Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Husband’s Ex-Wife Still Signs His Name on Cards and Gifts”

I have been with the same man for 12 years now, married for four. Through our whole relationship his involvement with his ex-wife has been too friendly. He has one grown daughter with her, age 25. This is a second marriage for both of us; I have two grown children too, but my ex and I would never act the way his ex-wife does with my husband. For example, she thinks that whenever there is a graduation, birthday, funeral, etc. that she has the right to purchase gifts or flowers and sign the card from my husband and her only. She is totally disrespecting me and doesn’t acknowledge me at all or the fact that I am married to him now.

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 a 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 (which it never does)? Did you think you’d get over it (and why would you if you hadn’t after eight years?)? 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 your 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. I mean, that’s kind of a no-brainer, right? Your husband’s daughter graduates from college and it doesn’t occur to you to buy a gift until your name is left off the gift her mother gives her?! That’s kind of on you, no? 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 didn’t think to say, “Hey husband, let’s get your daughter a nice watch. 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.

Jesus, take the wheel. Say enough is enough. Buy the damn 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 it’s your damn business to know why you aren’t welcome.

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.

23 comments… add one
  • avatar

    ron September 10, 2018, 7:53 am

    It’s hard to understand why you would stay away from a family reunion to which you were invited, because the ex would be there. Why are you so jealous of her? There must be more than you are saying in your history with her. Was your husband too close to her when your relationship began, as in still married to her?

    Wendy is correct that your husband really does have to take sides. Whether he is extremely conflict adverse, fears his ex will poison his relationship with daughter, still feeling guilty about divorce and breaking up his family, or just still enjoys how much interest his ex has in him, he needs to react to all of this. That part isn’t fair to LW, although I agree she is strangely super passive.

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      csp September 10, 2018, 11:47 am

      I thought that was super weird too!

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  • juliecatharine

    juliecatharine September 10, 2018, 8:17 am

    Whenever a grown woman says her SO’s ex is ‘disrespecting’ her I roll my eyes. This is no different. Either step up on the gift/attendance fronts, leave, or get over it. It’s been 12 years and nothing has changed. Frankly I would find the card signing hilarious—people must think the ex is super weird and kinda pathetic.

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  • avatar

    brise September 10, 2018, 8:37 am

    I agree with Juliecatherine. I would find it kind of ridiculous to receive cards clearly made by the ex in full denial that her marriage doesn’t exist anymore, and it is ridiculous from your husband too, frankly, it is as though he was feeling bad about it.
    This card’s problem is not really important, who cares about those cards.
    The gift to his daughter is something you should have thought of. But you can still make a common gift to her with your husband – so he will have to pay twice, that is on him ! The grand-father of the boyfriend of the daughter… not so important.
    You should go to any meeting where you are invited, this a very good reminder for the ex and for everybody that you are his wife. That seems not totally clear even to you as you don’t say it at once in your post, one has to learn it only at the end of a paragraph, like an incidental information. You are his wife, you don’t have to defend yourself to be. Assert yourself as such. I guess there is history here (were you the mistress? were you hidden at the start?)
    Lastly, for the work and repair of her house: tell your husband you expect honesty on his part. He takes you for granted, really. The “put your big girl panties” is not acceptable. Your feelings are important as well.

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  • Skyblossom

    Skyblossom September 10, 2018, 9:02 am

    Neither you or your husband can control what his ex does but you can control what you do. He can’t control whether she buys flowers and puts his name on it but he can certainly control whether he pays for half of those flowers. I’d point out to him that people think it is weird that his ex is signing his name like they are married and it is time for him to put on his big boy undies and quit paying for joint gifts with her, except gifts for their daughter. I think joint gifts for the daughter are appropriate and sometimes celebrating her just the three of them is okay. Everything else isn’t okay.

    Don’t get pushed out of a trip because she goes when she is uninvited. Go with your husband and be the wife. She must get a feeling of power by going and seeing you stay away. It is a way of saying she is still a member of his family and you aren’t. Don’t allow that. Why let her push you out? That’s on you and your husband when you stay away. Be a part of the family.

    Purchase gifts. Don’t wait for her to buy one with your husband and then exclude you. Buy a gift from you and your husband. Put his name on it and your name on it. When the recipient gets two gifts with your husband’s name on it they will find the one from him and the ex weird. I can’t imagine people not talking about it and making fun of it. You don’t need or want your name on her gift. You need to give your own with your husband. If your husband objects to giving a joint gift with you then I think you need to assess your marriage.

    Why did you marry a man who was still so attached at the hip to his ex? Did the two of you start as an affair? Point out to your husband that his ex is getting a sense of power out of controlling him. Go to a counselor and ask for advice and how to talk to your husband about this.

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  • avatar

    ron September 10, 2018, 9:58 am

    The gift cards addressed by ex to their daughter as from ex and LW’s husband are not the ex’s strangeness. Because the LW’s husband pays for half the gift or the flowers, they literally are joint gifts from him and his ex — the daughter’s two bio-parents. I can see this practice starting as a sort of sweet thing to let the daughter know, when she was young, that despite the divorce both parents still loved her and would act together in her best interests to protect and nurture her. At the start, the ex-husband was years from re-marrying and both parents may have sensed that this practice comforted daughter.

    Now that daughter is older and her father is re-married, this is a practice which should end. Her father can end it by simply no longer paying half of the cost of gift selected by his ex. To be honest, one reason for this practice was that the ex knew from days they were married that the husband wasn’t good at gift buying/giving and couldn’t be counted on to get the child a separate gift. She was sparing her child hurt by avoiding the possibility of no gift from dad.

    I don’t see why LW sees it as more appropriate to make a joint 3-person gift with her name included. If she wants to stress that the new family unit for her husband, the girl’s father, is LW and husband, then it is very odd that they’ve never sent the girl a gift as a couple. We’re very deep in the passive-aggressive here, which is part of what makes me think there is a big unmentioned part of LW’s tale.

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  • avatar

    JD September 10, 2018, 9:58 am

    I mean I think what she is doing is a bit ridiculous but it wouldn’t throw me over the edge. There are far more annoying ex spouses (let me tell you about the messages my husbands ex sent last night about all her financial issues she made for herself). Not going to the reunion because she was there? You only hurt yourself and likely pleased her. Seems pointless

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  • avatar

    Alwayssecond77 September 10, 2018, 10:01 am

    Thank-you for all your comments on this.
    I just would like to clarify a few things. First of all I did not have an affair with my husband. He was already separated from his wife when I met him, and she was the one that had the affair. Second, we didn’t go to the reunion, for other reasons also, not just because she was going. Thirdly, I did suggest buying our own gifts, and actually bought gifts from us for his daughter, and he told me to return them as he had already gave money to her with his ex wife. When the repairs were done on her home, I didn’t know about them. I found out 6 months later someone else, not my husband, As far as the dinner was concerned, I was not invited to come, and was told not to come, which caused a huge fight. I did stick up for myself, by confronting his ex wife, several times, it just got into a heated fight, and a texting war, in which ended up with her threatening to call the police and to stop texting her, after she got out the most horrible things she could say about me and insults for days, when I tried to defend myself, that’s when she used, the “I’m calling the police” if you text me again.” My husband read all the texts, and he did defend me at that point, but at the same time, said it was my fault for texting her in the first place. My husband kept saying he would handle it, but he never did. That’s why I tried to and after that I must say it worked for a while, didn’t hear from her so much. She goes in spurts, off for while then on again. (All depending on if she is dating someone) or not. When she is we never hear from her, but when she isn’t, she never stops.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark September 10, 2018, 10:05 am

    Strongly disagree with Wendy on this one. It’s been OVER A DECADE. Meaning EVERYBODY knows damn well they are divorced. This whole batshit gift fiasco just REVEALS to the world at large just how 100% batshit fucking crazy the Ex is. A fact that would be nicely highlighted each and everytime your gift simply arrives with both yours and your husbands name on the card.
    .
    I suspect — the husband HAS spoken to his Ex many, many times on this issue. Really? What more is he to do? Have her fucking killed?
    .
    NEWSFLASH: You can’t control other people’s behaviour — only you (over)reaction to it.
    .
    Seriously, LW. Grow the fuck up. To not go to that reunion in Barbados revealed you to be rather childish, weak, sad, and pathetic. Not a very good look.
    .
    Everybody in your poor husband’s orbit must take a giid look at her — then at you — and think… Yikes! He sure knows how to pick ‘em.

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  • avatar

    dinoceros September 10, 2018, 10:15 am

    I’m going to be honest, it’s hard to feel a lot of sympathy here because you saw their relationship and chose to marry him anyway. I’m trying to understand how you saw it — did you think he’d change? Did you not care then and care now? Were you just desperate to have someone? The way they handle things is not necessarily the norm, but it’s also not outside the realm of appropriate divorced parent behavior. If he seems to actually want to be with you and is not pining after her, and if you have a decent relationship with the daughter, then cards shouldn’t matter that much. But it sounds like you DO have underlying concerns about the relationships here, not just the cards, which brings us back to the original issue — why would you marry someone who think isn’t over his ex? Or who seems to value her over you?

    In any relationship, the dating phase is for both of you to decide if this is the relationship you want to be in. A lot of women get hung up on whether the guy likes them or whether they can “snag” him and forget to actually notice whether the relationship is right for them. This is even more important when you are dating someone whose ex is in the picture because you need to say, “Hey, can I live with this relationship he has with his ex?”

    At this point, I’d say you should try counseling, individual first and then couples. But after 12 years of accepting this behavior, I think it’s doubtful he’s going to suddenly change.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark September 10, 2018, 11:14 am

    Oh, just buy your own gifts from both you and your husband and act like a fucking grown up. Seriously. His Ex’s actions make only her look batshit crazy. They’ve been divorced for over a decade. EVERYBODY knows they are divorced. Her actions just make Her look crazy.

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    • avatar

      Alwayssecond77 September 10, 2018, 12:32 pm

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      Alwayssecond77 SEPTEMBER 10, 2018, 10:01 AM

      Thank-you for all your comments on this.
      I just would like to clarify a few things. First of all I did not have an affair with my husband. He was already separated from his wife when I met him, and she was the one that had the affair. Second, we didn’t go to the reunion, for other reasons also, not just because she was going. Thirdly, I did suggest buying our own gifts, and actually bought gifts from us for his daughter, and he told me to return them as he had already gave money to her with his ex wife. When the repairs were done on her home, I didn’t know about them. I found out 6 months later someone else, not my husband, As far as the dinner was concerned, I was not invited to come, and was told not to come, which caused a huge fight. I did stick up for myself, by confronting his ex wife, several times, it just got into a heated fight, and a texting war, in which ended up with her threatening to call the police and to stop texting her, after she got out the most horrible things she could say about me and insults for days, when I tried to defend myself, that’s when she used, the “I’m calling the police” if you text me again.” My husband read all the texts, and he did defend me at that point, but at the same time, said it was my fault for texting her in the first place. My husband kept saying he would handle it, but he never did. That’s why I tried to and after that I must say it worked for a while, didn’t hear from her so much. She goes in spurts, off for while then on again. (All depending on if she is dating someone) or not. When she is we never hear from her, but when she isn’t, she never stops.

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      • avatar

        Alwayssecond77 September 10, 2018, 12:39 pm

        Also for the record my husband and I have been to couples counselling, and individual counselling, twice, on this very issue.
        The counselor did tell my husband to set boundaries between his ex wife and him, also he was told about etiquette in ex spouse being too friendly with one another, especially when one or either is remarried. Nothing was gained from that.

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    Alwayssecond77 September 10, 2018, 12:40 pm

    Also for the record my husband and I have been to couples counselling, and individual counselling, twice, on this very issue.
    The counselor did tell my husband to set boundaries between his ex wife and him, also he was told about etiquette in ex spouse being too friendly with one another, especially when one or either is remarried. Nothing was gained from that.

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    • avatar

      JD September 10, 2018, 1:10 pm

      There’s nothing to be gained by that? Are you kidding me? My mother and father are both remarried and get along just lovely. They have chats now and then and would both help each other when needed. You know what is gained by that??? Me, as an adult, having two parents who can be at events with me together and actually enjoy chatting and not have issues. There is plenty to be gained by that.

      Also, your insecurity. So he wasn’t meant to be married to her, that doesn’t mean he hates her. I frankly prefer it that way. I’d much rather my husband and his ex got along more, could be friendly, didn’t have to think about the drama of them both attending events (well her drama because he doesn’t engage). A LOT is to be gained from being friendly with your ex.

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      • avatar

        Vathena September 10, 2018, 1:22 pm

        JD, I think she means nothing was gained from that as in, the counseling didn’t really help the situation. I completely agree that having a decent relationship with a co-parent is a great thing. This situation seems a bit beyond that in that the guy apparently lied to his wife about all the time he spent helping his ex around the house, and won’t allow his wife to give gifts from the two of them to others, preferring instead to give joint gifts with his ex-wife. Plus constant calling and texting. And then when his wife tries to express her dissatisfaction with the situation, he dismisses her feelings by talking about “big girl panties”. That’s a problem.

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  • avatar

    brise September 10, 2018, 12:58 pm

    Well, if your husband asked you to return the gift you had purchased for his daughter, because he had already taken part in his ex’s gift, this is really a problem of respect towards you. You should have offered it anyway.
    So yes, your husband has an ex’s problem. But it is probably obvious for everybody who receive these cards….
    You can say that in the future, you ask him to act as a couple with you. And there will be a future here, with a young adult daughter. Ask him to prepare a common gift for Christmas, or for her birthday, with you. And always like this in the future. If he can’t commit to that, you might want to move on. Anyway, he obviously takes you for granted. The failure of couple’s therapy is a bad sign. But he won’t change as long as you are there, accepting it.

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  • avatar

    Vathena September 10, 2018, 1:12 pm

    “I did stick up for myself, by confronting his ex wife, several times”

    You confronted the wrong person. Ignore the ex. Block her on your phone. You have no reason to be connected to this person via phone or any social media. If you see her at a graduation/reunion/wedding/whatever, you should be polite, but that’s it. DO NOT text her, you’re not going to get anywhere by doing it and it makes you look just as batshit as she is. Go high!

    You have a husband problem, not a husband’s-ex-wife problem. Your husband can’t control his ex, but he sure as shit can control his own words and actions. You’ve already been in counseling and the situation hasn’t improved. At this point, you probably need to either accept it or leave. He’s doesn’t really care how you feel, and he’s not going to change.

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  • avatar

    Bacon Mistress September 10, 2018, 2:40 pm

    Wendy- PREACH! Every word was correct.

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  • avatar

    Barbara September 12, 2018, 1:57 pm

    Dear Wendy. A-1 advice for passive wife. I see myself there many years ago with different issues. I still have issues however too many to email now. I am looking forward to a new great grandchild in October. had dealt with an almost tragic happening with my 58 yr old son who is recently divorced. Addiction. saved in time. getting output help. then had two lumbar fusions. was in a ‘ pickle’ great pain never missed work. went on crutches had. drop foot was walking like a toddler. painful for me to watch. had two surgeries. now doing well no dropfoot went to work as soon as he was able after surgery. sad situation. one of his daughters won’t have anything to do with him. too much more to tell. I seem to be okay. no need for meds. most of the time. sincerely barbara

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  • avatar

    SpaceySteph September 12, 2018, 3:09 pm

    Husband sounds like a tool. I bet he never when they were married put any effort into joint gifts and still doesn’t, just lets the ex wife pick something, ponies up half the money (but none of the thought) and moves on. He continues to ride on the emotional and actual labor done by his ex wife rather than put in any of the work.

    LW, I think you have 2 choices
    1) accept that this is your husband’s weird quirk and get over it. It really has no affect on your marriage that the ex wife does this. Nobody thinks they’re still married, nobody disrespects you, its weird af but not a big deal
    OR
    2) take over the emotional and actual labor of gifting, and sign your two names to the cards. Eventually he’ll get used to having a new woman do this work for him and he won’t have to lean on her to do it anymore.

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    • avatar

      SpaceySteph September 12, 2018, 3:13 pm

      P.S. its so common for men of a certain generation to be kind of domestically helpless by design. I’ll never forget the time my FIL came to visit without his toiletry case because he assumed my MIL would pack it for him even though she wasn’t even coming on the trip and was actually at work when he left. Get it together, man.

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    • avatar

      ktfran September 12, 2018, 3:48 pm

      I can honestly say my father has never done the gift shopping (Christmas/birthdays) for me and and my sisters unless we asked for something related to fishing or hunting. All gifts were my mom’s responsibility.

      So yeah, I could see this being the norm when he was married to the ex and never broke the habit.

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