Posted: April 19, 2017 at 1:51 a.m.
This Jann Blackstone column originally appeared April 16, 2014.
Q My ex and I were together for two years. We lived with my parents and she has been working for my father managing his office and upgrading his website. We had a horrible fight, which was all her fault, and she moved out last week. My father will not fire her. I feel like he's taking her side! What's good ex-etiquette?
A I'm sure you want me to say that your father should side with you, but there's more at stake than an argument that may be the end of your relationship. It sounds like "your ex" runs your father's office, and waiting to see where this breakup will go before firing a competent office manager is the right decision. Quickly firing her could have huge consequences on the business and on all your personal lives as well. I suspect that business supports all of you. Your father may have seen you argue before and is hoping that things will blow over before he has to make a decision.
Relationships rarely break up after only one fight, so whatever you were fighting about -- or, more likely, the way you were fighting -- was the reason for the breakup.
For example, if "your ex" is a "leaver," when the fight gets to a certain point, she leaves the room. When that doesn't get the reaction she wants, she jumps in the car and leaves the house. If that doesn't work, she ups the ante -- she threatens to leave the relationship. If you (and that's a collective "you and her") don't have a way to stop the fight from spinning out of control, one of you has to call the other's bluff in order to win. That means you stay quiet and she has to leave.
What could you have done? Figure out a more fair way to disagree prior to any arguments occurring and then stick to your agreement. In other words, learn to fight fair. A good couples therapist can point you in the right direction.
In terms of good ex-etiquette, I'm not sure she's really your ex at this point. If you have faced this before, one of you will apologize and start the ball rolling toward reconciliation. Your father may know that and that's the reason he's not reacting to a week-old breakup. However, family businesses face this all the time. Allegiances are tested.
It really depends on why there is a breakup. If there's infidelity, drugs, alcohol or violence at the root of the failure, if left unattended, then allegiance is probably expected, and it's doubtful dad would keep her around under those circumstances. However, if it's just because you two can't get along, then that's your issue and a completely separate business decision. It's a danger you have to face when you own a family business, and in those cases, it may be a good idea to have some sort of agreement or contract drawn up prior to working together that lays out how business decisions will be made if there is a breakup -- and that would include your parents' breakup, as well.
Jann Blackstone is the author of Ex-Etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation, and the founder of Bonus Families -- bonusfamilies.com. Contact her at
Family on 04/19/2017