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Handling the Angry Ex

Ken's side:

I was trying to keep peace
When I first met Lucky, I wasn't ready for another relationship. With a divorce only three years behind me, the thought of marriage left a knot in my stomach. But Lucky's zest for life and outgoing personality soon changed my mind. She made life fun again—and introduced me to Christ in the process. We got along so well that I soon forgot the misery of my former marriage.

We got married after three years of dating. My two boys stayed with us on weekends, and Lucky's son moved in with us. We became one big happy family. Life just couldn't get any better. Except for one thing. Because of the boys, I had to maintain contact with my former wife.

We rarely spoke to each other without her throwing in a cutting remark or accusing me of something. When she called, I just kept quiet. When something had to be resolved I gave the phone to Lucky. She was good at finding solutions, and she kept the boys in line better than I did. In fact, Lucky could handle just about anything in our relationship, which was a great relief to me.

Our marriage was sailing along smoothly when Lucky started to change. Her moodiness put our relationship on edge. When I asked her what had changed, she snapped back and stated I had to resolve my issues with my former wife. I couldn't understand this about-face in her attitude. Sometimes she'd blow up after my ex-wife called and call me "cowardly" or "spineless." All this time I had been living with a volcano.

Lucky's side:

He used me as a shield
When I first met Ken, I knew I'd found a great guy. Ken's soft-spoken and compassionate nature was a stark contrast to my former husband. I'd borne the brunt of alcoholic rages in my first marriage, so Ken's gentlemanly ways made me feel safe and secure.

When Ken became a Christian I felt that he was God's man for me. He loved my son and welcomed him into our new home. But problems with Ken's family arose from the first weekend we were all together.

Ken's ex-wife would call to check on the boys, demand money, or whatever else she could think of to cause disruption. Ken wouldn't confront her, and he'd tell me to "deal with it" whenever she phoned. On the rare times Ken did talk to her, he was miserable for the rest of the day. I tried to help. But that never worked. They'd both get mad at me, and I'd be left in tears.

For months I pleaded with Ken to put an end to these interruptions. But my admonitions just bounced off him. Trying to keep my emotions in check made me seethe inside. And when I couldn't take the pressure any longer, I blew.

On top of the problems with his former wife, Ken's extended family disliked my son. Whenever we attended family functions, they either ignored or ridiculed him. Ken just ignored the problem. His inability to protect Aaron and me from his family's inconsideration really took its toll on our relationship.

What Ken and Lucky Did:

Ken and Lucky did not see divorce as an option. But Ken's family was separating the two of them. After some individual prayer time, they decided to meet a trusted couple from their church's marriage ministry team in an effort to save their marriage.

"When I heard Lucky pour out her feelings in counseling," says Ken, "I finally realized the gravity of our situation. I knew I had to change but didn't know what to do. I would hide from confrontation because I don't like being the source of someone's pain. But this is what I was for Lucky."

"Our initial meeting gave Ken and me the freedom to air our feelings," says Lucky. "For the first time, I felt Ken actually heard what I was saying. Neither of us was allowed to blame the other for our problems. When an issue was raised, one of the counselors would ask, ‘What is your part in this?' and ‘What do you need to change?' We learned to express our hurts in terms of ourselves without pointing fingers."

Ken and Lucky also received individual counseling. For Ken, this involved accounting for his actions for the first time in his life.

"I tend to be too lenient with my boys because I don't want their time with us to be a bad experience," Ken says. "My lack of disciplining them, however, caused strife between Lucky and me. My counselor showed me my leniency was just a cover-up for the guilt I felt for not being present in their lives on a daily basis. Now I can let them know when they are out of line without beating myself up emotionally."

Lucky learned the importance of staying within her limitations. "I am a take-charge person and willingly took control whenever Ken did not," says Lucky. "But Galatians 6:5 says that each of us should carry our own load. I was carrying Ken's and mine. By dealing with Ken's issues for him, I enabled him to hide from the character growth God desired to produce in his life."

"First Peter 3:10 calls us to walk in peace," adds Ken. "I thought this meant I shouldn't say anything to my ex-wife, my family, or anyone else I have a problem with. But true peace only comes when you've done your best to overcome a conflict, not by avoiding it. By resolving my own conflicts, I'm showing Lucky that I really do love her."

It took Ken and Lucky about a year to put into place the lessons learned in their counseling sessions. Now, when Ken and Lucky have a disagreement, they express their opinions without blaming each other for them.

"Problems within a relationship can either unite or divide a couple," says Lucky. "With eleven years of marriage behind us, Ken and I are glad we worked through those early difficulties. And we thank God for the bond of love we have between us now."

If you know a couple with a creative solution to a common marriage problem, let us know. We'll pay $50 for each story that is featured in this column. Send the couple's name, phone number, and a short description of their problem and solution to:

Marriage Partnership
465 Gundersen Drive
Carol Stream, Illinois 60188

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Marriage; Remarriage; Step-parenting
Today's Christian Woman, Spring, 2002
Posted September 30, 2008

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