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Too much contact with ex husband?

Incitatus's picture

My partner (we live together) is a divorced woman. She has 2 children. I have no objection to her and her ex attending events together now and again, say school prizegiving ceremonies. However, she insists on attending church every Sunday, with her ex-husband and the 2 children. They sit together with the children, just like they did while they were still married.

While she has invited me along, I would feel pretty weird about sitting there next to her and her ex-husband and the children. Am I being unreasonable in thinking this is a strange situation? Attending events with the ex now then is one thing, but surely if you are in a serious relationship with a new partner, is this appropriate?

ldvilen's picture

No. It is not appropriate. She is divorced. Her husband is her ex-. She is confusing acting like you are still married with co-parenting. There is a huge difference. You and your partner are just living together, but believe me, there are plenty of married steps who have to deal with being treated like the literal 2nd spouse or sloppy seconds every day, round the clock, for years and years. You might want to start asking yourself now, "Do I want to be together or married with someone who wants two husbands?"

She needs to treat you like her SO, her ex- like her ex-, and her children like her children, no matter what age. Sounds simple enough, but it always seems the divorced parent wants to have their cake and eat it too. You are this woman's SO and potential future spouse (perhaps). You are not the cabana pool boy. Granted, you don't have the right to replace dad, but by the same token, your SO doesn't get to act like she is still married to her ex-. All she is doing is setting up you for future failure with the kids. They are already seeing you as being at the very bottom of their mom's priority list.

Speak with her and let her know how you feel about it. I'm sure she'll have excuses. She'll expect you to suck it up and take it. Ask yourself, "Do I want to be sucking it up and taking it the next 20+ years?" The sooner you put your foot down about this, the better. If she is that serious about you, I always say that if a spouse or SO says to their partner, "I have a problem with this deal going on with your ex-," generally that should be sufficient for the spouse or serious SO to stop doing it. Most of the time, these type of deals are kept going with the ex- simply because it is easier for them. Saying, "I'm doing it for the kids," is not sufficient, because if their whole world was going to revolve around doing for the kids, then they either a) Shouldn't have gotten a divorce, or b) Shouldn't be dating or certainly living with someone else.

Incitatus's picture

Thanks, sounds very reasonable. It's exactly what you said - she uses the kids as the reason for still playing married mommy and daddy every Sunday, to which my answer was: so simply go and sit in a different pew - one Sunday they sit with him, the next Sunday they sit with you. Doesn't want to hear about it.

What also troubles me is that her ex hasn't re-married after 5 years, although he's dating other people, and her parents view divorce as sin and want her and the ex to get back together again. So I'm getting the distinct vibe here that they should maybe not have gotten divorced in the first place, as you said.

SugarSpice's picture

incitatus, your so is wanting her cake and eating it too.

she is divorced from this man and she cant use church to give the semblance of an intact family.

going to church with the father gives the impression to the children that mom and dad are still together.

i agree that your so need to make you the main man in her life and stop playing house with her ex husband.

going to church is a good think but not as an excuse to pantomime being an intact family.

the opinions of the in laws should have no bearing on how you are treated.

twoviewpoints's picture

When you blogged a couple months ago, you mentioned you and your partner lived in different cities and had planned weekend visits together. Since, you've obviously changed residences if you are now living together.

One of her children is an adult nineteen year old. Is the other child near this age also? I'm asking because it seems very strange that with children this old your partner is still trying to do the 'family' thing with her ex husband. At 19, the one is plenty old enough to understand his mother has supposedly moved on and that Mom and Dad sitting together every Sunday morning in church is indeed giving her children mixed messages.

I could understand everyone still attending the same church, but sitting together as an intact family , whether you are invited to join them or not, is IMO , inappropriate. are you sure your partner is really ready to move on and be in a relationship with you? Living together seems like a pretty big commitment as in being serious about your relationship together , but then she runs to play 'still one big family' in church on Sunday morning? Strange, indeed.

Have you talked to your partner about how you feel on this? You're correct in that parents attending the same school activities is the norm. Parents should both participate , but even during school events it's not , IMO, necessarily appropriate for a partner who is actually moving on to sit with the ex. I attended my daughter's induction into her school's chapter of the NHS a coupe weeks ago and there were a couple students being honored that their parents are divorced. While those families had both parents come up to escort the inducted student and stand for pictures, the parents sat in the audience during the rest of the program with either their new partners or by themselves. Not together. The only time the divorced parents came together was when the parent was actually suppose to be participating in ceremony.

I guess my feeling are that when it comes to having to participate as parents, there will be times when the ex couple must be active in the event together. However, sitting together giving the appearance as still a married couple and a intact family during Sunday morning church is not one of those times.

hereiam's picture

She had a weird enmeshment with her 19 year old son (brought him on dates with you) and now this thing with her ex?

No, playing happy family at church with the ex is not appropriate.

marblefawn's picture

It's unhealthy for her kids to see a fantasy world where her parents appear married and you appear to not exist. I understand her temptation, especially if they are little kids. But her kids will never accept another person in her life if she constantly shows them an intact family. They will never respect or even acknowledge her relationship with someone else. Someone wrote above that one of your stepkids is 19. Wow. If her kids are all around that age, there's no excuse for creating a fantasy world for them - they are old enough to understand the reality. It's the message she's sending to them that will make your life hellish.

I'm sorry, but I think she's making a chump out of you. I'd pack up and move on to greener pastures.

strugglingSM's picture

I think acting like an intact family (i.e. sitting at church together like a family) when you are not an intact family is a sign that people have not moved on. I know divorce is difficult, but for the life of me, I can't understand why some people hold on so tightly to a situation that made them unhappy. I have also heard from CoD friends who found it confusing and in many cases maddening that their divorced parents would try to act like an intact family after the fact. The kids clearly knew that their parents were no longer married and in some cases, saw the misery that led to the divorce, so it made them angry that their parents could now be nice to one another and also confused as to where the family stood. One friend and her sisters even confronted her parents and told them that they wanted joint holidays to stop because they just seemed forced. This friend's parents were barely speaking to one another when they were married, but then acted like they thought one another was great after the divorce, even though they really didn't think that. Now they are back to not speaking to one another.

I think you can talk to your SO about how this makes you uncomfortable, but I don't think you'll get the answer you're looking for. If I were you, I'd be straight with her and say that I couldn't be in a relationship with someone who was still emotionally attached to someone else. Three in a relationship is typically one too many!

ldvilen's picture

"This friend's parents were barely speaking to one another when they were married, but then acted like they thought one another was great after the divorce." This was probably the advice they were given by a How to be a Divorced Parent Course or counselor or clergy. The majority of advice for divorced parents can be summed in a few simple words as: Just keep acting like you are still married! Bingo! End of problem. Kids will be fine with the divorce and still love ya' and all. No one will be confused. And the people you go on to date or marry will have no problem with a 3-way marriage! :jawdrop:

Please get real, people!! I'm thinking, especially for an older CoD, that the thought would be: My parents had better !@#$!@ well hate each other, otherwise why did they get divorced!? And, they better !@#$!@ stay away from each other, because I don't want to suffer all that angst and pain and confusion any more than I have to whenever they seem to be around each other. It's over, leave it. I'm going to have a hard enough time trying to figure how I'm going to deal with this. I don't need mom and dad running around acting like nothing ever happened, when it is so obvious something did!

ProbablyAlreadyInsane's picture

My cousin when he first got divorced, him and his ex did outings as a "family" for a bit. I thought it was weird as he!!. Part of that could be that I had been in a "blended" family for a bit and HATE DH going to things with the ex, thank goodness he understands and insists that if she's going to come, she arrives herself, then DH and I find somewhere to sit not close to her...

My cousin's kids got confused for a while... To them mommy and daddy hadn't really broken up in their minds, so when mommy brought a "new friend" home they really didn't know how to handle it... Their mom responded totally off and tried to cut dad out for the sake of her "new friend." Which then just confused them anymore. Kids should understand that divorce means separate, it helps them understand so they don't hold onto a notion that "mommy and daddy are going to get back together." It wasn't fair for them and now they're attempting to clean it up and establish the separate households for the girls, they're doing tons better.

Divorced means divorced, and if she's acting emotionally married to another man, even just for show, she's being a part of two partnerships, you shouldn't have to feel like your partner is still emotionally in her previous marriage vs. being completely part of your relationship. You also shouldn't feel obligated to attend something with your partner and her ex, that just gets weird. It's something that's theirs and theirs ended when the marriage did.

WalkOnBy's picture


Here's my suggestion - you find one of your exes and ask your partner if it's okay for you and she to go to the movies every week.

Your partner has some unfinished business with her ex. It's not "for the kids" (TM), it's for her.

I had very small kids when Asshat and I divorced. I accepted the new reality and moved the hell on. No joint dinners, no joint birthday celebrations, no joint anything.

You have every right to be upset. She is still emotionally involved with dude, when her loyalty should be to you.

You have some serious thinking to do.

SugarSpice's picture

I-m so happy this is a great way to conduct yourself after a divorce.

dh is a dunce when it comes to his children, and still is, but at least when they were small children there was viaitation with mom and separate visitation with dad. there was no impression that the parents were together or getting back together.

as a recent skids wedding the father sat next to me in the church and bm with her husband. no seating bm next to the skids father.

divorce means separate. period.

WalkOnBy's picture

Yup - when our daughter got married, Asshat and his wife sat in the row behind DH and me Smile

When our granddaughter was baptized, I sat with DH and Asshat sat by himself in the back of the church.

I have no need to speak to him and he has no need to speak to me.

When the kids were minors, we didn't text or call. We parallel parented via email.

I literally have not said more than 5 paragraphs to him since 2000.