All Woman

Her ex is stressing me out

With Wayne Powell MA Counselling Psychology Relationship Counsellor

Monday, August 11, 2014    

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Dear Counsellor,

I am married to a woman who has a child from a previous relationship. We have been together for almost a year now. We are not living in the same area, it's about an eight hour drive. Her ex lives in the area she's in. He does not want his child to have a stepdad. He doesn't see his child a lot, but when my wife is with me, he will ask permission to see the child. I'm so stressed because of this guy.

One of the topics that will be discussed in premarital counselling sessions with couples where one or both partners have children from former relationships is the matter of dealings with the former spouse and the boundaries to be established. The fact that your wife has a child with her ex makes it very difficult for her not to communicate with him as they have to discuss matters pertaining to the child.

What is important is that clearly defined boundaries must be established between your wife and the child's father. This is even more critical with the fact that they live in close proximity to each other. He should not, for example, drop in unannounced and any inappropriate advances by him must be rebuffed by her. The onus is on your wife to ensure that she preserves the integrity of her marriage and she does not in any way send any mixed messages to her ex-boyfriend.

If the child lives with the mother who is married to you then it is almost impossible that you will not interact with the child. So his saying he doesn't want a stepfather is unfair. Even though you are miles away, when you do go home, as a caring husband, you will interact with the child and treat the child as your own. To be isolated from the child would not be in his/her best interest and could impair the child's emotional development.

If the father of the child insists on you not being involved in the life of the child, this could further complicate matters and cause tension between you and your wife. Again, your wife will have to play the role of mediator to make sure peace reigns between the men in her life whilst ensuring the psychological protection of the child. In the same way you have the baby mother drama, the baby father drama can be just as devastating to all parties concerned.

The truth is, both you and the child's father have a critical role to play in the child's life and you both must be mature enough to engage the child in a respectful, responsible and loving way. After all he/she can't be held responsible for the tension and should not be drawn into the mix.

Make sure you take the higher ground and do not allow this gentleman to negatively impact your marriage. Keep the lines of communication open with your wife and go home as often as you can. Long-distance relationships can be challenging and can cause one or both partners to be distracted in more ways than one. The fact that your wife's ex is close by is more reason to make your presence felt. This is no reason to start doubting your wife and to make any wild assumptions; she may well be doing her best in a very sensitive and delicate situation.

Sit with your wife. Assure her of your trust and love. Share with her your concerns regarding the child's father and confirm with her the boundary lines. Have her share with you whatever concerns she may have and you both should agree to the rules of engagement particularly if the relationship has to be long distance. Don't be stressed out by the behaviour. Focus on what is more important and that is the success of your marriage.

Wayne Powell is a relationship counsellor. Write to crisscounselloronline@gmail.com.

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