Friday, July 6, 2007

My SO's social life still revolves around his ex-wife. I love him but enough is enough!

Dear HTT,

SO and I have been living together for 8 months. Dating for almost 4 years. Last night at dinner with friends he called me by his ex-wife’s name. About a year ago he introduced me by the name of his ex-sister-in-law. He is very close friends with his ex-wife and her present husband. They are the focal point of 95% of his social life, the ex-wife and her large extended family. My SO has remained a part of this extended family. They have been divorced about 14 years. She calls him and tells him about family dinners, parties, religious events for her family (they/we are jewish). He has called her “baby” on the phone while I was standing there. Told me when we first started dating that seeing her remarry was a humbling experience due to the fact that he loved her more than anything.

I have about decided that I am not an SO in his life but rather a housekeeper/roommate. I really don’t think I need to stay in the relationship. I love him but enough is enough. I’m at a loss –I am 62 years old and am too old for this kind of crap. He treats me well otherwise. He apologized and I accepted his apology but I just feel like I get more doses of his ex-wife than I care to have. She is a nice woman but controlling and domineering.


I’m so sorry that this situation is causing you pain and frustration. I can imagine the sting of being called by the name of an SO’s ex-wife. I’m prone to jealousy (though I fight it), so I’d have to summon a lot of strength, and not a little pride, to graciously accept his continuing friendship with his ex and her family.

But if I loved him enough, and if I thought he loved me as much, I’d try. I could probably find ways to work around the social life problem; namely, I’d make sure I had an active social life of my own and work out some compromises about how much time we/I had to spend with the ex. If I truly felt loved and appreciated, I would forgive his slip of the tongue--although I’d not be above hurt feelings and an argument about it first--and eventually accept that this probably wasn’t a reflection of his feelings for me. I conducted an admittedly unscientific poll and found that several of my friends had called their well-loved current partner by an ex’s name (or had been called by the ex’s name).

But reciprocal love would be the key for me. You say you feel like a roommate and housekeeper, who is “treated well.” Is that how you feel most of the time, or did you write that in a moment of frustration? Honestly, if I regularly felt that way in the presence of my partner, it wouldn’t matter whether he addressed me as Goddess and had no ex-wife. I’d have to move on.

I don’t know if I have a jaded or practical view of relationships, but I think all of them require regular and healthy doses of compromise and forgiveness. But two important caveats:

(1) Compromise and forgiveness are extremely hard work, so the relationship has to be worth it.

(2) Compromise and forgiveness have to flow both ways.

Only you can decide whether your relationship is worth the work and whether your guy is worthy of forgiveness. And if you haven't already done so, I think you should find out whether he is willing to compromise on how much time he socializes with the ex. (If he's been divorced for 14 years and still spends 95% of his social life with her and her extended family, he might not be.) You sound like you've already made your decision; if you have, I hope you're feeling that you've done the right thing.

Good luck,