How nice should I be?

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How friendly do I have to be with my boyfriend's ex? They have three kids together, so the connection between them is here to stay. But I've never been in this situation before and it's awkward and uncomfortable from my perspective. Do I have to get out of the car when we drop off or pick up the kids? I feel like a sulky teenager sitting in the front seat on my phone, but I don't think either of us wants to make small talk. What about family events that both parents are participating in together? Can I bow out gracefully? I feel like such an outsider and might grow to resent it if there are a lot of obligatory events where I have to smile and act polite. I guess my ideal would be having the bare minimum of contact. There is still a lot of anger between them and I'd rather not be around it. Thanks for any guidance.

– Deer In Headlights


You don't have to become her new best friend, but you must be nice. Instead of looking down at your phone, smile and wave through the car window. Behaving like an surly adolescent makes you seem like part of the problem.

You said it best – she's here to stay. You've chosen to date someone with an ex and kids, so you have to accept everything that comes with him. You can skip some of the more intimate family events, but you'll probably have to be there for the big ones. And when you do show up, you'll have to be kind. You'll say please and thank you, and go out of your way not to look sulky, ever.

I say this as a child of divorce and as a friend of many people who deal with their ex's new partners ­– sometimes a warm smile is the thing that makes an awkward situation kind of bearable.

Readers? What are her obligations? Can she avoid these events?

- Meredith