What Should I Do to Help Partner with Former Spouse Who Blames Me?

Dear Lisa:

I have listened to your Stepfamily Talk Radio website, read many books about how I should conduct myself and act…but I desperately would like/need your advice. I’m 30 years old and dating a dad who is 35. We’re very lucky to have found each other, but a great deal of turmoil exists in our lives.

He was married to a woman whom he had children with (5-year-old twin girls) and the divorce is almost final now that the house was recently sold. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that I will never get a chance to have a good relationship with his kids…and this stems from my own experience with my father dating my stepmom and hating her.

His ex-wife literally blames me for everything between them and vows that the children will know what I have done to their family and will know that I broke up the family and even says these things to the kids, claiming “I will not lie to my children. They have the right to know.” I realize that this is only the beginning because she is very angry, petty and truly believes (and has said ) he has ruined her life. She seems to make an attempt to ruin any relationship he has with old friends, family.

This is frustrating. But there is nothing that can be done, right? She doesn’t seem to be a threat to the kids, other than giving them anything they want out of guilt and not feeding them anything healthy because it’s not convenient. His lawyer has said that very little can be done here in Indiana.

His ex and I have never met, but have spoken a few times when she called me to tell me to leave ‘her husband’ alone and get some cheap jabs in, and it takes all I have to NEVER raise my voice or exchange any immature remarks that would feel soooo good, but I know it’s best not to. I feel very powerless and almost as if I’m letting somebody walk all over me. I plan on being with him for the rest of my life because he is the best thing I’ve ever had in my life, we are very good together. I have chosen this, but what do you do when an ex-wife is dead set on getting her way and attempts to be difficult in every manner?

My lease is up in April 2008 and his is up in February 2007, and I’m trying to decide if moving in together would be a good idea at this juncture. I have done the research, and we would be saving almost $300 each on rent and utilities alone.

I just want to do things right. I want to allow enough time to pass. I want to minimize the impact on his kids, but I want to have my own life too. When can I say “Enough is enough, I won’t let her hold me hostage and dictate my actions.” When can I start living my own life without taking her actions into account? Is there a time limit on putting up with irrational behavior? Please help me. Any personal experience that relates to my situation would be greatly appreciated. Please feel free to post this. Thanks in advance!




Dear Frustrated,

Thanks for your letter. Believe it or not, your situation is very common. I hear more from girlfriends and stepmoms who are struggling with their partners’ ex-wives that from anyone else.

I would not rush into living with your boyfriend. You need to understand his ex could behave like this for many, many years. As one stepmom told me recently about her husband’s ex-wife, “What you see is what you get.” This situation is not going to improve on its own and it may never improve. And yes, his ex does have the power to ensure his kids don’t like you or feel comfortable with you. Unfortunately, she’s putting the kids in a terrible position by behaving this way. They likely feel very uncomfortable and as if they have to choose sides.

However, you can do everything in your power to strike up a civil relationship with his ex for the sake of their kids. Begin by asking your boyfriend to arrange a meeting with the three of you without the children present. Be sure to tell her you have no intention of taking her place as the mother to her children. (This worry is generally what stirs up jealousy and bad behavior on the part of ex-wives). Consider complimenting her children and the way she has raised them. Tell her you want the three of you to work together for the sake of the children.

If this approach backfires, you need to find ways to live with her anger and resentment and her kids’ discomfort with you. Don’t ever stoop to badmouthing her the way she badmouths you.

Good luck. I hope this is helpful to you.