Every Monday I like to put up a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it! I’ve been busy lately on speaking trips and driving my daughter to visit friends for American Thanksgiving, but I’ve found some time to actually write a new post today. Two people have sent me similar questions about how to interact with your husband’s ex, and I thought I’d try to look at it from different perspectives.
It recently came to my knowledge that my mother-in-law and sister-in-law they are still friends with my husbands ex… Now he and I were both in long serious relationship (5 years) wih our exes before we met, so I know they were in each others lives a long time, just like my ex, but I feel so hurt and completely disrespected that they choose to remain friends with her on their Facebook. My husbands ex was horrible to him and did some long term damage to his self esteem which I am still helping him repair!! They claim that it is their life and they can be friends with who they want, and his mother is afraid of “hurting” her if she deletes her. I tried talking to my hubby about it and he says he has asked them before to delete her and they won’t. She messaged him the night before we got married, ( a year ago today!) and told him she was happy for him and I just think it’s sick that she still has her nasty tentacles in his life. It bothers me so much knowing she likes and comments on pictures of his family!! I blocked her but there is not much more I can do! Tried to have hubby talk to his family again but they are sooo stubborn about it!!
Okay, I can understand being upset about this, but I think we need to be careful before over-reacting in some situations. I’ve had divorces in my extended family and I did not cut out that person from my life. Now in our case kids were involved, but I also thought of these women as my sisters for quite a few years, and it is hard to just write a person off because of divorce papers. So I do have some sympathy for the mother-in-law and sister-in-law here.
So here’s what I would say:
1. Your husband has done nothing wrong. He hasn’t spoken to the ex-girlfriend or encouraged that relationship.
So please don’t take it out on him! He can’t control what his ex-girlfriend does. But your husband chose you. The more you make this into an issue, the more you make things uncomfortable for him. What does it matter if she likes family pictures? Your husband is out of her life and firmly into yours, and isn’t associating with her, so she poses no threat to him. The only potential threat is that you get upset and you take that out on him or his family. Try to let it go.
Now, if your husband were pursuing a relationship with his ex or still texting his ex-girlfriend or ex-wife, that would be a different story. But here he has cut off the relationship and he has put himself in your camp. If you take out your anger towards her onto him, you will push him away and treat him very unfairly. You also show that you don’t trust him–whereas he hasn’t given you any reason to think that you shouldn’t, as far as this letter shows.
2. You can talk to your in-laws about it, but ultimately it is their decision.
This ex-girlfriend was in their lives for a long time–5 years. That means that your in-laws have a relationship with her, even if she wasn’t nice to your husband. That is their choice. I still have my former sister-in-law on Facebook. She was close to my girls when she was their aunt, and I always got along with her well. But I don’t socialize with her. I have my brother-in-law and his new girlfriend over, not my former sister-in-law. But she’s still part of my social circle, and I want to watch her kids grow up.
The fact that I still talk to my former sister-in-law or like her pictures on Facebook does not mean that I have chosen her over my brother-in-law’s new girlfriend. It just means that I’m still interested in her life–in the same way that I’m interested in lots of people’s lives that I’ve known over the years. But she’s not the one at the table at Christmas dinner–the new girlfriend is, and that’s absolutely fine with me, and I hope I’ve made that clear to them.
It’s only a big deal if you make it a big deal.
3. I think you need to ask yourself, “why does this bother me?”
Your husband isn’t interested in her anymore and doesn’t continue a relationship with her. Your in-laws accept you and haven’t chosen her over you; they just still have some contact.
Of course, if there is something going on with her and your husband, then you’d have to do something about it. But the more you waste emotional energy over a woman who doesn’t matter anymore to either of your lives, the more you waste emotional energy that you could spend just loving on your husband.
Sorry if that sounds harsh, but I really think you need to let this one go!
That was Letter #1. Now here’s Letter #2:
My husband and I are married for 3 years now. Before our marriage my husband knew this girl for almost 5 years. They studied in the same college and they were close friends with some flirting. Everybody in their college knew about their flirting or what ever it is they had. They did not date each other though. They thought of getting married but it did not work out . His ex is also married now. My husband was not in touch with her after our marriage. Now my husband gets a good job in the same area where his ex works and we live in the same area where his ex lives. I am just worried about my husband and his ex running into each other, talking and getting invited to some dinner/ parties. How do I mingle and talk to her? Should I talk to my husband about how I feel or just leave it. I do. trust my husband. It’s just that I don’t want myself or my husband to have any connection with his ex nor do I want to hear about their college stories or get invited to any dinners/ parties of his college friends. What should we do?
I asked this question on my Facebook Page yesterday, and I’ll just highlight some of the great answers.
A number of readers reminded her to be gracious above all.
I know you would prefer to have different social circles and to not listen to stories of their past, however, sometimes you have to grin and bear it because it is the right thing to do. Every time I have to deal with my step-daughter’s mother, I have to remind myself to take the high road because mine is the face that she judges Jesus with. If I am not kind and gracious, she will be poisoned to the idea of ever coming to Christ. And I know it REALLY sucks. A LOT. I have asked my husband to establish some very clear boundaries with her – as in, he knows where the line is even if she doesn’t. I have had to listen to her tell a group of people that she still loved my husband. How do you cope with that? You are kind, gracious and blow off steam later. Christians are held to a higher standard, and even though it’s not fair, we deal with it. I’m not saying for you to be a doormat, but you can be courteous for 5 minutes if needed. Hope this helps!
My best advice is to be gracious always. Always. It will put you (eventually) in a more peaceful place when you do encounter them and any “dirt” that gets stirred up will not gain traction. You have a lot more control in this situation than you realize. Always be the bigger person. It’s sometimes not easy, but it gets easier with time and it is so worth it! You can do this!!
Be classy and and don’t say anything to anyone that will cause a story to rise. Satan is already at work to keep breaking up families / marriages
I like all that advice! I’d also say that you can likely choose to have different social circles usually, and if you do run into her occasionally, that’s okay. Just take the high road.
The main thing here to remember is that YOUR HUSBAND CHOSE YOU.
His past is in his past–unless you choose to bring it into the present. If someone else tells a story about your husband when he was younger, that does not have to reflect on your husband today, and it’s your choice what to do with it.
Again, if your husband is actually still interested in this woman or is doing something to show you that he isn’t over her, that’s an entirely different story. But I think what often happens to us is that we become suspicious of our husbands because we are insecure about our relationship now. The way to deal with that insecurity is not to try to grill your husband or punish your husband for his past so that he can reassure you about your present; that will usually backfire because you will push him away.
Instead, it’s to work at making your relationship the best it can be now. Do all the things that you know go into a good marriage. Work at loving your husband. If you are comfortable with him, and he is comfortable with you, what does it matter what happened earlier?
Our jealousy usually says more about our relationship today than it does about our husband’s relationship then.
Again–that is not always the case, and if you see your husband flirting or encouraging an inappropriate relationship then you must take action. But let the past go and live your life in the present. That’s better for your marriage, and will make you much more fulfilled in your marriage.