Q: I have been married to my wife for a year and a half. Today is the third anniversary of the death of her first husband. We share a
Facebook account, and this morning she posted a memorial about how much her first husband is missed. I was embarrassed and told her so. We share the account, and I felt stupid. She said she did it for her teenage kids -- but there is no mention of "father" in the post. What's good ex-etiquette here?
A: Although the sentiment is appropriate, the way it was presented was not. Posting a memorial would have been a lovely gesture if done from the perspective of the children and a missed father. But now that your wife has remarried, and especially since you share the account, reminiscing about a love that has passed probably was embarrassing for you and as a result, bad ex-etiquette.
Truth is, when someone dies he or she is memorialized in our mind and heart and stays with us forever. Those feelings may stay with us, too, even though we move on and share our life with someone else. But that doesn't mean you have to tell everyone by posting it for all the world to see. You might tell your best friend in person and in private, even the kids in the way that "you know I will always love your father." Even while the memories of the past remain, once someone remarries, your allegiance -- especially to the outside world -- belongs to the current spouse.
Does that mean you shouldn't talk with your new partner about a spouse who has passed? Of course not. It's important to share those feelings so the new partner knows exactly what he or she is getting into. But one also has to examine how quickly they move on after the death of a spouse. Remarrying a year and a half after losing a partner may not have given your wife enough time to fully grieve, and now it's catching up with her. If that's the case, you may have to go through the grieving process with her if you want to stay together -- and that can be quite unsettling to a new marriage.
Rather than look at this as a Facebook faux pas, look at it as a symptom of the real problem and suggest your wife seek counseling. As her therapy gets under way, it would not be unusual if the counselor asks you to join her in session, and then offer tools that will enable you to walk the path to your future together.
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Q: I just read about two celebrities who are throwing a party to announce their divorce. How do you two feel about something like this? Doesn't seem like good ex-
etiquette at all.
A: You're right -- it's not good ex-etiquette at all. It makes a mockery of marriage and is downright tacky, especially if children are involved. It's right up there with divorce announcements, which we also think are in bad taste. Divorce isn't funny, and the announcement of a divorce shouldn't be done to generate publicity. Kids' lives are turned upside-down, and more often than not former partners and their extended family emerge sad and brokenhearted. It takes years for many people to get over a divorce, and some never do.
That said, what's a good way to let people know you're getting a divorce? The best is to respectfully mention it during a one-on-one conversation, making sure you don't bad-mouth your former partner (especially if you have children or even nieces or nephews) or offer too many gory details, creating a mess you'll have to mop up afterward. Although you might think it's a big surprise to your friends, most have a sense already. If they're good friends, the correct response is disappointment that it didn't work out, especially if they know that you've been working hard to overcome something.
Finally, it's very bad ex-etiquette to air your dirty laundry on a social media site. Once you write it, it's there for all to see. You may eventually delete it, but someone may have already printed it out.
Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com). Reach them at email@example.com.