Q: On Valentine’s Day I was tempted to send my ex a Happy Valentine’s Day wish, but I’m remarried and felt it was inappropriate. My family (daughters, sons, and their spouses) send group texts and I decided to send one to my children – and I included their dad in the text since we all get along so well. Was that inappropriate as well? What’s good ex-etiquette?
A: Good ex-etiquette is all about being honest and straightforward (Ex-etiquette for parents, rule No. 8) ... and intent. You said you thought it was inappropriate to send a Happy Valentine’s Day wish to your ex alone, but including him in a group family text somehow made a difference. If intent is the basis on which we make our assumptions, although your other family members may not have caught on, you knew going in that you were including your ex in the Valentine’s Day wish. You could have very easily left him out of the group text without the kids being up in arms. It sounds as if you may not be finished with dad, even if you are not “untrue” to your husband. That can be difficult on everyone and disastrous for your new marriage. Time to do some soul searching.
Questions about sending exes good wishes on holidays is one of the most common questions I am asked. And, as I have mentioned already, the key is in the intent. When you wish someone Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays, for example, you are wishing them peace on earth, good will toward everyone. Although some might think that’s inappropriate, it could be innocent and possibly a way to make amends since the holidays are a time for forgiveness and understanding. Valentine’s Day is different. No one is quite sure why Valentine’s Day is the big deal everyone makes it out to be, but one thing most will agree, it’s a day for lovers. When talking about your kids, Valentine’s Day is a day for “I love yous” possibly special treats or candy – a sort of sweet way of telling them how much they mean to you. This is not meant to include your ex, even if he or she is your child’s other parent, when you are committed to someone else.
The tried-and-true way to figure out if anything is inappropriate is to check yourself in this manner: If you’re doing something you wouldn’t want your spouse to know about, it’s probably inappropriate. That means if you think it would upset your husband or wife to know that you sent a Happy Valentine’s Day text to your kids and included their dad, it probably was a bad call. Next year, just send it to the kids – and in the next 12 months take a look at your life. Sounds like there may be trouble in paradise – or at least the beginnings of some trouble. Fix it before it’s too late. 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, bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website, exetiquette.com, at firstname.lastname@example.org.