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Q: Is it appropriate for my boyfriend of 2 1/2 years to invite his ex over to his house for dinner and cake to celebrate their daughter’s 16th birthday? I couldn’t be there because of a work commitment. What’s good ex-etiquette?

A: Let me rephrase this: You’re basically asking, “Is it appropriate for my boyfriend to invite his daughter’s mother to his home to celebrate their daughter’s 16th birthday?” And, based on that question, the answer is it is absolutely appropriate — and good ex-etiquette.

I’m anticipating that you think it is inappropriate because he’s your boyfriend. Understandable. There’s a certain amount of respect that’s implied if you are in a relationship. However, it sounds as if you don’t live with him — it’s “his home,” and if it’s “his home,” he can invite anyone he wants. You didn’t mention if others were invited, only that you were invited and you couldn’t make it because of a work commitment. Based on that, propriety has not been breached — you just don’t like the situation.

But, shouldn’t he make his decisions based on your wishes? After all, you’re his current girlfriend. At times that’s true, but you’re treading on dangerous waters when you attempt to pull rank when there’s a child involved, especially if there is a well-established parenting plan in place. Interfere in how your boyfriend interacts with his daughter and her mother, and you could be setting yourself up for failure.

My answer might be different if you and your boyfriend were living together. Then he would be inviting his ex to your home when you aren’t there, and that could be deemed inappropriate if he did it behind your back. Having the party at a neutral place might be the answer if there is ample time to make a change. But, if the guest list is a long one, changing location is impractical just because your plans have changed. You would just not attend.

The truth is, if you’re asking this question this subject has probably bothered you for a while. It sounds like you may be coming from an old school divorce attitude — once it’s over, it’s over. Break-ups should sever all ties. If that’s the case, you are probably struggling because that mindset sets you up to compare your relationship with your boyfriend to his relationship with “her.” It puts you in competition with his daughter and her mother, and it relegates you to second class status. In your head, that first relationship will always be No. 1. You are merely No. 2.

Comparing is the bane of all new girlfriends. Time to loose the label, “ex” and “current” and look for ways to support “in the best interest of the child.” Don’t complicate your relationship status by asking your boyfriend to choose.

Once his daughter is an adult, the parental interaction will lessen. That’s good ex-etiquette.

Dr. Jann Blackstone is the founder of Bonus Families, bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website exetiquette.com at dr.jann@exetiquette.com.

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