Liz is outraged!
Her husband’s ex has been causing trouble– again– in her marriage. Liz’s husband, Andy, tries to ignore the daily text messages, phone calls and emailed photos he gets from his ex-wife. Andy’s strategy is to not stir up any trouble and only deal with his ex when there is an issue with one of their kids.
Liz doesn’t think this is a good strategy at all because Andy’s ex isn’t getting the message!
Recently, his ex schemed to get him to go to family counseling with her and their daughter. Liz knows that their daughter has been having emotional troubles lately, but this is fishy.
Liz is sure this is just a ploy Andy’s ex has cooked up to get him back into her life.
Things can quickly become confusing when your partner is in continued contact with his or her ex.
There could be an important reason for the regular interaction between them. They might have children and need to make parenting decisions together. They may still have some unresolved and shared financial matters.
Or, you might not see the need for your partner to keep talking to his or her ex. The reasons given for a text message, phone call or talk over coffee could be that they are “still friends” or “I don’t want to be mean,” for example.
What is clear is that when your partner is on the phone, computer or meeting up with his or her ex, you feel ignored. Jealousy is triggered as you worry that they’ll rekindle their relationship and you’ll lose your love.
What also may be clear to you is that your partner’s ex is manipulating your partner. From your view, your partner’s ex is intentionally trying to break you two up.
The manipulation could be when your partner’s ex…
- has one crisis after another that only your partner can handle
- relies solely on your partner for regular home maintenance or computer troubles
- looks to your partner for personal or financial advice
- frequently brings up reminders of the past such as emailing old family photos or sending cards on anniversaries
- makes comments about you that feel critical or degrading
Whether it’s blatantly obvious or more subtle, when you believe that your partner’s ex is trying to cause trouble in your relationship (and maybe break you two up), this probably leads to tension and conflict in your relationship.
In other words, the perceived manipulation DOES cause trouble in your relationship and a whole lot of frustration, irritation and jealousy in you.
Even if your partner agrees with you that his or her ex’s behavior is annoying, you two might disagree about what to do about it. Your partner may be more comfortable ignoring it and you want a stronger stand taken.
If your partner does not see what his or her ex is doing as manipulative, this can also bring stress and disconnection to your relationship. You may even wonder if your partner is still in love with his or her ex.
The bottom line is this…
It’s exhausting and destructive to think that your partner’s ex is scheming to put distance between you two and maybe break you up.
What’s your business?
If, like Liz, you are sure that your partner’s ex is being manipulative and trying to cause problems in your relationship, take a deep breath and really look at the situation.
Ask yourself the question, “What’s my business?”
This is an important question that Byron Katie teaches about. Katie explains that a lot of turmoil and jealousy occur when we don’t question our stressful thoughts. One way to deal with troubling and upsetting thoughts is to figure out what actually is your business and what isn’t.
In other words, what directly affects you and what doesn’t?
When it comes to the way your partner and his or her ex interact, this can be difficult to determine, but it’s freeing when you do.
If, for example, your partner and his or her ex are having an argument about their kids, this is usually not your business. You might care a lot about the kids (and your partner too), but you’re not directly involved.
On the other hand, if your partner’s ex has said something hurtful to you, this does affect you. It’s your business and you can choose whether it’s worth it to address the criticism or let it go.
What’s your plan?
Once you know whether or not what’s going on is your business, then you can decide on a plan. What action will you take regarding what’s going on? The most important thing of all is that you NOT take action from your jealousy.
Your planned action may be as simple as reminding yourself that the argument is not actually about you and so you listen compassionately to your partner and give advice only when he or she asks for it.
Your planned action may to re-affirm to yourself that your partner is handling his or her ex’s frequent texts and then acknowledge the steps your partner is taking.
Your planned action might be to have an honest talk with your partner about the amount of time he or she is spending bailing the ex out of a crisis. When you’re not coming from jealousy, ask your partner to set some firm boundaries with his or her ex.
Your planned action might also be to find a friend or coach to talk with about your jealousy of your partner’s ex. This can help you know what’s true and what would be best to do about it.