Ben and his ex had split up before I met him. For some people it seems to make a difference on whether or not I was the other woman. I’ll clarify that I wasn’t. There wasn’t another woman. They obviously have different versions of their split, but I believe his.
However, as they have kids, he, and by extension, I have to deal with her on a routine basis. Her behaviour throughout the course of our relationship has made dealing with her difficult, stressful, and generally, not something either of us wants to do. When he tried interacting with her on his own, she would shout him down, cry, scream, throw things, whatever she could do to get him to do what she wanted. Eventually, we sat down, and I told him how this was making me feel. That it was painful for me to watch him get into such a state over even needing to send her a text. That it was affecting me, and my children, as we had to watch the stress play out across his health, physically and mentally. We talked about everything, and this is what we came up with.
We Know His Ex Is Crazy
We do. We don’t know if she’s actually been diagnosed with anything, but we know that she’s capable of some highly unstable behaviour. We had to have a talk about what was a hard line for us. We were willing to give her the benefit of the doubt for some things, but others are a complete no.
In the early days of our relationship, I wasn’t as aware of her behaviour. I didn’t know that she would turn up to his house and physically take his kids away from him, despite the court order. He wouldn’t tell me about the pages and pages of emails detailing everything he had done ‘wrong’. Or the weeks of silence that would follow. He didn’t tell me about being pulled over by the police to have the car searched due to a ‘tip’. I went along in a bubble, happy that I’d met someone after a failed relationship. I was completely unaware that she had followed us to my friends house, and sat outside for two hours. I didn’t know that she tried to find the spare key to his parents house.
I knew that it was difficult for him, and that he had needed to go to court. I didn’t know the rest.
Now that I am aware and I do know, we talked about some of the behaviours that are entirely inappropriate. The ones we can not and will not tolerate. Simply recognising that her behaviour is not normal helps massively.
My Feelings Are Valid
This is a point I make all the time. Regardless of how Ben feels, and regardless of how his ex feels, my feelings are valid.
I used to hide any problems or anxieties I was feeling from Ben, because his problems were so much greater. If I was having a bad day, or feeling a bit off, well, can’t talk to him, because he hasn’t seen his kids for three weeks. My kids driving me crazy, just deal with it, because Ben has to go back to court. Again. It didn’t matter what it was, I wouldn’t tell him.
I have to be fair to him. He would try to talk to me, but I was making myself a martyr. There was always some issue around her that would need to be dealt with, so I buried my own feelings. Eventually, I realised that it didn’t matter. She was never going to act like a reasonable adult. I realised that I’m allowed to be stressed, angry, upset. I can feel whatever emotion I want, and it’s completely valid. I can be very annoyed that he brought this woman into my life. I can be angry that she refuses all of his efforts to co-parent their kids. I can be stressed that she will not communicate with either of us appropriately. I can even be highly upset that the ‘b’ key on my laptop stuck, and that combined with its various other problems meant that I had to go laptop shopping.
All of my feelings are valid, because they are my feelings.
Talk To Other People
One of the things that really stressed me out about his ex was that I had nobody to talk to. I can, and do, talk to my friends, but they haven’t experienced it. They don’t know what it’s like to live with a high conflict ex wife. Most of them make all the right noises, and tell me how awful it must be. But they don’t know. And I wouldn’t want them to, if there was any way to avoid it!
The beauty of the internet is that no matter what your situation is, there will be someone who has experienced it. So get online. Find blogs. Find groups. There will be someone who understands exactly what you’re feeling, and why you feel the way you do.
I mentioned earlier that we talked about which of her behaviours we could ignore, and which of them were a hard no. I’ll follow that up by saying that boundaries are hugely important. We needed to put them in place for our own peace of mind. We detailed exactly what was inappropriate, and had the lawyer bring them to the judge. She doesn’t always listen, or follow the court order, but we have changed how we deal with her when she does this. As an example, a text at half eleven at night about everything Ben has done wrong with their kids will be ignored. Late night texts are for emergencies only.
Stick To The Court Order
We don’t deviate from the court order. We rarely cancel any contact dates, only in case of emergencies. Ben’s ex has canceled more than 60% of all court ordered contact. It got so bad that part of the court order was that she was to make alternative arrangements for any contact that she cancelled, regardless of what reasoning she had. We do ask for the alternative dates, but we never get them. When Ben goes back to court, the record shows that he has stuck to the court order, to the letter, while his ex continues to behave badly.
Breathe, And Let It Go
I’m always going to be hated by Ben’s ex. She’s always going to believe that I should have absolutely nothing to do with their children. She’s always going to think that her rules, or lack of, should be enforced in my home. The fact that it is my home, and not hers, isn’t understandable to her. So, I’ve learned to breathe and let it go. I can’t change her, but I can change how I react to her. Recently, I’ve been actively choosing not to react to her. Ben has been trying to make the same decision. It’s not easy, but it what we have to do for our own sake.
Dealing with his ex is never going to be pleasant. I do hold out hope that she will realise that it’s in their children’s best interests to be reasonable and civil with us, but I also remain aware that this is unlikely to ever be the case. I don’t know how helpful any of this will be to any of you in the same situation, but I think, for me, all I needed to know was that I wasn’t alone. There are other women who are walking in your shoes. We know what it’s like, and we want to help.