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Wife Struggles with Husband's Ex Who Shuns Boundaries
One reader is crestfallen over her husband’s inability to completely break it off with his ex wife.

It may feel like you're up against a wall, but you must keep the lines of communication open.

I have been married for a little more than a year. My husband and I are both in our 40s and have each been married previously. He has one daughter, age 26 and married and I have four children, ages 18, 16, 13 and 11. His ex-wife is involved in our lives via cell phone and they call and text almost daily. He states that it's mostly about past tax issues and their daughter, but I have explained at least five times that it bothers me because it's so private. It's never in front of me. I get the phone bill and just want to cry at the amount of time spent between them. He wanted the divorce and married her when their daughter was nine years old. His ex-wife claims she's still in love with him, but insists they can be friends. I disagree.

When I saw a text during a special weekend in New York City, I texted back to her asking that she please respect our weekend time. She replied, "What's between Danny and I is between us and if he didn't want me calling, he would tell me." So Challenging!

When I made my husband aware of it, he said he'd call her and work on decreasing her access to him. He hasn’t been effective and when I confronted him again last night, he didn't tell me the truth and I had to tell him I saw it on the phone account. I have little trust and won't even get started on how close my mother in law is with his ex-wife. She hasn't always been, but recently when my husband told his ex-wife things had to taper off—when we were in NYC—his ex-wife began calling his mother and now they text and call constantly. Please let me know what I should do!

Whew! This is as you say, "so challenging." Though your husband may have divorced his former wife, their relationship is certainly not over. While it’s true that when two people bear a child together it’s likely, should the marriage end, they’ll always have some connection to one another. The situation you describe is far more excessive than the norm. One could almost say that your spouse is having an emotional affair with his "ex."

It’s quite understandable that you appealed to her to ask that she respect your relationship. However, her response is accurate—if he didn’t want her to call, he’d let her know. The problem is due to your husband not setting an appropriate boundary.

The reason for this situation can only be hypothesized. It could be as simple as he’s not the kind of guy who confronts others. Or, it could be as hurtful as possibly having some unresolved feelings. The fact that he called her after the two of you fought makes me also wonder if she’s providing some form of caring he needs. There are numerous possibilities.

It’s very interesting that your mother-in-law is also speaking to her. She, like your spouse, is having difficulty setting a boundary. Perhaps confrontation was not something that your husband learned. But again, it’s up to your husband to tell his mother that she should not be communicating with his "ex."

No doubt, it feels awful that your husband is not being upfront with you. It’s hard to trust someone who you believe is lying to you. Experience has taught me that many times, individuals lie when they’re afraid to tell the truth, when they’re afraid of what the consequences or reaction on the part of their mate will be if they’re open and honest.

You have made an attempt to get his "ex" to stop her behavior, you have made efforts to reach out to your mother-in-law, and you have obviously brought your concerns to your husband’s attention. I’d suggest that you focus on speaking with your husband at greater length. The approach should be one of true concern… trying to understand why he still speaks at length to his former wife. When people feel attacked or sense that they’ve done something wrong, they naturally close down.

The main agenda right now is for you to keep the lines of communication open and understand what is going on for him. Once you do, you can move towards explaining your feelings and the two of you, together, can work on a plan to resolve this challenging situation.

Karen Sherman, Ph.D., (www.drkarensherman.com) is a practicing psychologist in relationships and lifestyle issues for over 20 years. She offers teleseminars and is the author of "Mindfulness and the Art of Choice: Transform Your Life" and co-author of "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, and Make it Last." You can sign up for her free monthly newsletter with relationship tips at www.ChoiceRelationships.com

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