Remote Control

by Susan Wilkins-Hubley

When you are living with or married to a divorced man, there are times when the past will sneak up behind you when you are least expecting it, and remind you in no subtle ways, that your mate had an important woman in his past. Depending on where you are emotionally in the relationship and with yourself, this can be perceived as intrusive.

You’ve worked hard all day and you put the key in the front door to your humble abode and check the mailbox. You see some mail and happen to notice his ex’s name on some of the mail today. What is your reaction? Many times the reaction is anger, you want to let the postman know that darn it she’s not part of his life and you want to know under no uncertain terms why you are getting mail in your mailbox addressed to her! Don’t shoot the messenger. Go to the source, your husband.

“Tanya” a member of The Second Wives wrote about her frustrations: “…. I am sick of having bills and bank statements come to OUR house with THEIR names on them… especially because I am in charge of the checkbook. I hate seeing her name next to his. No more. Get her name off everything…. NOW!….” Second wives frequently see these instances as an intrusion on their privacy, and in their lives. Second wives can have difficulty accepting their husbands pasts and justifiably so especially if the divorce was not amicable and there are some lingering feelings of anger between the ex-wife and present wife.

Phone calls from the ex-wife to the husband can also be seen as intrusive to the present wife, especially when the phone calls have no merit and do not pertain to any children that the couple may share. Phone calls that occur full of “could you fix my washing machine” or “I need you to pick up some milk at the store” are also annoying and inappropriate. It becomes a battle of wills between the parties. You feel like screaming “He’s my husband damn it! You’ve parted ways now act like it!”

Sound familiar?

Phone calls, mail, e-mail messages, or voice machine messages, whether or not they are necessary, feel almost as though the first wife is trying to regain or instill some sort of control over the situation. If these things affect you, she’s got “remote control” whether she knows it or not. How can we manage our responses to “remote control”? How can we keep these intrusions from running and ruining our relationships with our man?

Here’s a few hints:

Realize that unless the mail you see in your mailbox is from a NEW account, it’s probably an innocent occurrence and the first wife did not make it happen. However, it is up to both the first wife, and more so the husband to clean up their accounts and have mail sent respectively. Approach your husband and let him know how the mail makes you feel. Don’t tear a strip off of him when he walks in the door, but sit down with him after dinner and tell him that although it doesn’t seem like a major thing to him, you would really appreciate him moving on with regards to bills, magazine subscriptions, etc. They are no longer an item, so let’s “play” that way.

Phone calls are another ball of wax. Many times phone calls need to be managed by the husband. Again, discuss this honestly with your husband and let him know how you feel about the first wife calling too often, or for nothing in particular, if she does this. Let him know that you are willing to meet in the middle by suggesting phone calls after a certain hour and limit the calls to one call. You may want to limit the calls to once per week. Each situation needs to be considered uniquely. Establish your personal boundaries so that you do not feel like your life is being controlled by the phone. Get call waiting!

E-mail is a great way for divorced individuals (notice I did not use the word couples?) to correspond. You always have a written copy of the conversation and if your husband is willing, you might ask him to share the e-mail with you. You’ll feel more in control of your life and the situation at hand. As always, discuss setting limits with regards to the content and frequency of the e-mail if that is what you feel you need.

Voice mail is something that is hard to control and many times unavoidable. If the ex is leaving abusive or intrusive voice mail, perhaps you might discuss giving her another number that you can obtain from your phone company that does not have a voice mail feature. That way – you don’t have to hear it! Voice mail can be used as wonderful ammunition if it becomes abusive or harassing in nature. Keep a copy if so.

Understand that this all takes time but don’t allow either the ex-wife or your husband to drag it out. Present a “move on” attitude for the sake of a happy relationship and home. Express a “can do” attitude without sounding dictative. Sometimes men can be just plain dense about these kinds of thing (sorry guys).

Communication between yourself and your hubby is the key to managing “remote control”. Your hubby must take ultimate responsibility for incoming communication and any mail that comes to your home. If he doesn’t, it’s time for a serious look at your relationship. If he’s not willing to help *you* feel as though your life is not being run by his divorce and past marriage or relationship, your relationship will not develop. You will be stuck in the past and unable to move on as a happy loving and healthy couple.

Let me know if this article has helped you!
Susan Wilkins-Hubley
Canadian Mom & Stepmom to Four
[email protected]

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