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Urban Etiquette

Ellen Vanstone answers your questions about the annoying behaviours, poor manners and impatient encounters that dot the days of a city dweller.

How should my ex and I divvy up the restaurants after a breakup?

It is a truth universally ignored that both parties after a divorce will feel hard done by, no matter how civilly the assets were divided.

Ani Castillo

Dear Ellen,

Who gets a favourite restaurant after a break-up? My wife and I just separated. It was more or less amicable, but I have no desire to run into her, so I’m avoiding our "marital restaurant" in case she’s there. On the other hand, I love both the food and the staff, and it seems unfair to make me lose that along with my marriage. Advice?

Mr. Ex.

Dear Mr. Ex,

It is a truth universally ignored that both parties after a divorce will feel hard done by, no matter how civilly the assets were divided. You say the separation was more or less "amicable” — but then you add that “it seems unfair to make me lose that along with my marriage” -- which betrays a distinct note of injury. I sympathize. I’ve been there. So I can tell you with authority that no one is “making” you lose anything. How you handle the restaurant question is your choice, despite the fact you don't like any of the available options.

The good news is that, notwithstanding your current aggrieved state, you are clearly a gentleman who wants to do the right thing in the long run. This indicates a level of maturity that I predict will lead to a speedy, post-split recovery.

In the meantime, here are some guidelines for dividing up eatery assets after a split.

If your ex brought the restaurant into the relationship — for example, she patronized the place for years before meeting you — then the polite thing to do is let her have it all to herself from now on.

If you “pre-owned” the restaurant, you’re entitled to it — but as a courtesy (whether you think she deserves it or not), you should let her know that you plan to continue patronizing the place, and ask if she wants to discuss an arrangement to avoid awkward encounters. For example, you could commit to going only on certain days of the week, or odd-numbered days of the month, while she gets the remaining days.

If she insists on claiming that establishment exclusively for her own use, you can suggest your next-favourite restaurant for your own exclusive use.

If she refuses to play by any rules, cut your losses and find a new place to dine. No restaurant meal is worth remaining entangled in a toxic, post-split relationship with a person who cares more about power or payback than good manners.

Need advice? Email Ellen: askellen@metronews.ca

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