Q I just moved in with my boyfriend. As he was moving his stuff into my home, he stopped to go through a box of pictures of his old girlfriends. It was rude. I said something to him, and he made fun of me. What's good ex-etiquette?
A Although some don't see moving in together as serious, most would agree that it is a statement of commitment. With this in mind, good ex-etiquette would be to think things through before you move in with someone and make sure there's no unfinished business with past relationships.
To stop the moving process in order to glance through pictures of former lovers while you looked on does sound insensitive. His reaction to your saying something was immature. If the pictures are important to him he should have done his viewing on his own time prior to moving and then put them in a private place if he decided to still keep them, but most of all, do some soul searching as to why he has them at all.
The question at hand is, should he keep the pictures? Technically, if any of the pictures include the mother of his children, then yes, if he wants to. The pictures may be the only pictures available of the two of them together and the children may want them as they get older. The pictures may not only contain pictures of exes, but also of family members and friends who may no longer be living or you haven't seen in a very long time. If this is the case, it's time to take a deep breath. We all have a past.
But, if your boyfriend merely has pictures of his ex-lovers that he keeps around and is flaunting them, that's a red flag. You obviously see living together as far more serious business than he does, and it's time to think about making a commitment to a guy who doesn't see your relationship as serious enough to move past ex-lovers. Unfortunately, if you have to say something about his having the pictures, that's a red flag, too. But before you walk away, give him a chance to explain himself. Then agree on boundaries for the future, and stick to them. If he can't, that's another red flag -- and three red flags and you are out.
Finally, the past is just that, the past, and it makes us who we are today. But, sayings like that have the biggest impact when both partners see it the same way.
Send questions to Dr. Jann Blackstone, author of "Ex-Etiquette for Parents," at firstname.lastname@example.org.