Dealing with a spouses ex

Spotted a funny page called “The underground guide to Shidduch dating“, but the main gist of this post is for – B”esras Hashem – my future wife. Ann Mazzaferro writes about how to deal with ones husbands (vindictive) ex. I have no doubt this applies to many or most women marrying a divorced guy. Married life can be complicated, and the negative energy inflicted on your relationship by a spouse’s vindictive ex can be exhausting. Ranging from constant demands for money in addition to child and spouse support, angry insults directed at you and your spouse, refusing to let your spouse see his children or actions that sabotage your plans and relationships. Dealing with a spouse’s vindictive ex requires more diplomacy than a United Nations summit, the patience of a saint and the firm belief that your new marriage is worth fighting for.

She offers the following advice:

Provide your spouse with unconditional love and make your home a safe harbor for you and your family. Regardless of how vindictive and toxic your spouse’s ex becomes, set aside one hour of the day where you don’t discuss the newest spate of insults and demands. If at first it feels impossible to set aside these troubles for an hour, start with smaller increments of time and build slowly to your one-hour goal. Spend the time focusing on your relationship with each other–take a walk, go out to dinner, see a movie, invite friends over for cocktails or play a game with your kids. Focus on building a strong, healthy relationship with your spouse and family that exists outside of his ex’s toxicity.

Support your spouse in making the difficult decisions necessary to dealing with his ex. Being supportive does not mean passively accepting everything that he or she heaps upon your family; empower your spouse to seek corrective action and stand by him or her. If your spouse’s ex is sending angry, hateful letters and calling you to spew vicious insults, have your spouse contact his or her lawyer and request that all communications from his spouse be conducted in writing through their respective lawyers. File a restraining order if the ex is showing up at your home or workplace, and keep a written record of her insults, threats and actions. Know your legal rights, and encourage your spouse to act in your shared best interests.

Seek marriage and family counseling to help both you and your spouse cope with the behavior of a vindictive ex. All of the negative energy expelled could prove to be an enormous drain on your relationship, and working with a counselor can help you process your own anger and frustration. It may be that your spouse never learned how to appropriately address conflict or set boundaries, which could severely hinder his ability to cope with a vindictive ex-spouse. A marriage counselor or therapist can help your spouse build these skills, which will help him deal with a vindictive ex and creates a strong foundation for dealing with your own future couple conflicts.

Know when to keep your opinions to yourself. It’s likely that your spouse is painfully aware of the cruel, bitter, mean, toxic and hateful qualities of his ex-spouse. Bad-mouthing his ex won’t make the ex’s behavior easier to handle and creates tension in your own relationship. If children are involved, refrain from speaking ill of the ex-spouse in front of them and never put the children in the middle of a conflict or make them choose sides. Speak with a pastor or marriage therapist or confide in a few close friends to privately release your own frustrations. Taking the high road can be difficult, but you will feel better about yourself and your behavior at the end of the day.

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