Under the best of circumstances, you and your ex part on friendly terms, and even remain friends. (Yes, this is possible.) Or maybe you’re not on great terms, but you both have sense enough to realize that it’s better to just move on, and go your own separate ways with no contact. You don’t talk to one another, but you don’t get on each other’s nerves, either.
But then, there are circumstances where exes cannot be avoided. The obvious example is when children are involved. But there are other scenarios, too. Maybe you and your ex work in the same office, or the same field. Maybe you are both still in the same social circles. And don’t forget, if you’re dating, your partner has exes, too.
So how do you face exes effectively? The answer is – drumroll, please – boundaries.
Last week, we saw a high-profile example of a lack of boundaries – courtesy of President Trump’s first and current wives. It all started when the President’s first wife, Ivana, promoted her new book, Raising Trump. In an interview with ABC, she called herself “first lady.” She said:
“I have the direct number to White House but I don’t really want to call him there because Melania is there and I don’t really want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that because I’m basically first Trump wife, OK? I’m first lady, OK?”
Understandably, this didn’t sit well with Melania. It can be construed as a disparaging remark from an ex-wife who still considers herself to be more important because she married Trump first. Ivana crossed a boundary, and she did so very publicly.
Unfortunately, Melania’s response didn’t help. Perhaps she and Ivana are not on speaking terms, and that’s fine if they feel that’s what’s best. But Melania could still have found a way to respond privately to Ivana’s remarks. Instead, she, too, crossed a boundary publicly. She had her communications director release a statement that said:
“Mrs. Trump plans to use her title and role to help children, not sell books. There is clearly no substance to this statement from an ex. This is unfortunately only attention-seeking and self-serving noise.”
Ouch. Clearly, the first Mrs. Trump and the current Mrs. Trump are not exactly pals – and that’s okay. No one is saying that you must like an ex. But here’s the thing: When you cross boundaries with exes, who does this help? Except for one fleeting bit of personal satisfaction, what are the benefits in reacting this way?
The answer is: none. It certainly does not help you deal with your ex, or your partner’s ex. Unfortunately, we live in a world where this kind of public sniping is more and more common. Too often now, couples post nasty things about each other – and their exes — on social media. Again, what good does this really do?
You might think that it helps to publicly “get back” at someone who “wronged” you. In reality, it doesn’t help at all. As matchmakers and relationship coaches, we encourage our clients to adapt a different approach when it comes to break-ups, exes, and boundaries. The goal is to be as understanding with one another as possible – and to set up rules if needed. If an issue needs to be discussed (or argued), do it behind closed doors; not in front of the entire world. (And certainly not in front of children.) If you’re having trouble with your partner’s ex, have your partner speak with her and set up boundaries. Since he had a relationship with her, he knows her better than you do. By the same token, you’re probably better suited to speak with your ex about boundaries, if needed.
No doubt, boundaries can be difficult, especially when it comes to exes. But they are essential for personal growth. Hopefully, Ivana and Melania will learn this. Hopefully, you’ll always remember it.