Q. I've been single for about six months and decided to start dating again. I hit it off with a guy I met on a dating site and we decided to have lunch. During the lunch he asked if I wanted to see a picture of his daughter and the pic he showed me was of him, his daughter, and his ex, who was an extremely striking woman. I'm not a jealous person, but it put me off. I asked him about it and he very nonchalantly said he didn't have any other pictures of his kids. What is good ex-etiquette?
A. I can't tell you how many times I have heard this -- from both men and women -- and it's either based in unconsciousness or insensitivity. Both are rather telling.
Common sense tells us that we would want to put our best foot forward when meeting someone new, and on your first date discussions about past relationships should be kept to a minimum. Of course, you talk the basics, and if you have children, offering pictures of them is appropriate in the course of conversation, but offering family pictures that include your ex? Why? Granted, I look at the psychological implications of just about everything, but you must ask what would be the motivation of showing off your striking ex on your first date? That, and you also have to consider why the only picture he has to offer is a picture of his intact family. For me, that is more telling than anything else -- and it says a lot.
If it was a recent picture, it suggests he hasn't been single that long and may not be emotionally ready to move on. If it's a dated picture, it's not showing you what his kids look like, he's showing you his ex.
Some see their partners of an extension of themselves and it seems he may still identify with her being an immediate part of his life. Yes, if you have kids the ex will remain a part of your life, but one must separate the past and present if you expect to successfully move on. That "ex" conversation will eventually come up, but first dates are times to make the sale, so to speak. If it's obvious he hasn't made the separation or that he's possibly being manipulative, my suggestion is the same under both circumstance...no second date.
Finally, if you are starting to seriously date and you want to impress this new person take the time prior to meeting to consider how you would like to come across. This may include including new pictures on your phone of just your kids, or you and your kids, possibly your kids and your parents and leave the pictures that include the ex to a time when your relationship is more solidified. There will be a time -- just not on the first date. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(c)2020 Jann Blackstone
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