When you marry a man who has an ex wife, you marry his entire family – and sometimes his ex wife brings problems that seem impossible to deal with. These six tips for dealing with your husband’s ex wife may not solve every problem you’re facing, but they might help you transition more smoothly into your new marriage.
Searching for help online is a good way to learn how to deal with your husband’s ex wife, but reading articles won’t solve all your problems. You may find it helpful to read through the readers’ comments below. You’ll see you’re not alone, and perhaps find good ideas for coping with ex-families. I also encourage wives to read, read, and read some more! Remarriage is complex and emotional – which is why I recommend books such as The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family.
One of the most important tips on how to deal with your husband’s ex wife is to accept the things you cannot change. When you’re married to a man who has a family from before, you have to remember that there are some things you’ll never change. It’ll only hurt you and your husband if you focus or fixate on those issues.
Here’s what one wife said on How to Tell Your Ex You’re Getting Married about her stepchildren and her husband’s ex wife: “During our weekend visits with his kids I tried to change things, such as poor eating habits. Big mistake. It wasn’t my job. The biological mom was fine with how they ate. It wasn’t a ‘hill to die on,’ and the battle only created stress.”
Part of loving your husband is learning what kind of relationship you’ll have with his ex wife. That’s what these tips are all about: finding healthy ways to cope with your husband’s ex so she doesn’t destroy your marriage. For instance, what do you think about having lunch with your husband’s ex wife? It may sound inconceivable or even crazy…but what do you have to lose?
6 Ways to Deal With Problems Caused by Your Husband’s Ex-Wife
These tips on how to deal with your husband’s ex wife are not meant to solve serious relationship problems or teach you how to cope with an angry, bitter, or depressed woman. It would take more than a single blog post to solve the problems caused by your husband’s first marriage! These tips will get you started, though. At the end of the post I share a few resources for remarriages and stepfamilies.
Remember that how you deal with your husband’s ex wife will affect your marriage. That’s why my first tip is to try to create a bond with her – even though this is the one tip that most readers do not like at all.
1. Invite your husband’s ex wife out for coffee
One of the best ways to build a healthy remarriage is to get your husband’s ex wife on your side. It may sound foolish or even stupid, but what if you called her and told her you really do want what’s best for her children? Ask if she’s willing to meet you for coffee hour or so.
Consider telling your husband’s ex that you love her kids and want to learn more about them. Notice the good parts of how she’s raising them – she must have done something right over the years.
This tip for talking to your husband’s ex wife isn’t about being sneaky or pretending to like her. It’s about genuinely trying to connect with her. If you reach out with sincerity and grace, she may respond in kind. And who knows…maybe your husband’s ex wife will surprise you with a kind response.
2. Let your husband’s ex wife get to know you
If your husband’s ex is angry and bitter, it might help if she got to know who you are as a person. She may be less likely to criticize and hate you if she knows you. It’s incredibly easy to criticize people we don’t know, people we’re perhaps jealous of (after all, you’re married to her ex husband and her kids probably like you!).
Let her be angry, upset, and even bitter. Of course she’s an angry – her ex husband is remarried, and she has to share her children with a woman she never chose and may not even approve of! Remember that it’s more difficult to criticize people we know and like…so maybe if your husband’s ex wife got to know you better, she might ease up a little. You might not be able to change your husband’s ex wife, but being nice to her might help you deal with problems.
“Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb,” says relationship expert and author Barbara De Angelis. “It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your husband every day.” Connecting with your husband’s ex wife may be a practical and valuable way to love your husband and his children.
3. Tell your husband’s ex wife what she did and does right
Is your husband’s ex a good mother? Does she have a super clean or well-decorated house? Focus on what she does well, and tell her how much you admire that trait. You’re not trying to shmooze her or lie to her; you’re focusing on her positive qualities. Noticing what your husband’s ex wife does right — and telling her what she does right — might soften her, make her less angry or negative. Maybe you need to take the first step towards peace and friendship.
The added benefit of telling your husband’s ex wife what she does right or well is your own attitude toward her. If you deliberately focus on her positive qualities, your own heart will soften. You’ll find it easier to deal with problems if you actually like some things about your husband’s ex wife. This is especially important if you’re living with a difficult husband who treats you badly…you may find a friend in his ex wife!
4. Learn as much as you can about how to deal with ex wives
The more you learn about coping with angry, unreasonable people – and setting your boundaries – the easier it’ll be to deal with your husband’s ex wife. If you’ve worked with people, you know how challenging it can be to deal with bad moods, unreasonable demands, even mean people. Your husband’s ex wife may be all of that and more…which means you need to learn how to deal with problems people cause. This is for your own emotional health and well-being — as well as for your husband’s sanity and your marriage!
Do whatever it takes to make your remarriage successful: attend marriage workshops, read relationship books with your husband, go to family counseling. Learn how to cope with your own anger and frustration, and how to make the most of your new marriage. It may be unfair. It may be difficult, frustrating, and even aggravating. But, you may have to do most of the work when you’re dealing with problems caused by your husband’s ex wife.
5. Leave your stepchildren out of your marriage problems
No matter how angry his ex-wife is, or how frustrated or hurt you are, don’t involve your husband’s kids in the problems. The kids are (probably) innocent bystanders – and you’d be better off focusing on connecting with your step children instead of involving them in adult marriage and remarriage problems.
If you’re struggling with feelings of insecurity and low self-worth, read When You Don’t Feel Good Enough for Your Husband.
6. Forgive your husband for his past marriage (and choice of ex wife!)
Sometimes new wives get angry at their husbands because of the problems the ex wife is causing in their new marriage. Sometimes anger is warranted; sometimes it’s not. If you think your husband made a bad marriage choice in the past, deal with your resentment without taking it out on him or your relationship. Your husband was a different person when he met and married his first wife. So was she. Like it or not, your husband fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. Now you’re dealing with problems caused by your husband’s ex wife…but he didn’t do any of this on purpose.
Don’t make your husband pay for a decision he made years ago. He may already feel bad enough about the problems his ex wife is causing. Instead, accept your husband for who he is right now – and that includes his first marriage and his angry ex wife.
Help for Dealing With Your Husband’s Ex Wife
The Girl’s Guide to Marrying a Man, His Kids, and His Ex-Wife: Becoming A Stepmother With Humor And Grace by Sally Bjornsen will help you cope with your husband’s toxic ex-wife – and other toxic family relationships – by showing you how to survive the holidays, custody, finances, and other complications of marrying a man who was married before.
Stepcoupling: Creating and Sustaining a Strong Marriage in Today’s Blended Family by Susan Wisdom and Jennifer Green will help you learn how to tailor your expectations of your husband and children. This book will help you remember that no family is perfect. You’ll learn how to set boundaries when you’re dealing with a hostile ex wife or a demanding stepchild, and realize why traits like flexibility, tolerance, forgiveness, and openness are especially essential in a stepfamily situation. This book will also give you practical tips for making “us” time for talking, problem-solving, weekends away, and enjoying your marriage to constantly renew and strengthen your bond as a couple.
Do you think your husband’s ex wife is absolutely impossible to deal with? Read the comments below – you’ll see you’re not alone. You’ll find inspiration and wisdom, issues and conundrums, and problems and solutions.
If you’re a Christian, take your problems to God. Jesus is the greatest healer and advocate; the Holy Spirit is a wise counselor and guide! Your heavenly Father is the source of all love, peace, healing, grace, joy and freedom…and He has answers to your “how do I deal with my husband’s ex wife?” questions. You might also consider talking to your pastor or a Christian counselor.
Are you getting marriage advice from your friends? Read 3 Signs of Godly Relationship Advice.
Your thoughts are welcome below! Feel free to share your story, or respond to other readers’ comments. Writing can bring clarity and insight, and help you untangle your thoughts and emotions.