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I separated from my ex-wife about a year ago and she’s now pregnant by the guy she left me for. I didn’t directly hear about the pregnancy but heard it through the grapevine since we were in the same social group and a lot of people know both of us, and she lives a few states away so it’s not like I’d have run into her. I need to call her to finalize some details of the divorce, but here’s the question: Should I congratulate her? Should I mention the pregnancy at all? I know she knows I know about it; would it be weirder to not mention it? Help me, Kiki!
There’s no one right way to navigate a relationship with an ex, since all individuals have wildly different personalities that come into play. But one general catch-all truth is that the easiest way forward is to just be honest about everything. It’s not worth your time or energy to be deceitful toward someone who is no longer entitled to real estate in your mind. Unless you’re genuinely a compulsive liar (in which case therapy can possibly help, better than I can, at least!), lying takes energy and thought that’s simply better used elsewhere. Your calls with her should be professional.
The relevant bit here is that this applies to little white lies and conversational pleasantries, too. Are you happy for her, Help? When you heard about her pregnancy did you have the same rush of compersion that you’d have if a co-worker or vague acquaintance was expecting? If so, express that. “I was so glad to hear you’re expecting; I know you’ve always wanted that!” or similar, whatever’s apt.
But if you’re angry, or jealous, or bitter, or frankly you don’t really care, then leave it. Don’t indulge in small talk or casual banter just for the sake of it. She doesn’t need your congratulations; you’ve forfeited your right to her mental real estate as well. Unless she’s clinging to resentment or otherwise hanging on unhealthily, she shouldn’t be offended if you don’t mention it. She also shouldn’t feel discomfort if you do.
Remember, though, Help: Honesty does not extend to unkindness for kicks. Nine times out of 10, “brutally honest” is really just “genuine asshole.” If how you really feel is, “So I hear you got knocked up you sl*t,” then just keep it to yourself. Again, be professional. You are no longer romantic partners and, if she didn’t see fit to tell you about this herself, you are no longer even friends. If you wouldn’t say it to your boss, don’t say it.
Speak your honest feelings as long as you speak kindly: It’s the common courtesy you’d give a stranger or a loved one. Not common as in found in abundance everywhere, but common as in equally true of and applied to all.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 298.