Q. I have been divorced for 5 years. It was an amicable divorce. We both have been in long term relationships. Our kids are grown and have their own families. My ex is still a HUGE part of my family. He goes to events, holidays if I’m not there and my family spends time with him. My Ex is always around! Call me selfish but, when does this end? While I’m glad he is close to me nieces and nephews it just seems a bit much. My boundaries don’t seem to matter. It hurts my feelings that my parents choose him over me. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A. I’m always surprised by how often I am asked this, or some variance of this question. lt boils down to “him or me”—and I can’t believe they’re choosing him.
The truth is, they’re not, but they may be choosing both of you. That doesn’t mean they like him best, it means they recognize that he is your ex, but he is also their grandchildren’s father or their children’s uncle, and that doesn’t stop because you and he are no longer together.
The big question is, how do you maneuver that?
It seems your family has already figured that out. Your question stated that your ex “goes to events and holidays if I’m not there,” so, although you may think your family is choosing him, they are respecting your position. It also appears that they may think of him as your family representative if you aren’t there—and that can be irritating if they still see him as family and you do not–particularly if both of you have new partners.
Everyone wants these relationships clearly defined and put into nice little neat boxes-the ex-box, the new partner box—put the top on and don’t let anyone out when the other is there—certainly don’t have allegiance to old when the new one is around. But, it’s just not like that. Unlike years ago when exes didn’t interact once divorced, today’s ex relationships are not necessarily severed just because two people break-up. Joint custody of the children puts everyone in contact with each other, the kids go back and forth, and in the midst of all that, extended family continue to interact with someone you really wish would just move on.
But, move on to where? If you have had children, you are related for life through your children. There are those who cannot interact because of things like past domestic violence or drug and alcohol issues, but if you are or have co-parented your children, even if your kids are older and have their own families, you have set precedent for ongoing interaction of some sort. It may not be every holiday, but those ex relationships will be lurking at your children or grandchildren or niece and nephew milestone events because they are related, as well. It’s your job to handle those interactions with as much grace as you can muster as a role model for your children, grandchildren, nieces or nephews. 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.