“My In-Laws Always Choose the Exes Over Me”

Sometimes when I get letters from people asking for advice, I know there’s more to the story than what’s been shared, and I try to get more details to help me fill in the picture and give the best guidance I can. I thought you all might like to see an example with this sort of behind-the-scenes exchange that definitely helped crystallize what the problem was…

I met my husband four years ago through Facebook, and we just celebrated our first year wedding anniversary. Neither of us has a Facebook page anymore because it’s caused nothing but problems with his ex-girlfriends. They just don’t seem to go away even though they’re married with kids now. Two of the exes are good friends with most of his family, and his family chooses to have them as friends instead of me. This makes me sad because I have tried to get close to them, but they show no interest. What has bothered me the most is constantly seeing the exes on Facebook trying very hard to stay in my husband’s family circle. They’re almost in competition with who is closer to his family. It’s not like I search them either; it’s that we share the same friends (his family) and they are always the first to comment on their posts. The exes love old pics, especially if they have him or his momma in them. They have even liked my pics of his family.

Once in a great while I open up Facebook because I miss my family and friends, and I end up seeing a picture with him and an ex because someone posted an old family picture. It hurts so much because I’m not talking about just one ex, but three exes. This has caused many arguments and pain, and I sometimes wish I had never met him because of his past. I understand we all have a past, but his doesn’t seem to go away because the exes don’t want to go away. I honestly believe they still have feelings for my husband. My husband says “just stay off Facebook,” but that’s just the social media part. He loves his family and wants to be around them, but his family chooses to invite the exes instead and it doesn’t bother him at all. Please help! — Heartbroken wife

When you say that your husband “loves his family and wants to be around them, but his family chooses to invite the exes instead,” what is it instead of? Are they inviting the exes instead of you?

Thank you so much for responding! His family invites his exes to things instead of inviting my husband and me. So far, I have seen pictures of my husband with three different exes on Facebook. And when they invite the exes, they post pictures of them almost on purpose so I can see them. It’s been almost five years of having to deal with this and with the ongoing stress and fighting with my husband about it. I’m ready to call it quits.

They invite your husband’s exes to family events, but they don’t invite your husband and you?? And it’s always been like this? Have you ever been invited to a family event? Did your husband’s family come to your wedding?

We have been invited twice and we attended. My husband has a huge family and they are always having events (almost every weekend), but they don’t invite us. My husband used to be very close to them, and I feel that because of me he no longer is. We went to Las Vegas to get married and only my sister made it. None of his family was able to.

And your husband has zero explanation for why his family has no interest in you? Is there anything about you – race, religion, where you’re from – that is different from them? Has your husband changed anything in his lifestyle since meeting you?

No, he hasn’t. He just says “don’t worry about them” and that they don’t have a problem with me, but it’s very obvious they do. We are all the same, no difference. I don’t understand why they don’t like me; I’ve tried so very hard to be friends with them. I honestly think it’s the exes that just don’t want to go away because they still care for him, and his family welcomes them because they are all old friends from a small town. It’s an awful feeling to be excluded, even still after we have married. I am a friendly person who believes family is important. But I’ve had enough heartache.

Was he in a relationship when you two met?

Absolutely not. And the changes he has made are for the better. I gave him a good home and helped him dress better, and he even took anger management classes after meeting me. He and I both believe I have made him a better person, and I think they see that too.

What prompted the anger management class?

Oh Wendy, that’s a whole other can of worms I didn’t wanna open up. The story behind that is so horrible and hurtful.

Might it be related to why his family doesn’t seem to like you? Nothing you’ve said so far has given any indication why his family doesn’t like you, and yet they like three of his ex-girlfriends, so clearly they can like significant others of his, even when they are close with his exes. It’s YOU that is different here. Something about you or your situation or your boyfriend when he’s with you or something that has happened since he met you is the issue. I’m just trying to get to what that issue is or I don’t know what to tell you or how to advise you. It just feels like part of the story is missing.

One night when we first moved in together he terrorized me because I was leaving him due to arguments about his ex. He was charged with six felonies, but I never testified against him so they dropped all charges. He got probation, paid some hefty fines, and had to take anger management classes for domestic violence.

When was this and had you met his family yet? If so, had they been nice to you? At what point did you realize there was an issue with his exes?


At this point, the LW stopped replying to my questions and I never heard from her again. I suspect, upon opening the can of worms that she very much did not want to open, she decided she’d had enough and moved on. Of course, it’s easy to look at the details that were uncovered – the domestic dispute, the felony charges, the anger management classes – and suspect that they are connected to why the in-laws want nothing to do with the wife. I’m sure on some level the LW must have known this as well, but she didn’t want to assume any responsibility for her in-laws’ behavior toward her.

Sometimes in cases like these I wonder why the LWs even write in when they clearly don’t want advice – at least not advice that may necessitate changes on their part or extending themselves in some way that might be uncomfortable or exerting effort when they think it’s not their responsibility to make the effort. But then I remember why so many often write in to advice columnists – they want validation that they’re right. They want someone else to say, “Oh, it’s awful how you’ve been wronged! There’s nothing you could have done differently to result in a different/better outcome. These other people are monsters who are jealous of you, and for your well-being you should cut them out of your life.”

I’ve been in therapy for four years now and talking to a therapist is a lot like reaching out to an advice columnist (but on steroids),and of the many things I’ve learned in therapy (and in life), one of the most important is this: Things don’t really get better without some effort and compromise from the person who wants things to improve. So much of therapy is uncomfortable, just as I imagine writing in for advice can be uncomfortable. To make yourself vulnerable to someone’s judgment is hard. It’s natural to want to disguise some of what we think might invite the harshest judgment. But that’s often where the answers are.

Anyway, I hope the LW in this case found her answers eventually. And I hope that if you have a relationship issue you need help thinking about, you’ll consider writing to me for advice. I may not have all the answers, but I probably have the ones you’ve been avoiding – the ones that are most likely to make things 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.


  1. Strange that she stayed with him and married him after a domestic violence incident which was bad enough to result in that many felony charges. Especially strange if she had decided to leave him prior to the domestic violence. So the fighting about exes goes way back to probably the start of their relationship and has never been resolved. Probably why they eloped to LV.

    1. The most dangerous time for an abused partner is when they leave. Whatever this man did was bad enough to accumulate not one, not two, but SIX felony counts and even when she did not give testimony, he still faced repercussions. They don’t hand those out for nothing. Usually when we hear about DV it’s already too late to protect anyone so this had to be serious. Either he terrorized her into staying, or the anger management really did work. I am frankly skeptical to the latter but if he did change for the better as she says, then that’s why she stayed. And if he didn’t, then that’s why. I think it’s sad, not strange.

  2. This was interesting! I love that you ask follow-up Qs to get to the bottom of what people are really asking.

  3. It was great to see your process. I agree with ron. This is still not all of the story. I wonder if she is just a very jealous type person or if he does things that are shady and it makes her feel insecure? Not that there is any excuse for his domestic violence. Strange situation all around.

  4. Social media is *never* the problem in and of itself.

  5. Anonymousse says:

    Thanks for showing your process.

    I think it is really her husband is not being invited.

    I wouldn’t invite someone with 6 felonies from one incident! (I’m no expert but that’s a LOT!)

    1. What are the odds he was violent towards the exes as well? I’m sure choices have been made to prioritise their friends and not domestic abusers. Good for them, frankly.

      1. Anonymousse says:

        Seriously. There’s no way that comes from nowhere and just disappears. Six felonies!
        That’s why you guys aren’t invited. He’s probably got a restraining order from someone who is invited.

  6. Do the exes have kids? As in the wonderful boyfriend who is only sometimes abusive and also a felon’s parents and family’s grandkids/nieces and nephews? And maybe they don’t invite Ex and his current enabler because they want a relationship with those kids. Anyway, no one’s family hates you for no reason. They may have shitty/racist/homophobic reasons, but they have A Reason. And of you don’t know it, your SO does and just isn’t telling you.

  7. LisforLeslie says:

    It’s certainly puzzling. All three of the exes are in touch with family – are their kids involved? Do the three hang out together at these family events? Were the three also abused? Why would you hang out with the family of your abuser? Would you spend time liking them on facebook?

    There are many missing pieces in this puzzle.

    1. I’m guessing that all three exes have children by this man, so they are coming to family events to maintain their kids’ relationship with their grandparents, uncles, aunts, half-siblings, etc.

  8. I’m a therapist and I approve this message!

  9. Avatar photo Moneypenny says:

    This is interesting… and the more I read the more questions I have! Is the family excluding lw and her husband bc of his felony charges? Or are they mad at lw for some reason, like they thought husband was fine before and they think he’s changed for the worse? Maybe they always had issues with him but always loved his girlfriends? Hmmm…

  10. Wendy, I get that you can’t give solid advice based on breadcrumbs of information, especially if it seems like the person is covering up unfavorable facts or painting a false narrative. But saying that someone who went through a serious DV situation is seeking validation and failing to assume responsibility for her *husband’s* violent behavior comes uncomfortably close to victim blaming and shaming. When someone goes through a traumatizing event, it can be very difficult, sometimes nearly impossible to talk about it. Even if the person desperately wants to. It’s just what trauma does to the brain. Sometimes vulnerability has to come in small steps. Given what we do know, the little she shared with you was likely very painful for her to recount, and it may have been all she could manage (or say while staying safe).

    1. Anonymous says:

      I really sympathize with the original poster’s struggles but this is an advice column. If the writer didn’t want advice then they shouldn’t have come here. Who they should go to is a therapist to help them unpack and heal from the trauma. An advice column on a website isn’t going to help them as much as a licensed therapist.

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