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The ''Ex'' Factor

4 ways to deal with a meddling former spouse.
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On my wedding day, I married the man of my dreams. But … my new husband wasn't what I imagined while growing up. The man of my childhood dreams came without the baggage of a first wife and a child. The man I married, Scott, was divorced as a result of his first wife's infidelity.

In the six years I've been married to Scott, his ex-wife has popped into our lives myriad times, disrupting our harmony. She's called Scott on his cell phone, wanting to get together with him alone. She's "dropped by" our house when I wasn't home. She's often found a way of doing or saying something cruel about me—but always in the nicest tone.

I tried being polite and kind to her, but she didn't seem interested in treating me the same way. When she made rude statements about my marriage, I finally let her know her comments were inappropriate. She responded by telling me she'd be praying about my attitude problems.

Married … with Baggage

There's the old adage that says when you marry, you also marry your spouse's family. The reality is, if your spouse was married before, suddenly you have to deal with a history, children, and mail that arrives addressed to a spouse's ex. Remarriage introduces unique challenges and unexpected jealousies, comparisons, and insecurities that often can drive a couple apart.

That's why it's especially important to remain united with your spouse against the outside disruptions of an ex. If you're struggling with the "ex factor," here are four strategies to keep your marriage strong.

1. PRAY FOR THE EX-SPOUSE. Often when my husband's ex made some snarky comment, I wanted to pray as David did in Psalms: "Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked" (3:7, NLT). Unfortunately, that's not the smartest choice. Asking God to rain down tar and feathers may feel good at first, but it isn't the most appropriate course of action.

Instead, Jesus asks us to pray this way: "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44). Ask God to bless her, if for no other reason than she's made in God's image, or that she's the parent of your stepchild. Pray she'll make wise parenting decisions. Pray God will be free to work in her life. Pray that, gulp, your heart will soften toward her because you know God loves her.

I've found that when I pray for Scott's ex-wife, kinder feelings toward her grow. As I allow God the freedom to accomplish what he wants in that relationship and in my life, I'm less upset by her intrusions. I can't explain it; I just know it works. It's not about quickie prayers. Sometimes it takes serious, time-consuming, fasting prayers. But the investment's definitely worth it.

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Ginger E. Kolbaba

Ginger Kolbaba is the author of Desperate Pastors' Wives and The Old Fashioned Way. Connect with her on Twitter @gingerkolbaba.

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October 12, 2012  10:02pm

I understand this is advice for the remarried couple. It seems pretty unempathetic for the ex-spouse. My ex married his mistress of 20 years. Fortunately, the children are all grown. But I did have to deal with him over bills from the divorce he was supposed to pay. He had her pay them and she lorded that over me. I guess she waited a long time for that kind of power. So, while it may not be "right", there may be real reasons an ex-spouse is less than patient or kind to a new spouse. She stole my life - I cannot bring myself to care if their marriage succeeds or not.

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Deborah Taylor

January 16, 2008  1:57am

My fiancee's ex-wife doesn't have to meddle to be an issue. Even though they have been divorced for 8 years, he often fondly mentions her. This makes me think part of his heart is still with her. I can think of ways to retaliate but I'm looking for a more productive way to respond to him. What shall I do? PS I meant to a star rating of 4, but it wouldn't let me change my selection.

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