“My Husband Keeps Calling Me By His Ex-Wife’s Name”

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My husband used to be married before. He and his ex were married a couple of years and divorced six years ago. We have been together five years and got married this past May. When we first started dating, he accidentally called me by his ex-wife’s name and didn’t even realize it until I told him. He apologized, but it’s happened again a few times since.

When talking about my mom, he has called her “Denice” (which is his ex-mother-in-law) when my mother’s name is Janice. He has “brain farts” all the time and can’t remember my middle name. Tonight we were driving around and being goofy and asking each other questions and I couldn’t think of anything else so I said, “What’s my middle name?” Of course, he said the wrong one – his ex-wife’s middle name.

He instantly got mad at himself when I told him that wasn’t right. He apologized, but this is getting old. Why can’t he remember simple things about me? He’s had no communication with his ex for over four years. Does this happen to anyone else? — The Second Wife

I don’t think mixing up names is that big a deal, and the commenters on the forum agree. We ALL have family members or someone in our lives – often parents or grandparents – that run through a list of loved one’s names before landing on the right one. My grandpa, with four kids and six grandkids, was notorious about this, and I’m pretty sure over the years I heard him call my grandmother everyone else’s name lots of times. What I do think your situation and the examples you’ve given might suggest more than lingering feelings on your husband’s part is your insecurity in your relationship, and I have to wonder what is responsible for the insecurity here.

Is it JUST the name thing or is there more? Is your gut telling you something? Do you have a legitimate reason to believe your husband isn’t over his ex? If it’s just the name thing – something that a lot of people might laugh off or roll their eyes at rather than feeling really wounded and suspicious about – I think you’re over-reacting. But if there’s a deeper reason for your unease, you owe it to yourself and your relationship to articulate what that reason is, communicate with your husband, and seek some help – maybe in the way of marriage counseling – to address it.

I can understand feeling a little embarrassed or surprised, maybe even slightly hurt, to be called by your partner’s ex’s name, but that feeling should pass quickly. If it doesn’t, and if you are actually actively testing your spouse to “prove” something – his love, maybe – by asking pointed questions like “what’s my middle name?”, you’re looking for justification for a suspicion or a feeling or an insecurity you have. The justification doesn’t exist in the form of your husband’s momentary “brain farts”; the justification would have to exist within more serious transgressions. If such transgressions don’t exist, then the issue is probably in your head, and if you are unable to get past it, you should talk to a therapist about how you’re feeling before you sabotage your marriage.

My birthday and Christmas are just a few days apart. My boyfriend, “Tom,” gave me cash two days before my birthday; I mean, he literally threw the money on the table without even an envelope or card. Then, a day or two before Christmas he tells me he has to go buy me a gift. I’ve been throwing out hints since September as to what it is that I like, considering this is our first Christmas together, but his gift to me was an epic failure! When I saw the nicely wrapped boxes, I got really excited, but I was not expecting an engagement ring or anything related to marriage. Inside the first box was a beautiful sterling silver ring which didn’t fit. The second box had a turquoise pendant with the most horrific chain attached to it — looked like a man’s chain.

Despite everything, I tried to remain cool even though I wasn’t. He, on the other hand, was happy and overwhelmed with all the presents I presented to him – because I pay attention to him. For him to just buy me something without paying attention hurts. We don’t have a lot of money, but it meant everything to be able to get him things that made him happy. To add insult to injury, he didn’t even get a receipt, or as he says, he “lost it.”

Wendy, am I being a selfish bitch? — I’m just saying…

Yeah, maybe a little bit, but your boyfriend sounds like kind of a cad, too. Who throws cash at a significant other for a birthday gift? That’s strange behavior, even if you can forgive someone for the totally understandable transgression of not being fluent in the love language of gift-giving. It’s one thing to miss gift hints or to give something that’s a wrong size or not of someone’s exact taste; that in itself certainly does not indicate a lack of regard or affection or love.

Lots of people who are otherwise very loving partners don’t always give the most thoughtful gifts, but they show their love in so many other ways. That your boyfriend literally threw cash at you a couple days before your birthday – your first birthday with him – without even a card is rude and shows a lack of tact and class. But, tbh, harping on gifts someone has given you is also kind of tacky, too. He gave you a “beautiful sterling ring” but you’re mad it was the wrong size? You can get things sized. I mean, really: Grow up.

If your boyfriend is showing his love for you in other ways, the gifts shouldn’t be a big deal, and if it’s so important to you that he give you specific shit, just send him a direct link and say “I want this.” If your boyfriend is not showing you love in other ways or is not a romantic person and romance is super important to you, you probably aren’t a match and you should MOA.

***************Follow along on Facebook,  and Instagram. If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.


  1. LW1-I’ve been with my husband for 30 years (dated 8 and married 22). I still accidentally call him by first husband’s name. We’ve been divorced since 1991!
    It happens. Just relax.
    LW2- I understand how you feel. One year my husband , then boyfriend, gave me this hideous lamp thing with a glass table attached around the pole. I used it until it “broke.” He still has to be told what to get by our daughter. I just smile.

  2. 1. I’m pretty sure I’ve called the husband by my ex-fiance’s name a time or two. I know my dad has couple of times. It happens. However, Wendy is right in that maybe you’re latching onto this and really, there is a bigger problem? Because the name thing should be just a blip in an otherwise healthy relationship.

    2. The money on the table thing is super weird. However, hints usually don’t work. If there is something you want, tell him directly. It saves soooooooooo many hurt feelings.

    If friends and family had to pick one word to describe me, it would be particular. Everyone has said it. And it’s true. I own it. Instead of being disappointed in gifts, I tell the husband and my parents exactly what I want. For instance, my birthday is in a few days. My mom asked what I wanted. I told her I don’t really want anything this year so some flowers would be really nice. I’ll get flowers on Thursday from the local shop down the street. The husband and I don’t do birthday gifts, but instead have a really nice dinner. I told him exactly where I want to get takeout.

  3. My husband sucks at gifts. He frequently doesn’t give me a gift or take me to where I want to go (even if I just flat-out tell him, unless I make the reservation or buy myself the present, it’s not happening). Sometimes it really gets to me–esoecially if I compare our relationship to my friend’s. But the reality is that no one is perfect, and I knew what I signed up for when we got married 18 years ago … when he didn’t get me presents and was bad at planning dates back when we were dating. He shows me that he loves me in many other ways, and I accepted that and continue to accept that about him. You may need to decide if this is a deal breaker for you–no judgment from me either way .

  4. Bittergaymark says:

    LW1). My sister and I used to chide my father constantly for this. Now we both do it.

    LW2) Eh, it’s bad enough when people are materialistic. But then to have bad taste, too. Ugh. Hopefully, your BF tires of you right quick. NEWSFLASH: you probably simply don’t know your jewelry. At all. I’d love to see the chain in question. But the best native american pieces favor masculine styles.

    1. Another problem: she wanted a gift “related to marriage” (though they’ve evidently been together less than a year). He’s resisting that expectation, probably consciously so.

      1. She said she was NOT expecting anything related to marriage.

  5. LW1 – I forget names all the time. Even people I’ve known for years. It can be hard for people to remember details like middle names too. My boyfriend never remembers my middle name and we’ve been together for over 10 years. It’s not something to take personally. It’s not information used on a daily basis. I’d cut him some slack.

    LW2 – My boyfriend is terrible at gift-giving. It’s just not his thing. I have to send him the link to what I want and make sure he orders it so I get it on time. Like I said, we’ve been together 10 years so I’ve just accepted that it’s not his forte.

  6. ele4phant says:

    Ah – gift giving.

    My husband has given me all manner of practical gifts over the years. A lot of workout gear and kitchen stuff we need but isn’t very exciting.

    In a way, he IS being attentive because he’s paying attention to what I need, but for me, I can buy those practical things myself.

    I love jewelry, and one time I told him outright I want you to buy me some jewelry please. He grumbled a bit that “I knew what I liked best” he none-the-less got me a necklace, and…I didn’t really like it. *Technically* one might think it my taste, it fit within the same metal/color choices most of my stuff did, but it was just too big and bulky for my taste. He was right, I knew best what I liked.

    The point is, people show affection in different ways. My husband is really really good about realizing when I need something, often even before I’ve come to that realization that x,y, or z would make my life easier. He’s not good, at all, about getting me things that I don’t necessarily need but want.

    And, that’s okay. Is your boyfriend loving and attentive in other ways? If so, just accept he’s not going to get you great “fun” gifts but appreciate the other ways he shows he cares.

    However, if his lackluster giving habits is part of a broader pattern where he doesn’t really seem invested in you, your happiness, and the general state of the relationship, maybe you’d best be served ending the relationship.

    Also – underneath all this, you mentioned thinking the jewelry was going to be an engagement ring. Do you want to get married? Is that what this is all about. Will start the conversation. It’s 2021, the decision to get married should be a well thought out and discussed decision to adults make, not a fairy tell proposal where the guy gets all the power to decide if and when it will happen.

    If you want your relationship to progress in any certain way, talk to him about what you want and where he’s at.

    My practical husband never proposed. We had a series of conversations, which ultimately ended up in us deciding getting married felt right. I picked out a pretty ring I wanted, and he bought it for me, and it was just right for the couple we are.

  7. Aunty Dote says:

    Like Wendy said, figure out if this is a sign of a bigger issue. I’ve been with my partner for over a decade, and still have to sometimes resist the urge to call him by my ex-husband’s name. He still can’t remember my phone number after all of these years, and struggles with my birthday (I struggle to remember his, too). None of these things point to a lack of love and commitment, just a certain type of memory.

  8. My husband frequently asks me to remind him of *his own birthday* if that makes anyone feel better!

  9. Someone is complaining about their husband calling them by his ex wife’s name that’s nothing people do that by accident all the time. Try this one out for size my husband wants me to call him by the nickname that his ex gave him and called him by no if that doesn’t scream that he still has feelings for her then i don’t know what does!!!!

  10. Deborah Theasby says:

    Do what I did. Marry a man with the same name as your ex-husband.

  11. My husband was divorced 30 years when we met, we have been married 3 years. He continues to call me by his ex’s name. I was confused why he was friends on facebook with her but when I said so he got angry and un-friended her the a few months later I saw where they were friends again! I was furious…I felt betrayed! Another time his sister have found some old family videos of him his wife and son’s, his son came for a visit and we played the video for him. After his son left my husband told me that I was a wife the way his ex was because I didn’t have his children!!! I feel like I don’t count..,2nd class! What’s going on?

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