Daily Press (Sunday)

Blurry boundaries with his ex-wife

- Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “ExEtiquett­e for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation.” drjannblac­kstone@gmail. com

Dear Dr. Blackstone: My fiancé and I broke up for a short while, but we have reconciled, and I moved back in about three months ago. His ex-wife, who seems to enjoy causing trouble with the kids, continues to ask him out for coffee, for dinner, to join her skiing. She just asked him to join her in Cabo with the kids and I hit the ceiling. It’s really maddening, and she won’t stop! What’s good ex-etiquette?

Dear Reader: Although your question sounds like “How can I get my fiancé’s wacky ex to stop coming after my guy,” it’s more about your boyfriend having blurry boundaries and not being honest with everyone concerned (ex-etiquette rule #8, Be honest and straight forward). No one continuall­y invites someone somewhere when they know they’ll be turned down, so something has happened that has given her the impression she might get a different answer. I don’t know what happened during that “short while” when you broke up, but if she’s acting differentl­y now than she did prior to your moving out, it’s time to talk to your fiancé. If this is the way she has always acted … it’s time to talk to your fiancé. What I’m trying to say here — just about any way you look at it, it’s time to talk to your fiancé.

Whenever an outsider does something that affects a relationsh­ip, it’s the responsibi­lity of those related to that outsider to set the record straight. So, if your mother is doing something to undermine your attempts to reach bonus status, it’s your job to talk to your mom. That means it’s your fiancé’s responsibi­lity to set clear boundaries, so his ex understand­s where she stands. He may like all the attention — or he may feel that letting her think there is something between them will enable him to see the kids more often. But if he’s leading her to believe anything but the truth, it may all backfire. You’re playing with fire when you play with the affections of your children’s other parent. And, although it sounds as if you don’t think reconcilia­tion is a possibilit­y, she obviously does. If he’s not being straight with his ex, then he’s playing you, too.

Even if it’s all an innocent misunderst­anding or the fact that he doesn’t like confrontat­ion, it’s still your guy’s responsibi­lity to take control of the situation so that there will be no misunderst­anding in the future. Aside from it being maddening for you, his kids are watching how he’s handling all this. The more he vacillates, the more they will be placed in the middle trying to figure out where their allegiance should lie, with mom or dad. (Ex-etiquette rule, No. 1, “Put the children first.”) And now that you are in the picture, the kids also have to figure out where you fit in all this. If they can see that liking you hurts mommy, your relationsh­ip with them will be an uphill battle.

Bottom line, whatever your fiancé’s motivation, he must address this. His actions affect too many people. If he doesn’t do that soon, your choice should be obvious. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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