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We avoid his ex

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  August 2, 2010 09:23 AM

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It's August. That's weird.

Q: Dear Meredith,

My husband was married once before. He and his ex-wife are both from another country and share many friends from their ethnic community in common. These relationships with people from home are important to both of them.

When I first started seeing him, his ex-wife's behavior made me uncomfortable. I don't want to belabor the point but I'll give one example. We had been dating for 2 months and he bumped into her out at a bar on his way to the bathroom. She asked to meet me. I didn't see any reason to know (or size up) his ex-wife, so we left. Over the next few weeks she called him regarding finances but would bring me up and try to make comparisons between us. Once she told him she was going to send him a picture of herself that she liked.

I am not now nor was I ever insecure about his past relationship, thanks in large part to my husband's consideration for me in that regard. But we both got the impression that his ex-wife was insecure and that our relationship bothered her. I encouraged my then boyfriend to limit his contact with her. She complained to mutual friends about him cutting her out but he defended his actions, and me, saying that his current relationship was his priority. He told me his friends were understanding.

However, this was a few years past and we are married now. As we are often invited to the same gatherings and parties as his ex-wife (who I still have not formally met), I wonder if I should stop avoiding her. We always call ahead to find out if she will be there. My husband doesn't like to socialize with her, but the truth is I'm the real reason we avoid events with his ex. What do you think? My guess is that she has moved on by now. Is time for me to move on regardless? Should I be willing to socialize with her? Or am I right to try and keep his past at a distance?

– Got the (Great) Guy, Boston

A: GTGG, I'm impressed that your husband has done so much to make you comfortable and that he has been honest with you about his communication with his ex. Two thumbs up for your husband.

I'm not so sure that this woman has moved on after three years. Frankly, it sounds like she's intrusive because she’s competitive, and that doesn't go away. And she's probably less likely to be nice after years of being "shut out." But it's worth giving her the benefit of the doubt. Show up to an event. Be nice. See if she can be nice back.

If it doesn't feel right, try not to cross paths again. Or -- accept the fact that this woman is going to look you up and down when she sees you and offer to send pictures of herself to your husband. Make the decision with him to laugh it off and enjoy the gatherings without taking her too seriously.

Either way, I think your husband will appreciate the attempt. It's his community, after all. And if you can give it a shot after all of these years, I think you'll feel better (and less guilty) about whatever events you decide to skip in the future.

Readers? Is it fair that they skip events because the ex-wife is there? How does one cope with an aggressive ex? How should the letter writer deal with this? Discuss.

– Meredith

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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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