Q Last night I came home to what I thought was an empty house -- but I found I was wrong when I went into the garage and found my wife's ex-husband rummaging around in boxes we had set aside for a garage sale. (We have been married a little more than a year and they share a 3-year-old daughter.)
I asked him what he thought he was doing and he almost took a swing at me. I asked him to leave, which he did, but with an armful of my wife's old clothes! My wife said he was crazy, and this confirms it for me. What is good ex-etiquette in a situation like this?
A: Of all the things you have told us, of most concern is the "crazy" part. If he is mentally ill, which rummaging around in your garage doesn't necessarily confirm, the safety of the child is in question. This is not to say that all parents who have been diagnosed as mentally ill are a danger to their children, but you have described some questionable behaviors.
Good ex-etiquette would be, of course, to try to talk to this guy, but more important, make sure that your boundaries are clear and he understands that your garage is off-limits. Some former partners are so lax about that kind of thing that exes cross boundaries without knowing it.
And if your wife thinks he's a little nuts, she may be avoiding talking to him.
In his defense, he may have been so embarrassed that you caught him out there that he acted "crazy." Quirky is one thing; a danger to you and your family is another.
Your story, although odd, is not the most strange we've heard. There was the ex who stole food on a regular basis. Exes often don't see how enmeshed they have become in each other's lives until they break up.
Good ex-etiquette in this case would be forgive and forget, unless this happens on a regular basis and you feel he's a danger to your family.
Police reports and restraining orders will directly affect your wife's custody agreement, but they may be something to consider if you're concerned about the safety of your bonus son.
Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents," are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonus families.com).