Ex-etiquette: Here's what you signed up for

Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation.”

Jann Blackstone.jpg
Jann Blackstone

Q: I do not get along with my husband’s ex-wife. We share the kids 50/50 and it seems like she is always around. I know it’s wrong to say, but I resent having to deal with her. What happened to the days when an ex was an ex? This is not what I signed up for. What’s good ex-etiquette?

A: Oh, but it is. It’s exactly what you signed up for. Even if your husband’s parenting plan was different when you married, there is always the possibility that things will change. The children’s mother may get transferred, she may become ill and need help, the high school near your home may offer a better curriculum than the one by her home — there are lots of reasons why things could change, and you should be ready for them. And, those changes may put you in contact with her on a daily basis. What happened to the days when an ex was an ex? Joint custody happened — and you married a man with joint custody of his children.

As a parent who combined yours, mine and ours, plus shared her husband’s kids 50/50, the walk toward cooperation with “the ex” is not an easy one, but it is possible and quite rewarding if your goal is to raise healthy kids, not dig in your heels and establish territory. I met my husband when his kids were very little — 3 and 6 — and it took “his ex” and me about 3 or 4 years to figure it out. I believe it would have saved a lot of time and heartache if someone would have called us out at the time and reminded us that what was important was the welfare of the kids going back and forth. We eventually figured it out and became good enough friends to reach out to one another for help, but it was not before the kids faced restless nights and stomach aches from the stress we unknowingly caused by standing our ground.

I learned that it starts out with something as simple as a corrected mindset — and the label you use to describe a person often frames the way you think of that person. So, instead of “the ex,” she became the “children’s mother.” Most think of their partner’s ex as you do — a sort of disposable, throw away person that’s a pain in their side. An “ex” receives very little respect, however, the “children’s mother” or father automatically carries more weight. Once you respect someone’s position you are less likely to disregard their requests or observations. Losing the ex/new label made a difference in how we treated each other. 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, . ©2020 Jann Blackstone Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

What To Read Next
From the column: "The dirty little secret in Washington is that almost all legislation needs at least bipartisanship to pass — and even significant legislation often sails through unimpeded."
From the column: "For every fight that derails a controversial spending bill ... you’ll see trillions ... approved on a bipartisan basis. Yet, most of these dollars go to programs that shouldn’t have been approved in the first place."
From the column: "Plainly, massive government spending didn’t work. But what did work is also plain to see."
From the column: "It’s no exaggeration to say this could be the most expensive paid-leave insurance program for small business in the country."