Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Boyfriend’s Sister-in-Law Is Trying to Get Him Back with His Ex”

My boyfriend dated his ex for about 20 years. They were college sweethearts. It didn’t end very well (she had an affair), and they were not on speaking terms for almost six months after the breakup. I met him roughly three months after they ended their relationship. We absolutely adore each other, and we have recently combined our households after almost two years of dating.

Very soon after he introduced me to his family — about four months after we started dating — his ex began sending extremely inappropriate messages to him (after almost a year of silence) wanting to reunite. She made it a point to make comments about me, about how the length of our relationship was not long enough to not give their twenty-year relationship another chance, etc., all of which he selected to not respond to. With or without me in the picture, he has elected not to re-engage that relationship ever again.

Recently, one member of the family decided to tell me how his ex found out we were seeing each other. His sister-in-law, who was good friends with the ex, has been feeding her information. The family member that told me was perturbed by the situation and didn’t want to cause tension but thought I should be aware of what was going on.

The sister-in-law vocalized that she wanted my boyfriend and his ex to reunite and that she preferred his ex over me. While I know that she is welcome to her opinions, I do not feel comfortable being around his sister-in-law now, knowing that not only does she prefer his ex to me but also that she’s feeding his ex information about our relationship. If his ex didn’t seem to want to re-ignite the relationship, it wouldn’t matter, but she has continued to express to my ex that this is what her wishes are even though he doesn’t engage back.

Is it appropriate to confront his sister-in-law? Should I tell my boyfriend that he needs to be firm with his sister-in-law that her behavior is inappropriate? And is it really petty of me at this point to ask him to completely cut off any communication with his ex, i.e. block her number on his phone, even though he isn’t engaging back in the inappropriate conversation? I’m trying not to let my ego get the best of me, but I can’t help feeling like this is a direct threat to my relationship. — Threatened By the Ex and the SIL

Your boyfriend has totally disengaged from his ex and has made it clear to you he has zero intention of ever pursuing her again, right? Everything else — the ex calling him, the SIL feeding her information — is all noise that you can and should ignore, unless it’s happening frequently. Is it happening frequently? I mean, you’ve been dating your boyfriend for two years and you recently moved in together. Is the ex, and even the meddling SIL, enough noise that you’re losing sleep over this? Or, is this a case of your recently finding out about the SIL and feeling disrespected and wanting to get your hurt feelings off your chest? If it’s the latter, I’d seriously take a deep breath, avoid the SIL for a bit, and then move on. Don’t give her, or the ex, any more power; certainly don’t give them any reason to believe they can rattle you or make you feel insecure about your relationship.

If, however, the ex is calling your boyfriend regularly and you get the idea that your the SIL is meddling pretty frequently, then I think it would definitely be worth talking to your boyfriend about drawing some clearer boundaries — blocking the ex and completely cutting off communication, and telling the SIL to back off. But keep in mind that their intention IS to rattle you – to shake you up and create a crack in your confidence through which the ex might somehow wiggle her way back into your boyfriend’s good graces. I think you’re much better off never letting on that any such crack exists. Eventually, they’ll both tire of trying to shake the unshakable and they’ll move on.


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19 comments… add one
  • artsygirl January 17, 2017, 9:29 am

    LW – WWS. Also, I would defer to your BF and his brother to deal with the ex and SIL if it needs to be handled. Considering that another family member informed you about the SIL and ex trying to undermine you, take heart that it sounds like at least one (and likely more) members of the family are firmly in your corner.

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  • TheHizzy January 17, 2017, 9:30 am

    Your boyfriend hasn’t engaged in his ex and has told you he doesn’t intend to. Just let the SIL and the Ex have their meddling fun and focus on your relationship. It’s hard but you’re stronger than those two women having nothing better to do with their lives.

    Maybe take some space from your SIL until this all blows over. Eventually they’ll get the hint.

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  • Ale January 17, 2017, 10:18 am

    I wonder why the BF hasn’t blocked the ex, by himself, since he doesn’t want to engage any further. This sounds like the most logical thing to do.
    And for the LW, if your BF has stated clearly that he doesn’t want anything to do with her, then let them be. It doesn’t matter what they say.

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      Bittergaymark January 17, 2017, 11:38 am

      Eh, after twenty years — there might very well be real logistical needs for them to be in occasional contact.
      To me, the LW is just being insecure and should simply drop this. Pursuing this matter will ONLY make her look weak and thus fuel the flames of both the ex and the sil…

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      • Ale January 17, 2017, 11:46 am

        But they have been separated for two years. What logistical needs need to be solved after two years? Unless they had kids, in which case the LW would be completely out of line to ask him to block her, and she is considering it.

      • SpaceySteph January 17, 2017, 12:22 pm

        Definitely could be some logistical reason to stay in touch…. my sister’s husband and his ex GF had a dog together and had somewhat shared custody (not like a court order or anything, just a cordial agreement that she would take care of it occasionally) so they remained in contact until the dog died last year.

      • Threatened By the Ex and the SIL January 19, 2017, 1:47 pm

        Thanks B. That is correct, they had property together that needed to be sorted out. He is also a very, very kind person, and I think partly doesn’t want to create any more drama then this already has been.

        He typically just doesn’t respond unless it required a response (iie, signing off on her car title, etc). But we are nearing their mutual property being completely separated and no need for further contact from her.

    • RedRoverRedRover January 17, 2017, 12:54 pm

      For me personally, if the texts were infrequent I just wouldn’t bother blocking. I wouldn’t care enough to spend the time, if she was easy to ignore.

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    • Fyodor January 17, 2017, 1:23 pm

      Unless it was like every day I wouldn’t block it I would just ignore. There might be an emergency situation or some news from a friend or something. Blocking is a pretty extreme remedy.

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  • golfer.gal January 17, 2017, 11:42 am

    Oof. I definitely understand feeling hurt and a little threatened in this situation. Honestly the behavior of both the ex and the sis in law sounds fucking bonkers. Who cares what the sister in law thinks? She’s not entitled to make relationship decisions for other people.

    I agree with Wendy. If this is something that is happening regularly then I think you should start with blocking the ex’s number on his phone, which is a simple process that generally just requires a call to his cell provider or a trip to their website, along with her email and all social media. Say nothing about it. Dont tell the ex he’s doing it, don’t talk to the sis in law. Just quietly block. If the sis in law comments about this or approaches either of you, then calmly and with detached concern say something like “Yes, Ex’s contact became so frequently and bizarre that we had to block her. Frankly, we’re worried about her mental health, she seems to be having a lot of trouble accepting our happy relationship and moving on. We hope she gets help, but the best thing for us to do at this point is disengage. So, how about that hockey game?”. Any future contact from the ex shoukd be ignored completely, and any comments from the sis in law directly to you should be addressed firmly and politely. Miss Manners always recommends responses like “Why do you ask?”, “What an odd/hurtful thing to say”, or “Hmm, thanks for your thoughts” all said with a bemused look.

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      Norabb January 17, 2017, 12:21 pm

      Good advice, but I don’t think calling into question her mental health is really necessary and seems a little passive aggresive.

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        Bittergaymark January 17, 2017, 12:43 pm

        Just a little bit. Better to sit back snd be thought a bitch than to spread lies and bitter innuendo and remove all doubt. Trust me — pulling the “we’re SO worried about her mental health” card will only make YOU look crazy and insane. Not to meantion full of shit. Very counter productive…

      • golfer.gal January 18, 2017, 12:26 pm

        This advice was intended only if the ex is contacting them every day at such frequency that it is interfering with their lives. In that instance, quite frankly, they should be concerned for her mental health, and saying that to the sis in law (should she ask), would hopefully be a wake up call that the sis should stop feeding the ex drama and fueling the contact, because it’s actually hurting her friend, not helping her. I completely agree with Wendy that if the texts, calls, whatever are infrequent and the LW’s boyfriend hasn’t responded to any of them, then it really isn’t worth worrying about. Go about their lives and ignore it.

  • Howdywiley January 17, 2017, 11:52 am

    I would just drop it. Honestly I feel like this is the boyfriends problem to deal with.

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  • Fyodor January 17, 2017, 1:14 pm

    The resentment over “feeding her information” is strange. None of this is spy secrets. The ex is allowed to ask the SIL about him and the SIL is allowed to talk about it.

    I’m curious how she knows that the SIL has said all this stuff about the ex getting back together. Does it come from the ex? I wouldn’t assume that the SIL is necessarily complicit in these things. It could also be that the SIL thinks that she’s just benignly mollifying her hurt friend rather than scheming to get these things back together.

    This all goes to why you shouldn’t worry about the SIL and ex. You don’t know what’s going on and your boyfriend is properly keeping out of contact with her ex. So don’t worry about it.

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    • Threatened By the Ex and the SIL January 19, 2017, 1:53 pm

      The SIL explicitly told several family members that she didn’t want his and mine’s relationship to continue because she felt him and the ex were a better fit.

      I just personally feel uncomfortable sharing anything with the SIL that would get back to the ex, that might further, feed the fire so to speak. I want this to kinda disappear, and his ex seems to use that info to attack me. It’s just uncomfortable, not resentful, just really uncomfortable.

      But, as you guys have pointed out, I’m electing to let it disappear by not giving it any more energy.

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  • Fyodor January 17, 2017, 1:22 pm

    “the ex” not “her ex”

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  • tangerbean January 19, 2017, 8:25 am

    I wouldn’t confront the SIL. I’d actually do the opposite. Whenever I was around her, I’d be delightful. I wouldn’t act like I was trying to win her over or anything, I’d just show a happy confidence. What can she report back to the ex about that? If you show insecurity, THAT’S what she’ll be running to tell her, so don’t let her see it.

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    • Threatened By the Ex and the SIL January 19, 2017, 1:56 pm

      Thanks, this makes total sense!

      Some of what I told the SIL in passing, not meaning anything by it, has someone gotten back the the ex in a twisted message. For example, me stating I wanted to wait to have children until I was at least a year into graduate school, turned into the ex telling him she didn’t understand why he wanted to be with someone who didn’t want to have children.

      But, if my messages stay clear and on point that we ARE HAPPY and in love, there really isn’t much to say about it.

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