Too Close to His Ex
Q: I have been married to my husband since 1999 and lived together for five years before that. The problem is his ex-wife. He is still loyal to her because of their kids. My husband wanted her to attend our every event. The kids are grown now, married with kids of their own, and yet my husband is still stuck in that same role. I always knew that she wanted him back, and there's one grown daughter that has a husband and kids but still insists on my husband taking her mom and her to the grocery store! They also get him to spend holidays with them, sports parties, etc. My husband tells me that I'm just jealous. He let me go on a family cruise without him, but I was the only wife without her husband! When things get planned for us, he starts making excuses, "I can't make it. I have to work to pay these bills for you and me to live." For 16 long years he tells me that he will always love her because she's the mother of his kids, but that he cares for her differently than he does me. So should I just be alone and wait for him to decide which wife he wants to be with? My mind races with the potential scenarios. -- Mary, 52
Dr. Susan: A racing mind is one sign of how anxious all this is making you. Your husband never made a complete separation from his first family. It's great that he's been an involved father all along, but it's certainly time now to put all this "competition" to rest. I can see no reason other than an emergency for your husband to take a grown married daughter and his ex-wife to the grocery store. Does he not see that this is weird, and hurtful to you? You might acknowledge to him that yes, you are jealous and have been all along, and that perhaps sometimes he wasn't doing anything wrong. But now you are feeling particularly neglected and lonely, and you want him to make your time together a larger priority. Be sure he is included in any planning for outings for the two of you, and keep such trips short enough that he can't use his work as an excuse. You have been patient, but it's time he put your mind at ease. I would suggest the two of you see a therapist for a short time to help you sort out what's really going on.
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Advice for Her
Advice for Him
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.