What Do You Think?

Last century, during a previous career, I worked with a divorced guy whom I’ll call Tom.  Tom was in his late twenties and had married and divorced young (no kids).  He and his ex separated on decent terms.  They were friendly enough to remain each other’s “agent” in their respective career fields.

Tom was dating a divorcee whom I’ll call Kristen.  Kristen had a preschool-aged son and she was a familiar face around our office.  One day I answered the phone when she called for Tom.

“He’s with a client right now,” I told her.  “Can I have him call you back?”

“Yeah, that’s fine,” she said.  “How’s his day going?”

“He’s a popular guy today,” I said.  “Even the ex-wife was in to see him.”

“Oh,” Kristen said with a new tone in her voice.

I could tell I’d surprised her with that bit of information, but she did her best to appear normal.  We ended the conversation on a friendly note and I went about my business.

The following day, Tom came into the office and told me that he and Kristen had an argument regarding his contact with his ex-wife.  He informed me that he would no longer be conducting business with her as it made his girlfriend uncomfortable.

I apologized.  I had no idea that Kristen was unaware of Tom’s relationship with his ex.  (And why she should be upset about it?  The ex was remarried with children!) Tom understood that I was just making conversation and hadn’t intended to get him in trouble.

I haven’t spoken to Tom in about ten years.  The last I heard, he and Kristen were happily married.  I’m guessing he still doesn’t speak to his ex-wife.

I realize my disclosure was a bit of a faux pas.  I blame my parents and the It’s-OK-To-Be-Friends-With-Your-Ex Example they set for me.  It’s odd… if I had to choose the worst thing about my parents’ divorce, it would be that they failed to display the varied animosity that often lingers  years after the ink is dry.  I was ill-prepared to be sensitive to the feelings of others in similar situations.

Due to the fact that I’m a total Divorce Nerd, I’ve been re-examining this story for years.  Personally, I think Kristen displayed a lot of insecurity in how she handled the situation.  Especially considering the fact that she shared a child with her own ex and was therefore forever bound to a co-parenting relationship with him.  But then I’m weird and my idealistic views on this topic are hugely unpopular with a lot of people.

So I’m looking for any alternate opinions:

  • Should childless exes sever all ties for the sake of their future relationships? (Not unless it’s a safety issue)
  • Should one’s current partner have the power to dictate the status of the ex relationship? (Input perhaps.  Dictation, no.)
  • If a person is friendly with their ex, is it acceptable to keep it a secret from his/her current partner? (Isn’t that like lying?)
  • Should innocent bystanders commit to silence and refrain from casual discussion related to a divorce for fear that someone might be offended?  (Only if you have zero knowledge of your present company.)

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  1. This all depends on the realtionships in question. Childless Exs can certainly be friends. However, if a later relationship cannot support this friendship, it is absolutely innappropriate to choose your ex over your current. If your ex is so important to you that being ok with the friendship is a requirement for future prospects then it is imperative that you not keep the friendship to yourself. You need to include the current partner and allow the two to have a friendship if they want to.

    Your focus should always be on the present, not the past. If you happen to have a relationship with your ex then you need to at least be aware to realize that the majority of the population has not had this experience with divorce and may not be comfortable with the situation. Married couples have a unique bond and it is not uncommon for that to show when they are together as friends. This can make the current person feel incredibly insignificant in your life, especially if the relationship is relatively new.

    it is not acceptable to keep a secret relationship with anyone, ESPECIALLY your ex. if you need that person so badly then please, let go of the current partner so they can mve on and find someone who is ready to take them seriously.

    no, bystanders should not feel uncomfortable, like they have to walk on eggshells but they should be tactful. Don’t bring up the ex to get a rise out of the current or make comments designed to make the current feel insecure or inadequate.

    the reality is that everyone is insecure about something, or has moments of insecurity, and this is a big one. I think the key is to be respectful of the person who is in your life now. There is a reason that your ex is your ex. If you can find someone comfortable with your friendship that is wonderful but I don’t know many people who could do that.

  2. I definitely agree that an ex is an ex for a reason and that should be kept in mind. Looking toward the future is more important than keeping the peace in the past, unless of course there are children involved. If things ended amicably and a healthy relationship can be maintained, that’s great. Not everyone is going to be comfortable with having an ex in the picture, but if all the cards are on the table and everyone is up front and honest (and trusting), then it is possible!

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