Q: My girlfriend of two years has just told me that her ex is her son's godfather. They have been broken up for more than five years. I found out because he was present at her son's birthday party, and when I questioned her about it, everything came out. I was surprised because we have talked about our exes and I know the birth father is not around, but she never mentioned this. Evidently, he's been the godfather since before I came into the picture. I feel betrayed and am thinking we shouldn't go forward with our wedding plans. She says I'm overreacting and doesn't think it's a big deal. What's good ex-etiquette?
A: Hmmm...red flag time -- for both of you.
First, yes, she should have told you -- why she didn't should be explored, but when things like this are omitted, it's usually fear-based, not based on a desire to betray. In other words, she was afraid (or didn't want to deal with) how you would react, so she withheld the information. That is unfortunate. To practice good ex-etiquette you must be honest and straightforward, (good ex-etiquette for parents rule No. 8) at all times. However, more concerning than the lie-by-omission (ex is the child's godfather) is the tendency to withhold information when faced with a possible disagreement, then diminish the importance of the lie when confronted. THAT will cause problems in the long run. THAT is what should be explored with a professional.
Now your part -- you have to ask yourself, what have you done over the last two years to give her the impression that her ex being her son's godfather would be a problem? As you mentioned, the choice was made before you came into the picture. So have you acted insecure? Jealous? Overreacted to various incidents? Instead of dealing with these emotions together, it all may have been just swept under the rug -- and then you have the situation you are in.
Reading between the lines, it sounds like both of you have had a past -- both have exes. But it also sounds like you are ready to throw in the towel when confronted with an issue. Conflict doesn't have to be bad. Don't be afraid of it and run away; embrace it and make this disagreement the catalyst for discussion and new understanding. Figure out how you will problem-solve as a couple -- this will be one of many disagreements. Attaching blame, fault, betrayal, etc. to it will only make it more difficult to come to agreement.
Finally, an ex being the godfather does present some unique problems. A godparent is responsible for a child's religious life and spiritual upbringing. In some cultures, although there is no legal precedent, a godparent becomes responsible for the child if something happens to the parents, and it's not customary to change godparents once they have been chosen. If dad isn't in the picture, will there be a stepparent adoption? You and mom have some serious conversations ahead of you. Start talking! 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)2019 Jann Blackstone
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