Ex-etiquette: Don't use romance as reason to tell ex he's a dad
Question: I've recently struck up a friendship with a guy I lived with five years ago.
I left when I was pregnant and never told him. Our son is now 4, and after recently seeing my ex, I'm thinking I should tell him that Randy is his son. At our last meeting, things got sort of flirty again, and I'm thinking now might be good time to get his attention. What's good ex-etiquette?
Answer: There are so many red flags here; I'm not sure where to start. The most obvious — the bad decision of having a child and not telling the father that it is his. I always have to mention a disclaimer when I make a statement like that, because if I don't, I'll get a barrage of letters citing examples of when it was the right decision.
Most of the time, it's an incredibly selfish act to keep that kind of information to yourself — and the worst ex-etiquette possible. Yes, it was your decision to go forward with the pregnancy, but a father deserves to know, and a child has a right to have both of his parents in his life.
So, my answer is to tell him as soon as possible — and potential romance should not be the catalyst to break this kind of news. You should have told the father as soon as you found out you were pregnant — even if you knew he wouldn't want the child.
Although I advocate getting along after divorce for the sake of the kids, that doesn't mean everyone should get back together. Memories are in your heart and marked by the fact that you had children together. Once you've broken up, your responsibility to each other as partners ends, but not as parents.
If no one has moved on, then attempting reconciliation is between the two of you, but you must consider that there are consequences if you reach out romantically to an ex.
Another break-up might make co-parenting impossible, and that will affect your child — a child who has already suffered one break-up. Two would be devastating.
In your case, your child doesn't know his father, and frankly, your attitude sounds quite frivolous and needs to be checked. Before you tell your child or his father, take note of how serious a decision this really is. Once your son knows, there is no going back.
Finally, Ex Etiquette rule No. 8 is, “Be honest and straightforward.” That's the same advice I would have given you five years ago.
Dr. Jann Blackstone Ford is the author of “Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation” and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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