Think carefully before dating your ex
Q My ex has just asked me out for Valentine's Day. No one else has asked so I'm thinking about going. I'm just not sure what to say to the kids: "Mommy is going out with Daddy?" What's good ex-etiquette?
A: Good ex-etiquette is to say nothing to the kids about who you are dating until you know you have a future with that person.
This includes your children's father. In fact, being that he is the kids' father, it's probably even more important that you handle this with care.
"Mommy's dating Daddy" could give the kids false hope of reconciliation, even if you preface it with something like, "It's really not a date," it can still be very confusing and emotionally unsettling.
Most children, no matter their age, secretly entertain the wish that mom and dad will get back together. Don't be surprised when you hear, "If you can get along for a date, why can't you get along all the time?" And, that's a good question.
Does this mean we are suggesting you lie to your kids? Not really, especially since we advocate following the rules of good ex-etiquette for parents, and rule No. 7 is, "Be honest and straight forward in all your endeavors."
We advocate not exposing them to a potentially confusing situation, however. Don't be selfish just because you're bored.
We often get questions about dating an ex around Valentine's Day. The day stirs up lots of romantic memories, often the good ones linger, and the bad ones are forgotten. And, if you're a little lonely and no one else has asked, you figure, what the heck?
This is when we suggest our clients take a good hard look at their motivation. Remember that you broke up for a reason. If that reason has been addressed, then an ex might be a potential date. If it hasn't, then it's a perfect set-up for disaster, with your kids watching.
So, if you are truly doing this because "no one else has asked," that's a pretty frivolous reason under the circumstances. We suggest you say no.
What if the kids are adults? Can you be more casual about dating their father or mother at that point? Adult children have the same feelings as young children, it's just masked under the guise of maturity. They can ask some pointed questions and become openly frustrated when you approach your relationship with their father or mother as casual. If you aren't prepared to take it seriously, don't do it.
Finally, if you have no children and you want to explore the possibilities of dating an ex, that's up to you. The rules for good ex-etiquette for dating are somewhat different than the rules of good ex-etiquette for parents.
You can find them both on the Bonus Families website. Consider dating rule No. 4, "Set clear boundaries with new and old partners." This means to head off yet another disastrous break-up, make your intentions known right from the beginning.
Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe are authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents."