Q: I had a terrible divorce that eventually became amicable, thank goodness, but I moved away as a result and have not been back to the small town I lived in for two years. My ex cheated, it was awful, end of story. My friends have all stayed friends with my ex — which is fine — but they want to have a party when I come into town and they want to invite him. I don’t want any part of it. I have a new guy in my life. I’ve said so, and they aren’t listening. What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: Say it again … LOUDER … if that is what you really want — but add your ex to the list.
What happens in these cases is that your friends are in mourning, too. They long for the way it used to be, just like your kids, if you had any, or other relatives who had an attachment to you two as a couple. They probably reminisce when you aren’t around — and if they have stayed in contact with your ex and he has any hope of reconciliation, he’s egging them on, as well. So, you come into town and they think its old home week. Meanwhile, there has been a lot of water under that proverbial bridge that they may not know about, and you are just not interested.
So, here’s the twist you may not have expected. If, as you say, you are amicable with your ex, he’s the one I would call. As I mentioned, I suspect he might be the one behind their insistence to have that party. And your friends, hoping that reconciliation will once again round out their social circle, are all too cooperative. You have moved away and started a new life. They are still in that small town, life continues as usual, and they don’t see the changes you have made or the importance of this new man in your life. They have forgiven him for his indiscretion.
So, first, I would take a good hard look at why you are returning. Sure, you probably miss your friends. But it may be time that they come to your new home, see your life now, and then they may not be so insistent on reuniting the old club.
That said, good ex-etiquette rule No. 8 is, “Be honest and straight forward in all your endeavors,” and intention is at the root of all this. If your friends are truly good friends, you can ask if they are setting this up in hopes that you and your ex might reconcile. If their answer is yes or no, at least you got the question out in the open. That’s when you tell them there is no chance and you aren’t interested in attending a party with that in mind. It’s not that you don’t want to see your ex, it’s that you don’t want to spend an evening reminiscing with someone who cheated on you or giving anyone (friends and ex, alike) the impression that you want that life again. That’s good ex-etiquette.
Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, bonusfamilies.com.