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Lovingyou.com > Relationship Support > Age Gap Romance > How much contact with the ex-wife is appropriate?
How much contact with the ex-wife is appropriate? posted: 08/19/08 at 11:04 PM

hopefulchic  [more]
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Hi everyone,

First of all, thanks to everyone for listening. I am really trying to sort out my feelings around my SO's relationship with his ex-wife and kids. I am 28, he is 55. He has been divorced since 1995 and his kids are 19, 24, and 26.

Here's the deal. I have met all the kids and get along well with the eldest 2...the young one is a bit more challenging but not impossible. My SO and I were talking last night about this subject (we've talked about it before because it can be such a complicated situation). Last night his son called and asked my SO if he would go out to dinner with him tonight because he wanted to take his younger sister (the 19 yo) out before she moved away for her 2nd year of college. His son also invited his mother (my SO's ex). My SO and his ex have a good relationship, which I would much rather have than a hostile one. Since we've been dating (10 months) there have been several occasions where his ex has had get togethers at her house (when the kids are in town, birthdays, christmas, thanksgiving, etc,etc). In fact, that is kind of the "family gathering place", if you will. Some of these invitations are quite last minute (1 day's notice). I basically expressed my feelings to my SO about this, saying that I was understanding about him wanting to spend time with his kids, but that the last minute notice or having to cancel our plans was something I would become less understanding about in our relationship if it continued to happen. He was very understanding and agreed with me that it needed to change.

So, this is the pattern that has developed over the years. The "gatherings" all happen over at this ex's house. He is invited, of course, because he is their father. However, in the past year or so, his ex has begun having feelings towards him again. He has no interest in her other than getting along with her as the mother of his children. She knows he is dating me and we are living together (we have met). Apparently she is still inviting my SO over to her house for get togethers (when the kids aren't there) when she has her friends over. (I didn't know until last night that she is still doing this). He always turns her down because he says it obviously wouldn't be right to go over there without me (obviously, I am not invited to these soirees!)

So that is a little background to the situation. I have been thinking all this time that he was just going over there to see his kids, wants to maintain a relationship with them (which is great and I totally support). Last night, after a few glasses of wine, he mentioned that he feels obligated to go over to his ex-wife's house when his kids are visiting because he wants to encourage connection and also "preserve the family unit". He mentioned having a "sense of propriety" about things and feeling like it would be "water thrown in the face" if he went over there and brought me with him. He talked about "you hope your kids aren't hurt by the divorce" but "not really knowing". He also mentioned not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings.

I guess where I'm at now is this: I don't know how he can "preserve the family unit" at the same time he is dating another woman, moving foward with this life, and talking seriously about marriage and having a baby together. My theory is that he somehow still carries some guilt about their divorce and is trying to protect someone...although I'm not sure how. Is he trying to protect his kids? His ex-wife? He says that when he and I are married it will be different...he says it would no longer be ok for him to go over to his ex's house at all without me. Basically he is saying that right now, he can turn down an invitation to this ex's if the kids aren't there because of me. But, he cannot turn down an invitation to this ex's when his kids are there, and it is not appropriate to bring me with him when they are there. He has made a lot of effort for me to be around his kids in other situations (i.e., having them over for dinner, we stayed with his oldest daughter one weekend, etc...I have been around them quite a bit). So I get confused about this, because in all other ways he does seem to want to make a life with me and wants his kids to get to know me. It is only these situations where his ex is involved. I mean, maybe there is some kind of emotional thing going on with his ex that he is not telling me about? Is she maybe making him feel guilty somehow? I guess I have a different "status" right now as his girlfriend? I'm confused because even though she is the mother of his kids, they are not really a "family unit" anymore. Right?

What do you all think? How much contact with the ex is appropriate? Am I taking this too personally? Do you think he still has unfinished business around his divorce and kids? I feel like I've got to see evidence of how things will be with his family BEFORE the marriage, not after. I mean, you don't say to someone "I'll change after we are married". Right?

Please give me any insight you may have! This whole "preserve the family unit" conversation has got me a little concerned. Thanks!

Jen

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posted: 08/20/08 at 7:43 AM

MissFae  [more]
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It sounds to me like his intentions are in the right place. His kids aren't kids though. Maybe he should talk to them about whether it is important to them to spend a lot of time with both parents together or if they would be comfortable cutting it back to very special occasions like grads, weddings, etc... Or at least taking the family gatherings to a public restaurant or something.

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posted: 08/20/08 at 10:02 AM
wildwolf  [more]
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its time to move on baby u can get in to a relashionship with some one and be a family any man should be proud to have u go out with him it does not sound like its really over with him and his ex

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posted: 08/20/08 at 5:31 PM

Yaya  [more]
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quote:
Originally posted by wildwolf
its time to move on baby u can get in to a relashionship with some one and be a family any man should be proud to have u go out with him it does not sound like its really over with him and his ex


Okay...first of all these relationships are complicated and you can't just "move on" from them especially when this woman has obviously stated they are in a serious relationship and have many plans for the future. lol

People are complicated and this man is, I think, having issues with guilt and to further that has an "idea" of a family unit he is trying to adhere to. Yes, they will always be a family unit, but that can be defined in many ways. He probably wants a civil relationship with his ex and wants a closer relationship with his children. He also wants the family to accept her and while I think his reasonings are not exactly rational, I do believe his heart is in the right place.

I think he has to realize that his children are grown and it is time to start the separation and create a new family unit with you. He is struggling with this I think, but I think talking about your and his feelings is the only way to take those steps.

I do think you have to remember that this man had a life with this woman and it isn't so easy to just move on from it. He feels guilt, probably, over his ex as well. You have to look at this with understanding eyes and approach it as such. This isn't some relationship that didn't work out, it was a marriage and a family and he probably feels a measure of guilt as if he split up the family unit.

I do think though that he will always have some sort of feeling for his ex wife, but that doesn't mean he loves her anymore. He cares for her and his children and you must keep this in mind. This isn't an "ex" this is an ex wife, if that makes sense.

I can tell you I wouldn't want to be around an ex of any kind lol. So, I agree with Miss Fae. Good luck to you!

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posted: 08/21/08 at 4:33 AM

hopefulchic  [more]
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Thank you all for the responses!

I really am just now beginning to realize all the dynamics of this situation....realizing that he will, in one sense, always have a family unit of some sort. I guess it boils down to me being afraid that I will be left out, feel like an outsider, and be second best....I need to stay out of their relationship yet stand up for what I need in our relationship, while still being supportive. I think this will be a process and it can't be rushed...he has had a certain role with his family since the divorce 14 years ago... I know that you can't change overnight the way you interact in relationships when you've been doing it for 14 years, regardless of who it is. His kids and ex-wife naturally, are bound to have some reactions to this new life and role of their father, especially someone so much younger. I don't think its unreasonable, though, for me to talk with him about feeling like the "blending" process should be beginning now rather than waiting until we are married. I'm trying to figure out how to start this conversation....and I'm getting ready to start my last year of graduate school next Monday, so I would rather have this conversation sooner than later. I think what is really going on is that there are still emotional "stuff" around his family and he is trying to please everyone...also trying to protect me. I think, out of everything, that is what is bothering me...I just wish he would talk to me openly and honestly about what is really going on with that situation, how he feels, instead of being vague about it. Like I said before, I feel like he is also trying to protect everyone's feelings, including me. Which makes it feel somehow secretive. It would help me be more supportive to know what he is really going through. What do you think?

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posted: 08/21/08 at 6:01 AM
Jem's_girl  [more]
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I agree with the others that he is trying to please everyone at once; please the kids the ex, and you also (by not going over there when the kids aren't around).

He will always have an attachment / obligation to his kids, and in some instances (weddings etc), that will probaby include his ex, but I think he should be open and honest with you about what is going on, and try and cut the contact with the ex back to special ocasions.

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Jessica and Jeremy: established on May 10, 2003.

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~Both forever in my heart~.

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posted: 08/21/08 at 5:54 PM
nell439  [more]
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hi all, I think 10 mths relationship is long enough to start being included. Being included you can be sensitive and understanding to the 'dynamic' , but mostly, you just need to be brave and hold your head high!!!

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