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Uncomfortably close with ex-wife

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  • #401870
    Sherry
    Participant

    Both of us are 60ish. I was married once for 24 years, 2 adult children, and have been divorce for 8-9 years. Him–married once for 10 years, 2 adult children, and he has been divorced for 20 or so years. We live a couple of states apart–but I am moving to his city soon (was planned before I met him, as my sister lives there). We had a unique story–met on a dating site during Covid, went on 6-7 dates, and just hit it off, lots in common, many of the same life interests. I met his kids, who live within 3 blocks of him, during that time (mine were in another state) During date 2, he mentioned that his ex-wife was his “best friend”.  When I inquired as to what that meant, he stated “that she would pick him up at the airport or take him to the hospital if need be”.  He took a call from her in the middle of our second date (asked if I minded, I said fine–her dog was sick, he was concerned about the prognosis), AND I wasn’t super invested at that point.  I was leaving soon on a solo pre-planned extended trip to Mexico,   We had hit it off so strongly, that I casually invited him to come with, spur of the moment, and he jumped at the chance.  We laid down some ground rules for his week long planned trip:  if either of us wasn’t feeling it, or having fun, or whatever–I could ask him to leave, or he could leave if he wanted–no harm, no foul.  We had a great time, totally vibed, and discussed regularly whether we should give it another week (we were both retired) joked about “renewing our lease” and we ended up staying 2-1/2 months together, and got to know each other well, it was a blissful “honeymoon” period and pretty perfect.

    We have been together for 1.5 years now, and I’m in the process of finally buying a house in his state.  I had planned to move there before I even met him, just to clarify.  We’ve decided to do the “living apart together” route, as we are both used to our independence.   I’ve lived out of a suitcase for a year and a half, between his house, my sisters house and my home in another state, and am ready to get settled.  I feel that he is completely devoted, loving, and adores me, and the feeling is mutual. He’s not the best communicator, but that is minor, and we are working on it.  I look forward to a future with this man, but cannot seem to wrap my head around one thing–his feeling of responsibility/friendship/closeness with the ex-wife (she’s never remarried, no relationships, and lives close by him.). For the past year and a half, we have had numerous arguments about  things that I find weird.  I’m divorced, adult kids, and have not spoked to my ex husband for literally 8 years, nor have I needed to, kid-wise.  We had an easy divorce, no real drama, just were done. I don’t have any reason to communicate with him. I acknowledge that it works differently for different people.  His divorce was 12 years ago, she cheated repeatedly, and he hasn’t really had much interaction with her other than kid stuff for the last ten years–up until 3 years ago, when she was his realtor for a house purchase, which was also before he met me, and suddenly, they are close friends, where they weren’t, even when they were married.  They’ve since started doing family holidays together, he helps her with house projects, she calls him for advice on literally everything–from, “my car sounds funny” to “remember that color we painted the living room”, “I’m bringing some soup for you” to sharing cooking shows/ideas, “hey, are you busy–can you talk?” late nights.  Constant texts and cozy convos.  I know this, because he let me read the text messages, which he insisted “wasnt that many”.   I was shocked to find that there were literally hundreds of texts over the year we’ve known each other, 95% of which have nothing to do with the kids, which was his first explanation for the frequent interaction–keeping connection with his (adult) kids. One was particularly sexy, but the rest are benign–it was just the volume of texts that were concerning, and most were very “coupley” and cozy, sort of inside jokes, like they had a close relationship–he insisted they didn’t, he is just a nice guy and likes to help.  For most of the family holidays I have been back in my home state, so they get together usually at his or her house, or a restaurant.  I have just recently met her, as I was invited to two family functions.  She is fine, I don’t see a weird vibe between them, and I am very friendly to her.

    We’ve had a couple of major fights about their interactions.  For example, when I’m out of town, we usually talk daily…typical- “tell me about your day” stuff.  Many times, he has neglected to mention that she has come over for something, or they have gone for lunch, bike rides, etc.  She calls and texts a lot, and he does not offer that, even though he knows it bothers me.  I just want to be in the loop.

    1. They had Thanksgiving at her house, (I was out of state).  Relationship was new, I wanted him to have a good holiday, so didn’t put too much into it at that time.

    2.  The first weeks we were in Mexico, he texted her a photo I TOOK of him (not of US) to her.  I must have seen it when he was looking at texts, asked him about it–he said it was innocent, just showing her what a good time he was having.  I still don’t understand why that was necessary.

    3. He had a Fathers Day party at his house–did not tell me he was inviting her, and did not volunteer that information until I SPECIFICALLY asked the next day, if she was there.  She brought all the food, he grilled with the kids, the whole nine yards, happy family style.

    4.  Multiple birthday parties for the adult kids, involving many texts between the two of them regarding logistics, can you pick up the pizza, I’m running late, etc.. I remind you, the kids are 30+ year old adults, and live within 3 blocks.

    5. He invited her over (while I was out of town) to try out “the girls bike”–my bike–as she was interested in buying one.  He’s into bikes.  This was in a text, and somehow it hurts that he didn’t mention me by name, like “Mary’s bike”…as it was my bike.  She came over, they tried out the bike, probably went for a bike ride–and he didn’t tell me.  I found out by reading the texts that he volunteered.

    6. They continue to go on bike rides, family get-togethers, out for lunch, he helps her move/fix things, in addition to helicopter parenting the adult kids, etc–and every time I ask “tell me about your day?”  He always neglects to mention these outings, until I question him or somehow find out later.  I think this is deceitful, and do not trust him any longer.  We were driving one time, my cell service for the map was bad, so he hooked up his phone to my car—and up popped her name at the top of the list of phone calls on the screen.  He had insisted that he had not talked to her recently.  When pressed, he said that it was about fixing the adult daughter’s car, which didn’t “count”, because it wasn’t a social call.

    7.  This last Mother’s Day–I’m with my kids in another state, he hosts the party for her at his house.  Also did not know that until I specifically asked.

    8.  Lots of her running over to bring him soup she made, will you fix my bike, here’s a cool Netflix movie you’ll like, do you remember how much that guy quoted me for lawn care, can you help with with this or that….mind you, she has one other ex husband, 2 adult sons and at least one brother that she could ask for assistance, plus she’s a grown woman and a realtor that I would assume has a long list of handymen.

    8.  One very hurtful time, I asked why she has such an important role in his life, even after they’ve been divorced for so long–he replies, “she is the mother of my children, and will always be, I’ve known her for 30 years”…..and by comparison, “you’re just a girl I met on the internet.”  “Why should I give up a 30-year friendship, when I’ve only known you a short time?”   Ouch.  I tried to explain how hurtful that is, I’ll never know him for 30 years, or be the mother of his children–I’ll never have that “relationship cred”.  He knows that was a hurtful statement, apologized, but I can’t seem to shake it.

    9.  Recently, she bought a new Audi.  For a week, he studied and considered the for sale ads for Audis to buy for himself…a brand of car I had never heard him mention before, as he’s kind of a car guy.

    On a couple of occasions, he has lied to my face about his interaction with her, omitting that from his daily happenings, probably because it will end in a fight between us. I’ve asked him to keep me in the loop as to their interactions,  not to completely cut her out of his life–I understand that it won’t happen, no do I think it should, necessarily.  He has told me that it’s “none of my business what they text each other about” and it’s just like any other friend he would text.  He now hides his phone from me.  I have given him the password to my phone, as I have nothing to hide.

    He has told me that: He is devoted to me.  She is just a friend.  Some people get along with their ex’s.  They will always be a family.  There’s nothing going on.  She’s like a sister. He has few people he can count on, she’s responsible.  It keeps him in touch with what the kids are doing.  It’s nice just to have someone to do things with.  etc…..I have met her a couple of times, she seems fine. I have no problems being FRIENDLY with an ex–it’s the best friend thing that I can’t deal with.

    He has also told me that she has asked him twice to get re-married–once for tax purposes (capital gains exclusion on a house) and once for insurance coverage.  He declined both times.  Her last relationship was with the guy she cheated on him with.  She hasn’t dated anyone for years.

    So…even though we really enjoy each other, get along shockingly well when together 24/7, and want to pursue a committed long term relationship…I can’t help but feel like he already HAS that emotional support and stability from her, they just don’t live together–I feel like I’m the shiny new object, but he’s getting the other stuff from her–she just “doesn’t have to live with him ” (his words).

    It’s really starting to affect my self esteem–I feel like I’m doing my best to deal with something that has never been a part of my experience, neither with my divorce, my mother’s divorce, or anyone that I know personally–once you divorce, you move on.  I feel pressure to be the “evolved, cool girlfriend” who is ok with this, but I really feel their continued close relationship is disrespectful to my feelings–as he knows I probably won’t be happy that he went to lunch with her–but he does it anyway, and most of the time, hides it–because he says that it will start a fight.  I feel that he is not willing to adjust the level of interaction with her, and it is up to me to deal with it.

    What is your take on all of this?  I fell hard for this guy.  I’m getting far too old to be dealing with such uncertainty, and may just swear off any future relationships other than superficial ones, if this one doesn’t work out.  Although, in all other ways, he is the closest match for me that I have found since my divorce. and I am happy and feel loved otherwise.  I am hopeful, that once I move at least to the same town, I will not have the long-distance anxiety that seems to breed insecurity.

     

     

     

     

     

    #401926
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Sherry:

    I just noticed your thread and didn’t read all of it, but I read enough to know that I too would be bothered by his so-close relationship with his ex wife. (The suggestion that she is an “ex” anything doesn’t sound right: she is very much present and involved in his present life.. more like The Return of the Wife, than an ex-wife (?)

    anita

    #401931
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Sherry:

    You shared that he has two adult children who live within 3 blocks of him. You wrote that he was married once, and : “He has been divorced for 20 or so years… his divorce was 12 years ago” – twenty or twelve years?

    If you choose to answer me ,I will be glad to reply further to all that you shared in your long, detailed original post.

    anita

    #401953
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Sherry:

    I decided to reply further even though you did not reply to me by this time. It is early morning where I am at, so I have the time and the focus to study your long original post.

    * You: 60ish, married once for 24 years, 2 adult children, divorced for 8-9 years, haven’t spoken to your ex in 8 years nor do you feel the need to,

    * He: 60ish, married once for 10 years, 2 adult children (30+) living within 3 blocks of him, divorced for about 12 years (or 20 years), ex wife lives close to him and hasn’t dated anyone for years. He refers to her as his “best friend” and is in daily contact with her.

    * Relationship history: the two of you met on a dating site during Covid, went on 6-7 dates and “hit it off so strongly” that you offered him to join you on a trip to Mexico. He “jumped at the chance” and the two of you  “had a great time, totally vibed”, so much so, that you decided to extend the vacation for a total of 2.5 months, “it was a blissful ‘honeymoon’ period and pretty perfect”.

    For more than a year following the vacation in Mexico (since the two of you lived in different states, and since your sister lives in his state and you had plans to move to his state prior to having met him), you lived “out of a suitcase” between his house, your sister’s house and your house in a different state. You currently feel that the two of you are devoted to each other, loving and adoring one another. Your plan is still to settle in his/ your sister’s state and to have a future with him.

    But in the last 1.5 years, during almost the entire relationship, you and him had “numerous arguments” and “a couple of major fights” about his relationship with his ex wife.

    * The ex-wife: during the 2nd date, he told you that she is his “best friend”. He told you that when they were married she repeatedly cheated on him, that for the first 10 years after the divorce he “hasn’t really had much interaction with her other than kid stuff”, and that it was only in the last 3 years that they became close friends, something they were never before. They spend family holidays together (in his home, her home, or in a restaurant), they talk to each other late at night, “constant texts and cozy convos”. When you confronted him regarding the frequency and sheer volume of their interactions, he told you that the reason for it was “keeping connection with his (adult) kids”. But you found out that “there were literally hundreds of texts over the year we’ve known each other, 95% of which have nothing to do with the kids”.

    Most of the texts you read (he let you read them all), were “very ‘coupley’ and cozy, sort of inside jokes, like they had a close relationship”, and one conversation was “particularly sexy”.

    You recently met her and you were invited to two family functions: “She’s fine. I don’t see a weird vibe between them”.

    I read #1- 10 (you numbered 8 twice) and the entirety of your post for the first time this morning and my understanding is different than it was after I read only part of your post.

    You asked: “What is your take on all of this?” My take is the following: (1) the fact that he doesn’t keep you in the loop regarding his interactions with his ex-wife and that he hides that kind of information from you is understandable: he knows the topic angers you and that it therefore leads to arguments and fights, so he wants to avoid the arguments and fights. I don’t blame him for it and I do not see it as him being dishonest. Different things he told you suggest to me that he is an honest man. Thing is, most, if not all men- honest and dishonest- will go to great lengths to avoid arguments and fights,

    (2) Seems to me that he does indeed love you and is invested in the relationship with you. He also loves his ex-wife IN A DIFFERENT WAY and he is invested in a close friendship with her,

    (3) You are driving him away with your jealousy and efforts to micro-manage him,

    (4) You wrote: “I feel like I’m doing my best to deal with something that has never been part of my experience, neither with my divorce, my mother’s divorce, or anyone that I know personally- once you divorce, you move on” – this is the common experience, but only yesterday (!!) I had a conversation about a divorced man I know, he’s in this late 60s, I think. His ex wife is currently visiting him from another country WITH HER BOYFRIEND, her life partner with whom she lives.  And he has no problems with it. I met his ex-wife and talked to her last year, when she visited him alone (her boyfriend remained in the country where they live together). I detected absolutely no discomfort on her part or on her ex-husband’s part regarding her relationship: no jealousy, no lingering feelings, nothing. He referred to his ex-wife as “family”. It is as if their past sexual and husband-wife  relationship is completely in the past and nothing of it leaks into the present. I didn’t know that it is possible until I personally saw an example of it in real life,

    (5) As to why they are close friends now when they weren’t before, I am guessing the following: on her part, she had troubled relationships with men. She gave up on romantic relationships (haven’t dated for a few years), and so, following giving up on dating , she had the time and energy to invest in a non-dating, non-romantic relationship with a man: her ex-husband. On his part, following his divorce and some time later (before he met you), he was lonely and she filled in his time and social/ family needs,

    (6) You showed up in his life but he didn’t see the need to show her the exit because their friendship really is good, for the two of them and for their adult children. Their friendship is so good that he doesn’t want to limit it, end it, or change it. I think that you are quite safe in regard to your relationship with him (if you completely end interfering with their friendship) BECAUSE he is best friends with his ex: * he was never best friends with her before, * being best friends with her feels so good and he can see that it’s good for his kids as well, *  I don’t think that he will be willing to risk this wonderful friendship by changing it into a romantic/ sexual relationship,

    It will take you some time to adjust to this new-to-you reality: that two people who were married before really can have a friendship, and nothing but a friendship,

    (7) It is possible somewhat that he and his ex will get back together as romantic partners (I don’t think it will happen but I can’t guarantee it, of course), just as it is possible that he will resume a relationship with an ex-girlfriend or start a relationship with a woman he hasn’t yet met. It is a risk that every woman lives with because there is hardly ever a zero percent risk of such kind.

    Also, it is possible that their friendship will change and the two will withdraw from each other’s life if and when she starts dating again. Friendships often change. If I was you, I would stop all efforts to limit their friendship and let it evolve or devolve by itself, as it will.

    If you find it too painful to co-exist with her in your life, as your boyfriend’s ex, you have the right of course, to end your relationship with him. But it will be tough to give up on a good thing, especially later in life, wouldn’t it?

    anita

    #402526
    Elisabeth
    Participant

    Hi Sherry,

     

    He sounds like he is fully not emotionally available to you as he is extremely invested in his ex. For me this would be a hard no. Is this something you can live with? The fact that you wrote this post tells me that his actions are hitting a nerve. I hope you find a solution that works for you.

    #402557
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Sherry,

    Like Elisabeth, I don’t like his extreme closeness with his ex-wife either. There is something not quite right there…

    I don’t know about her motives, but she could be using him as a handyman and someone to seek advice from in technical matters (car, home repairs, helping her choose the best bike etc). This is very practical for her as she doesn’t need to pay for those services. In the past she wanted to use him for financial benefits too, and for that purpose she even asked him to get re-married – twice. So she might be simply using him for her selfish purposes, because it makes her life easier. He is a reliable source of help and advice – a handyman/expert on standby, who is eager to help at any time of night or day.

    And that’s what actually problematic – that he seems to actually enjoy helping her and spending time with her, and being available to her at all times. It’s not that he sees her as a nuisance but can’t say no to her requests – he seems to genuinely like her company. So the question is, if they are already so good together, enjoy each other’s company and spend so much time together – why aren’t they a couple?

    I could think of 3 reasons. No1) she really isn’t interested into becoming his romantic/sexual partner, and when she offered to get re-married, it was purely for convenience. And he is aware of that. 2) The fact that she cheated on him left a big scar and he doesn’t want to put himself through another such humiliation. So even if she might be open for a romantic relationship, he doesn’t want it, out of fear and hurt pride. 3) They are like brother and sister and there is nothing romantic between them. But for two people who were once married, where there was chemistry and sexual attraction involved – I don’t believe that there can be such strong and pure “brotherly” love between them. Maybe I am wrong though, I don’t know.

    If they are really like brother and sister, and enjoy each other’s company without any desire to be romantically involved, then you probably shouldn’t worry about it. Still, I would expect that once you move to his state, he would want to spend the majority of his time with you, not taking his ex-wife along, like the third wheel.

    The way I see it, the biggest problem is if he still needs some kind of validation from her, e.g. that he is a good father, a good handyman, in good shape, good looking etc. He must have been hurt by her cheating, and now getting acknowledgment from her might mean something to him. I would worry if he has this kind of emotional attachment to her – even if he doesn’t want to get romantically involved with her. If he needs her validation to feel better about himself, then that’s a big problem for your relationship.

    I wonder about one thing: you said he is a poor communicator (“He’s not the best communicator”). What do you mean by that? Perhaps that can give us some more clues about his personality and his motives in this triangle.

     

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