How to Effectively Handle His Relationship With His Ex-Wife

Hi Karen,

My boyfriend is almost divorced, and it’s been a wild ride (although quieter lately).  She called him last night (he did not answer – she left a voicemail), wanting to talk with him because she had a few questions about her car.  

Why is she still calling him for things she can figure out on her own?  I don’t know what to do anymore.  He won’t block her from his phone because of their daughter (not biologically).  He took care of her since she was a baby, and she’s about to graduate from high school.  I don’t know if I should run or stay.  Help!!!  – Jan, OH

Hi, Jan,

Ah, yes.  This is a toughie.  Hopefully you’ll get a few answers here.

My answer is based on you having done the work to choose the right man for you.  Secondly, that you want to continue to develop this relationship towards marriage.

His “Ex” Doesn’t Feel “Ex” Enough

The situation you shared, where your man is still connecting with his ex-wife in a way that feels a bit “off” to you, is delicate.  You may feel really upset about it, but you will be more effective at getting him to look at what might be fueling his behavior if you are not judging him for it, or taking it personally.

It’s ALWAYS best to have him feel that you’re on his side.

So, no matter how tempted you are to point out to him how inappropriate, insensitive, unproductive, frustrating, stupid, or whatever else you think his actions are, you MUST curb your urges until you know that you are being effective at being a loyal and supportive partner to him.

Once you know you’re in a great place with him, you can ask him how he feels about what the ex is doing, or what he sees long-term, or what he’d like to see happen.  You just can’t have a hidden agenda that you’re trying to manipulate him into doing something to make you more comfortable (even though it’s understandable that you may want to!).

Great Men Make Great Fathers

The most important piece of information about the situation is the fact that they have a child together.  It’s been my experience, time and time again, that when men feel that their relationship with their kids is controlled by their ex (and really, when is it NOT?), and that relationship could be threatened in any way, they will do ANYTHING to stay in the good graces of the woman holding the strings.

And don’t for one second believe that men enjoy this.  What man is going to like being hamstrung like that; having no control over such an important part of who they are?

Men’s feelings about their children are very deep and profound, and few of them show it in a way that women recognize as love and devotion.  You’d be smart to acknowledge his love for, and amazing commitment to, his girl.

Choose to see that he’s being a Rock of Gibraltar, continuing to relate to his ex in a way that supports his having access to his kid, no matter how he feels.

How would it be to be in awe of his self-control and mastery, and to have huge respect for him?

High Self-Esteem is Key

In order for you to be successful in a relationship with a man that’s divorced with kids, you must be able to manage your self-esteem so that it doesn’t end up “driving the bus”, as I like to call it.

You know when that jealous, possessive, angry, competitive, judgmental, or controlling part of you takes over?  That’s when your ego has snuck in and taken over.

It takes an ability to hold yourself in very high regard, to trust that you are the woman he loves (and wants to be with), and to be okay with not feeling like his number one priority in the moment, when you choose a man that had kids with another woman.  Unless those kids are much older, you are most likely going to have to deal with your man having strong feelings (anger, hate, fear) for/about this other woman.

Your man having strong emotion about another woman is likely to trigger your insecurity.  Don’t let it get too far.

Is He Really Over Her?

In some cases (hopefully not yours), the man you love still has feelings for his ex.

If he loved her deeply, and she was the one who left, it could take him a while to be ready to move on completely.

He may even have a bit of a desire to keep the connection going so that he can ultimately get vindication…some type of fantasy where she finally sees the error of her ways, and wants him back.

At this point he gets to say “Sorry, but I’m in love with someone else – too late!”

If in your heart you feel this is the case with your man, you may need to do some work together to find out where he is emotionally.  And, if you feel that he can’t give you what you really want, you may need to move on.

Be careful here, though – don’t be too quick to decide this is the situation you’re in.  I’d recommend that you do a very thorough inventory of your stuff first.  Is he reflecting your own lack of availability, commitment, and/or love to the relationship?

Before you leave a good relationship, make sure you’re clear about what’s really going on.

In Conclusion

Men have very deep feelings for their children, and often have a tough situation on their hands when their relationship with their kids is controlled by their ex.  It will take your consistent high self-esteem to handle the situation in a way that keeps you and your man connected – and on the same side of the fence.

Remember, the kids will get old enough – some day – that the ex will not be part of the picture.  If you’ve stuck by his side, and helped him navigate the tricky road he’s on, you’ll have his devotion and gratitude.  Probably his kids will feel the same way about you, too.