When Your Partner’s Ex Is a Nightmare
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Don’t let a miserable ex spoil a good thing
Ask anyone who has been there. Being in a relationship after divorce—especially when one or both people have kids—can get very complicated. Maybe your kids are giving you hints or blatantly telling you they don’t want your new partner around. Maybe the kids on both sides aren’t interested in hanging out with one another and feel like they are being forced into a Brady Bunch–like scenario. Blending families, no matter how much you love someone, is no picnic.
But in some cases, the most painful and stressful aspect of being in a relationship with a divorced person is that person’s ex. The person he or she used to be married to could end up being your worst nightmare. Why? Not because that person can hurt you or your kids directly, but because of the pain and suffering you might see your new partner and possibly his or her kids endure as a result of the ex’s behavior. In other words, your partner’s hurt is your hurt. And for some people, that is an intensely excruciating and helpless feeling.
Many people have asked me over the years, “How do you know if you are in love?” I’ve written a few articles attempting to answer the question, but one thing that sticks out in my mind is that when you are truly, madly, insanely in love, it kills you to see your new partner in pain. When he or she is hurting, all you want to do is make the pain go away so your partner no longer has to feel that way. You want to desperately grab your partner, hold him or her tight, and say everything is going to work out and that you will die before you let anything bad happen.
To watch someone you love endure pain and suffer from a situation stemming from a vicious, vindictive ex is intensely upsetting and sad. It makes you live with constant tears brimming in your eyes whenever you even remotely start thinking about the injustice and the mean-spirited nature of the circumstances. It is also a helpless feeling because you want to do something but are powerless.
But there is something else. Aside from feeling sad and helpless about the situation, the other thing a nightmare ex can do is infuriate you. Seeing sadness in this person you now love so deeply can cause intense anger toward his or her ex. It is enraging, and it makes you want to scream, “Do you have that much hate in your heart?”
But here’s the thing—that intense sense of resentment (i.e., feeling really, really pissed) is unproductive. Here’s why: First of all, it is exhausting to feel anger. It zaps your energy and takes away from all the wonderful thoughts you could be having and things you could be doing each day. Second, anger only worsens the situation for your partner who is experiencing his or her own anger, and that is enough. He or she doesn’t need to add yours to it.
Here is my advice for those whose new partner has a mean-spirited ex: be supportive. Hold your partner and just listen. Give advice occasionally and only when asked. Don’t judge. Don’t say, “You need to do this. . . .” or “She’s just a bitch, and I hate her.”
Say: “I am here for you.” “You know you can always count on me.” “Things are going to work out.” “My heart is with you always.”
Remember that this isn’t your battle. It is your problem, however, because of how deeply you love your partner. It is your problem because you want your partner to be OK, but you should try to end it there.
The advice: keep being you. You and your partner need to continue living your happy life as a couple. Remember that you cannot control your partner’s ex or that person’s actions. The fact is, you cannot control most things in life, but what you can control is your relationship and your happiness.
As for the ex, he or she has to live with hate and any vindictive actions that result, with what is deep in his or her soul, with the truth that those hurtful actions were evil. You, on the other hand, need to free yourself from engaging or even thinking about the ex.
I recently read this quote by Will Smith that serves as a great conclusion to this article: “Romance is not love. . . . Love is really born of surviving with somebody.”
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