(Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez)
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
Firstly I want to say that I think you’re awesome. I read a lot of your responses to others, and I think the advice you give is so heartfelt and accurate.
I have been with my partner for almost two years, and I have no doubt in my mind that he is the one I will spend the rest of my life with. We moved in together nine months ago (with his 11-year-old daughter too), and it’s the happiest I have ever been, with none of the teething problems that many couples seem to experience.
We are very honest and open with each other, we talk through our issues, and I know he feels the same way about us as I do.
The issue is his soon to be ex-wife.
They are in the final stages of divorce and right in the middle of the financial settlement, and she is being a mega bitch, trying to screw him for every penny and playing mind games acting innocent and friendly when she sees him. I’ve not met her yet; I’m banned in case it “upsets her and makes things worse,” although in my mind I don’t know how she could be any worse!
I’m trying to be supportive of my partner; he’s really struggling with everything emotionally and stress wise, but I’m finding it more and more difficult. I’m incredibly jealous of her, and I hate the way she continues to control and manipulate our relationship even though they aren’t together.
I can’t attend any events she is at, and she insists on sitting next to my partner at them, even though he tells her he doesn’t want to be near her. She says it’s so as not to upset their daughter but she is very switched on and she lives with us half the week, so it’s not like she’s not aware they are separated I am left at his mum’s if we are all together when we are dropping his daughter back. There have been occasions when I have had to sit in the car outside if she has turned up unannounced at somewhere she knew we would be. Another example — not letting him have his daughter at Christmas but inviting him over on Xmas morning alone so that he has to choose between spending Xmas with me or seeing his daughter.
He keeps saying that when the divorce is over she will be out of our lives but it’s not true.
She’s the mother of his child, and she will be there forever, playing games. I hate her. I hate that they were together for so long (14 years). I hate that she had him before me. I hate that he loved her when she is clearly a psycho! I hate that I missed out on those years with him when we are so clearly meant to be together. I hate that she bore his child. I hate that he married her. I am so filled with hate and jealousy that it scares me.
I know that everybody has a past and exes, I have one too, and my relationship before this one lasted seven years so I know I’m a hypocrite, but I can’t help feeling like I have stolen her life. Except that she has already done all the things I so desperately want with him.
I want us to get married, but he has done it before. I want us to have kids, but he has done it before. I want us to buy a house together, but he has done it before.
There are all these things I want us to get excited about but how can he when it’s all old news to him?
I’ve spoken a little to him about my fears, and he says it will be different and exciting because it’s with me, but I can’t shake the feeling that he will be thinking about his first marriage if we walk down the aisle. That he will never love our child as much as he loves his daughter (she is his world, and he completely idolizes her)
Am I crazy? How do I move past this? How do I stop feeling so jealous? Or what if I’m right to be worried?
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First, thank you! It always fills me with joy when someone tells me that they enjoy the column. Now, PHEW. There is a lot to unpack in your question.
I am so sorry that you’re feeling this level of anger and frustration. They are uncomfortable feelings, to say the least, and can make you feel as if your blood is actually boiling. So, let’s break it down a bit.
First, and I know you know this, but when you partner up with someone who has a child, and that child has a co-parent, you are going to have to deal with that co-parent. That said, there is a lot that your partner can be doing to mitigate the discomfort for everyone.
He needs to set boundaries with his ex.
For the sake of the child, you are all going to have to learn how to be civil and tolerate each other’s presence at school events, etc. And, much of this can be worked out in the custody agreement as their divorce is finalized.
Please understand that emotions are highest during the divorce process. When he says it will be better once the divorce wraps up, he is likely right. Even in the most amicable of situations, a divorce is a grueling life event, and when you mix money and stability with old wounds, everything is heightened.
Remember that you only have one side of the story.
That doesn’t mean that your partner is dishonest with you. But, have you ever heard the expression, “There are three sides to every story: your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying.” I think you need to keep that in mind.
Untangling a relationship is painful; and here you add the legal business of it, plus having to still see the person you are trying to move on from, all the time. But, they will both move on. It is highly unlikely that it will remain like this.
Now, addressing your jealousy… As someone who is on marriage number two and child number two, I am certain of something…
Having already been married and having already had a child makes it no less special the second time around.
Please, trust me on this. When he says to you that it will be different and exciting to pass these milestones with you because it’s you, he is telling you the truth!
The other part of jealousy that I’d like to address with you is with his daughter. I know that unconsciously you may resent their closeness. Or you may resent her because you see her mother in her. But, please, remember that she is a child. That’s his little girl. Of course, she is a priority for him, just as your child with him would be.
I cherish the relationship I have with both of my step-parents. My husband, as a step-parent to my first son, has played a crucial role in his life.
Don’t discount your importance in his daughter's life; she needs you, too.
Lastly, I encourage you to speak with a therapist, together and separately, so you can process these emotions in a safe and healthy way. You don’t need to silently stew about or bicker with your partner over a situation that cannot be changed. And, I promise with some time and some boundaries, you can figure out a happy balance that works for your family.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I'm not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I've gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendship, depression, sex, consent, what I’m watching, Cerussite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo