Relationship Connection: How can I get my husband’s ex-wife to stop bringing up their marriage?

Question

I have been married to my new husband for three months, even though we’ve dated each other for the past five years. His first wife and myself get along pretty well. My husband and she share custody of their 11-year-old daughter.

Ever since the first day I met her five years ago, she has always somehow managed to tell me a story about when they were married or when they dated. It makes him feel uncomfortable and, frankly, it irritates me. She often does it when the children are around so we can’t really say anything to her immediately when it happens.

My husband and I feel like it’s her way of letting me know that she was first. In reality, she was the one who left him and put them through a very nasty divorce six years ago.

Recently, at their daughter’s 11th birthday party, my husband and I were there and so was her new boyfriend. It wasn’t long before she went into a story about some vacation that they took when they were married. It made everyone uncomfortable. Out of some sort of defense, I suppose, my husband grabbed my waist and he told me he loved me out loud in front of the whole room. She just stared at both of us. I immediately looked at her boyfriend and he raised his eyebrows as if to say, “Can you believe she just told that story in front of my whole entire family?”

What can we do to stop this? It’s been going on for five years and we’re tired of it.

Answer

Her insistence on telling stories about their marriage makes me wonder if she has regrets about divorcing him. As odd and uncomfortable as this interaction has become in your social gatherings, it’s really quite sad to see her referencing something she gave up on years ago. It sounds like she really misses being married to him.

Your husband’s response is actually quite funny and appropriate. Perhaps he figured that since she wasn’t worried about social convention, he wouldn’t worry about it either. As strange as it is to spontaneously declare your love for your new wife in mixed company, it would be even stranger to quietly watch her carry on about her marriage memories.

There is no need to be defensive or confrontational in your response to her. Your husband is on the right track. Pull each other close and enjoy the relationship you get to have with each other. She had her chance with him and, as sad as it is to watch her obsessively reference something she lost, you can’t prevent her from bringing this up or feeling regretful.

You might even try asking her questions about her current relationship so she can talk about things she and her boyfriend enjoy doing together. I’m sure he’s feeling unimportant and compared to the husband-that-once-was. Support their relationship by asking them both questions about them and redirecting the focus on the current reality.

Nobody is fooled, so the only discomfort in the room is her regret. You have nothing to hide, nothing to fight, and nothing to defend. If she’s trying to stir up new sentimentality with your husband and reignite something between them, it sounds like it’s backfiring. Your husband knows whom he wants and he’s making it known.  She’s not a threat to you guys.

In fact, as you turn the conversation back to her so she can talk about her own current relationship efforts, it might just strengthen her relationship, which would be good for everyone. Congratulations on your new marriage and for having a brave husband who is wiling to stand up for the truth. With that kind of commitment, I see good things for the two of you.

Stay connected!

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Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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9 Comments

  • Dana December 17, 2014 at 8:26 am

    1) Stop taking advice from the namby-pamby tabloid therapist.
    2)You married used goods who apparently doesn’t have a spine. You need to grow a spine and tell the ex her strolls down memory lane are inappropriate. Then walk away.
    3) Your husbands response wasn’t funny or appropriate. It was his little defense against his ex mommy-wife. He really needs to grow a pair or you need to toss him back.

    • mo ferguson December 17, 2014 at 1:39 pm

      Couldn’t have said it better myself. Except I would have added something like….b%$*h-slap the former Mrs.

  • Joe Smith December 17, 2014 at 9:39 am

    A man’s worth is measured by the size of his truck. I’m guess, that this guy must have a real big truck…

  • My Evil Twin December 17, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    First off, forget about forcing someone else to do anything. It flatly cannot be done. If a person is willing to suffer the consequences of their actions, then they will do what they will do. This woman is a loser. Ignore her, because all she is doing is making a total fool of herself. Sort of like ZonkerB does on here, every time he posts, and no matter what name he is using.

    • Kibblesnbits December 20, 2014 at 9:25 pm

      Who would want to take advice from you considering you told an all out bald face lie about Habitat for Humanity and the best is its on the Internet…. LOL but the best part was them putting. you in your place for telling a lie…

  • Mary December 17, 2014 at 12:23 pm

    The husbands response was PERFECT !
    It was non confrontational ( only rejects advocate for conflict ) and
    It spelled out everything by deed , without a long winded rant .
    ( Getting into a verbal war is the WORST idea in front of innocent children )

    Every time the Ex starts in on a story , you 2 should start making out .
    Then thank her for the inspiration !

    Thanks Mr Steurer !

  • Peg December 17, 2014 at 12:51 pm

    If they had a nasty divorce then this may just be the continuation of “beating up on him” The reality is you both have to communicate with her like grown ups especially during a time when you DON’T have an audience, starting with HIM! He needs to express the boundary that this behavior is unacceptable and even odd and request she stop for the sake of the children who will be getting a mixed message. She has no need to do “as he asks” but he does need to exercise his option to continue trying with her. You are also capable of exercising your opinion in a kind manner if she continues in your presence. Most people only continue bad behavior because people allow it with their reticence. I assure you when called to be responsible emotional manipulators become obvious and it will give you that much more fuel to stick to your boundary. You can interrupt with “remember our phone conversation” but if it doesn’t work or she demands “freedom of speech” walking away is as good a message as any.

  • Kibblesnbits December 20, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    evil almost made an intelligent comment I’m really proud of him he is really trying.. one day he will make it…

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