When I graduated from high school, one of the gifts my mother gave me was a copy of Emily Post’s Book of Etiquette. In her mind I was leaving the nest, perhaps for good, and a reference source would be a nice thing to have if I couldn’t lean on her proverbial shoulder during moments of awkward social tension or uncertainty. That is my understanding of the gesture behind her gift, but it has taken me some 30 years to come to that conclusion. I think at the time I rolled my eyes and imagined that a car would be a lot more practical. (Sorry, Mom…)
Over the years I have occasionally consulted the book. It has been useful for drafting out notes of condolence or thank yous for interviews, and the times that I needed to put on the dog in front of my future mother-in-law it gave me a sense of assuredness and conviction in my actions. But one chapter that the book failed to contain, that would have served me well over the years, is how to handle those situations that defy social and emotional logic – what to do when dealing with your Ex.
I have been married twice, and my relationships with my Exes are quite different. However, there are inevitably the times when one is simply stymied as to how to graciously and generously handle a situation like a lady, and still remain true to your personal and emotional convictions.
For example: what is the “right” thing to do when the flavor of the month shows up at an important family gathering, like a graduation or christening? How do you handle casual invites to milestone birthday parties when your children really want you there but you want to be as far away as possible? Is there an appropriate (and not snarky) way to diffuse the tension when you show up at the same event at the same time with your current squeezes, and everyone begins to shoot eyeball daggers? Surely Ms. Post would have known what to do.
This column will attempt to dissect and analyze – even over-analyze because that what I’m good at! – the perplexing relationships that continue to exist with Exes. It might be a business, or children, or a complicated financial arrangement that keeps the ties bound. But when they say you’re married for life, sometimes it truly feels that way, despite what the court or legal documents state.
Every relationship with an Ex has its own dynamic. Some are good – better in fact then when the Ex was an exante or ad – some are awful, some are awkward and some are just downright confusing. I fear I fall somewhere in the latter.
Case in point: as I write this, my ex-husband’s girlfriend’s dog, of whom she has joint custody with her ex-husband, is curled up, asleep at my feet. How the dog got here is a long story, involving multiple parties, states, and conflicts, with which I will not bore you. But you don’t need a book of etiquette to know what the right thing to do is when a dog is in need of care. Men, on the other hand….
Coming next week from the Ex-Expert: You’re moving WHERE…?