When The Ex-Wife Is Totally, Always Around…

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The Question:

Hi Rori, I would love your insight please as I really appreciate your work and clarity. I am really struggling with some worth and self love here and fear I have tolerated past my comfort zone and its affecting my insecurities and life. It all just kind of snuck up on me so I’m leaning back and taking a closer look at it all before I make any decesions.

I am having challenges in my current partnership and the ex wife.

I’m an empowered conscious woman living in a tight eco community with my teenage daughter. I met a man here who is 4 years divorced with also a 14 year old son, the challenge is that the ex-wife lives a few doors down.

My current partner decided to stay in the community to help co-parent their son post their divorce which is lovely because parenting is important and keeping the kids priority.

The problem is that he is living in his ex-wives parents house down the street from her as they only visit briefly in the year, and maintains a great relationship with them while maintaining their property.

They all have a number of dinners together and try to invite the new partners but it really feels awkward and like no one wants to acknowledge that there has been a divorce.

I was friends with them both first before him and I started dated and getting serious. Now, the closer I get to him the more I realize how entangled they still are.

They traveled back to another country together over Christmas, they do medical visits together and border runs, recently he is launching a new business in the area here and hired her to do all the branding, design work, renovations and furniture design. They go shopping together to the city for 10 hours once a week until the project finishes to furnish the new accommodations he is working on.

They chat daily about kid and business and at this point I need to trust but I feel like they probably touch on our relationship as well. They have no set schedule for co-parenting but the son goes between the house at random.

There has been times when she just unacceptably drops by without warning and they have spoken about our relationship hence keeping the intimacy between them, she has a boyfriend living with her and I honestly don’t think that they are cheating or having a sexual relationship it just feels like in many ways they have not separated emotionally from their marriage.

I feel like a second priority and third wheel a lot. I started to become more aware of the dynamic I got myself involved in a few months ago after they got back from their family holiday visit and told him that I feel uncomfortable with the relationship he has with the ex-wife.

I said that it’s important to me that there are some healthy boundaries in place like she cannot drop by randomly, or discuss our intimate relationship together, or run to her for life problem advice instead of me, and for him to tell me what day they are working together.

He has honoured my request and communicated the boundaries to her and I feel like he is making an effort but it all still feels twisted and I don’t know if it will ever feel like enough.

Since he has done that she has stoped being my friend, projected a bunch of negativity at me, I feel like she is playing manipulative games and saying she wants to meet me to to talk and then bailing on me twice.

I have leaned back and I am really starting to ask myself if I want to be in this unhealthy dynamic. She is an alcoholic and I pointed out to him that he acts very co-dependent with her and that I feel like she is a third in our relationship.

He says he loves me and wants to build a life with me and wants me as a partner but the way he is behaving feels like she is still very much a huge priority in his life and I end up feeling like a second fiddle and more like a girlfriend to offer emotional support and provide sex, not a true partnership which is what I feel he has with his ex wife still.

I feel like he is trying to make an effort but still very much protects her feelings and gets defensive when I bring up challenges around this topic when things get intense.

Most recently his son’s birthday is coming up and they are ball getting together. He invited me and I said I would love to come but that it may feel awkward because of how she has been treating me lately, so instead of siding with me and having compassion he said well I need to protect my sons birthday so maybe you can sit this one out…ouch.

I know deep down he wants to move on and he probably feels stuck and wants the harmony between everyone, although I’m not sure how much more I can take. It feels really integrated and complicated and tangled and I’m wondering how I found myself signed up for this dynamic and why it’s challenging for me to put myself first.

I’m scared I am going to loose a great man but in the process that I am loosing myself. I have come to the realization that obviously I cannot change people and that ultimately I either accept this dynamic and feel secondary (which is hard for me to do as a feminine alpha and feel like I would be denying myself the possibility of stepping into my divine feminine because I am constantly over shadowed by another woman) or I have to choose myself fully and let this go as its been a year and things feel like they are not really changing but intensifying seeing as now they took on this project together.

I also have a friendship with my daughters father so I get the importance of having a good friendship for the kids sake but he lives in another country and we have healthy boundaries, he has his life and I have mine.

This situation feels different because we all live so close and the ex-wife spills over daily into our lives and it feels like she is constantly everywhere I look in every aspect of his life on top of me and he’s seems to be ok with it because he doesn’t want to rock the boat which makes me resent him for being a spineless man and standing up for himself and his life.

She can be quite manipulative and deep down I feel like she enjoys having that power over him. This feels like a messy high school drama of two woman competing for his attention and I hate it because I am not about that.

It seems like the ex-wife is having a hard time releasing some of the roles that she had the privilege of having being married and he’s allowing it to happen hence putting us in this award dynamic and not really having the space to move forward in our lives in a healthy way?

I don’t think it’s even conscious between them but some old unconscious pattern and I seem to see it clearly. I can feel that he loves me and I love many different aspects of our relationship like feeling like a family in many ways with our children and doing things together but it honestly feels like too much with the other woman.

Lately even though I speak with him from my feeling centre and use your tools it still feels like he can’t handle my emotions and ends up arguing or getting defensive or making me feel wrong for having feelings.

Lately it’s all about him and his work and life, we tried to have a financial conversation the other day about what our future looks like as in my opinion that’s what partners do and that too turned into a fight with him saying it’s non of my business. Ouch again.

He tells me he wants a partnership but his actions say different so it’s all very confusing. He isn’t friends with any other females in his life except for his mother and Ex-wife and I know he is committed to me exclusively and sexually but its the emotional attachment to his first wife that is really not feeling good for me. On some level this feels like I have normalized what is happening but deep down I know its not making me happy.

Can you please help me make some sense. I really appreciate your time and input and any direction you may offer, I feel stuck and asking myself if this is the ideal relationship that I want and deserve in my life.

I don’t want to settle, I want to find the courage and tools to seek the answer within, but I need some guidance.”

My Answer:

Hi, so sorry you have to go through this, and I’ve been in this kind of situation at least twice.

With my first husband, who had so many great friends who were ALL his “exes” – and then a boyfriend after my divorce (who’s ex was also a part of our Theater community, so I knew her.)

This ex of the boyfriend just came and went, called for help from him and got it whenever she wanted it, and literally treated my boyfriend as if he was her best friend.

It was easy to blame her – but, really, my boyfriend was clearly still way hung up on her and was happy for the connection.

Not only that – this boyfriend story is hugely helpful to so many of my readers because he never, ever said he was my ‘boyfriend”.

He’s always said we were “friends”. Period.

And so, he was honest from the get-go, and finally taking full responsibility for hanging onto him was a huge turning point for me.

I made sure my current wonderful husband of 30+ years understood from the very beginning that I would not be interested in a man who had “friendships” with other women.

Everything changes, though, when there are children involved.

Generally, in a co-parenting situation, there are very fuzzy “rules” – if any.

Exes who are not in relationships are often clingy, and hang around, pulling on the relationship strings, making the most of the good parts of the connection without any of the responsibilities.

The thing is, no matter how much he loves you, no matter how he actually, really feels about this “ex”, he sounds like a good father who would absolutely not ever do anything that would upset his ex – for the sake of his child.

He needs a woman who “understands” this and is okay with it.

That would not be you, and it would not be me.

You don’t want that kind of entanglement.  That kind of “threesome”.

Yet, that’s what he needs, and he’s immobilized by the push pull of the two of you.

He can’t functionally come to your rescue.

It’s a bit like any kind of family a man has.

There’s no way most any man would be able to handle issues between his mother and his woman, or his sister and his woman – which is why they hardly ever step in.

It takes sophisticated communication to be able to handle stuff like that.

Now – you can learn how to do that if you wish.

You can let as much “go” as you can, and then make “requests” of him that are very, very specific – not “global” and that require his understanding things and coming up with his own solutions.

We’re talking specifics: “Today, I’d like to have you all to myself, and I feel worried that she will come over.  I would like her not to come in.  How would you like to handle that? Is there a way we can do that? Make today a non-visit day?”

And yet – from everything you say, I don’t see how that would be enough for you.

These two are deeply connected – more than just through their son.

They do business together, work together, co-parent together – totally best buds.

I do not see any reason for them to ever stop doing what they’re doing (it’s sort of what I call “staying in the band…” where exes continue to literally “live and work together”).

To me, this is a forever relationship. It’s not going to ever go away. Yes, it could, but I wouldn’t count on it.  It is the way it is. Period.

And I could not stand that in any way.

I could not tolerate my man spending major time with ANY other woman, under ANY circumstances.

That’s me.

You seem actually a lot more easy-going than I am!

I am all about this: If you are not feeling good with a man, and say so, and you still cannot find a solution that feels good, run. I literally mean; run.

Get out. Go away.

Start Circular Dating, end the relationship – and if you like – YOU can create a supportive “friendship” with him!

Things change over time.

The 14 year-old will become an adult, perhaps even move away, and there will be no more need for a relationship with the ex.

However, that is a long time to “wait” and suffer.

Love, Rori

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