Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe: Bonus familiesDon’t proclaim love for your ex
Q: I just saw a perfect Valentine’s Day card for my ex, but he has a new girlfriend and I’m wondering if I should even bother. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: This time of year we always get the same question: “Should I send a valentine to my ex?” And each year we hear the same reasons: Either it’s for good times’ sake; or it might be a way to get an ex back; or it’s really not from them, it’s from the kids.
Truth is, a valentine is your proclamation of love. Think twice before you send one. Ask yourself what you’re saying by sending a valentine. “I still love you”? You can say that on 364 other days. “Boy, did we have some good times”? Again, say that on another day and your ex won’t be wondering what’s behind the card. “It’s really from the kids”? Then make sure it looks like a valentine from the kids — enlist their help to make the card so it can’t be misconstrued as a way to keep those ex-embers burning — especially if your ex has a new partner or has remarried. If your ex has made a serious commitment to someone else, we think it’s downright tacky to go after him or her — especially if the new couple has kids.
A good way to figure out if you have ulterior motives is to consider if you would feel comfortable giving the card to your ex in front of his or her new partner. If it’s one of those little secret things you might do with a wink when the new partner is not around, then you’re lying to yourself if you think “it’s from the kids.” Now that you have broken up, your responsibility to each other is as parents — not former lovers. Good Ex-Etiquette Rule No. 8 — be honest and straightforward — applies in every interaction with an ex, even secret ones. That’s good ex-etiquette.
By the same token, if you both find yourselves single around Valentine’s Day and you would like to offer a card or present, that’s fine, but be prepared for the consequences — not just between the two of you, but if you have kids together. Let that valentine be seen by kids old enough to understand what it means and it could open a whole can of worms. Don’t play fast and loose with your kids’ emotions. Unless you are both openly trying to reconcile, we vote against sticking a valentine from Mommy or Daddy on the refrigerator — until you are ready to buy groceries together again.
JANN BLACKSTONE-FORD and SHARYL JUPE are co-founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com) and authors of “Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After a Divorce or Separation.” Blackstone-Ford is married to Jupe’s ex-husband. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.