Q: I have been married to my husband for a year, together for four. He was married previously for 18 years and has two adult children, ages 18 and 20. My husband either texts or speaks to his ex every day, and sometimes it's not about the kids. He's very quick to erase his conversations with her, as I have access to his phone. Three months ago I learned that he shares an app with his ex and their kids where they can track each other's location, but I am not a party to this app. I struggle speaking with him about this because when I do he deflects the conversation with sarcasm or becomes defensive and I end up feeling like the bad guy. I don't want to look jealous and insecure, but I'm so uncomfortable with their relationship. I know boundaries should be established, but I'm not sure what they should be, and I don't know what's good ex-etiquette.
A: I've been getting a lot of questions along this line, and I have to say, "Seriously?" Of course you know what the boundaries should be; otherwise you wouldn't have felt compelled to write.
In your husband's defense, 18 years is a long time, but choices have been made, and new priorities must be set. Marriage dictates your priorities. He's married to you, not the ex. You don't have to have an advanced degree in psychology to know that if things are as you say, your husband needs to get a grip. If he couldn't restructure his priorities once he and his ex broke up, he should not have gotten married again. The disrespect is off the charts.
So, let's look at these red flags, one by one. I realize I only have one side of the story.
Red flag No. 1: He's talking to his ex on a daily basis about other things than the kids. I understand that Ex-etiquette for Parents rule No. 1 is "Put the kids first," but these kids are adults, and daily conversations are no longer necessary.
Red flag No. 2: He erases his messages and subscribes to a private app that tracks location and has not included you. I emphasize, "location app." There are apps available that help co-parents better communicate and stay on top of their kids' achievements, appointments and extracurricular activities. There's no reason for you to subscribe to this kind of app. But the app you describe? Not sure why he subscribes to anything like that to which you are not privy. That's deceitful and terrible ex-etiquette, not to mention, terrible for your marriage.
And the biggest red flag of all? You're afraid to talk to him. The key to staying married is good communication. If you can't talk to your husband about something, it's time to take a serious look at the core structure of your marriage. If you need a third party, like a therapist, a rabbi or a clergyperson to help facilitate a conversation, make the appointment immediately. The boundaries of marriage are very clearly defined and it appears your husband is stepping outside of them. Ex-etiquette for Parents rule No. 8 is, "Be honest and straightforward." Situations like this are why it was included. That's good ex-etiquette.
Jann Blackstone is at bonusfamilies.com.