Ex-etiquette: He’s a great guy, but still lives with ex

Jann Blackstone

Q: I recently started dating a wonderful man who has been very honest with me about his current living situation. He told me he’s still living with his ex and her teenage son. They have been living together for a little more than a year, and when they decided to break-up, he felt uncomfortable asking her to leave because her son goes to the school around the corner. He tells me they sleep in different rooms and as soon as they move out, I can move in. But the fact that they are still there makes me very uncomfortable. Should I continue this relationship or wait until his ex and her son are out of the picture?

A: Those are my two choices? Continue a shady relationship or wait for him? How big of a red flag do you want? Her son can go to the same school from another address. If she’s living with him, she’s not really his ex. Exes have new addresses and new phone numbers.

Granted, sometimes breakups aren’t exactly clean breaks, and it takes a while to sever the ties, but it sounds like this guy likes a “let’s move in together to see if it will work out” sort of arrangement. One moves out; he moves another one in. If that’s the case, he tries on new girlfriends like he tries on hats. Unfortunately, his last experiment included a child who is watching his mom and her boyfriend breakup, and continue to live together while the boyfriend is seeing someone else. If there was no child in the picture, although I question your self-esteem quotient to put up with his antics, you could do whatever you want. The fact that there is a child involved sets a terrible example and is very bad ex-etiquette. (Ex-etiquette rule No. 1, “Put the children first.”) That should be another red flag. His character is in question.

If you want a committed relationship, which it sounds like you do, don’t set yourself up with people who aren’t ready to commit. This guy may be the sweetest guy in the world, but if he’s got a woman sleeping at his house, perhaps in his bed, for two months after he’s supposed to have broken up with her, he has very little he can offer you right now. Moving that fast from relationship to relationship gives you no time to weigh what you really want or consider how not make the same mistake that contributed to your last relationship failing.

You asked, so let me be even more blunt. A good relationship works for both parties. It’s a give-and-take proposition, with compromise at the core. The relationship you have described works for him. You don’t have to settle for someone else’s relationship. Design your own — and the Ten Rules of Good Ex-etiquette are an excellent guide to do just that.

Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation,” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at dr.jann@exetiquette.com.