He wanted me and his ex wife, or what to do when your partner can’t let go of his or her ex.

by Relationship Coach Rinatta Paries on May 24, 2012

in Affairs Q & A, Dating Q & A, Relationship Q & A, Singles Q & A

Q: Bett asks:

My two-year relationship with a man who is 15 years my senior has just ended. I have struggled for over a year with his inability to commit to me and his ongoing relationship with his ex-wife. Due to his having an affair throughout their 14 year marriage, he has developed a relationship with her that is based on dependence, guilt and obligation. He spends holidays, many family occasions, and some vacations with her and their college age children. It’s almost as if they are still married, yet he had this intimate relationship with me which the children and ex-wife were aware of.

Was it unrealistic for me to expect that I was to be an important relationship in his life and to expect that he would respect my needs to be a priority? I was respectful of his relationship with his children, but the way it was set up was his ex-wife orchestrated the children’s lives and he just joined in as if they were still an intact family. I had many a sleepless night over this situation, until I could not stand to be the “other woman” any longer. Do you have any thoughts or experience with this type of relationship?

A: Relationship Coach Rinatta answers: 

Bett, some people are simply unavailable. It almost doesn’t matter what makes them unavailable – it could be their ex, from a marriage or a long-term relationship, it could be drugs or alcohol, it could be TV, it could be work, it could be food, it could be sports. I could go on and on.

The bottom line is that people who are unavailable are that way because they don’t want to be fully present in a relationship. Usually this is from a deep fear of closeness and being hurt deeply early in their lives. This can not be fixed except by them and more closeness certainly can be demanded or mandated by their partner.

When you are with someone who is unavailable, unless they know and see that they are unavailable and want more closeness with you for themselves, there will be no change. An unavailable person can only become available through deep personal work, to uncover what keeps him or her unavailable. And then there’s the learning new relationship behavior. All of this takes a lot of work and time.

I am glad you saw the light about your relationship – that you were with a man who was uncomfortable with intimacy and for that reason maintaining two relationships. You intuitively understood that he could not be fully with either you or his ex-wife.

So what to do in these situations? If the person you are with does not see that he or she is unavailable after repeated attempts by you to show him or her what’s really going on, there is only one thing to do – leave. A relationship with an unavailable person is painful, and you don’t need that kind of pain.

Then you need to learn how to pick partners who are available, so that you don’t have to deal with this kind of a painful relationship again. This is not an easy task, as you have to become good at being able to spot available people.

If you tend to attract unavailable people or are drawn to unavailable people, or if you are someone who would like to allow more relationship closeness in your life, I can help.

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Ella February 8, 2010 at 1:09 pm

yes thats the one..the book. yes the feelings are strong and sometimes obsessive. It has faded with time. I do love him very much and my heart tells me he is worth it. My head otherwise some days. I think, as you said in a different way..if you can keep it real then we are unikely to eb dissapointed. There has been progress in that I am no longer a secret and have met one of his chidren and it went well and we are all open about our relationship now. BUT he woud still never move in because that would upset his wife. He still never considers divorce becasue again that woud cause hurt even though, he says he has no intention of going back. I think as long as we enjoy ourselves when we are together and I try to think…enjoy every day as though it is your last. I like to consider him a lover because there are no expectations there. he does not consider his future with me or anyone. Neither do I. I used to. I guess time will tell. You sound very well balanced AJ It has certainly driven me to do things I would never have done and to feel I am going mad at times. Then I have to tell myself not to care that much and to do something else..for me…no man is worth not seeing your friends for or going to galleries or doing the things you would be doing without them. I think they have to be the icing not the whole cake. Hugs to you and Nicola and all in our very rocky boat :-)

AJ February 8, 2010 at 12:51 pm

Hi Ella
Thanks, this site is really helpful – really good to know that we are not alone with these feelings that are really capable of driving us crazy!
The book sounds interesting, I think it might be with one: How to Break Your Addiction to a Person: When and Why Love Doesn’t Work, and What to Do About It (Mass Market Paperback)
~ Howard Halpern
I think there may be a few more copies sold!
I too, would never have taken this route, my diaries of the time are heartbreaking, I can’t believe I put myself through it. I would never recommend it to another person – not knowing that these relationships often have more pain then joy. In fact, highs and lows describe it, these relationships often come from a very powerful place and they are almost obsessive. For whatever reason, the people we are in relationships with will not make themselves properly available to us. The description of your relationship made me smile – I call him my partner, he calls me his lover – maybe that says it all! Take lots of care, expect more and make sure this man is worthy – to be sure its a long road! Happy Reading!

Ella February 8, 2010 at 12:38 pm

AJ thanks for that..it sis good to know other people are in similar situations. I am in year three now..it started as an affiar an am not proud of this but what you say about the definition of partner is true and it swings about a lot. I was in hospital recently and he was fabuous, lifting me everywher. I put him as my next of kin. He calls himself my significant other and I call him my partner. But..you are right about the days spent alone and always feeling second best. Unless you are absolutely entwined and cannot imagine life without him then I would never chose this route agaon…never. the please love yourself more line was spot on. Long distance relationships are very very hard, add to this an ex who is very involved. I read somehwer that it is ike a triangle with very very sharp edges. There is a book, I have not read it, but mean to, called how not to be addicted to another person. The 80 per cent rule is also a good one …for me this is changeable though. Nicola you are so not stupid.

AJ February 8, 2010 at 11:58 am

Dear Nicola
Yes, you are better than this and no, you are not stupid! You may or may not be able to end it. Looking back after 8 years, life is much easier and much better but only just, there are really no guarantees.
I don’t profess to understand what is going on with men and women who cannot separate, cannot commit and cannot or will not make themselves available but I do know it is fraught with very much misery.
All of what you say, I recognise but particularly the part where you say he is unsupportive and negative to your feelings. I think there is some ‘rule’ where we (in this position) are not allowed to have feelings and if we do, people like this get angry, its like we are ‘allowed’ to have feelings or be unhappy about the situation we are forced into. In a relationship like this, your partner (whatever that means) will control absolutely everything and they will give you what they feel able and as we all know, this is precious little. How tired we get of spending so many christmasses, holidays, special days, alone? I was never able to finish our relationship and to this extent I was weak, I have stuck with it and now have good relationships with his children but still and for always ‘the family’ is the primary being and we will be a long way behind – this you must understand.
For me it is a question of balance, if you are miserable for most of your time or happy most of the time. If 80% of the time he can make you feel special and invests in your relationship then that’s great and worth sticking with – if for 80% of the time, you are miserable, lonely and the only one investing in the relationship and giving and giving with nothing in return and with ‘the family’ centre stage and very, very prominent, then I don’t think anyone would say you havent tried. If your partner has truly found his soul mate then she needs something more from him. You deserve to feel special you deserve to be a proper partner (believe me this is a new definition that I still struggle with as we seem to have different views on what this means!)
I really wish you well, be strong, and if you love him then take more time but please love yourself more.

Ella February 8, 2010 at 2:54 am

Nicola I have just read your response and thought I woud offer spme words of hope if you are not able to end it. You may of course already told him and you are absolutely correct in that you are an intelligent, caring woman who deserves more. Whats the big secret? Why should his ex and children not know about you? It makes me cross on your behalf and I have been there. My situation has changed though. Some of it is stil the same as earlier post I wrote explains. He has been living separatel from his wife and children for a year now. They do now know about me. As a result it has been months of him not seeing his daughter..her making it clear that while he was with me she would not see him. His wife (not divorced..may never be able to do this) was piling on guilt and hate to a bigger extent one day and for a night and day after this my partner was suicidal, packed his thhing and was heading for wherever, he turned all his phones off etc I knew something was very wrong as he makes contact all the time by phone and text. After trying his friends and brother I eventually phoned her. It was awful at first but in the end she said she felt so very bad about herself because she felt so angry and it had made her stoop so low and say hateful things. I think she felt that nobody cared about her anymore and he had a new life. It was hard but I said that we all say hurtfu things when we are distressed and the most important thing is to make changes so that he never gets to this stage again. It seems that only way she and he can be happy ..an they rae both much much happer is by having contact. This is strange becaue all the books say I should have nothing to do with her. We email every secnd day..usually a few lines and aways friendly. I answer all her questions honestly. As a result she has encouraged her children to make contact with thier dad again and to stop being so angry. She still sys that she thinks years down the line they may still make it and this is hard to hear because I also hope t ‘make it’ with him. We still live separately although he has been spending a lot more time here. I still dont have real commitment but steps in the right direction have been made and when we are together some of the magic, as it was in the beginning is there again. It is not the same as the initial firewrks but a more calm and loving life. I tried so many times to end it and was so miserable that this for me works for the time being. He was not happy, was mouring his children. A long time ago, one of my friends I think, wrote and email to her explaining of my existance and all the details. Its threw her into a spin but at leat the lies did not continue indefinatey, you will probably find that his ex wife may already know about you but is turning a blind eye. They are all playing a horrible game. I wonder how old his children are? Anyway..I really hope it works out for you, that you either find the stregth to leave him and look for someone new who can see just how fabulous you are and treat you well or that you find a way of making it work with him. I will be thinking of you. It si mighty big pain that he probaby has no idea he is causing you ..take care of yourself in all this and then you will be abe to care for others x

Nicola February 7, 2010 at 7:50 pm

well i never, people like me!! I’ve been in a relationship for 3 years. I’ve never met his children and neither his EX or his kids know i exist. He goes to see them twice a week and spends the holidays with them. Christmas he goes for 4 days!. When he is with them i cant ring or text him. He still pays for the car that she drives and gives her money for whatever the kids needs and also pays weekly for the up keep of the kids. He rings them every night and if he gets a call from them he wont take it in front of me and goes outside and calls them back. We went away last year for the weekend and he went and sat in his car and spoke to them or walked away far enough so i wasnt in hear shot of what he was saying. He says that he loves me and he has also said that he wants us to be completly together in years to come. I cant do this anymore. He cannot commit. He has been in a realtionship with her for 16 years now. Ive got to say relationship because he treats her and his kids better than he does me. He’s not nasty to me but very un supportive and negative to my feelings. I am always bringing up the fact that he should never stop being a father to his kids but stop being a partner to her. He says that they arnt together but its hard for him as his kids have been through enough and also thatshe’ll stop him from seeing his kids as they arnt married. So he bows down to her and her wishes for their children and its stopping us from being together. I refuse to be in a one sided relationship. It’s going to take time for me to adjust and also for me to become strong as i know i love him but im better off without him and than what he is putting into this relationship and the way i see it is if he’s not willing to give to me everything that i deserve then he isnt worth having. It takes two to make a relationship work and im fed up with trying and failing. Yes he wants me to go to his flat twice a week and share his bed every saturday night and be his partner in every way but without his children knowing. His friends know about me but they dont keep in contact with her or his children. His mum on the other hand, i’ve never met. It’s wierd and distressing and im moving on because it’s got to the stage that i realise im a person who needs love. I need someone to care for me and support me and be there unconditionally and i know this will never happen with him from his point of view.Someone out there is deserving of me and me them but i know this man will never fully commit and its time to make the ultimate sacrafice to gain ultimate glory.I’ve just got to find the strength to tell him and thats where i become weak…Its so hard, especially when he tells me that he will be lost without me and that he has finally found his soul mate…christ why am i so bloody stupid? Im 37 years old and he is so much older but i think if he is going to play these games then he can do it with someone else…i’ve had enough and im better than this!

vicente November 29, 2009 at 10:16 pm

I have a fiance that has been best friends with her ex for a long time. I feel that i am dating both since each day they hang out, hes her trainer at the gym and they always text each other every single day almost every hour. I was ok with it at first and then disconnected myself from her emtionally. It led her to seek another man emotionally and cheated on me emotionally with another man…I accepted her ex as a friend but dont like hearing their little lunches or anything that he does for her. When she is sick and i am at work he comes and brings her stuff for her to get by for the day. I figured that was my job to do but she never gives me the chance to really be there. I am at wits end of the relationship because she doesnt realize that her actions are driving a wedge between us. For instance she was quick to say hey in gona ask my ex to borrow his vaccum because ours doesnt do the job. she could have said hey honey can you look at the vaccum and try to fix it honey. But no she wanted to run to him before allowing me a chance to fix it myself. Im ok with the frienship they have but not the time they spend together. She chose to attend a concert out of town with her ex even though it was 2 days before my bday and my family was coming in from florida. She went even though ity upset me…She didn’t care how i felt. What to do? Please help…I have moved out of our own home we just bought because she doesnt see the big picture of allowing us to grow without her friendship being compromised…

Ella November 9, 2009 at 5:51 pm

Oh dear..a lot of this is familiar. GUILT that is being piled on by his ex has driven a massive wedge between us..we had an amazing love, my soulmat I thought and gradually..bit by bit I have been demoted as is ex makes him feel bad for leaving her, bad that his children were angry, bad for wanting to be with me to the point that he has found it difficult to look at me. I do know that he loves me..he used to love me more but then he wavered. His ex phones him and texts him all day and late into the evening..he responds and he texts to say good night. He choses this. It hurts. He feels he has to tell her his every move as she is only hapy when he is unhappy or bullied or controlled. He has been demasculinised to the point that she always drove the car and always made decisions, told him off for not doing housework properly and at one point he said he did not know what she wanted him to think. She uses the children and has ecouraged one of them to be in touch with her anger to the point she will not see her father while he is with me. He lives separately and has left physically but not emotionally. Sometimes he has wanted emotional quiet and has gone down the route of maybe I could get back with her in order for everything to be easier with the children and so that she will finally be happy with him and give him her approval…she has always been an angry and dissatified person and when they were living together as soon as he left te house she would rant about him to the children..and yet he thinks it is different now. he gives her the stick and asks her to beat him harder almost. If he has seen me in order to stop her losing it completely he meets her for coffee so she can tell him how awful he is and he can accept his punishment. All this time our relationship is being damaged. We were so very close but she has convinced him that I am not what he needs. She tells him that he must concentrate on something..at the moment writing..and so he does it. She never read his stuff before and wasnt interested prefering Harry Potter. I have always ben suportive with this. He gave me his mothers wedding ring about two years ago..we met in 2007…this has been reclaimed. I will look after this for now cut like a knife. I keep going back for more because I do love him and when he is out of her clutches for a sort time we have a wonderful magical and happy time together. He wrote to his children explaining he would be coming to live with me bacause he loved me and didnt want to live alone. He could have gone back regularly to see the children and they are always welcome here but he changed his mind at the last moment because he couldn not bare the guilt of hurting his ex. He said he felt sick at the thought of divorce. She has told him that divorece would upset the children so very much and her as well. Most men who are truly separated see divorce as the natural next step. She will never give up, never let go. I was recently introduced to their eldest child..a lovely girl. Because she said I was nice I his ex said I was being unfair and had done a number on her etc etc How could a mother actually prefer the meeting (the daughter chose to come and meet me…she didnt have to as there was no pressure at all) to go badly and for her child to be upset just the ex could say..that woman has made her unhappy. Every call, every email is loaded with guilt…ended with what he should feel guilty about. He will not man up and tell her to stop it and he will not divorce her, will not live with me, tell her that he will be seeing me because it is actually none of her business anymore…he wont be spending any time over the christmas holidays or coming to my new years party and I wont be asking him becasue he will then say that I was pressuring him….pressuring him to enjoy himself, pressure to see me…..do I think so little of myself that I have to say…when will I see you again? Is it time to give up now and accept that this man …despite telling me every day that he loves me…well…maybe he lovs me but not enough to tell her that it is over and it wil never change and mean it..someone said earlier here that the door is left slightly ajar…thats what has been happening here.

Rochelle October 5, 2009 at 12:49 pm

I am always too late for the comments but I just got the boot. I saw all the red flags and yet being the loyal person that I am, I tried to stick by him. He divorced his wife after a month but they both did not let go after 3 years and in the process of him dealing with her and her seeing that his attention was slipping away from her, they got pregnant, this time she decided to keep the baby. She was a woman who screamed for attention from him and even went as far as to attempt suicide and went to the hospital. He and I lived together, she called and texted him all day and night–he was doing the same of saying he did not want to go back into the marriage and he was doing everything as she had 2 other kids from 2 previous marriages. He was probably convincing himself all along, I moved out but this came after he was trying to make me out to be a bad person to justify why he could not be fully available to me, I see now. We were still involved but only to be involved in a triangle, she saw fit to spend the night at his house so he could bond with the child and he saw nothing wrong with this, he tried his best to make me believe he was not sleeping with her and I still had faith for various reasons. I knew she was using the baby against him, I saw her texts and I ran into her, but I guess he just caved cause he knows he can’t keep getting it from both of us, gotta go her way cause he wants to stay out of the courts and do what HE feels is right. He said he was gonna remarry her and get back right wih God, but look how he treats people and he expects to live happily ever after now with 6 mouths to feed, a dead end job and really no trades, she was not working all that time as well. Rejection is hard cause all of a sudden he went from spending all of his time with me, his other son and my child, talking every hour on the hour, going and doing things he has never done with anyone else—now it is non-existent, no contact or nothing, this time I am standing my ground. I loved him so much, I have moments where I just will burst out in tears over this cause there is nothing I can do. She was the ex for a reason and when the baby is of age and he sees the same problems coming up again, what he thinks I am going to be around still, you know how I came to this, I said so you are gonna remarry her, so that means that you do not want to see or speak to me again and he said I did not say that, mixed BS right, if you are gonna do right, do right, what an immature jerk to toy with my emotions after he was fighting the urge to be with her all along. He also said if she had moved on, things would have been ok but she was there all that time, so it was a competition of who could prove their love the best, who was around longer and who could take the most crap wins the prize!! It sucks too because he is not hurting it seems, he has her to cover up those emotions I guess all the other women were when he did this before several times, you just try to have faith in people and they let you down. I wish I knew he was thinking about me although I do not really believe he is going to marry her, at least not now, too much going on, she deceived him and his family knows, but I guess he would rather be more of a family with her and her other 2 kids, than to me an honest, hard working woman with a beautiful child he was being a father to as well, our time will come, God Bless Us All!!!

AJ September 23, 2009 at 11:07 pm

Well done Laurie, I think you are probably saving yourself a lot of pain. I don’t come close to bein able to understand this at all but the suggestion on this site that it is all about his availability makes a lot of sense.
Just one thing I would say, his words are not enough, he may be sincere, he may be trying to convinve himself or you or even believe that by saying something enough times will make it come true. Please keep enough distance to see his actions clearly for what they are or listen to friends who are far enough away and care for you enough to tell you the truth. Actions speak a lot louder than words and if his time, head space and planning is mainly around his ex and the dream they had together then make that distance even greater – in fact, run and keep running! Joys this week after 7 years include my partner’s ex moving back into the family home, his daughter moving out and he still paying the mortgage and all the bills – pretty loud actions eh? Through this lots of words which I have given up believing anymore. I really need to take my own advice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Laurie September 23, 2009 at 4:30 pm

Yep….I am experiencing my 1st ever situation with this.
He was married 16 yrs. 2 kids in their young teens and came on to me like a frieght train a few months after his divorce. ( screams rebound I know )

I started to fall but caught myself and let him go as it was clear he was not over his ex-wife.

We remain in contact and he seems to ‘need’ me as a friend, support person but I reamin detached inspite of some ambivilent feelings/

Recently he is making noise about us getting together again.

I am staunchly committed to the ‘friends’ zone and will cross that bridge when and if he makes good on his words.

Nice man, lots in common, but…the red flags are blowin’ in the wind.

Thank God I see them! lol

nb September 15, 2009 at 4:02 am

Hi ,

Reading some of these stories made me realise that i am not alone in my feelings My partner of over four years also is still not divorced from his wife She left him for another man about six seven years ago. He set up a business in which she did admin work Mostly partime After they split i met him about two years after their split. In the beginning i had no problems with her untill i started to notice she ignored me and acted weird.
Her boy friend of that time didn t see the signals She tried to get my partner back after we had had a relationship of six months They had secret meetings and then decided to give their relationship a shot But my partner hours after he told me decided he loved me more and told her that
Now over four years we live together she came back in working in his business she lives two minutes away from us she is infront of my work place loudly chatting with friends and laughing
Is telling people in our very small community that he treats her very bad financ and i know that s nonsense
I don t know why i feel the need to share this with complete strangers but we just had huge row agian because he was trying to hide from me they are going to be in same social event and he ignored inviting me
I know you only allow things to let it happen to yourself, you attract this behaviour into your own life but the moments that are good and we feel like a real family unit are very plenty!
I keep on pushing the feelings of hurt away but i feel we are not moving on in our relationship with them still married she has his name and is involved on daily basis with him it hurts and makes me feel i am not number one for him
I have been trying in the right and wrong ways to address this and he keeps on saying financ he can not divorce her now but in no way i can emotional except that

Olivia August 31, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Hi AJ,

This forum has been very helpful for me, too. In my particular situation, I have encouraged my husband to talk to his 34-year old daughter about why she wants nothing to do with my family. He says it is because she is still angry at both of her parents for getting a divorce. It’s been 10 years! Because the daughter absolutely insists that they have their “family” get-togethers, and won’t come to my house for holiday dinners, he insists on going to his ex-wife’s house for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Ironically, he has become “friends” with his ex and the man who stole her away! Last year, his ex-wife’s husband Ted called to invite us to Thanksgiving dinner – a last minute invitation – we had already made plans to go to my daughter’s house, but when Ted called, all of sudden my husband wanted to go to THEIR house first. I declined, and we went straight to my daughter’s house first, but my husband sulked the rest of the day. At my daughter’s house, he went straight to their couch and laid down. He didn’t respond to any of my family when they tried to talk to him. When they asked me what was wrong, I admitted to them that he was pouting because he wanted to go to his ex-wife’s house! I was angry and embarrassed! He still refers to his ex-wife’s family members as his in-laws, and he has directed me to “not bring it up” when I tried to discuss how I feel about the situation with his ex-wife and his daughter. So at this point, I have no hope of being able to solve this dilemma. I know our marriage can’t survive if I can’t tell him how I feel. Incidentally, his ex-wife and both of his grown children express their opinions to him frequently. They criticize him and treat him rudely and he never defends himself, just quietly accepts all that they dish out. I am the one that he expects to keep quiet. It is quite obvious to me who are the important people in his life. I feel sorry for him. He is almost 71 years old and has no inkling that he is slowly losing me.

AJ August 28, 2009 at 5:59 am

Hi Olivia

Much of what you are experiencing goes straight to my heart, I have been where you have for so long now and I know the pain of celebrating your children’s birthday dinners with someone who has to be ‘elsewhere’ because he can’t or won’t say ‘No’ for my sake.
This weekend we have a joint party for my son and my daughter who is leaving to study abraod, really big events in our family and my partner of 8 years is dog sitting his wife’s dog!
It has been really helpful to read other comments and really good to know that this isnt as weird as it feels – it doesn’t make it any easier to deal with but at least I am starting to understand where it comes from a little.
I guess we stay and put up with it until we can’t anymore, loving someone is one thing but eventually this situation gets unbalanced and too heavy to bear.
I guess we all want to feel special and it doesn’t seem too much to ask not to be hurt by the relationship we are in i.e. when there is a choice to be made, the pain doesn’t keep being given to us.
I appreciate the guidance on general ‘unavailability’ and emotional unavailability in particular and have tried having the conversation. It’s odd that even as the ‘other woman’ after 8 years, he gets so angry when I react to any of these situations, I have never understood where this anger comes from or how to deal with it.
The serenity prayer is a good choice and at the moment I say it under my breath several times a day – no matter how good the good times are, we deserve better!

Olivia August 24, 2009 at 10:11 am

Wow! I am astounded that there are so many that I can identify with, in the same type of situation! I dated my husband for four years before we married. I waited because of the exact same circumstances. When his wife left him for his best friend he ended up in the hospital suffering from a major emotional breakdown. After months of therapy, he said he came to accept it and became friends with both of them. “Friends” is not really a word to describe their relationship. When we first started dating, his ex or her husband called him several times a week to invite us out for drinks. After the third time in a week, I finally told him I was feeling overdosed on being around them, so he backed off. When he announced our engagement, she broke down crying and told me privately that she felt jealous! Only after he pulled back from spending time with them and insisting that he was moving on, did I agree to marry him. However, he insisted on inviting her and her husband to our wedding and she sat with angry expression on her face the entire time. They have a grown son and daughter together. Their grown daughter wants nothing to do with my family, so he insists on spending time at his ex’s every Thanksgiving and Christmas, in order to spend time with his kids. They still own land together and the daughter wants them to all go in together and build a vacation cabin. I recently learned that his wife and her husband have included him in their company package with Sam’s club. More recently, they have added him to their family cell phone plan and have provided him with a cell phone. He wants to be included in all the family gatherings for her side of the family, but has stayed home while I went with my children to have dinner for my son’s birthday! I definitely feel like the other woman and am working my way through the process of realization that things will never change, that his ex-wife will always be #1 for him. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference!

AJ August 15, 2009 at 3:53 pm

I was so glad to read these stories but sad about them too.

I have been in a relationship for 7 years with a man who is still not yet divorced but one who declares undying love for me several times a day and constantly says how much he needs me – the relationship causes such hurt though because of his inability to emotionally disengage from his wife who he separated from 8 years ago.
This comes from guilt and a pathological fear of causing upset and I guess a fear of not being well thought of. He is manipulated constantly into situations he says he cant get out of in order that they present a ‘united front’ to their very adult daughters – I am so tired of this now – I honestly have no framework for being able to deal with it and tired, so tired of looking at photos of them all together after all this time. He lives with me and has done for several years, his family house is still there and his wife is about to move back into it, they have sorted nothing out financially or in any other way – the house is like a shrine to a dream and I cant compete with everything he feels he has lost – I feel stupid even writing this – I keep praying and hoping that at some point he will become available as he says he is but his actions speak louder – I really wish I could be stronger to deal with this.

ME May 14, 2009 at 5:33 am


lots of sad different and at the same time – very identical stories – he is with you but his head/ heart/ thoughts – are with her. The situation gives you pain but you, for some reason, are still staying. Love .. Love .. Love … Loves makes us stupid, love brings pain and suffering, love kills. Please , Please, I don’t mean to sound mean – but the reason you are in such a pain is YOU. By being involved in a painful relationship you are unabling yourself to feel that pain over and over again. You better pay $125. to a therapist to find out why you keep doing it to yourself. The trick is to get out as soon as you see that something is fishy. Be Strong and Get out, and Leave the Loser behind. You are a Queen. And who is he to mess with your life like this ? Don’t you have anything better going on in your life ? Really ? So, if you were to die tomorrow – what would necrologist say about your life ? ” … blah-blah- blah .. the 99% of the lady’s life time was spent on daily obsessing over some immature jerk .. lost case… doormat .. blah blah…. . ” BORING and PATHETIC. Can’t you see ? ” NEXT” – this is the only option for you.

annie April 16, 2009 at 7:13 pm

Yes this is so familiar! Been divorced myself a year and dating a guy who has been divorced about 8 months and all the same things are happening. He cannot let go of the ex. She uses the kids to make him do whatever she needs him to and he does it all just to keep her happy. I feel like as long as they are doing ok then we are, but let her get mad and then our relationship starts to develope problems! Is this normal? I don’t feel as though I have him, it is almost like I am sharing him with her! I love this man but is it too much to ask to make him choose me over her? They talk on the phone several times a day and he always thinks of reasons to meet her, but it is always something for the kids. I never want him to put me before his kids but it really bothers me that he can’t let go of this past relationship with the ex. In fact this past relationship is really causing serious problems for ours. I don’t want to leave him, but I really don’t know how much longer I can be made to feel like the”other woman” and be second to her. I really don’t think I can be in this much longer even though I love him and he really is a great guy!! I guess I should have seen from the beginning that he was unavailable, but I didn’t.

denise March 10, 2009 at 1:45 pm

I am in a similiar situation. I have been seeing a guy who is divorced and has a 6 yr old son. Throughout the relationship my instinct told me something wasn’t right. There has been numerous phone calls back and forth. When she needs something she runs to him and he helps her. He called her to help him when we were on vacation together and I was right next to him. Just recently he has helped her financially and is thinking about taking her and the son back in because she still can’t find a job. He even lied to me about being at work and she had come over with the son, I caught him in the lie. He even admitted to me that sometimes he feels a need to spend some time with the two of them but then regrets it, yeah right!!! He says he doesn’t want me to leave him, I told him he can’t have it both ways. I think I am going to walk away even though it’s hard cuz I love him.

MMM February 17, 2009 at 6:29 pm

I met him on-line, both of us divorced adults…..and I was not looking for anything to happen…..I was lonely for conversation and I suppose he was too……….before we knew it….one thing led to the next and we decided to meet………..I never knew he was still involved with his ex-wife and that he had been going through a nasty divorce………………I assumed he was over her and was ready to be available emotionally………….at first he was attentive and I met his daughter and then is son….and it was very positive….but then I noticed that as long as I was saying yes to everything he was fine…..he asked me to move in with him and I said yes because I do love the man…..yet…..even after a couple of years of always reiterating to me that he had a bad breakup and would never consider remarriage with her………..all of a sudden his ex shows up and needs him……she calls him all the time…..several times a day…..he stopped calling me daily as he used to……………it is almost as if he enjoys her contact with him………………….his ex wife even made a plea to him to allow her to rent his other rental property and he said YES!….it is literally down the street from where we live together……..talk about awkward………….and it really hurts………….I am not a game…………his 12 year old daughter is all confused and is struggling to understand how her father can have this one relationship with her mother and another one with me…….I just do not understand his behavior……….he recently took me to meet his family and I stayed with his folks……….but even while we were there he spoke with his ex wife………and it just seemed disrespectful………I do not know how much more I can take…………if I so much as decline something he asks me to do…………he merely gets up and goes to his exwife………..it is driving a huge wedge between us……………as I do not desire him the same way…………..I was truly excited to have him in my life until he started this behavior……….

Kathy September 1, 2008 at 7:45 am


Your situation sounds so much like mine. I am in a relationship with a man now for four years. He will not divorce his wife, she lives with his father (one minute down the road from him). I was not allowed to meet his daughter until two years into our relationship – she is 12 now. She tricked this man into marrying her by having this child, and she uses this child to get this man running. She goes to his family functions – there have been times that we didn’t even go because of her showing up there. This man ran around on this woman from day one, and she was aware of this, but she allowed him into her bed whenever he wanted her. I do think that he was sleeping with her at the beginning of our relationship – he denies this. They have been separated for 11 years. She will call him fighting with him telling him that he does not see his daughter enough – when he does take his daughter to a function, she will show up. When he has his daughter, she phones every 10 minutes and he allows her to do this…….I do not understand. He is a very intelligent man and he knows exactly what this woman is doing but yet, he allows her to do it. We have broken up many times with his empty promise that he will divorce her. I have even told him that if she will not leave his father’s house that the two of us should leave the community – let her stay there. We do not live together – he has his place and I have my place. We spend about one or two nights together a week because he always “needs” time alone.

I did leave him once and started seeing a very kind, nice man. But he would not leave me alone. He would show up crying and calling crying telling me that he wanted me back and that he was going to divorce her. I do love this man very much and I wanted to believe him, so I went back with him only to find out it was another broken promise. When I do try to break free of this man, he has alot of difficulty in letting me go……..I do not understand this. He knows the problems that his wife causes between us, but yet he will not divorce her and he continues to allow this sick woman to use this child to have contact with him. He has got to enjoy the contact as much as she does or he would not allow it to happen. And he is so kind to his wife…….he will do anything for her and is so kind to her when she phones…..it is sickening. And his wife will not spend a cent on this child……he has to buy everything….everything. Even if she goes away with a friend for a weekend, his wife will have to call him and ask for $20.00 dollars to give her to go away with. It is just a contact scheme…..it is so sad for this child………..I have to get out of this mess….I know it is going to hurt, and it is not going to be easy……but, I deserve so much better.

Wendy September 27, 2007 at 9:40 am

I didn’t realise how many of us are in the same boat. I’m divorced and have been in a relationship with a divorced man 12 years my senior. He’s been divorced over 20 years and has grown-up children and small grand-children. Our relationship has been going on for 6 years and I love him very much, almost to the point of obsession. We don’t live together but are together at least twice a week. He never takes me out although he sometimes cooks meals at home.
His ex-wife (they divorced because of infidelity on her part) still constantly phones him when I’m with him making all sorts of excuses for the calls e.g. his grandchildren send regards etc. She also spends weekends in his house as she has old friends living in the area who cannot accommodate her.
He swears to me that their is nothing physical between them but I’m sure that she wants a relationship with him. Before he began the relationship with me, she tried to get him to come back to her but after one week-end he realised that he didn’t want to be with her.
I’ve never met his children or his friends, and our relationship is kept a secret. His ex turns up at all family occasions whereas no one knows I exist. I’ve tried to end the relationship but I’m miserable without him. I’m 52 with grown-up children.
When I broach the subject, he tells me that she’s the mother of his children.

Dee September 24, 2007 at 1:00 pm

My situation is similar. Only I didn’t even get a chance to meet the ex. The relationship only lasted off and on for 6 months! He hadn’t ‘officially’ divorced her when he asked me out. He was extremely honest about all of this. He explained that they would never get back together, he would never put his 10 year old daughter through all of that again.

He chased me, the ‘honeymoon stage’ only lasted for about 1 1/2 months, then things started happeneing. He would initiate intimacy, and then a week later he would pull away saying that he still felt ‘guilty’. This happened a few times. He needed me there for support and sympathy, but after a while… he started pulling away all affection. He was not as open as when we first started dating… it was like talking to a stranger!

Looking back… all the signs were there. He would talk about his ex like he still wished he was with her. She is very well educated, talented (musically), she home schools their daughter and teaches her piano. He suggested at one point that he didn’t want to know if she was seeing anyone because he would think ‘What was wrong with me?’ He felt guilty when she told him that she would never live with a guy again unless she married them… and she didn’t see this happening for a long time if at all.’

The writing is always on the wall with these individuals. Listen to their words as well as take note of their actions. He would talk about going on trips, camping, etc… but each time we had the opportunity to spend time together… something would come up that would cancel these events. He was afraid of his own shadow. Yet he still wanted me around for ‘friendship’ and someone to hang out with ‘until we really got to know each other’.

Even in the end when I asked him if he wanted to work on all of this in order to move forward… or should we just let go… he still didn’t want to answer me! I got upset and left a message on his cel phone saying that I wanted this to work, but that I wasn’t dealing with this very well because I needed to know from him where he was at with everything. He turned it back onto me saying that I was scaring him and that my feelings were too ‘intense’ for him… that it was just way too much for him.

So in the end, he got away with ending it by making me look like a freak and that I was the one at fault! This still hurts. I was always the one who tried to communicate like an adult. Trying to understand where he was comig from and trying to get him to understand my needs and desires…. this all backfired.

When a person is not emotionally available…. they will blame it on anyone they come across and never fully take responsibility for their part in the relationship failing. Until they do their ‘homework’ and realise that their behavior does contribute to the break down of their relationships. We have the responsibility ourselves to see these people for who they really are and let go before we get too involved with them.

soi August 27, 2007 at 7:13 pm

In 2000, I met a man with 3 children, I had 2. I fell inlove, I am not sure what he was doing. Same thing, schedule revolved around the x wife, she approved or disapproved of his girlfriends, he entertained the discussions. 2 years after we got married in 2005 he still had her wedding picture in our new martial home bedroom closet in his keepsake box, and all the cards and lamentations he wrote her, when she put his clothes out on the driveway in 1985. Today, he is still licking his wounds, and struggling with suing her as 1 of his dauthers turned out to be a child of an affair, and not biologically his. Even after all of this he continues to try to make sense of it, he goes to therapists as I wonder, why he is stil struggling with it 19 years later. It is now 2007, and I am in the living room wondering why I am still here? I simply don’t know.

leslie April 9, 2007 at 6:10 am

Well. I was amazed reading Bett’s story. Sounds so much like my situation ! I have been in a lot of pain, frustration, stress, sleepless nights etc etc. After one year of this pain I have decided to get out. We had a ” talk” and I let him know how I felt .. … of course he does not want me to go. .. I’m sick of him being in a constant contact with his ex, vacations, lunches together, Christmas …. I do feel like he is still married and I’m his mistress. .. I DO love him. It is very difficult to leave someone you love. This man got under my skin. I do not fall in love that easily. I feel very sad but I have no choice. Dead end relationship with a stringer? no way. I deserve better. Good luck ladies! … I would recommend to read a book ” Men who cannot love”.

Mj March 18, 2007 at 5:33 pm

wow Bett, I wonder where your decision has lead you.
have chosen to end a rltshp very similar. Its been almost two years. It is time for me to leave. It is a lonely existence being with someone who is unable to become officially divorced. It keeps him tied to a previous life. His ex is very much still a part of his family. Our relationship revolves around their schedule, thee schedule. I have been to two family events in two years, carefully chosen, no ex or daughter there. I continue to be on the every other weekend, the one without his daughter. I feel that he has unresolved issues that fuels an unhealthy indebtedness based on guilty obligation.
I painfully witness this when his twelve year old daughter puts him down in front of me. Thats only one example and most recent.
Enough said.
No longer the “other woman”…….I am so much more than that.

Bella June 17, 2006 at 12:10 pm

Wow, I am amazed at the seemingly coincidence of your situation, as I find myself in some very similar to yours. It is difficult to leave, and I am slowly beginning to let go of someone I have cared and loved deeply for the last two and a half years. But, while he was committed to a certain extent, he was still emotionally available at times – when clearly, intimacy was desired on my end. He picked up on this desire, and each time, got extremely fearful and then backed off. It is an extremely painful process, and it is true – only he can change through self-realization. He has to want to change, and wanting to change, has nothing to do with how beautiful or extraordinary a person you are. He has to do the necessary work himself – this is a hard pill to swallow, even for myself, but I’m finding that I am much more valuable than I once thought. And, I deserve to be receive all that I am capable of giving.

ed December 21, 2005 at 2:43 pm

sorry that break my heart to see this happen to you i am sorry to hear that as a male mines is the same wish we could have meet . happy holidays ed

Kay Pinkerton December 12, 2005 at 3:47 pm

In your letter, you stated, “due to his having an affair throughout their 14 year marriage, he has developed a relationship with her that is based on dependence, guilt and obligation.” This statement is key: if a man has been systematically unfaithful to his spouse — especially the mother of his children — what makes you think he will miraculously evolve into the loving, faithful partner that you desire? Past behavior, Bett, is the best predictor of future actions. Seek the support of friends, gather your strength, and leave this relationship. Only then will you find the kind of love that you want and deserve.

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