Ex-Etiquette Column

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

Dinner With His Ex-wife and Kids?

Q.  I have been dating a man who filed for legal separation from his wife of 13 years about four months ago. We have decided that we are dating each other exclusively and we are both excited about this new relationship. The trouble is, it’s his wife’s birthday tonight and he is going to have dinner with her and the kids, ages 7 and 9. I am feeling really uncomfortable–even jealous, and I would like to know if this is good ex-etiquette. If we are exclusive, should he be having dinner with his ex-wife and kids?

A.  Oh boy. In my opinion, you’re moving way too fast. There’s a reason someone files for legal separation instead of divorce. It may be religious, financial, only he knows and, quite frankly, you should know before you go any further.

That said, going in you must understand that life with this man will not be like a first-time relationship–you will always have to share him with his ex and his kids. Not share as you might think–share in the sense that he will continue to consider another woman’s feelings even though he is not physically involved with her because she is the mother of his children and they share custody. This is a difficult concept for first timers to get. They take it personally, think it means that their partner will always prefer the ex to them, and get themselves into “either/or” ultimatums, when that is not it at all. If this man and his ex co-parent, they must communicate, take into consideration each others feelings on a subject, and then compromise in the best interest of the kids. That’s hard to deal with when you are worried that your guy and his ex might run off together at the drop of a hat. Many in your position find themselves so jealous they just can’t handle it–which makes the new relationship impossible.

The most turbulent time in a relationship is right after you separate. Most are angry and hurt and have a very difficult time communicating. If he is attending his wife’s birthday dinner so soon after separation, it sounds as if these two people have an amicable separation and will co-parent very closely. This is commendable and in the best interest of their children. But, take note: Most who separate attempt reconciliation at least once, so I wouldn’t be surprised if they try it just one more time. To commit to another relationship at this point is not good ex-etiquette on either of your parts. The future has too many, “what-ifs.” His responsibility at this juncture is to address the issues with his wife, get his ducks in a row, and then he will be free to start another relationship. Being upset that he’s spending time with his family will just complicate his transition–and seems like a very unfulfilling alternative for you. I suggest you wait just a little bit longer until you two can plan a life together–and it won’t be a life where you just stand on the side lines and watch.

Dr. Jann Blackstone, who specializes in child custody, divorce, and stepfamily mediation. She 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. Simone

    My now boyfriend 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 also on his Facebook page he has that he is married. I feel like I not bei g told the truth in many ways. Please help sincerely Simone

    1. MarilynWalker

      He’s already your “boyfriend” after a split a week ago? Wow! He’s NOT your “boyfriend” unless you’ve been seeing him prior to him “separating”

  2. Anonymous

    I have a boyfriend been together for one month and he’s been divorced about 4years. He’s been in different relationships after his divorce and finally met me. He says he loves me and goes above and beyond to see me, help me, all in all he’s a great bf. but he’s really close friends with his ex wife whom he has 2 beautiful children together. Sometimes she invites him to dinner and after that he goes in his own way. He doesn’t hide me from her and his kids know me. I’m a single mom myself so my child really gets along with his kids. It the ex wife has me I don’t know….should I be bothered by this? Or just let it go?

  3. Hi Everyone,

    I need opinion because right now I don’t know how to react at all. So I am married to my husband whose been divorce with his x since 2012. Of course they have kids, 3 boys and I do have my own 2.. His youngest is 12.

    Today, I was doing laundry. I heard Alexa alarm. Went upstairs and saw my husband getting ready to go somewhere. I said, “Are you going somewhere?” He said, “Yes, I am going to watch the Star Wars movie with the boys, since K doesn’t want to go watch movie Amy (the X wife) had extra ticket). Me, “Why are the other 2 boys watching by themselves? ” He said, “No, C and P and Amy will be there. Since I don’t get a chance to spend time with the boys. It’s not like I am going with her.”

    His excuse is he doesn’t spend time with his boys. We do have his kids every other week. When his boys are here he is in the bedroom watching tv and or sleep. My husband do have some type of depression that I do have to keep in mind. I offered him before, if he likes to spend time with his boys alone let me know and it’s okay with me for us to spend money even though money is tight. I do have my 2 kids with me all the time, I don’t bring them anywhere to spend time alone. I figured that he might want that with his kids since they are not with us all the time. But he never did follow through. Not even when he did not work for a little over a year. But now, because one of his son did not like to go and there was one free ticket from his x-wife he went out with his boys an with x-wife to watch movie.

    The other crazy thing is, he is totally against on watching the new Star Wars movie because he thinks its just a money grab. Another one is, the son who did not went is always a NO when it comes to family event. I don’t blame the son, he is 16 and in his age he enjoys being with friends and playing with his online game. So I don’t get why the X/mom buys a ticket for him when she knows her son refuse a lot. If her reason is that she wants her child spend time with her and with the other brothers as a family why not become a mom and put your foot down and tell his son that family time is essential.

    I am from a different country, me and my 2 kids been living here for almost 4 years. My kids father were never a hands on to our kids. I force myself so my kids can see their dad when he gets vacation from his work. His work is International Seaman. Our culture is different too, most of the time when a relationship doesn’t work the kids is always with the mom. That’s my case. So before when they were young and we were still in the Philippines, I take my kids to their dad to meet him in the mall. I try my best so my kids can have a relationship with their dad even though I am don’t want to see him. Before my kids and I left the country, their dad was on vacation and I needed him to sign something so I can take my kids in US because they said I will need it since my children surname is their dad’s. I had to see him and of course technology and communication was so hard then for me specially I don’t use a really nice phone. My husband now gave me grief in meeting my kids dad for something for him to sign. I was not even alone seeing my kids dad I was with my cousin since I cannot stand him. Besides, I was not going to see him if I didn’t need to.

    Came here to marry him. First valentines he did not do anything for me. Just to know from his old facebook post that he celebrates Valentines and do something special with his X wife before. Our marriage was not as I wanted, well what the heck the immigration gives us less than 90 days. I did not like festive marriage but I felt taken for granted. He did not even have a wedding ring. We got married in the house with just immediate family. The ring we used is the ring he gave me when we got engage which hardly stays in my ring finger because its big. I had to tell him about that I felt I begged for him to get me one. I think after almost 2 years when he finally got me one that he thinks was perfect for me. It is hard for me at times to understand and not feel bad specially when I see old pictures of his x and their wedding.

    For what I know, I am giving my best for this family and I was at my best when he met me. My life is just work and house, which I don’t want to complain. Because that’s what I choose. I try my best helping him the way I could. The only thing I cannot do right now is drive, which I am trying to learn. It’s not easy for me who was born without expectation of driving at the age of 15.

    His been always telling me on how to handle X’es…..

    What he did today, I felt so bad… For me, it’s okay you go out with your kids but not with the X. Why? What are you trying to say??

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