When you date a guy with an ex-wife from his previous marriage, you’re “dating” his whole family. Sometimes your boyfriend’s ex-wife is lovely…and sometimes she’s not. These six tips for dealing with your boyfriend’s ex-wife won’t solve all your problems, but they will help you see your relationship in a new light.
Searching for help online is a good way to learn how to deal with your boyfriend ex-wife, but reading articles won’t solve all your problems. I always encourage women (whether girlfriends, wives of even ex-wives) to read, read, and read some more! Dating a divorced man is complex and emotional, especially when his ex-wife is causing problems that you have to deal with.
One of the most important tips on how to deal with your boyfriend’s ex-wife is to accept the things you cannot change. When you’re dating to a man who was married and has a family from before, remember that there are some things you’ll never change. It’ll only hurt you and your boyfriend if you focus or fixate on things you can’t change.
Here’s what one woman said about her boyfriend’s ex-wife and kids: “During our weekend visits with his kids I tried to change things, such as poor eating habits. Big mistake. It wasn’t my job. The biological mom was fine with how they ate. It wasn’t a ‘hill to die on,’ and the battle only created stress.” – on How to Respond When Your Boyfriend Makes No Effort.
Part of dating your boyfriend is learning what kind of relationship you’ll have with his ex-wife. That’s what these tips are all about: finding healthy ways to cope with your boyfriend’s ex so she doesn’t destroy your relationship. For example, what do you think about having lunch date with your boyfriend’s ex-wife? It may sound inconceivable or even crazy…but what do you have to lose?
6 Ways to Deal With Your Boyfriend’s Ex-Wife
These tips on how to deal with your boyfriend’s ex-wife are not meant to solve serious relationship problems or teach you how to cope with an angry, bitter, or depressed ex-wife. It would take more than a single blog post to solve the problems caused by your boyfriend’s first marriage! These tips will get you started, though. At the end of the post I share a few resources for remarriages and stepfamilies (in case you’re thinking of marrying your boyfriend. Remember that you’ll be marrying his ex-wife, too, and dealing with her forevermore).
Remember that how you deal with your boyfriend’s ex-wife will affect your dating relationship. That’s why my first tip is to try to create a bond with her – even though this is the one tip that most readers do not like at all.
1. Invite your boyfriend’s ex-wife out for coffee
One of the best ways to build a healthy dating relationship is to get your boyfriend’s ex-wife on your side. It may sound foolish or even stupid, but what if you called her and told her you really do want what’s best for her children? Ask if she’s willing to meet you for coffee hour or so. Ask your boyfriend first, though! See what he thinks about you and his ex-wife going on a lunch or coffee date.
Consider telling your boyfriend’s ex-wife that you really like (or love) her kids and want to learn more about them. Notice the good parts of how she’s raising them – she must have done something right over the years!
This tip for talking to your boyfriend’s ex-wife isn’t about being sneaky or pretending to like her. It’s about genuinely trying to connect with her. If you reach out with sincerity and grace, she may respond the same way. And who knows…maybe your boyfriend’s ex-wife will surprise you and actually improve your relationship with your boyfriend.
2. Let your boyfriend’s ex-wife get to know you
If your boyfriend’s ex-wife is angry and bitter, it might help if she got to know who you are as a person. She may be less likely to criticize or even hate you if she knows you. It’s easy to criticize people we don’t know, people we’re may even be jealous of (after all, you’re dating her ex-husband and her kids may even like you!).
Let her be angry, upset, and even bitter. Of course she’s angry – her ex-husband is dating another woman and she has to share her children with someone she never chose and probably doesn’t approve of! Remember that it’s more difficult to criticize people we know and like…so perhaps if your boyfriend’s ex-wife got to know you better, she might ease up a little. You might not be able to change your boyfriend’s ex-wife, but being nice to her might help you deal with problems she’s causing n your relationship.
“Marriage is not a noun; it’s a verb,” says relationship expert and author Barbara De Angelis. “It isn’t something you get. It’s something you do. It’s the way you love your husband every day.” Initiating contact with your boyfriend’s ex-wife may be a practical and valuable way to love your boyfriend and his children.
3. Tell your boyfriend’s ex-wife what she did and does right
Is your boyfriend’s ex-wife a good mother? Does she have a clean or well-decorated house? Focus on what she does well, and tell her how much you admire that trait. You’re not trying to suck up to her or lie to her; you’re focusing on her positive qualities. Noticing what your boyfriend’s ex-wife does right — and telling her what she does right — might soften her, make her less angry or negative. Maybe you need to take the first step towards peace and friendship.
The added benefit of telling your boyfriend’s ex-wife what she does right or well is your own attitude toward her. If you deliberately focus on her positive qualities, your own heart will soften. You’ll find it easier to deal with problems if you actually like some things about your boyfriend’s ex-wife.
4. Learn as much as you can about dealing with ex-wives
The more you learn about coping with angry, unreasonable people – and setting your boundaries – the easier it’ll be to deal with your boyfriend’s ex-wife. If you’ve worked with people, you know how challenging it can be to deal with bad moods, unreasonable demands, even mean people. Your boyfriend’s ex-wife may be all of that and more…which means you need to learn how to deal with problems people cause. This is for your own emotional health and well-being — as well as for your boyfriend’s sanity and your relationship.
Do what it takes to make your relationship successful: attend marriage workshops, read relationship books with your boyfriend, consider going to family counseling. Learn how to cope with your own anger and frustration, and how to make the most of your new dating relationship. It’s unfair, but you may have to do most of the work when you’re dealing with problems caused by your boyfriend’s ex-wife. Bonus: if you learn how to build a great dating relationship, you’ll learn the most important reasons your boyfriend doesn’t talk to you (and how to open him up!).
5. Leave your boyfriend’s kids out of the relationship problems
No matter how angry his ex-wife is, or how frustrated or hurt you are, don’t involve your boyfriend’s kids in the arguments. The kids are innocent bystanders – and you’re better off focusing on your boyfriend and relationship with him (and dealing with his ex-wife!).
Be friendly and kind to your boyfriend’s kids, but do not involve them in the adults’ problems. Don’t talk to them about dating their dad or problems dealing with their mother. They don’t know she’s your boyfriend’s ex-wife. She’s their mom, and they love her.
6. Forgive your boyfriend for his past marriage (and choice of wife!)
Sometimes girlfriends get mad at their boyfriends because of the problems the ex-wife is causing in their dating relationship. Sometimes anger is warranted; sometimes it’s not. If you think your boyfriend made a bad marriage choice in the past, deal with your resentment without taking it out on him or your relationship. Your boyfriend was a different person when he met and married his first wife. So was she. Like it or not, your boyfriend fell in love with her and wanted to marry her. Now you’re dealing with problems caused by your boyfriend’s ex-wife…but he didn’t do any of this on purpose.
Don’t make your boyfriend pay for a decision he made years ago. He may already feel bad enough about the problems his ex-wife is causing. Instead, accept your boyfriend for who he is right now – and that includes his first marriage and his ex-wife.
Do you want to marry your boyfriend? Deal with his ex-wife now!
The Girl’s Guide to Marrying a Man, His Kids, and His Ex-Wife: Becoming A Stepmother With Humor And Grace by Sally Bjornsen will help you cope with your boyfriend’s toxic ex-wife – and other toxic family relationships – by showing you how to survive the holidays, custody, finances, and other complications of dating a man who was married before.
If you’re a Christian, take your problems to God. Jesus is the greatest healer and advocate; the Holy Spirit is a wise counselor and guide! Your heavenly Father is the source of all love, peace, healing, grace, joy and freedom…and He has answers to your “how do I deal with my boyfriend’s ex-wife?” questions. You might also consider talking to your pastor or a Christian counselor.
Are you getting relationship advice from your friends? Read 3 Signs of Godly Relationship Advice.
Your thoughts are welcome below! Feel free to share your story, or respond to other readers’ comments. Writing can bring clarity and insight, and help you untangle your thoughts and emotions.