Boyfriend's Ex-wife Visits and Brings Him Gifts - How Do I Stop It?
anonymous Asks ...
I am really having a problem with my boyfriend and I am unsure about whether or not I should continue this relationship. We have been dating for just over a year and I have recently moved in with him. This is a bit quick but I love him and it made an enormous amount of financial sense for us to do this given where we live and work. Anyway, I would say that we are on the marriage track. He was previously married and has a child from his first marriage, a boy who is 4. He divorced 2.5 years ago. The issue is ever since we moved in together his ex wife keeps trying to wedge herself into our relationship. She brings gifts over all the time and ‘just drops by for coffee’ when she is in the neighborhood and when she knows I will not be there. It is clear to me that she is trying to mess up our relationship if not trying to get back together with her ex. My boyfriend says I am overreacting and that he needs to maintain friendly relations for the sake of his son. I can understand this but this is something more. I feel that this situation is intolerable and he does not validate my concerns. If I press too hard it always seems as though I am trying to wreck his relationship as a father. I am at a loss. This is going to destroy our relationship and I don’t know how to stop it.
Debbra McCaffrey Bronstad Says ...
You mention that this “situation is intolerable.” I hear in your statements that you are aware that something needs to change and I agree with you. How much are you willing to put up with? Your question really has to do with permission to set boundaries in your relationship, and for yourself, about what you are willing to allow in your life. Yes, you have a choice whether to stay in a relationship that you say will be destroyed by these issues.
You are right to be concerned about your boyfriend’s behavior with his ex-wife. First of all, the two have a child together. That means that she will be somehow involved in his life for another 14 years, minimally. Can you live with that? The second concern is his lack of respect for your feelings about her visits and gifts. He may not be ready to admit that he enjoys her attention. Emotional bonds of their previous relationship are not necessarily broken by a divorce decree. Often times it is easier to relate to a former spouse when no longer living with her and the stresses of daily living.
I recommend that you decide what you can tolerate and what you can’t. Share your concerns with you boyfriend. He will need to be responsible for establishing a relationship with his ex-wife that does not dishonor you. A couples counselor can help you discuss these issues in a respectful way with each other to help you both hear one another’s needs.
In the meantime, what resources do you need to develop such as savings or social support so that you have other options for housing, should you choose to move on? The current arrangement may make sense for financial reasons, but you need to make sure it makes sense for your heart too.