Ex-Etiquette Column

Articles on dealing with the "ex" in your life--anyone's ex--yours, their's, even "ex"tended family.

I Think My Boyfriend May Be Married

Q. I think my new boyfriend may be married. He apparently split with his wife a week ago, but he has dinner at the table twice a week and she was texting him tattoos he may like. His Facebook page says he’s married. I feel like I am not being told the truth in many ways. What’s good ex-etiquette

A. I know most of you out there are reading this question and thinking, “This can’t be a real one,” but I can sure you, it is. Sometimes the red flags are just waving too fast and furious–and so my answer starts with shift back to reality…

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck—it’s a duck. In other words, this guy is not “your new boyfriend,” he’s someone’s husband.

Couples argue, they fight, one moves out and stays on his best friend’s couch until the dust settles. While they’re working through the mess they often try to keep up their routine for the kids. There’s your dinners two times a week. If you want to call this “separated” and justify fooling around, do it, but your guy is married and to call him your new boyfriend a week after he supposedly split from his wife is preposterous. And, if his wife is sending him tattoo suggestions, it’s doubtful she considers this a break-up, as well. It may not even be a fight—he could be out and out lying.

True break-ups are miserable. They are not frivolous jaunts around a Facebook relationship status. They hurt, and people reel for years trying to get their bearings. Even if this guy has really left his wife, there is no way that he will be ready to accept a serious commitment for at least a year, most likely two or three—and if they have children, the break-up dance lasts much longer. If you want to take this on, go ahead, but he won’t be yours for quite a while—if ever.

It’s time to set some personal boundaries for your relationships, starting with understanding what you’re getting yourself into when you date someone who is “currently separated.” After working with thousands of couples over the years it has been my experience that most who break-up, try it one more time, and if you’re dating him or her, you’ll get caught in the cross fire. Most people think they’re just fine after a break-up and ready to move on, but as you watch them attempt to navigate the break-up drama, you’ll see that’s simply not the case. There are lots of things to sort through, even if the break-up is regarded to be a relief.

Finally, you asked, “What’s good ex-etiquette?” My definition is always “good behavior after divorce or separation.” That usually starts with putting the kids first (Ex-etiquette for parents rule #1) but, it’s not clear if your boyfriend has kids. Therefore, for him it means finish up one thing before you start on another. For you, set your personal bar higher and require more. 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.

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