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Ex-etiquette: Don't ignore the red flags

Jann Blackstone, Tribune News Service on

Published in Family Living

Q: I need advice. When I met my boyfriend, he said he was divorced, but when his ex wanted to move back in, I found out that he wasn't divorced, only separated. He said he was going back for the kids, he has two, but he also wanted to continue to see me. I told him no; make up your mind. He stayed with his wife. I ignored him for a month, but he contacted me for help finding a new place -- which I did. He moved in, but also still stayed with his wife. He eventually did break it off with her and we moved in together six months later. That's when I found out there were even more women, he smokes, and he consumes about a liter of gin a day. I live with him and his parents know nothing about me. I went through his phone and found recent pictures of him and his ex, plus texts from other women. Are these major red flags or am I being too sensitive? What's good ex-etiquette?

A: Are you serious? You described this man, first, as your boyfriend, which is troublesome in itself. Then, like a lying, cheating, alcoholic who can't decide between you or his wife and evidently others -- and you want to know if they are red flags and if you are being too sensitive?

Yes, they are HUGE red flags.

No, you are not being too sensitive. If you're still there I don't think you are being sensitive enough.

Since your question begins with, "I need advice," my advice is this, not necessarily in order:

End the relationship ... and move out ... or if you like your place and can afford it by yourself, he moves out, but one of you has got to go. Don't help him find a place or help him move out, or help him do anything. He won't change. Why should he? He has you, his wife, assorted other women, multiple places to stay, what is the incentive for him to take a look at his life?

Change your phone number so he can't reel you back in via phone calls.


Find a therapist you trust and do some serious work on improving your self-esteem. You see, he's doing all this right before your eyes. It's not like you have been recently broadsided with the information. You have known it for years and still choose to continue and your big question is if you are being too sensitive. This says a lot about what you think about yourself. That is what needs to be addressed so you can have a happy life. He has his problems.

Finally, aside from all the things you have told me that are obvious red flags, another to which many can relate is that you feel compelled to check his phone. Once a relationship has progressed to that point, you're in big trouble -- and not because of what you might think. I doubt you are checking with his consent, so that means that you are sneaking around behind HIS back. To cope with his actions you have stooped to the same level of deception. Time to get your life in order. 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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