In one of those “my life is so bizarre” moments earlier this week, my Ex and his GF invited me to dinner “with the kids.” Knowing that I was coming off a particularly grueling month, and that I was temporarily homeless while my stuff was in storage between moves, I’m sure the invitation was out of generosity and not to mess with my head, but regardless, I declined. There is only so much weird a person can take before reality becomes permanently distorted.
My mother was a stickler for manners and good breeding. She was Old School, and I’m sure that the bevy of unique, bizarre and awkward situations, social and otherwise, that I have encountered during and since my divorce would have set her head spinning. This is, after all, the same woman who gave me a copy of Emily Post as a graduation gift. It dawned on me that in addition to a chapter on how to navigate the choppy waters of Ex-hood, there should also be a chapter, or at least an addendum, of dos and don’ts when dealing with women who are affiliated with, associated with, infatuated with, or sleeping with your Ex.
- Don’t make friends with lovers. If the relationship is significant and kids are involved, be civil and cordial. Treat them with the same respect you would like to be treated. If you must interact, stick to netural topics like the weather, Red Sox standings, or Paula Deen’s contract implosions, and leave the snarky comments and double entendres out of it.
- If you used to “be friends” with the Ex and now are friends with the ex-wife, pick a camp and stay there. Don’t play one off the other. Don’t double date, as in dinner with him on Monday and coffee with her on Tuesday. Bad things will happen. Trust me on this one.
- If you used to be “special friends” with the Ex and are now friends with the ex-wife, examine your priorities. Why are you doing that? Are you twisted? Do you feel like you have something to gain, or does playing with fire really turn you on?
- If you have examined your priorities and have dismissed the twisted or pyromaniacal tendencies, for heaven’s sake keep the details of your “special friendship” to yourself. Nobody – especially the ex-wife – wants to hear the lurid details of your sexual and emotional exploits with her used goods.
- Divorce can make for strange bedfellows. If, despite everything, there is a real chemistry between you and the ex-wife, a simple disclosure statement will suffice. Let things play out naturally and never, never, never pass judgment on or offer advice on a failed relationship. That’s what therapists are for.
- Don’t double dip. If your friend is or has been in a tumultuous relationship, don’t think you can make things better by going out with her ex (or her on again, off again BF.) This harkens back to point # 3. Stay out of it and let her work out her own issues. This is what ice cream and tissues are for.
- If you and the ex-wife are not friends but happen to be in the same professional field, don’t Link In. It’s creepy. The same goes for Friending, Following, Tweeting, and subscribing to RSS feeds. If you are that curious about what came before you, just visit the public website and keep your browsing history on incognito mode. This works both ways, BTW.
- Don’t start going to the same yoga studio where the ex-wife practices. She’s going there for a reason. Find another place.
- Don’t go to the same spin class where the new GF is a regular. You will only end up getting injured – emotionally and physically.
I suppose these are a far cry from the simple advice of which fork to use and how to RSVP properly, but if P.J. O’Rourke can have an entire volume of Modern Manners, then Ms. Post’s Institute should take into account just what the modern woman is up against. After all, it truly can be a jungle out there….