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How to deal with "ex-life" an ex-wife interference?

brainstorming's picture

Hi. I’m 34 years old and I’m not American. I came to the USA so I and my husband could get married and start a life together. He is 36, he was married for 11 years and has been divorced for 18 months. He has two kids, a 10 years boy and an 11 years girl. They seem to be very sweet and nice kids and my husband have a very good relationship with them, he’s a very caring dad. My husband and I have been living together since the last June and we got married one month ago. It was kind of fast… but we had our reasons.

I still haven’t met the kids. He wants me to, and also do I, but we are trying to be careful and not to rush things. His ex-wife doesn’t seem to be a bad person, but she is obviously still hurt, bitter and, unfortunately, I think she’s still in love with my husband. She has told the kids she would be mad if they met me, so now they are afraid to do it. There’s more than that of course, I don’t think it’s an easy thing for kids to be introduced to their parent’s new partners.

Well, I can’t say I was prepared to all that. It’s tough. Marriage is already a challenge without having to deal with our husband’s ex-life. It’s like I’d gotten an ex-wife myself. It’s a lot of interference. His “ex-life” consumes his time and money, also our schedule is subjected to his ex-wife schedule. It’s almost like we were living all the five of us together. And I confess… I’m having problems dealing with it. Mostly because I want to be supportive and understanding to my husband (I don’t want to be a jealous bitch) but at the same time I want my husband to draw limits, so his ex-wife won’t break into our privacy. I’m not a jealous person, I can put myself into the “ex-wife’s” shoes many times. I hope my husband can support and even be friends with his ex one day.

I'm not worried about my husband's feelings for his ex, this is not an issue. I know he loves me. Right now, though, I’m starting to feel overwhelmed by all the interference. The reason I'm writing this post is because I’m afraid I don’t know anymore until what point I should understand and be sensitive to his ex-wife interferences in our life, and when should I just say “no, I won’t take this or that”.

Despite convincing her children I’m a bad person, here are some of the things that she does: she calls my husband’s mother all the time telling her things that not always are true. She also calls my husband all the time, asking him direction when she’s lost in the traffic, asking help to surf the internet, inviting him to celebrate her birthday the two of them. She wants him to do the lawn, to help her with her work, to tell him about her dates. She acts like they were still married (besides dating other men). She also insists that during the two afternoons of the week when he takes care of the kids he should be at her house instead of taking the kids to our house or somewhere else. All that… combined with messages she sends to his phone saying she misses him, etc. It feels like a lot of interference.

My husband is a very gentle and nice person. I understand that he doesn’t want to hurt her more than he already did, or more than necessary. However, my perception tells me that he has hard time being firm and assertive. He says he doesn’t like to argue and doesn’t want to create more problems, but sometimes I feel like he’s afraid of her.

Well, we have being talking a lot about all that, we communicate well. My problem is… although I understand certain things they still bother and upset me. I’m already “traumatized” with the phone ring when she is the one calling! (god, I’m getting neurotic I guess). The solution I’m used to is talking…tell him how I feel, even if I get annoyed by something little (It’s not always about that little something but the sum of every many repeatedly little things). And now… my husband is getting tired to talk. He turns his eyes, he sighs deeply, etc. And I don’t know what to do.

I wonder if any of you could tell me if it’s normal not to like things like, for example, although my husband’s relationship with his ex is not good, he still keeps most of his books and cds at her place (he says it’s all about not having enough space here). He has the copy of the ex’s house and car keys with him. He still had his credit card on some of her shopping accounts and only removed it because I asked. He seems not to bother having so many links and connections with her… which I think are no longer proper between ex husbands and wives (unless you have one of those few amazingly friendly relationships between you).

Making the long story (not so) short… how to manage the interference without ruining your married life? How to communicate your feelings without “overloading” the husband’s ears? What is normal to accept from an ex-wife (or ex-life) and how to distinguish it from the bad interference?
Thank you all for listening…

Bonus Wife's picture

Oh dear brainstorming...
I wish I could help but I can't. I lost it so many times over the exwife not having boundaries and my DH and her still being "enmeshed" in unacceptable ways to me, so all I can say is that you and all other stepmoms here will be in my prayers.

Hanny's picture

where does he see his children. Does he only see them at her house? So he never takes the kids overnight at your house? This is not going to get any better with the kids, until he steps up - gets some balls, and brings the kids home to meet you. Your married for goodness sakes....not just his girlfriend. And I'm sure BM knows exactly the hold she has on this man. She may not be married to him, and may not be sleeping with him, but she is still holding onto his balls.

I think you need to make a list of things you will put up with and things you absolutely will not. But as the poster above said, you have to be prepared to follow through if he insists on not changing.

Good Luck!

Anonymous's picture

I would go further to advice that you adopt the offensive position (but without appearing to be more hostile than his ex).

It is your choice to make, but i know for a fact that when people assume that one person is more reasonable than the other, people tend to try to pacify the unreasonable person (obviously easier). So, if you become more unreasonable, he either puts you first, or you get out, before you start having your own kids as it will only get worse(trust me on this) and you will not be in control of your marriage.
It will also tear you apart if his ex manipulates him into pandering more to her kids needs than yours.
You are doing him (and her) a favor by being a reasonable partner... never! ever! forget! that!

brainstorming's picture

My husband used to stay 3 or 4 hours at his children's house twice during the week and some times go out with them on weekends. Now that I insisted (although he personally doesn't see any problem by staying at his ex’s "for practical reasons" as he says) he is not staying his ex's anymore, at least not on regular basis. He is now taking the kids to the university where he works or to the library, etc. However, he has never brought them here to our home, not yet. He says this is going to change, but I don't know when. He says he doesn't want to traumatize the kids. But I have the feeling that... but attending to their and their mother's request of not meeting me, the kids won't feel our relationship is as important to him and wont respect me. Well.. I think you are right when you say his ex still holds onto his balls. But he doesn't see it! Not yet! I'm confident this will change, I'm doing my best. What worries me is to become too pushy or hard on him. Let's see... Thank you Hanny!

str8_trippin's picture

You must have the patience of a saint to have put up with this for so long! Since the two of you are married hubby needs to set boundries and soon! I am sure he is a wonderful father, however he has no obligation to cater to his ex!!! There is a reason they are not together! If he does not stand up to her manipulation right now you and everyone involved will be long suffering. The only thing they need to communicate about is the children. If she is that immature telling the children bad things about you, he needs to stand up for you and really stick by it! How have you not met the kids yet???? You married their father!!! You are a stepmom now and whether you take an active role as such is completely up to you, but you at least deserve the chance to meet them! If she is holding the kids over his head because she is not willing to accept that he has somewhat moved on with his life than he probably should get visitation rights established. And not by visiting the kids at her house b/c that just sends too many damaging messages to them. He does not need to continue his double life. It's time that the two of you sit down and discuss a plan of action. He does not need to keep anything at her house, have any kind of connection of the sort, except for spending time with his children-at his house!!! Good luck to you-this is gonna be one hell of an emotional journey.

"All that we are is a result of what we have thought."- Buddha

brainstorming's picture

Thank you all for the advices. I really appreciated.
It's certainly not an easy journey...! And it makes it better being able to "vent" from time to time!

Silvia's picture

Dear Brainstorming,
I just read what you wrote. I have been in the same situation. I totally understand you and I would really like to know how is the situation now. My husband ex finally got a boyfriend and my husband stood up for his rights and everything seems to get resolved now after almost 2 years. I was acting the same way you do, and it was very hard. It lasted for a long time and I was trying to be not pushy or aggressive but sometime I resented him for not being firm with his ex. Now the situation resolved, but I feel like it was not because of the sake of our relationship,but it was again his ex wife action that changed things around.
I wish you all the best!

and I say's picture

Dear brainstorming,
I can totally understand your frustration and I will just add to what the other ladies already said - boundaries!!!Your hubby is weak and BM knows that. She knows him and uses that knowledge really well! She needs to get a life and he needs to show more respect to you. Starting from introducing you to his children. Then, NOT going to her house other than to pick the kids up. Third - he must minimize phone calls that should only, ONLY, be about the children.
I suffered from so much interference at the beginning that I had not daily, but hourly fits over my BM. She's still trying as much as she can but I hold my boundaries so firm that my DH knows I'm serious and readily goes along with it. It became a norm to him, it became a norm to my skids and is slowly getting to BM's persisent, pathetic head...Hang in there!!!

held bondage by dh relationship's picture

As all the women here, I certainly feel for you and have experienced some of what you have. It is a really difficult situation with what seems no good or right answer. I think Dr. Phil needs to do a show on this subject.

It is all about NOT making the ex spouse angry because she may;

1. keep the kids away or make visitation at a time when he is working or on holiday
2. say bad things about whoever,
3. take him to court over something petty (BM here took DH to court to change the third child's last name to hers-all four kids are his-and she thought this was logical. $7,000 later the child's name is still his)
4 change visitation or demand something else from him

As all DH mine loves his children and wants to make sure they are well cared for both financially and emotionally and feel safe and because he is unsure they feel this way at their BMs house he has to be vigilant to all the above four. Safe meaning BM does not mind manipulative tactics to ensure disruption with anyone and DH tries to compensate.

I agree completely with the last post. It does not matter what you do, how you do it, why or where you do it........ she will always be mad, angry, hurt, violated and create upheaval from the list above. The only time, as I see it, that the list goes away is when BM is busy with other things. Once those things have died down then her focus is back on the list.

I wonder if the answer is to draw boundaries. I truly think so, but DH thinks it will cause problems. At first maybe but if BM continues to be dealt with in the same manner, of course in an always respectful way then she will eventually get it and life becomes smoother-even for the kids.

This is hard for DHs because they are afraid of losing or not doing right by their children. My husband has been divorced for 7 (SEVEN) years and it still continues. He left her related to substance abuse. He did not leave her for another relationship nor did he start seeing me for 3 years following their divorce. She is still angry and from the length of time will always be. I thought it would decrease as time went on, but no way. She won't speak to him about anything. She tells the children to tell him things or rarely sends an e-mail. The school counselor has told her not to communicate through the children but she says she has a right.

Anyways, a rant into something I was not going to go into.

Hope it all gets better for you, your husband, skids and most of all for the EX as she must be completely confused and caught up in a pretend life.

Right now the BM of my skids tells them their father is weak and will do whatever she says. What kind of message is that for his 13 yo son or the rest of them.

Bj's picture

I have had almost the same exact situation. BM has a key to the house we are supposed to be living in that is why I have my own place now and am now seriously considering cancelling the marriage all together. When we were first together if we had a disagreement she knew about it and would send me emails about it. I put up with this for 2 years. Not only does she have a key, she also has his email password, still handles all of his affairs. He calls her to have her send stuff from his email to other places. There are no boundaries and it has taken a tole on our relationship. If you don't deal with this quickly (as crayon said) it only gets worse. After 2 1/2 years he is now spending the night at her house saying he's sleeping on the couch and it's good for the kids, it makes them happy and if i don't like it then just deal with it. This woman has complete control over him. If you don't put a stop to it now it just snowballs. I know this because I didn't. I agree with making a list of things you will put up and things you just will not put up with. I warn you if he doesn't go along with this your in for some rough times ahead. It is not normal for him to have things at her house or to have the keys to her house or car. I wish you the best! Let us know how it goes!

Reluctant Step Mum's picture

In a nutshell sounds like she has definately not let go of your man. And your man on some level, has not let go of her. Sorry to say, but if he still has so much to do with her it is telling you that there has not been a definate 'ending' to their relationship.

I went through some of this when I met my now husband. He had been on his own for 3 years and she still expected to come to any events he organised e.g. barbeques, get him to do what she wanted him to do (fix things, look at her car etc.), come to all her family functions (like they were still married), and listen to her advice above all others as though she was an oracle!

Basically she didn't want him anymore but the 'bond' was not broken. He was just useful to her. But I changed all of that.

Girl you have to put your foot down and state that YOU are his wife and therefore YOU deserve his time, attention and love.

She is his PAST and should stay there. Of course, they have kids and they will always have that bond, but that is where it STOPS.

Be strong and tell him how upset it makes you feel and how unimportant it must make you feel. If he loves you like he should, he will stop all that nonsense, get his CD's and books back, take the credit card access away and tell her to go buy a satellite navigation device!

A Step parent is in a no win role

tiffanyLisaDoogie's picture

My husband secretary placed love potion on my husband coffee, ever since my husband's company employed this secretary my husband comes back home with lips kiss on his shirt. On several occasions. My husband didn't deny, that was what got my heart broken. My husband moved out the last time i confronted him about it and went to stay with her. He will not even pick my calls. I was broken and shattered, it was like I tore my MARRIAGE APART DUE TO THE IMPROPER WAY I HANDLED THE SITUATION. I cry every day and night, swollen eyes to work and friends started asking questions. My elder sister gave me love solution temple contact to visit for help to get my husband back. ( ( Just a single spell was what turned everything around. My husband came home this morning with all his belongings. also (