Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe: Bonus familiesRespect ex’s turf
Q: My boyfriend and I have been living together for three years. He was divorced for two years before we got together. We both have children from first marriages. My boyfriend’s kids are grown, but his ex still has him to dinner when the kids are in town and at holidays. A friend who has been to her house says that she still has a portrait of the two of them hanging in the family room. I am so upset and he won’t do anything! What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: We think the answer to your problem lies in four little words in your question: “He won’t do anything.” It sounds like you may be looking for that knight in shining armor. Someone who will take up your cause and say in no uncertain terms, “Take those pictures down! We are no longer together and I love my girlfriend!” If so, that’s a big, fat red flag. Not necessarily demonstrating that he still has feelings for his ex, but that you two have very different personality styles.
If you have been living together for three years and he still goes to her home to see the adult children without you, then boundaries are not clear — to her, to you and to the kids. Three years is long enough to know where your relationship is going, especially if you live together. And, if your boyfriend can’t give you some indication of a future, we are wondering why you moved in with him in the first place, especially with children.
Many people do not include the new partner in family celebrations because it’s just easier — they don’t want the only time they see the kids to be fraught with divorce drama. There are times when it’s understandable that the new partner is not attending a family get together. For example, if the break-up was as the result of an affair. But, that doesn’t seem to be the situation in your case. So, if you do start accompanying him to family celebrations, it may be easier to begin by meeting in more neutral settings — a park for a picnic, or a restaurant.
In regards to taking down the picture, Ex Etiquette rule No. 9 very clearly states, “Respect each other’s turf.” In other words, what she does in her house is her business. Having pictures around of a relationship that ended more than five years ago (do the math) is questionable, but if that’s what she wants to do, let it be.
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.