By Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe
Contra Costa Times (MCT)
Q: I was married for 10 years to a guy I thought was perfect -- until I found out he was cheating on me. It broke my heart, but I survived and our divorce will be final in a few months. Meanwhile, I met a man who, again, I thought was perfect and he is also going through divorce. One minute he loves me, and then I don't hear from him for a week. When he calls it's, "Baby this, and I miss you that." And then I hear from my cheating husband and, it's "Baby this, and I miss you that." Are all men just out of their minds?
A: Originally, we designed the 10 rules of ex-etiquette for parents. These rules were based on having kids together and how you should conduct yourself after a breakup with the kids watching. The ex-etiquette rules for dating after a breakup are very similar, but they use maintaining one's personal integrity as the criteria for decision-making, rather than seeking the best interest of the kids.
The first rule of good ex-etiquette for dating is, "Be true to yourself." Hold on to that one tight because the two guys in your life are both a little nuts right now - they are going through divorce and that makes people crazy. During divorce, even intelligent people do really stupid things, and if you put all your eggs in either of these baskets, you're bound to be hurt. Remember you, too, are going through a divorce, which means you, too, may also be all over the board. That's not to say that your ex hasn't seen the error of his ways or the new guy may turn out to be a gem. We're just saying that when a divorce is fresh and emotions are flying, don't count on unconditional love (for that, consider getting a dog).
Another concern: Thinking anyone is "perfect" makes us raise our eyebrows. Seeing someone's flaws and loving them despite those flaws is a far more rational approach than seeking perfection. With the "perfect" expectation you are bound to be disappointed. Rarely can anyone live up to your fantasy.
Finally, when you start dating after a breakup, it's important to set clear boundaries (dating rule No. 4), especially if the ex is still lurking in the background. That means be clear with everyone concerned -- and be honest (dating rule No. 8). The thing is, so fresh out of your marriage you may not know exactly what you want. Think about what you consider to be deal-breakers and try to stay true to them because if you don't, you'll find yourself saying, "Baby this, and I miss you that" to someone and they, too, will wonder if you are out of your mind. Give yourself some time to figure all this out, and don't be afraid to go solo for a little while.
(Jann Blackstone-Ford and her husband's ex-wife, Sharyl Jupe, authors of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents," are the founders of Bonus Families (www.bonusfamilies.com). Reach them at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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