EX-ETIQUETTE

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE - JANN BLACKSTONE Jann Blackstone is the au­thor of Ex-Etiquette for Par­ents: Good Be­hav­ior Af­ter Di­vorce or Sep­a­ra­tion, and the founder of Bonus Fam­i­lies — bonus­fam­i­lies.com. Con­tact her at dr­jannblack­stone@gmail.com

QI was mar­ried for 13 years and have been sep­a­rated for a year. I have two kids, ages 9 and 12. I have met some­one I like — fi­nally — but have only dated her once. We are both very busy and have not been able to ar­range an­other date, but I know this re­la­tion­ship has po­ten­tial. My kids have seen me tex­ting her and have asked what’s go­ing on. I’m won­der­ing when I should tell my kids about her and when they should meet. What’s good ex-etiquette?

AThere are quite a few red flags in your ques­tion. First red flag: you are not di­vorced. Now, I know all sorts of peo­ple date be­fore their di­vorce is fi­nal, but it has been my ex­pe­ri­ence that peo­ple who merely sep­a­rate and do not fi­nal­ize the di­vorce — even for a year or more — are in that predica­ment for a rea­son. Most at­tempt rec­on­cil­i­a­tion at least once, so even though you want to be in­volved with some­one ro­man­ti­cally, it may be too soon.

Sec­ond red flag: even con­sid­er­ing telling your kids that you are see­ing some­one af­ter one date. Al­though you see the po­ten­tial, it’s all spec­u­la­tion at this point and dis­cussing po­ten­tial with a 9- and 12-year-old is not good ex-etiquette. It will not make them feel safe and se­cure. If they are like ev­ery other 9- and 12-year-old I have worked with, they are still hold­ing out that Mommy and Daddy will get back to­gether. Talk about this woman too soon, and you will break their hearts, plus you are po­ten­tially sab­o­tag­ing your chil­dren’s re­la­tion­ship with your girl­friend and set­ting up your co-par­ent­ing re­la­tion­ship with Mom for fail­ure. Third red flag: that the kids know you are dat­ing and their mother does not. If you truly see po­ten­tial in this re­la­tion­ship, the one who needs the head’s up is mom. That way when the kids come home with the news of your girl­friend, their mother can say, “Yes, honey, your dad and I talked about this” and sup­port the re­la­tion­ship pos­i­tively in front of the chil­dren. If you are afraid to tell your ex, that’s the fourth red flag. There’s un­fin­ished busi­ness, which brings us back to the first red flag (you are not di­vorced). All this is very bad ex-etiquette.

What do I sug­gest? If you and mom have de­cided to date oth­ers, share that in­for­ma­tion with each other. My clients of­ten ques­tion this sug­ges­tion at first un­til I ex­plain that there are no se­crets when you suc­cess­fully co-par­ent. If you think there will be pri­vacy now that you have bro­ken up, you are sorely mis­taken. Your kids will go back and forth be­tween homes and tell the other par­ent ex­actly what’s go­ing on. If you tell them not to tell, you are ask­ing your child to lie to their other par­ent. You are also ask­ing your child not to talk about half their life. “Keep your life with me a se­cret” is emo­tion­ally abu­sive.

So, con­grat­u­la­tions on find­ing some­one you like, but if you’re not ready to share this with the world, date her on your own time un­til you def­i­nitely know where it is go­ing. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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