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Ask Ellie: Surprise meeting with date's ex-wife feels like ambush

When a would-be partner doesn’t discuss something directly involving you, slow down the “dating” to reconsidering
Advice columnist Ellie Tesher.

Dear Ellie: I’m a woman, 41, divorced for two years, with two young sons. The man I’ve dated for three months divorced just eight months ago, and has a young daughter.

From our first date, he’s been very attentive. He invites me to dinner out with him more than I can accept, since I work and have children.

He’s introduced me to several of his friends. Lately, he’s been increasingly romantic, wanting to go away together for a weekend but I’m not ready for that.

I enjoy his enthusiasm about our dating, but having previously been married 14 years, believing it would last, I’m not ready to call this a “forever” relationship.

Then recently, he did something very unsettling. He drove to where a number of his friends/their wives had set up a picnic, and I was greeted enthusiastically… but I could feel that everyone was watching me.

His ex-wife was there, on her own. I said “hello.” She just nodded, looking as uncomfortable as me. Everyone else then laughed.

I was completely rattled. Driving home, I said it was very wrong for him to surprise me, that we hadn’t defined future plans, including meeting his ex-wife.

He disagreed. I need your thoughts.

Awkward Meeting

He was wrong to not discuss ahead if you were okay to meet his ex-wife publicly. She also didn’t seem enthusiastic about meeting you.

Just how post-divorce people should handle these initially-uncomfortable encounters haven’t been defined. But your “date” just created his own plan. That’s not a great signal of respect for your feelings/opinion on the matter.

Red flag? Yes, because he’s a man who does what he wants, first… then hopes it works as he wishes, even in sensitive matters where children are involved.

Tell him to slow down. Be honest about your own feelings (“uncertain”). Open a conversation about expectations on both sides.

Challenge the ones you find are just his “wish list” and insist on the better judgment that children need from all their parent figures.

Dear Ellie: I’ve been married for 15 years. I recently caught my partner messaging his ex in a different country, whom he was with before me.

He’s been messaging her for two years, trying to reconnect, meet up, go to a concert in another country, and ends with, “I love you.” He’s offered to help her pay for her new car.

When confronted, he said he wouldn’t have actually gone to the concert, he meant “I love you” as a friend, he didn’t mean to hurt me, and would stop this.

He did this seven years ago and said the same things when I caught him. He said he was speaking with her as a friend and promised he’d never do it again.

We had lengthy discussions. He vowed that she meant nothing to him. He agreed to come to me no matter how he’s feeling or if he wanted to talk to her.

Now I don’t know if I can trust anything he says. He’s again saying it’s me he wants to be with but I’m not convinced.

Should I leave him? We have two children together.

Same Old Story

Same old lies.

You already know that you can’t trust or believe him. His repeated need to talk about love and offer plans to be together with another woman, display a weakness that neither you nor the other woman can trust.

Unless he agrees to get counselling and find insights about why he’s so emotionally needy, this pattern will repeat.

FEEDBACK regarding the complicated friendship between a long-time friend of a woman who was abused by her husband (also a friend of the letter- writer) but got back together with him (Feb. 11):

Reader — Ellie wrote: “Don’t chat with her husband until you’re sure that the couple are okay together.”

“I would not suggest to quite go to that extent. But I am not saying to not be vigilant about what you hear.

“I would say this: Listen to what he says, but offer no comment or response. I would also watch his actions to ensure they match what he is saying.

“As well, listen to ensure that what he says in private is also the same as what he says when her girlfriend (his wife), is present.

“Any alarms should be raised immediately. But, final decisions about their life still lie with the writer’s girlfriend.”

Ellie: The friend must tread carefully/watchfully.

Ellie’s tip of the day

When a would-be partner doesn’t discuss something directly involving you, slow down the “dating” to reconsidering.

Send relationship questions to [email protected].