Q: My boyfriend’s ex texts him in the middle of the night. It’s not romantic; it’s usually something like, “Don’t forget Jason’s soccer game is tomorrow,” but it drives me crazy. He doesn’t see anything wrong with it and will not say anything to her.
A: Can’t say I haven’t been on both the giving and receiving end of this, and of course it’s distracting and if you are the “new” partner, particularly invasive. However, the key to the problem is how your boyfriend is reacting. It’s he who should be establishing clear boundaries, letting the ex know what is acceptable and what is not. If he isn’t, take a look at that. He either sleeps through the text pinging, or he doesn’t mind it — and there you are lying next to him, smacking him on the shoulder saying, “Someone is texting you!” and you already know who it is … plus, it’s not that his son is in the emergency room, it’s that he’s got a soccer game tomorrow.
In your boyfriend’s defense, you didn’t say how long you have been his girlfriend. If it’s been weeks or months, this may just be how they communicate, and he hasn’t wanted anything to change. If it’s been years and he’s never set the ex straight, hmmm.
You also have to look at how he’s reacting to give you a clue to his priorities. Does he wake up and immediately text her back or does he just sleep through it? Are these texts only from his ex or do his kids also practice the same behavior? Does he text them in the middle of the night? Every family has a communication style. I’ve seen families have specific boundaries when it comes to texting and emails and others like you describe, no boundaries and wide open. You mix someone who believes texting etiquette means only during the day with someone who has no specific text boundary and it can be the reason for a break-up. You think that’s ridiculous? I’ve had clients in my office literally because they couldn’t agree on the toilet paper coming off the top of the roll or the bottom, and they are at each other’s throats during the discussions. In cases like that, the disagreement about something so trivial is an indicator that there’s something far more important wrong in the relationship. This may also be an indicator of something wrong in your relationship, as well.
YOU also have to make your boundaries clear — make sure your boyfriend knows what YOU feel is acceptable. Whining about her texting is obviously not going to get you what you want. If this is a deal breaker, let him know it. Then, it’s up to him to make it clear to the ex, and if he doesn’t, you have your answer.
Bottom line, Ex-etiquette for Parents rule No. 9 is, “Respect each other’s turf.” No one is doing that and everyone should. The ex needs to respect your relationship. Actually, it sounds like your boyfriend needs to do that, too.