My husband and I have argued this point over and over, but he says. “It is not my fault what she does.” Well, I think it is up to him to say something to her, but he doesn’t want any conflict. Last Christmas his family was having a family reunion in Barbados. His daughter was invited and so was I. His ex-wife was not, yet she took it upon herself to go with the daughter to the family reunion. For that reason, my husband and I did not attend.
For their daughter’s graduation from university, she bought a card and gift from her and my husband and I wasn’t included. I told my husband that we should have bought our own card and gift, and he said, “Well, we [meaning him and his ex] are her parents.” Also, the ex-wife planned a dinner out after the graduation and wanted my husband to attend on his own, just the three of them, and he did.
Now the daughter’s boyfriend’s grandfather passed away, and my husband’s ex-wife, once again, sent flowers from her, my husband, and their daughter only, leaving me out, and my husband knew this and paid for half of the flowers. I was very upset and said we should have sent our own flowers. Once again, his replay was, “I can’t help what she does.” There are about 100 more incidents just like these and constant phoning and texting — he even painted her house and did repairs a few years back and didn’t tell me.
What do you think? Am I making too much of this? My husband thinks I am over-reacting, and he says to “put my big girl panties on” and put up with it. I feel totally disrespected, and he just doesn’t get it.
Am I over-reacting? — Tired of Being Disrespected
Well, if this shit has been going on for the entirety of your relationship, why on earth did you marry the guy? You had eight whole years together before you tied the knot. You knew the deal. You knew what his relationship with his ex-wife was like. Did you think it would get better after you got married? Did you tell yourself it wasn’t really a big deal, and now after 12 years you can no longer deny that it is a big deal for you? What did you tell yourself for years and years to believe you were OK with this kind of behavior and what now has changed? What was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back here? In a string of more than 100 big and small incidents that you say disrespected your role as your husband’s significant other, what has happened to make you write to me for my opinion and advice?
For what it’s worth, my opinion is that you are not overreacting — both your husband and his ex are disrespecting you, but it’s your husband’s job — not his ex-wife’s — to have your back and he doesn’t. He, apparently, would rather avoid “conflict” with his ex than avoid hurting you, and that’s telling. It’s also telling that after years of putting up with your husband’s ex-wife signing his name to gifts from her and your telling him you should send your own gifts…. you have not taken the step to send your own gifts.
You knew her graduation was coming. You knew you’d be going. You knew your husband’s ex had a history of buying gifts and saying they were from her and your husband, and you knew your husband had a history of not buying the gifts because it’s easier for him to let his ex do the shopping. To avoid only one gift going to your stepdaughter from her parents, without your name on it, you could say to your husband: “Hey husband, this milestone is coming up for your daughter and we need to give her a nice gift. What do you think she might like?”
Why do you continue being so passive? You were passive when you married a man whose relationship with his ex gave you serious pause. You are passive letting this resentment continue growing for TWELVE years. And you are passive about buying the damn gifts you want people to know are from you and instead hoping your husband’s ex finally includes your name on gifts even though she has no reason to, and it doesn’t make any sense. You didn’t even go to your husband’s family reunion because his ex-wife was crashing it? So passive!
You know who isn’t passive? The ex-wife! She’s in so much control of this narrative she’s got her married ex-husband over painting her house and making repairs. And you just let it happen.
Come on, take the wheel. Say enough is enough. Buy the gifts from you and your husband and sign your names. Go to family reunions you are invited to. Go to your step-daughter’s graduation dinner because you are her father’s wife, and unless you have been expressly told not to come, it’s your place to be there. And if you ARE told expressly not to come, ask why the hell you aren’t invited, because you’re the father’s wife and that makes you family.
And, finally, if you’ve brought to your husband’s attention many times how this behavior makes you feel and he continues blowing you off, dismissing your feelings, and claiming not to have any responsibility in any of it, maybe it’s time to ask yourself whether he’s a true partner in this marriage. Maybe it’s time to tell him that you don’t feel the support and commitment you need from him to stay in the marriage and that it seems to you that he prioritizes his ex-wife’s feelings over yours and is more concerned about avoiding conflict with her than avoiding it with you and that’s not right and you’re not going to put up with it anymore. But you can only say those things if you’re prepared to leave. And if you aren’t — if you’re willing to continue sitting passively in the passenger’s side of your own car rather than taking the wheel and driving the direction YOU want to go, you’re going to continue hitting the same roadblocks you’ve been hitting for 12 years.
You are not without agency here. And if you don’t embrace that, you can’t say you aren’t without blame either, and nothing is ever going to get better.
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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy(AT)dearwendy.com.