April 18, 2011,
S.P. asks from Seattle, WA on March 31, 2009
Husband Is Friends W/ Ex-girlfriend
Hi Mamas – I really need your advice because this situation is making me crazy. My husband’s high school sweetheart moved into the area recently. She got in touch with him after 10 plus years. She’s “special” to the family - there’s pictures of her in family albums and my mother-in-law was very excited when she moved to the area. She’s apparently happily married with a boatload of kids, so I’m not worried that she’s after my husband.
However, I’m irritated that she’s having so much communication with my husband and in-laws. They email each other and instant message each other. My husband isn’t totally open about his interactions with her because he knows it irritates me. We had an argument when I saw an email he sent her before she moved to the area. It wasn’t really inappropriate, but referred to when they were dating which made me mad. He deletes messages from her so I won't see them and get upset.
I can’t ask my husband to cut off communication with her – they're friends and he doesn't have many. She’s in touch with my inlaws anyway, so she’s always in the background. I’ve never met her and have no desire to. She’s never asked to meet me, which I find odd, as she seems so interested in every other aspect of my husband’s life.
I want to snap out of this and be mature (not feel like a 13 year old!), but am not being very successful. Help!
M.P. answers from Portland on March 31, 2009
Geez S., you are making assumptions based on your feelings. You don't know that she hasn't asked to meet you. You only know that your husband has not told you if she's asked.
You don't want to meet her even tho she is a friend of your husband and in-laws?
You don't even know her or her family. Why haven't you asked to meet them? This relationship seems to be having a major impact on your life even tho you know very little about both the relationship and the people involved.
We always fear most that which we don't know.
You can make this a family relationship by arranging for both families to get together. After you get to know her and her family you will have information that will help you decide how involved you want to be. This knowledge may or may not change your feelings about your husband and in-laws friendship with the woman. IT will give you information on which to base your decision. Men understand facts better than emotions.
I understand why he deletes her messages. He doesn't want to upset you. He might be more open if mentioning his friend didn't upset you. Your unwillingness to be a part of the relationship is dangerous for your own relationship with your husband. He most likely finds your attitude and non-acceptance of even getting to know her as jealousy when you may have no reason to be jealous. He may not know how to deal with your jealousy and anger. This could result in him withdrawing from you as he's withdrawn the e-mail. Who wants to be around anger and jealousy? When you were a teen didn't you not tell your parents about things that you knew were OK because your parents would be unhappy about them? Adults do the same thing. Keeping information about this friend from you could indicate that this relationship with her is inappropriate. But at this point in time it more likely indicates that he doesn't want to upset you. With the need to withhold important information may cause you both to begin fighting over this friend. You won't know if the difficulty in this marriage is caused by his outside relationship or because of your refusal to be a part of that relationship.
GET TO KNOW HER AND HER FAMILY. Have both husbands, both wives, and all kids get together. Or start with part of each family. I do suggest that the first meeting be within a group setting. Then you can decide if it would be possible for the families to socialize together. You will have clues as to her family's dynamics. You'll be better able to judge if she is a threat to your marriage.
For one partner to have a relationship with their ex outside of their relationship with ther current partner is dangerous. It is also unfair for you to try to end that relationship without knowing what that relationship actually is. If you do try to end the relationship it would be understandable if your rancor drove him away from you also. You would be controlling his life instead of being a part of his life. The two of you need to make a decision about this together.
You love your husband and he loves you. He chose this woman as his friend. It's quite possible that you would also like her if you gave her a chance. You both enjoy his company. I suggest that the 3 of you have similarities which encourage friendship.
Whatever happens after the two families get to know each other may result in either family not wanting to socialize. If you continue to feel that their relationship is inappropriate you'll then have actual information with which to discuss the situation. You will be better able to deal with reality base on experience instead of just your feelings.
Marriage should be based on trust. Your post sounds like you don't trust your husband. You may be right to not trust him but you will not know that you're right if you don't find more information.
As a police officer I rode often with male partners. One's whose marriages were solid arranged for me to meet their wives early in our assignment together. A part of a successful marriage is being open about your activities, friendships, and feelings. YOu've cut off communication with your husband regarding his friendship. If you don't re-establish communication you'll not be able to actually know what is happening. And you will continue to be upset which will also undermine your marriage.
I have had several men friends that were just that; men and friends. It is possible for friendship to happen between the opposite sex. We hear more about the affairs. In reality there are more friendships than unfaithfulness.
There is a quote that has helped me be more positive in my life. "We usually get what we're expecting." This is because we give energy to what we focus on. We spend time expecting the worst instead of looking for the best. We build on either expectation. Negative begets negative. Positive begets positive.
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C.H. answers from Portland on April 01, 2009
Holy Cow girlfriend this is an EX girlfriend who was a part of your husbands life BEFORE you. I am unable to understand how anyone can be upset by their spouse or significant other for having had relationships before them and doubly unable to understand why it's always perceived as such a threat when the EX is still a part of the spouse or significant others life.
First of all family is more than blood and it sounds to me as if your hubby's ex was a big part of his family. It also sounds to me like even though the relationship between your husband and this woman didn't work out that she's a big enough and a good enough person to still maintain a relationship with the family and for them to want to keep a relationship with her. Personally I think that speaks volumes about the excellent quality of character and maturity of your husband, his family and his ex has to be able to get past a failed relationship and build a new relationship.
You say you aren't worried about her wanting your husband. Well then what is it that upsets you so much about the relationship? He's with YOU, he obviously chooses to be with YOU, he is choosing YOU and that is really all that anyone can ever ask of their partner in life. The past is over and done with...it can't be changed...you can't undo the fact that your husband and this woman had a relationship and you have absolutely no right to ask your husband to cut a friend out of his life just because she was once more than a friend before you came along.
Trust me on this one. This is a fight you will never win. Being jealous doesn't make the person we are jealous of guilty of cheating or even of wanting to cheat. The more you try to get your husband to stop communicating with her the more he is going to ask himself if being with you is the best choice for him. Nobody likes to be accused of things they aren't doing. Also nobody likes being with someone who is so insecure that they believe that they should control who the other person has as friends. Continuing to be upset with this is the fastest way for what you are fearing might happen to happen. As far as his hiding his communications with her from you it's obvious that he is trying to spare your feelings. It's unfortunate that his choice was to 'sneak' behind your back to avoid upsetting you but it is YOU who has created the environment that he feels he needs to hide things from you. The less upset about this you appear to him the less he will fell he needs to hide from you. If it were me I'd much rather know that his relationship with his ex is out in the open for all to see than to find out he is going behind my back. This I'm afraid is ALL up to you and how you decide to feel about this and handle this from now on.
If I were you I'd act as if this EX was nothing more than a family friend and then I would treat her as such. When we change our perspective about things things ALWAYS change so why not make a conscious choice to view her differently than as an EX who is upsetting you by having a friendship with your husband. My husband speaks to his EX all the time...she married his oldest brother after they divorced...she is a part of the family. I have ALWAYS made a great effort not to see her as his ex-wife but to see her as my sister-in-law. She's not the nicest person on the planet so at times it's a bit difficult but I always knew if I was going to have a successful relationship with my husband I would have to figure out a way to accept her as a sister-in-law as well as someone who my husband communicates with on a regular basis (they have a child together). I don't mean to toot my own horn but I am very proud of the fact that I have NEVER given my husband the impression that his having a relationship with his ex is a problem for me whatsoever. Because of that there hasn't ever been a problem between he and I about it AND your relationship with your husband is the one you need to focus on the most. If you continue to be upset about this and tell him it will only drive a wedge between the two of you and you will have created the whole unpleasant situation...all by yourself.
Get a new outlook on this and you'll see what a difference it makes. Who knows...maybe this person is someone who you would benefit from having as a friend. Who knows...she one day could end up to be your best friend and someone you value in your life very much. But you'll never know if you continue to choose to be upset with this person being a part of your husbands life.
In closing I just want to share that I have figured out in life that it's not WHAT happens to us that matters but what really matters is how we choose to view it, react to it and to learn from it. Overcoming YOUR feelings about this apparently innocent relationship could be the crowning achievment in your entire life. I can guarantee you that if you learn to be okay with this your husband will love and respect you even more than he already does.
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M.B. answers from Seattle on March 31, 2009
I agree with Judy. This resurfaced interloper needs to accept all aspects of your husband's current life or none of it. You don't have to meet her, but your hubby should tell her about you and that you and your kids are the focus of his life now.
If this happened to me I'd be suspicious as h*ll as to the motives of those involved. Definitely say something to the in-laws about how uncomfortable the whole thing makes you feel.
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J.W. answers from Seattle on April 01, 2009
You're not going to like this response, but get over it. He's married to you. He adores you and is so aware of your feelings. She was a girl friend. I'm still friends with all of my ex-boyfriends. I don't have that many, but I see them occasionally. One who I dated for a significantly long time, is the godfather of my first born. His parents and I exchange Christmas cards and letters and I wrote the liturgy for his little sister's wedding. His friends, all of them, made him the man, the husband he is today. Friendships, true friendships, are rare. They withstand the test of time. Invite her and family over for dinner, make them, all of them, friends. Get to know her and her husband. You may be surprised to find that you like her as much as your husband does. Granted you won't have the history, but she is a family friend. It frustrates me to no end that ex-girlfriends (or boyfriends) are expected to cut all ties to the collateral friends they make as the result of that relationship, especially when it was a mutual decision to not get married, to just be friends. If she hadn't dated your husband before would you be so jealous? If this was a woman who he became friends with at work would it bother you? Do you interact with male co-horts at work? Would you consider them workplace friends? Is your husband jealous of them? Probably not. This is a part of his past, key word here: past. Good times, great friend... not only for him but his parents as well. Another key word: wife. You're it, you got the prize. Enjoy his friends, they helped him become the guy you fell and are in love with, the father of your kids.
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K.K. answers from Seattle on April 01, 2009
Best way to reduce the conflict - become friends with her! She is obviously a wonderful person since your husband and his family want her in their lives, so why not make her part of yours? Awkward at first, but an opportunity for you.
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K.B. answers from Seattle on April 01, 2009
Trust is the bottom line here. If your husband is hiding his communications with the ex-girlfriend from you, regardless of whether the interactions themselves are inappropriate, he is breaking down the barrier of trust in your relationship and you have reason for concern. I would talk to him about the situation in those terms.
That said, I would definitely ask your husband to set up a time for your families to meet, despite your lack of desire to do so. Perhaps getting to know her will put things in perspective. I have a slightly different situation with my husband and his high school girlfriend. I met my husband at 19, and heard a lot about his ex at the time, as his relationship with her had been very intense and affected him greatly. It didn't make it easy for me that she was very good-looking, "popular" in school, and my future in-laws had a very fond place in their hearts for her as well. However, I'm not a jealous person by nature, and since I had a very strong bond of trust with my future husband from the get-go, and we had quickly become very close friends before becoming intimate (he pursued me; I initially wasn't interested), I put any insecure feelings aside and agreed to get to know her, and was really glad I did. Sometimes the unknown or imagined is far worse than the reality. At the time, she had been dating a childhood friend, whom she married soon after. My husband and I became friends with both of them, and socialized with them semi-regularly, and attended their wedding (along with my now-in-laws). Meeting her went a long way toward easing any insecure/jealous feelings I might have harbored. She's a nice enough person (although we seem to have very little in common), but honestly, she doesn't seem to be a very content person, as if she's continually searching for something she can't quite attain. She eventually divorced her ex-husband (she needed to "find herself"), and seemed to later strongly regret it. Then she had a lengthy relationship with a very wealthy entrepreneur that didn't work out (though he bought her an expensive home, hers to keep). And now she is remarried (we attended wedding number two). In between these relationships, and during periods of difficulty, she would start calling my husband and they would talk frequently (at least once a day for these spells). I told my husband that although I trusted him, I also worried about him, as she only seemed to be interested in maintaining their friendship during times she was unhappy or in distress, or didn't have a man in her life. It bothered my that she wanted him to be an emotional stand-in for whatever guy (or lack thereof) was in her life at the time. I don't think she has a lot of close friends. My husband is a very caring guy, and he's also one of those perhaps somewhat rare guys that will talk to a friend at length about their problems, just to lend an ear, or try to help find a solution. He is a very loyal friend, and a very supportive and caring listener. To make a long story short, he ended up agreeing with me in the end that she wasn't a very good friend (but I made sure to give him the space to draw his own conclusion after mentioning my own feelings), and at this point, when I even suggest sending a Christmas card to her and her husband now, or ask if he wants to visit them when we're in town (which he used to want to do) he doesn't seem particularly interested.
Anyway, long story, but I'd focus on the trust issue. Let your husband know you've always been a trusting person and want to believe you can trust him when it comes to her. But he's currently giving you reason to doubt that trust by keeping his communications with her a secret. That is a line he's crossing and it's not one that should be crossed in a healthy relationship. That's why you're feeling thirteen -- not because you're inherently immature, insecure or jealous. You don't want to issue ultimatums or back him into a corner, but you do need to make it clear that his secretiveness in inappropriate. Think about counseling if you're not making any headway without it. Just about any relationship can benefit from a few sessions with a good counselor.
As for the in-laws, I'd probably let that be, or have your husband talk to them about your feelings if he comes around in his thinking.
Good luck to you!
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E.L. answers from Seattle on April 01, 2009
It sounds like you have a great opportunity to make a lifelong friend.
My husband's best friend from about age 4 is a female. He was in love with her in HS and a bit heartbroken when she married, but now all four of us are good friends. Whenever we're all together he calls her by my name (except last time it didn't happen.)
Invite them for bbq's, have her over for a Girls Night. Make the most of it. Your husband will love you for it.
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P.M. answers from Portland on March 31, 2009
Your reaction to your husband's friendship with his ex may or may not be reasonable, depending on how much you trust him.
If I were the ex-girlfriend, and I was informed that the wife became angry or upset when my name was raised, I would not wish to meet her. Why would I deliberately bring anxiety into her life, or have to experience her suspicion or dislike of me? I'll bet this woman may well be curious about you, and perhaps would welcome your friendship if it were available, but is too tactful to push the issue. It sounds like you have made your attitude toward her pretty clear.
For balance, you might want to consider a similar situation with a few details rearranged: I have a couple of ex-boyfriends whom I would be delighted to see again if they moved anywhere near me, because we were very close and I do still think of them as friends. I am quite sure my trusting husb would have no objection, and would in fact be curious about meeting them. And I feel the same about him with his ex-girlfriends. He chose me as his life partner, and his dedication has been clear and constant for 28 years.
Assuming you can and do trust your husband, could it be the ex-girlfriend's "specialness" to your in-laws that's really eating you? If it were me, I'd be really cautious about interfering with other people's friendships, especially your in-laws'. You could give everyone the idea that you are insecure, controlling, or worse.
Try to picture the positive effects of celebrating and supporting your husband's friendships. If you can pull this off with maturity and grace, you could really shine in his eyes. You could also win the admiration of your in-laws, and grow in your "specialness" to them.
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