are self serving and put their own needs above needs of children, I don’t know if having the ex meet the fiancée is always a good idea.

    1. Jann

      Yep, your ex’s behavior could be perceived as selfish and manipulative, but so what? The following remains to be true:
      1. He’s your child’s father.
      2. She lives with your child’s father therefore she will interact and have an impact on your child. I would think you would want to know anyone who interacts with your child on a regular basis.
      3. When they ask you to babysit you will see your child more. You know he’s safe with you.

      It seems like a win/win situation to me.

  2. Michelle

    Dr. Jann – Let me provide some further detail. My ex husband ad I were married for 18 years. He began working two time zones away when I was pregnant with our son and began having an affair with a woman at work. I didn’t know he was having an affair until our son was 5 months old but suspected something was going on soon after the birth of our son when I noticed he was writing checks out of our bank account to this woman. My ex and I divorced two years ago and he has continued to work two time zones away by choice and hasn’t been very involved in our sons life. Soon after our son was born, I was diagnosed with a serious medical condition and pleaded with him to find work closer to our home so that he could help me to care for our son. He refused. During the early years of when our son was small, I continued to work a demanding full time professional job, care for our home, and battled an illness when my husband would come home one extended weekend a month – he would go days without calling and checking in on us to see how we were doing. Fast forward a little over a year ago when my job in the oil and gas industry was downsized and had to move to another state to find work to support my son and myself. When I told my ex about my job situation, his feedback to me was that I must be a loser if my job was eliminated. I continued to pay private school tuition and paid for activities for our son so that he could not feel the impact to our financial situation. I never asked my ex for additional help other than to put him on his health insurance which he refused. I ended up having to move us out of state and my ex moved in with a woman he knows from work to be closer to us. I make every accommodation for my son to spend as much time as possible with his dad outside of what’s in the divorce decree. I made numerous attempts over the years to email my exhusband about what was going on in our sons life and have asked very little from this man. In August of this year, we had a big argument because he wouldn’t provide a copy of our sons birth certificate so I could enroll him in school and it was in this conversation he asked that we limit communication. Fast forward 6 weeks and then he and his fiancée invite me to dinner, which I reluctantly did but made the choice to benefit our son and then get asked if I will babysit so they can have alone time? My ex has our son for only 10 days a month. Why not have date night on the other 20-21 days in the month? I fully understand what I took on as a mother when I gave birth, however, I don’t think the other parent has the right to treat the ex like a door mat. Why not just call or text and say, hey can you babysit our son next Saturday? Why try to butter the other parent up or put up a facade in front of your child where the other reason the parent wants to interact with their co parent because they want something in return?

    1. Dr, Jann

      I know you feel you have reason to feel the way you do–but the truth remains that all this doesn’t matter. The child matters. Anticipating or thinking you truly see the truth behind Dad’s motivation doesn’t change that the child is the reason you make your decisions.

      Ask him why not just call or text and say, hey can you babysit our son next Saturday? and you know what he will probably say?

      I just did.

      Yes is sounds as if he’s manipulative. Yes, he might be a jerk, and yes, it’s good ex-etiquette to have date night on the other days he is not scheduled to see your son. But, it also sounds as if he’s asking you first to watch your child.

      Again, a win/win with a manipulative ex.

  3. Michelle

    So what you are saying as a licensed trained therapist is that it is perfectly okay for one parent to treat the other like a door mat? Would this also mean that you endorse that if there were domestic violence or emotional abuse going on previously in the home that it’s okay post divorce that the other parent still has to endure this type of conflict because you are such an advocate of Bonus parenting? People who are manipulative have tendencies of being emotionally abusive and how you are responding says that behavior is okay because of the best interest of the child? Most therapists talk about healthy boundaries – I don’t see anything on your website that speaks to healthy boundaries. I’m disappointed in your response.

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