How to talk openly about his ex and let him know how you really feel.
What would you do if your husband and his ex-wife got back in touch-- and started regularly communicating? That's the question that one GalTime reader is struggling with-- she turned to Dr. Jane Greer for advice.
GalTime Reader Question: I’ve been married for twenty years. About two years ago, I caught my husband reconnecting with his ex-wife. They were married for a brief period, decades ago. They did not have any children together.
My husband and his ex-wife started corresponding. She said she was engaged and wanted closure. It turns out they were meeting for lunch, texting and emailing for months. My husband was sending her gifts and flowers. He told me he had feelings for her, but wouldn’t tell me what those feelings were. When I confronted him, he said I was overreacting, and that since his ex was getting married, he didn’t feel like he was doing anything wrong.
He never explained his feelings or actions. It’s like the elephant in the room. My husband says that they didn’t sleep together, but I’m not sure. I feel betrayed, and for the past two years, it’s been eating away at me.
I resent him, and have a lot of anger. It feels as fresh to me today as it did two years ago. I wish I could get over it but I can’t… I feel stuck. Please give me your advice.
Right now I have one foot in and one foot out of my marriage. I need and want to move forward, but can’t....
Dr. Jane Greer: It's understandable that your husband reconnecting with his first wife was upsetting to you and felt threatening. The hold that relationships from the past sometimes have on people can be quite complex and hard to figure out-- so while it appears that your husband was being evasive with you, in fact it may be that he himself wasn’t aware of what was triggered for him emotionally by his ex-wife's remarriage.
Why Exes Reconnect
In situations like your husband’s, sometimes the tie they feel with someone from their past can be based on who that person was and the history you they shared with them at an important time in their life. The popularity of Facebook is testimony to how meaningful these earlier relationships can be to people.
Additionally, with early marriages, there can be emotional variables that come into play-- such as guilt over ending or leaving the marriage, or unresolved anger at a betrayal that may have occurred, and so the reconnecting is a way for one or both people to deal with unresolved feelings that can bothered them in the past.
It's likely that your husband was grappling with mixed feelings and perhaps even feeling a loss (as outdated as that sounds) with the reality that his ex was finally replacing him with a new spouse.
It's unlikely that he was looking to genuinely reconnect with her and start over in any way or he would have done that a long time ago. This was much more about the finality of their divorce and her moving on and the impact it had on him.
Working Through Feelings of Betrayal
That said, it sounds like the fact that he has minimized your feelings rather than relate to them has increased your anger and feelings of mistrust.
Related: The Real Reasons We Cheat
How about letting him know you would like to be able to talk openly about what the reconnection meant to him, since it's important to you to understand him— and telling him that it would be very meaningful if he can at least relate to your feelings of distress by the time he spent dealing with his ex.
It sounds like he's feeling blamed and accused by you of being unfaithful, so rather than hearing how upset you felt and responding to that, he keeps reasserting his innocence and that he hasn't done anything wrong.
Before you put the other foot out the door, why not try talking it out with a marriage counselor who can help you get past your anger and help you relate to each other in a caring empathic way, rather than a blaming one.
You've been married along time… it's worth a little work to get through a rough patch.
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