Ex-etiquette: Fiancé too friendly with ex-in-laws

Jann Blackstone

Q: I’m having a difficult time accepting the fact that my fiancé still “hangs out” at his ex-mother-in-law’s house when he picks his daughter up for visitation. I just recently found a video that his ex mother-in-law filmed of my fiancé and his daughter playing in her pool together. When I confronted him about it, his response was that his daughter didn’t want to go out for dinner. I was under the impression they went out to dinner and I was never told otherwise.

A: Let’s reframe this: Basically, you’re really asking should you be upset if your fiancé spends time with his daughter at her grandmother’s home. If you look at it like that, I think you will agree that, yes, you are overreacting and it’s bad ex-etiquette.

It seems you’re also upset that he didn’t tell you that his plans had changed. What that tells me is that you’ve discussed this before and your fiancé doesn’t agree with you. He doesn’t want to choose between you or his daughter, so he doesn’t tell you. “I haven’t asked him to choose,” you might say. “I just don’t want him spending time with his daughter at his ex-mother-in-law’s house. Anytime you dictate policy, particularly if that policy includes how a parent should spend time with their child — that’s ex-etiquette at it’s worse. If your fiancé is spending time with his child’s mother without you knowing, that’s a problem. If he’s hanging at grandma’s because plans changed and you don’t like it? That’s YOUR problem. If, at the spur of the moment, he accommodates his daughter’s wishes, he’s putting his daughter first. (Ex-etiquette for Parents rule No.1). The best ex-etiquette would be to cultivate the sort of relationship where he can give you a quick call and tell you plans have changed with no fear of reprisal. Right now, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

When you marry someone with kids, the parent/child interaction pattern is already established. In your case, dad feels comfortable interacting with ex-in-laws. Divorce doesn’t stop grandmothers from being grandmoms or cousins from being cousins. The only relationship that ends is the people who divorce. Cultivate all those relationships and you will have a long and happy life together. Interfere and you set yourself up for lies and another break-up.