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Ex-etiquette: Respect for your ex

Ex-etiquette: Respect for your ex

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Good ex-etiquette is that you continue to look for ways to positively interact with their other parent even though you will no longer live together.

Good ex-etiquette is that you continue to look for ways to positively interact with their other parent even though you will no longer live together. (Dreasmtime/TNS)

Q. Is it acceptable to bring my new partner's gifts for my children into my ex's home after being asked not to?

A. It's not acceptable to bring ANYTHING to anyone's home if they have asked you not to; why would you think a co-parent is any exception? Your attitude demonstrates blatant disrespect and is an indicator that you may want to reevaluate your approach to co-parenting. Your co-parent is your ally, not your enemy.

Even though all I have to go on are the few sentences you sent to me in an email, I can tell you that many take a similar approach to severing ties with an ex. There is a kind of residual familiarity, ownership of an ex's time and space, and it takes a while to let it go and operate as sovereign entities. This means if you want to do something, you don't ask, you tell, and everyone just digs in their heels as a result. The transition time is increased when there are kids involved, with both parents feeling that the kids are mostly theirs, and the other parent is just a necessary nuisance. Take that stance and you have parents with the attitude of, "They're my kids, I'll do anything I want. My partner has presents for them and I'm bringing them over. Period." You can see how well that works.

Meanwhile, we have no history on how this new partner of yours became a new partner. Did you break up with their parent, have a respectable time alone to regroup or is he/she someone you were fooling around with and are rubbing that relationship in your ex's face? I have no way of knowing, but something tells me if you and your children's other parent had been co-parenting as you should, there wouldn't be a power struggle over your new partner's gift giving.

So, may I suggest that you and your co-parent take a huge step back. Breathe. Figure out the approach you really want to take in front of your children so that you can offer them the positive relationship model they need to have successful relationships in the future.

This is when people say, "Wait a minute. These parents broke up. How can they be positive relationship role models for their children?"

Teaching our children respect for their other parent has nothing to do with living with that other parent. No matter what, our children mirror our behavior. Disrespect, diminishing someone's opinion, bullying, are all contagious. They'll catch it. So, no matter what has gone on, parents must understand they're always on stage. Treating your child's other parent poorly registers, and as a result, a child must weigh their allegiance. Is that what you really want to do when you ask if it is acceptable to do something your co-parent has asked you not to do?

So, for now, and until you and your co-parent can set a better example, I suggest you offer your children presents from your new partner from your own home. You've got another whole year until next Christmas. If you want a more open co-parenting relationship, get to work. A good start might be to demonstrate respect first hand_ask, don't dictate. That's good ex-etiquette.

Omaha World-Herald: Momaha

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