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Ex-etiquette: Don't introduce new partner to kids on holidays or during family traditions

Jann Blackstone, Tribune News Service on

Published in Family Living

Q. My ex and I divorced after a very public display of infidelity. Everyone knew or found out and my kids were devastated. Even though they were adults, they had a very difficult time with our divorce. After five years, I have finally met someone new. I like him very much. He will be staying with me over the upcoming holiday, and I would like to introduce my family, but I’m getting a lot of resistance and I don’t know why. What’s good ex-etiquette?

A. My dad died when I was 35. He was handsome, gregarious, irreverent and adored by most who knew him. We were all devastated. My mother was 12 years younger than him and certainly not ready to stop living, so after a couple of years she started dating.

She met a man she told us she liked, and we were all verbally accepting, but one day I stopped over to her home for lunch, and he was there standing in the kitchen. It was the first time I had met him. He was nothing like my dad, physically or in his demeanor. It threw me. I needed more time to mentally prepare than to happen upon him in my mom’s kitchen. Was it fair to him? Was it fair to my mom? Nope. But that’s how I felt. If you had asked me why, I could not have told you the reason.

This experience and literally thousands of others confiding their stories of meeting their parents' new partner helped me develop the concept of “Good Ex-etiquette: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation.”

When it comes to meeting your parents’ new partners, my advice has always been to go slow, and for the first meeting, try to meet on neutral ground — not on a holiday steeped in family tradition. There's too much comparing, and it’s the fastest way for a new partner to appear as an interloper to family.


Fast forward to today, Easter is just around the corner. I am divorced and writing etiquette books on how to cope with ex issues after a breakup. I met a man I like who lives out of town. I have adult children who know my home is the holiday home. You don’t have a place to go on any holiday, my home is yours. With that in mind, I’m thinking, invite him! He’s staying at my home. He has no family nearby. He can meet the kids and we can all have a fabulous meal together. My kids, well into adulthood, lose their mind.

“I thought you said, 'Don’t introduce new people on holidays'?!” was the chorus on each phone call. After some heated conversations, I had to admit they were right. Of course, there may be times that it is impossible to follow this rule. But if you can, it’s best to introduce someone new at a planned meeting, in a neutral place, on a neutral day that has no family traditions assigned to it. Then SLOWLY integrate your new person into day visits, dinners and family get-togethers. Springing them on your family will not get the results you want. No matter how old you are. No matter how old they are.

So, with that, I’ve decided to follow my own advice, and we are flying to Los Angeles to introduce my friend to my daughter — not on the upcoming holiday — and then we will take it from there. That’s good ex-etiquette.

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