EX-ETI­QUETTE

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - HIGH PROFILE - 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: dr­jannblack­[email protected]

QMy ex and I had a lovely life to­gether, but I got bored, met some­one new, and left. We had two kids, and although I some­what re­gret my ac­tions, I think I’d prob­a­bly do it again. Of course I’m not with the other guy and af­ter in­tense amounts of ther­apy I own that it was my fault and I’m won­der­ing if Valen­tine’s Day is the day to talk to my ex about what I’ve learned and of­fer him an apol­ogy? What’s good ex-eti­quette?

AI’ve read count­less ar­ti­cles by other pro­fes­sion­als and laypeo­ple tout­ing the pos­i­tives of us­ing Valen­tine’s Day as a ve­hi­cle to right one’s wrongs. A kind of, “Hey ex, I re­ally screwed up, and on this day of all days I would like to of­fer an apol­ogy.” I per­son­ally don’t get the cor­re­la­tion. Valen­tine’s Day is for lovers, not ex-lovers. And if an apol­ogy is re­quired, why wait for a day as­so­ci­ated with love and ro­mance to do it? The most op­por­tune time to of­fer an apol­ogy? Im­me­di­ately! But, you also have to come to grips with why you are apol­o­giz­ing and if it is re­ally what is re­quired for both you and your ex to move on.

Don’t get me wrong. I un­der­stand first­hand the sen­ti­men­tal­ity as­so­ci­ated with rec­on­cil­ing your dif­fer­ences with an ex and com­ing out friends on the other side. Breakups and the is­sues that lead to them are jam-packed with hurt, anger and sad­ness and nav­i­gat­ing through that to once again be cor­dial, es­pe­cially if there are chil­dren in­volved, is a huge ac­com­plish­ment. When my ex fi­nally apol­o­gized, there was a shift in our abil­ity to prob­lem-solve. And, as a child cus­tody me­di­a­tor whose daily work in­volves guid­ing cou­ples no longer to­gether through re­solv­ing con­flict, an apol­ogy can re­ally af­fect how your ex re­sponds and can set the stage for far more fruit­ful ne­go­ti­a­tions.

As a quick note, there is a fine art to of­fer­ing an apol­ogy — and to ac­cept­ing one. The key is to ac­knowl­edge you’re wrong with­out qual­i­fy­ing your be­hav­ior. “I’m sorry I hurt you” ac­cepts re­spon­si­bil­ity for your ac­tions and is a far more ef­fec­tive apol­ogy than, “I’m sorry you feel I hurt you.” “Thank you, or I for­give you” is a far more gra­cious way to ac­cept an apol­ogy than, “I’m glad you fi­nally see the er­ror of your ways.”

But, your ques­tion was if Valen­tine’s Day is a good day to share your feel­ings, and I am of the opin­ion it is not. I don’t think any hol­i­day should be the cat­a­lyst for an apol­ogy to an ex, par­tic­u­larly Valen­tine’s Day, and even more so if your ex has a new part­ner. It’s lovely that you feel that an apol­ogy will re­in­force a res­o­lu­tion to your past con­flicts, but you want the apol­ogy to be the main fo­cus. So rather than con­cen­trate on the day you are of­fer­ing the apol­ogy, make the apol­ogy as heart­felt as pos­si­ble — and do it soon. That’s good ex-eti­quette.

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