When you marry a man who has an ex wife, you marry his family – often unfortunately! Here are six tips for how to deal with your husband’s ex wife, to help you transition into your new marriage.
There is no way one article on how to deal with the ex wife will solve all your problems! Remarriage is complex and emotional – which is why I recommend reading books like The Smart Stepfamily: Seven Steps to a Healthy Family by Ron Deal.
One of his tips on how to deal with your husband’s ex wife is to accept the things you cannot change. Here’s what one wife said 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.” That might be the most important thing to remember when you’re married to a man who has a family from before: there are some things that you can’t change…and it’ll only hurt you and your husband if you focus on those issues. Below are a few things you can try to change (spoiler alert: it won’t be easy to deal with your husband’s ex wife!).
Part of loving your husband is learning what kind of relationship you’ll have with his first wife. That’s what these tips are all about: finding healthy ways to cope with your husband’s ex wife so she doesn’t destroy your marriage. For instance, can you have lunch with your husband’s ex wife? It may sound crazy…but if you’re already at the end of your rope, you may have nothing to lose.
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 possibly mentally unstable 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.
6 Tips for Dealing With Your Husband’s Ex Wife
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. I know this sounds crazy, but think about calling her up, telling her you want the best for her kids, and asking if she can make time to meet you for an hour or so.
Tell her 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.
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This tip for how to deal with 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 she will lower her defenses and cool her jets.
2. Let your husband’s ex-wife get to know you
If your husband’s ex wife 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!).
Of course she’s an angry ex wife – you’re succeeding in areas she didn’t. But, it’s more difficult to criticize people we know and like…so maybe if she got to know you, she might ease up a little. You might not be able to change her, but you might charm her by being nice to her.
“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 partner every day.” Connecting with your husband’s ex wife may be one practical, hugely valuable way to love your spouse.
3. Tell your husband’s ex-wife what she did and does right
Is she 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 being a sycophant or brown noser; you’re focusing on the positive qualities of your husband’s ex-wife. That might soften her, make her less angry or negative. To build a better marriage, you might need to take the first step towards peace and friendship.
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 better off you’ll be.
Do whatever it takes to make your remarriage successful: attend workshops, read books with your husband, go to family counseling. Learn how to dial down your own angry, frustrated responses and how to get the most out of your new marriage. I know it’s difficult, frustrating, and even aggravating – but when your husband’s ex-wife causes marriage problems, you may have to bear the burden.
You may also have to learn about dealing with difficult husbands, because sometimes they cause unnecessary problems with their ex-wives.
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.
To solve marriage problems before they begin, read Second Marriages That Work – 10 Tips for “Happily Ever After.”
6. Forgive your husband for his past marriage (and choice of ex-wife!)
If you think your husband made a bad marriage choice in the past, shake off your resentment or anger. He was a different person when he met and married his first wife – and so was she. He made the best decision he could, he fell in love, and he thought he was doing the right thing.
Don’t make him pay now for a decision he made years ago…that’ll just tear at the fabric of your marriage. Instead, accept him for who he is as a whole man – and that includes his first marriage and his angry ex-wife.
If you feel like your husband is part of the problem, read How to Fix a One Sided Relationship.
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 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.
I can’t offer advice on how to deal with your husband’s ex wife, but it might help you to share your experience. Writing can bring clarity and insight, and other wives may have suggestions for you.
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