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Her Boyfriend's Ex is also His Business Partner

By Jim Duzak, JD

Dear Jim:

I’ve been seeing a great guy the past few months, but I’m bothered about one thing. He and his ex-wife still own a business together and basically work side-by-side every day.

They started up the business (a medical temp agency) shortly after they got married in 2002. They got divorced in 2009 but stayed on as partners in the business. They have no kids together, so they probably wouldn’t be seeing each other at all if it weren’t for their work. They have no other employees, so it’s practically impossible to talk to my boyfriend about his work without hearing her name mentioned. It seems strange to me that two people would want to own and operate a business together after a divorce. Do you agree?

Signed, Missy

Dear Missy: I’m not sure if it’s a strange situation, but it’s an unusual one. I don’t think I’ve personally known a couple who continued to operate a business together for very long after their divorce. Usually, one person would buy out the other person’s interest as part of the settlement, and if neither person had the money to do that they would sell the business to an outsider and go their separate ways.

But it’s not necessarily a bad idea, provided that the two people are mature enough not to re-hash in the office whatever issues led to the demise of their marriage. My guess is that your boyfriend and his ex-wife have workplace skills that mesh together nicely. Maybe he’s better at developing new accounts or getting more job slots from existing accounts, and she excels at finding people to fill those job slots.

And I would also guess that they share a common vision for the business and are dedicated to its success. They probably both feel that the business would suffer if the other person weren’t part of it. I doubt that there’s anything going on at the office for you to be worried about. Before you met him, your boyfriend and his ex were working together, post-divorce, for several years. If they had fallen in love again they’d probably be living together or remarried by now.

Most likely, they recognize they’re better suited to being business partners than romantic partners. I realize that the last thing you feel like hearing about is your boyfriend’s ex-wife. It can seem like a constant reminder of his past---a past that you would like to move beyond. But the truth is, everyone has a past. And, by definition, the past of every divorced man includes an ex-wife. You’re better off being involved with a man who has a co-operative, respectful, businesslike relationship with his ex-wife than a man who is constantly at war with her.

Look at it this way. You have a boyfriend who’s ambitious, entrepreneurial, and hard-working; who isn’t consumed with anger or resentment at his ex-wife; who’s smart enough to know what’s good for his business and mature enough not to let any past disappointments interfere with the success of that business. Men like that are hard to find. If you can focus on the positives, I think you’ll be fine. Good luck.  

Here is an article with a very different ending. Have you ever been tempted by an old flame?

Jim Duzak is a graduate of Boston College Law School, and practiced divorce law in Boston for over twenty years. After moving to Arizona, he became a full-time mediator for the family and divorce court in Phoenix.

His experience in working with divorcing couples, plus his own life experiences---he was a 20 year-old husband and father and a single father for several years after his divorce---prompted Jim to write a book entitled, Mid-Life Divorce and the Rebirth of Commitment, that helps people avoid divorce by teaching better ways to communicate and resolve disputes.

Jim is currently an advice columnist, relationship writer, and personal coach. He is a contributing expert at HopeAfterDivorce.org, FamilyShare.com, and LAFamily.com. He also puts on workshops dealing with marriage, divorce, post-divorce dating, and other aspects of men-women relationships. His website is attorneyatlove.com. 

Jim is a former divorce lawyer and mediator. His columns are not intended to constitute legal advice and are not a substitute for marriage counseling or other professional services.

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