Q: My ex and I live in a small town and we used to ride motorcycles on the weekends with a group of his friends and their wives. I love to ride and have my own bike. These people are now my best friends and now that my ex and I have broken up I have no one to ride with. Recently a couple of the guys invited me to go on a weekend Harley Run with them – not with my ex. I’m really excited, but I’m wondering if this is good ex-etiquette.
A: It depends. If these “guys” are bringing their wives along on this Harley Run, that’s one thing. I might be inclined to say it’s good ex-etiquette – if they aren’t lying to your ex about inviting you – and not him. (Good ex-etiquette rule No. 8, “Be honest and straightforward.”) If they’re not bringing their wives, then it’s a “guys trip,” and why are you going and your ex isn’t? That sounds fishy. Granted, they’re your riding buddies, but they’re married riding buddies and overnight excursions with married guys leads to angry exes and angry wives. Plus, if you’re planning to maintain your relationship with any of these wives, it’s not a good idea to go anywhere overnight with their husbands when they aren’t invited.
Truth is, if you have been a couple and your circle of friends are primarily couples, when one of the couples breaks up, the friend dynamic changes. Friends feel compelled to take sides and that can complicate the dynamic even further. As a result, it becomes bad ex-etiquette for the “wife” of the former couple to hang around with a “husband” of the group.
This is when I hear, “Oh, come on. You’re overreacting. We’re just friends” and that starts the “Can men and women be just friends” debate. Yes, I think they can – in a group with some sort of governor attached to the friendship, like a partner that distracts their interest or devotion – but once the one on one stuff starts, the “Let’s just have lunch” stuff, the primary reason men and women stay “just friends” is one is not attracted to the other. Of course there are always exceptions to this rule and you have people that can maintain friendships that do not involve sex, but it’s a dangerous road to walk if you want to keep your relationship intact.
Good ex-etiquette is all about being a stand-up individual. My final suggestion would be to ask the wives how they feel about you going. Some may tell you, some may not, but all will tell their husbands – or should – that it’s not a good idea. Bottom line, you may have to find another group – or add singles to your existing group. It’s spending time alone with your friends’ husbands that’s questionable. It’s dangerous ex-etiquette.
Dr. Jann Blackstone is and the founder of Bonus Families, bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website, exetiquette.com, at email@example.com.