Q. I lived with a woman for four years. Loved her more than anything, but was attracted to someone else I lived with even before her and made the mistake of going with the attraction. I ended up moving in with ex #1, and have kicked myself ever since. We are still together, but have never married. I have heard through friends that ex #2 is now single. Our day was always Valentine’s Day and I’m wondering if it would be a good idea to contact her to say hello and sort of test the waters. I’m afraid you are going to say that’s not good ex-etiquette. Am I right?
A. Of course you’re right. The whole thing is questionable behavior–and certainly bad ex-etiquette. Ex #1 and ex #2? And you say you have been kicking yourself since you made the decision to leave #2 to go with #1–but now you are considering going back to #2 and you think Valentine’s Day is the day to test the waters. Testing the waters implies that you plan on sneaking around behind #1’s back to see if #2 might be interested. Doesn’t this seem like déjà vu to you? You may end up kicking yourself from the other direction.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Why do I have to have someone waiting in the wings before I decide the relationship I am in is not right?
- Why is it necessary to recycle the same people in my life?
- What is the name of a good therapist?
If you are really concerned about good ex-etiquette, which translated means “good behavior after divorce or separation,” finish one relationship, then move on to the other. When you initiate a break-up, own when you want to leave and why. It’s understandable if you want to spare your soon-to-be ex pain–or yourself humiliation–but by being honest (ex-etiquette rule #8, be honest and straightforward) you’ve done the right thing. Looking for days like Valentine’s Day or past anniversaries or birthdays as excuses to step out on someone who is committed to you is immature and unnecessary. If you want to break-up, break-up. Lying and sneaking around just adds insult to injury. Good Ex-Etiquette rule #9, is based on respect. Respect them enough to tell the truth. Respect yourself enough to tell the truth.
Finally, if romance brought on by Valentine’s Day is the catalyst to saying how you truly feel about someone, then Happy Valentine’s Day! There’s nothing quite as wonderful as hearing, “I love you” from someone you care about–especially if they are free to say it.
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.