Boyfriend Still Texts Ex-Wife

Question: I’ve been in a romantic relationship for over a year with a divorced dad with two kids. Our relationship is great but the problem is his ex-wife. She’s still angry about their breakup. While he said he wants to put the past behind him and move forward, they still text each several times a day to talk about the kids. Sometimes she even knows about his plans before I do! I understand that co-parents need to discuss plans regarding the children but this seems excessive. How do I talk about boundaries without sounding unreasonable? I’m ready to leave but I want to know I tried first.

Answer: There’s a reason why second marriages have close to a 65% divorce rate: they’re tough! Not only do you have to deal with the usual challenge of adapting to your partner’s quirks (and he to yours) but you also have to incorporate the presence of an ex-partner and kids. That’s not easy to do and surely it is worth a conversation or two that isn’t unreasonable.

Such conversations aren’t going to be fun but, when they’re done calmly and with thought, they can be instructive and maybe even help save your relationship. One of the first things that should be asked of your partner is to what extent he sees his ex-wife being present in his life. Does he intend to interact with her daily or only when something important involving the kids needs to be discussed? Are they planning on being friends or just amicable co-parents? By asking these questions (calmly and without judgment), you can get a sense of where he is with the relationship with his ex-wife.

Once you know where he is, it’s time to let him know where you are. Before you can do that, I recommend sitting down and really answering that question for yourself. Maybe you can engage the ear of a good friend or family member to talk it through with you so that you have a solid idea of what you want and whether it’s fair. Then, when you are talking with your partner, you can calmly tell him what your boundaries actually are. What kind of interaction with his ex-partner seems acceptable and doable to you? What kind of relationship do you want with his children and how would you make that happen? What behaviors from him are you willing to handle and what are your lines in the sand? Once he has heard your thoughts, maybe give him some time to think about them and then talk again.

As you probably can tell from the many times I used the word calmly, the key to these conversations is to not allow emotions to lead them astray. Too many people don’t take the time to consider whether what they want is being guided by logic but instead they just react in the moment. This tends to lead to arguments, so it’s best to try and stay focused on what you want to accomplish. The conversation may lead toward a breakup but, as you said, at least you will know that you tried. Practicing effective communication and healthy relationship skills is always useful because if there needs to be a next time, then you will know what to do.

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