Relationship Connection: My husband’s ex-wife is flirting with him

Question

I am having a bit of an issue and I am not sure how to deal with it. I’m a 47-year-old female that just recently married a divorced man with 18- and 14-year-old daughters. He is pretty active in their lives and I am very supportive of that.

His ex-wife is where the problem lies. She mentally abused him for over 15 years of a 20-year marriage. He tells me that in the last many years of the marriage, it was more of a business arrangement than a marriage. They slept in separate bedrooms the last 5 years of the marriage that ended 2 years ago. I don’t think that love was even in the marriage from what I have learned since being with him.

I don’t see the ex much and it is usually only during formal get-togethers, (graduation, et cetera). His daughter graduated recently and I, of course, attended it. We sat in a different area of the arena but upon exiting the celebration, the family wanted to take some pictures. While we were “socializing” a bit outside, the ex was standing as close to him as she could, was rubbing his arm during her “story telling” and it made me livid! How dare she touch MY husband. She had her chance and blew it.

My question is how should I deal with a flirting ex wife? I didn’t say anything to her out of respect for my husband and his graduating daughter. I am a very outspoken person but walking away from this has made me mad at myself. Any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Answer

I think you made the right call by not making a scene on your husband’s daughter’s graduation. She doesn’t need the memory of her graduation hijacked by adult drama. Even though you walked away from the interaction that evening, you don’t need to walk away from this issue and ignore it.

I recommend you start by talking with your new husband. Chances are he is completely clueless about what happened. Sometimes there is so much familiarity between two people who have been married for 20 years that he probably didn’t even notice she was touching his arm.

On the other hand, you have really sensitive “ex-wife radar” right now. This is completely understandable, as you want to protect your brand-new relationship from any threats. Since this is the first incident of this nature, it’s best to simply bring it to his awareness in a way that he can hear you. In other words, don’t bite his head off.

Describe the experience you had and ask him if he noticed. If he did, then talk about what it was like for you and ask him to respect you and your new relationship. If he didn’t, then this is his first chance to be aware of it. If you’re worried about him having feelings for his ex-wife, then share that as well.

My guess is that he was so wrapped up in being with his daughter and the familiarity of taking hundreds of pictures with those same people in that same arrangement over the years put him in autopilot. Unless there is a clear reason you need to feel threatened by her presence in his life, just enlighten him about your experience and move on building your new marriage.

 

Stay connected!

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

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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2 Comments

  • Hatalii July 30, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    This poor guy! First off, he was married to an abusive woman for twenty years. Now he is married to an “very outspoken” insecure woman! He sure seems to know how to pick them. Too bad.
    Lady, if you have any desire to make this marriage last, open the lines of communication with your poor husband, and lose the angry, insecure attitude.

  • Pat June 11, 2014 at 7:48 pm

    I think the ex was way out of line!!! And kudos for the wife for biting her tongue and walking away! That was a very embarrassing situation for the wife! Wife should talk to hubby about it so hubby can step out of the way next time. Hubby needs to firmly but nicely establish bounderies with the ex. His allegiance is with his wife, not his ex. Ex means ex. And I think any wife would be uncomfortable if any woman came up to her husband and started rubbing against him, especially if it was his ex!!

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