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.)