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Ex-etiquette: Ready-made family requires meeting of the minds

Jann Blackstone, Tribune News Service on

Published in Family Living

How do I get past the fact that my live-in boyfriend still wants to hang with his daughter's mother for special occasions? His daughter just graduated the 8th grade and I had to endure a celebration from hell. Family from both sides were there reminiscing about stuff I had no interest in -- I felt like a complete outsider and this guy expects me to accept all this and live with him. I have no children, but I would like to start a family. Am I off base here? This doesn't seem right. What's good ex-etiquette?

Off base is not really the issue. You are coming from two different places and unless you have a meeting of the minds it's simply not going to work out. Living with someone who has children is not like "first time" relationships -- many of the rules you are expecting, like leaving the past behind and starting fresh with you, have a different face. He may be able to start fresh from the standpoint that you are his life partner, but his past will also linger. He has young children and they will be a priority. With his children come their mother and although she may not be part of your every day lives, she will most likely be present for milestones, like graduations, as well as her extended family. They are his child's aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Cousins can be quite close, as well. Two graduation parties are an alternative, but if that wasn't in the cards before you got there, making it happen now will be a problem. It will appear to be all your fault and resentment is sure to set in. You may not care if you upset the ex or even his child, but your guy is in the middle of it.

So here's the good news -- if you frame it as such. It sounds like he's trying to integrate you into the fold if you have been invited to celebrate with his daughter and extended family, so he's doing what he can do. This is it. Take a look at your life. If this is something you can accept -- and be a positive influence -- then you're fine. If it's not, if you're looking for that first time everything, he's not the guy for you.

For example, if you have kids together, he will want to integrate your kids with the kids he already has -- they will be siblings. He will not like your kids best. He will want to celebrate special milestones when his kids are scheduled to be with him. His life is a juggling act, at least for now. You will always be checking with someone else to coordinate efforts, to plan special occasions, holidays, and life in general. If you felt the graduation party was the celebration from hell, that will be your life, and your attitude will color the occasion.

It's up to you, really. He doesn't have much choice in the matter. His kids are here and ex-etiquette for parents rule No. 1 is, "Put the children first." He is. You can help or you can hinder. 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, Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website at

(c)2019 Jann Blackstone

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.



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