“How Do I Handle My Boyfriend’s Controlling Ex Wife?”


how do I handle my boyfriend's controlling ex wife, boyfriend's controlling ex wife

A reader asks how to handle her boyfriend’s controlling ex wife.

Okay, so I’m to the point where I have no one to turn to and when I begin to try to explain my relationship to someone else, I don’t even know where to start, logically it doesn’t make sense.

I have been in a year long relationship with a guy that I have known since we were in grade school. I use to be in the same class and close friends with his little sister. We never really hung out, definitely never romantically- but have been a part of each other’s lives for a very long time.

I am a recovering addict and when we first got together, I had just gotten in trouble and got caught in the wrong place and ended up with a major pending charge. I lost EVERYTHING over this. My kids, my high-end job, my house, my vehicle, my family- EVERYTHING. He had just gotten out of a 20 year relationship with a controlling woman, who he has children with.

Since the beginning, he has told me that if she finds out that we’re together, she will keep his kids from him, out of spite. So, for a year now, he has never told her about us. When she heard certain things and asked him, he out right denied it, multiple times. Their kids are involved in all sorts of sports and activities, so almost every day he sees her and is around her.

I have NEVER been invited or allowed to go to a single ballgame, practice or awards ceremony. She uses their kids against him in situations where I’m not even (obviously) involved. She talks badly about him to their kids and has faked him putting his hands on her in front of their children just so that she could use that to turn them on him.

I am currently trying to remain sober and living and working a full-time job in a recovery program 5 hours away.

I came home on pass for a couple of days and asked him how much longer this was going to have to go on, because his daughter is graduating and she (his ex) has all kinds of stuff she needs him to do, so he basically won’t have time to see me. And without me asking or insinuating that he should pick- he told me that honestly, if he had to choose, we’d have to part ways, because he wasn’t willing for her to find out and keep his kids from him.

I feel like I’m missing out on his “real life.” I’m not allowed to be a part of it. I do love him because he has stuck by me through all of this, but not openly.

I am lost.

And I’m beginning to feel like I don’t even know who I am anymore. I’ve already lost everything else, so I feel like maybe that’s why I’m clinging so desperately to seeing this through. Please help.

Thanks for your message, and first, I’m really sorry to hear you’re going through all this.

Here’s the thing.

Right now, even if things were perfect with his ex and she happened to be your best friend and biggest fan— because you have your own stuff to take care of in recovery, your long distance, day-to-day relationship with him would not be much different than it already is right now.

You have your own stuff to take care of (that is 5 hours away) and he has chosen to be with you.

Let me say that last part again.

He has chosen to be with you.

From what you described, it sounds like he is doing his absolute best to continue to date you under some pretty tough circumstances while also protecting his relationship with his kids.

I’m going to say something that might sound harsh, but it’s intended in the most compassionate, loving tone you can possibly imagine.

You are creating your own problem here.

You have to stop making this situation with his kids about you, right now.

If you keep pushing your boyfriend to do something different when he’s trying his hardest to have his family and maintain his relationship with you, you’ll lose him.

You’re obviously writing me because you’re afraid of losing him, so I’m not trying to make that fear worse or pour fuel on the fire.

It’s just that trying to get MORE right now— more of him, more of his kids, more of his life— is going to get you less if you keep this up. It’s pure self sabotage.

Let it go.

Let go of wanting it to be different and just ENJOY HIM when he’s available.

Get your life back, get your self love in order, take care of number one (you) and worry about that. Instead of making your relationship your project, make YOURSELF your project.

Quit focusing on this situation with his ex, forget about whatever she’s doing and relax.

Since the kids are graduating, it won’t be long before his exe’s grip on them is loosened. They are almost adults.

He’s made it clear he wants to be with YOU, so stop treating this like you have to go out and vanquish your rival or create some petty mental competition with his ex who is free to do whatever bizarre thing she wants with her life and her kids.

He shouldn’t have to make any big declarations to his ex about what he’s doing in his personal life with you. You’re not Romeo and Juliet, vying for parental approval.

It doesn’t sound like being around her is a pleasure cruise for him, but even if it is, worrying about that is always a complete waste of your time.

Trying to influence him to do otherwise is controlling and frankly, cruel of you— given that he wants the best relationship he can have with his children.

Now, I understand that your intentions are good, but forcing yourself into the alpha position here is going to put him in a relationship with another controlling woman… you.

Is that what you want?

Is that really loving behavior?

He’s not hiding his kids from you, he’s trying to keep them in his life.

Allow any relationship that you create with the kids to happen at some future date and quit worrying about it. Just accept that for a while (but probably not forever), you simply aren’t going to spend time with him AND the kids at the same time.

Strengthen your relationship with him right now by allowing and accepting, 100% that his choice here is HIS and support him.

Let that be okay.

Make your peace with it and quit using all this mental energy being “hurt” by circumstances beyond your control.

The best thing you can do right now is to LOVE HIM, nurture your relationship with him and yourself and let go of the rest of this crap. This reframe might help you do this:

Think about what you really want your relationship with him to look like in 25 years.

Now imagine spending your Sunday afternoon happily sitting on a porch swing with him.

Do you want his kids and grandkids joyfully coming over to say hello to both of you?

Want fun family dinners and celebrations?

You probably do.

If you keep competing with and antagonizing his ex wife in the present— even if it’s just in your mind, a knee-jerk response to whatever she’s doing, or behind closed doors in your private conversations with him— his kids (who love their mother) aren’t going to want to get to know you on their own.

They are not going to get curious about you and want to get to know the sweet woman who is making their father so happy.

They are not going to create the kind of relationship with you that inspires them to WANT to hang out with you.

And there will be more separation, pain and bullshit.

That’s a pretty strong incentive to detach completely from trying to force anything in the short term.

Love him, enjoy him and let the rest of this go. From now on, disappear his ex wife out of your emotional life by refusing to let her actions affect your peace of mind.

When he’s busy with his family, focus on your own passions, hobbies and life. Keep your eye on the only person you have control over— you.

The cool part about this is that you basically get to do NOTHING except change your mind and win it all.

But that change has to start with you. You’ve been through SO MUCH, and you’re SO CLOSE to turning this around. I have faith in you.


–Elizabeth Stone

Elizabeth Stone

About Elizabeth Stone

Elizabeth Stone is a bestselling author, head love coach and founder of Attract The One and Luxe Self.

Through her coaching, writing and online programs she has helped thousands of women reunite with their men and create amazing, soul-level connections. She is thrilled to have helped so many couples reignite the spark in their relationships.

Tirelessly focused on helping people improve their love lives, her work has gone viral on Your Tango and Thought Catalog as well as been featured on EHarmony, Zoosk, Popsugar, The Good Men Project, Tiny Buddha, Bustle, Fox News Magazine, Ravishly, She Knows, Mind’s Journal, Read Unwritten, Madame Noire, Digital Romance Inc. and many more.

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