Q. My ex and I got married on New Year's Eve and have a daughter. Each year, at the time we were married, he texts me, "Happy Anniversary." Not a fan, especially since he remarried a year after our break-up, but to be nice, I always reply with a winking emoji -- mostly because I don't want to mess up our great co-parenting relationship. But, these texts are uninvited, put me in a melancholy place and I'm trying to move on. What's good ex-etiquette?
A. Ex-etiquette for Parents rule No. 8 is, "Be honest and straight forward." Your ex isn't being honest and neither are you.
Here are the most apparent red flags:
First, he's flirting with you and you're flirting back. Even if you don't regard it as flirting, once there's a break-up, especially if one or both have moved on, good ex-etiquette dictates your conversations center around your child's well-being. Period. "Happy Anniversary?" No way, and it's doubtful his wife would find the text appropriate. Stop the nonsense. You're divorced.
Second, whenever we react out of fear, it means there's a problem. When fear is at the base of your decision making, you are reactive rather than proactive. You manipulate and are manipulated by others and that makes it very difficult to initiate creative problem solving. Don't know what I mean?
For example, he texts you some slightly inappropriate comment -- it makes you uncomfortable, but you don't want to start a "thing," for fear it will start a backlash So, you figure if you let him think you're pining for him just a little bit, he'll believe you still find him attractive and will continue to be cooperative. Cut him off at the knees, he'll get angry and won't negotiate when you need to. So, there's that winking emoji.
Really Bad Ex-etiquette.
Your co-parenting relationship should be based on your mutual love for your daughter, respect for each other as your daughter's other parent, and trust that you will both make decisions in her best interest. If you aren't telling him the truth because you're afraid it will upset your copacetic co-parenting relationship, your copacetic co-parenting is not based on the right things.
Clear boundaries about what you feel is acceptable are necessary. That means putting boundaries into place that cannot be misconstrued by question or innuendo. Be tactful, but concise.
For example, if you say, "Please don't send me texts that remind me of "us," they just make me sad," you're still playing the game. What you want is to get across is that your relationship is over and all communication is now based on your daughter's well-being. So, be honest and to the point, "Happy New Year would be more appropriate -- and I wish that to you and your wife, as well."
A few more direct responses like that and the troublesome texts will come to an end.
That's good ex-etiquette.
(Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation," and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website www.exetiquette.com at email@example.com.)
(c)2017 Jann Blackstone
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