Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - STYLE -

QMy hus­band re­cently took his son on a back­pack­ing trip. It’s a fam­ily tra­di­tion that I thought was go­ing to stop now that we are mar­ried. When they re­turned, I found out that my hus­band’sand brother ex-wife’salso went fa­ther along. I feel un­com­fort­able with my hus­band con­tin­u­ing to as­so­ci­ate with his ex’s fam­ily. I feel like they are al­ways com­par­ing me to my hus­band’s ex and what they re­ally want is for them to rec­on­cile. This in­fu­ri­ates me! I want my hus­band to stop! What’s good ex-eti­quette?

AOK, there are a ton of red flags here. To be­gin, al­though in­tel­lec­tu­ally, most un­der­standof co-par­ent­ing,the pa­ram­e­ter­swhen it comes to their own new re­la­tion­ship, all rea­son goes right out the win­dow, and they re­vert to high school — “You can’t talk to her, she’s your ex.”

That men­tal­ity is com­pletely im­prac­ti­cal when your new part­ner has a shared cus­tody plan. The chil­dren go back and forth be­tween par­ents and ex­tended fam­ily play a huge part in the child’s life. Good ex-eti­quette is based on the needs of the child, not the needs of the new part­ner.

Re­frame these re­la­tion­ships — the child has a tra­di­tion of go­ing back­pack­ing each year with his dad, his grandpa and his un­cle. Your hus­band broke up with his child’s mother — that’s the re­la­tion­ship that changes. New part­ners should not ex­pect their part­ners or their part­ner’s chil­dren to cut off ties to the for­mer ex­tended fam­ily be­cause of their per­sonal in­se­cu­ri­ties. This should have been dis­cussed be­fore mar­riage and clear bound­aries estab­lished from the be­gin­ning. In other words, you should have known what you were get­ting into be­fore you signed the mar­riage li­cense. Your hus­band has a child.

Granted, it was aw­ful ex-eti­quette to keep the back­pack­ing trip a se­cret — you should have been in on the plan­ning; the more trans­par­ent, the bet­ter. (Ex-eti­quette rule No. 8, “Be hon­est and straight­for­ward.”) But it was ap­par­ently kept a se­cret be­cause you’re openly hav­ing a problem with your hus­band con­tin­u­ing these re­la­tion­ships. If he’s ly­ing to you it’s be­cause he felt as if he had to make a choice. Ask him to choose and you will lose. Your hus­band has a child.

In re­gards to feel­ing that you’re being com­pared to the ex and “I feel like the ex­tended fam­ily wants a rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.” Any time you start a sen­tence with “I feel like …” make sure it has some­thing pos­i­tive fol­low­ing those words. Oth­er­wise, you’re reaf­firm­ing a neg­a­tive ex­pec­ta­tion and un­der­min­ing your own im­pact on this re­la­tion­ship. Dad mar­ried you for a rea­son. Re­in­force that. Don’t get wound up in a bat­tle for po­si­tion. Work to­ward no pre­con­ceived no­tions — a clean slate for each meet­ing, hold­ing no grudges, no spite­ful be­hav­ior and giv­ing that lit­tle boy the best life you can. (Ex-eti­quette rule No. 5, “Don’t be spite­ful,” and No. 6, “Don’t hold grudges.”)

That’s what “Put the chil­dren first” means (ex-eti­quette rule No. 1). The boy didn’t ask for the di­vorce, and since you joined the club, your re­spon­si­bil­ity is to help, not hin­der. 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. Con­tact her at dr­jannblack­stone@gmail.com

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