Caroline West-Meads: I think his heart is still with his ex

Caroline West-Meads: ‘I think his heart is still with his ex’

  • READ MORE: CAROLINE WEST-MEADS answers your problems on death 

Q: The ex-wife of my partner has been constantly in the background for the 20 years we have been together, even though she, too, is in a long-term relationship. There’s always a reason for them to be in contact – funerals, their grown-up daughters, etc. 

It just seems like she has never let him go and I’m worried he still holds a candle for her. She left him for someone else when their children were young – however, he holds no grudge.

If I had known how close they’d remain I would never have got involved. I’m divorced but my ex is long gone.

It makes me feel very insecure. If I voice my concerns my partner gets defensive, telling me I’m mad, and we argue. My views and feelings seem to have no value and I feel like an outsider. I don’t think they want to be together, or that anything is going on, but they are close.

Q: The ex-wife of my partner has been constantly in the background for the 20 years we have been together, even though she, too, is in a long-term relationship. Stock image used

Indeed, he doesn’t treat me as well as he does her – he never tells me he loves me, merely that I am lucky to have him. I think his heart is with the ex.

A: Clearly the situation is making you feel very fragile. There are two parts to this problem, one being that he doesn’t appear to be treating you well. But before we look at that, we should address your perspective on your partner’s closeness to his ex.

Sometimes people can manage to stay good friends after parting and are able to love each other even when romantic feelings have died. It’s also normal for exes to be in contact regarding their children (adult or younger) and it’s more desirable than for them to be at daggers drawn.

The children must be top priority in any split. Of course, this isn’t easy for the new partner, and so much of their ability to cope will depend on that person’s own background – whether they have been hurt or cheated on before, or whether they have had a secure upbringing. It’s also worth noting that jealousy can alienate a partner.

Having said that, this man’s attitude to you needs calling into question. Because, whether you accept that he might or might not still love his ex (which shouldn’t be a threat as long as it is not romantic or sexual), the real problem is that he is riding roughshod over how you feel – and actually, I don’t much like the sound of him.

He is dismissive of your feelings of being an outsider, is defensive and suggests that you are mad if you raise concerns. This is not acceptable. It is arrogant to tell you you’re lucky to have him. I wonder also whether you really want to be with a man who, after 20 years, will not tell you that he loves you?

I am sorry because this is so painful, but I strongly recommend counselling (relate.org.uk or bacp.co.uk) to help you decide whether you want to stay in this relationship, or to assist you through a break-up if you choose not to.

SHOULD I TELL THE TRUTH AT HER FUNERAL? 

Q: My mother-in-law’s funeral is in two weeks. She was 93 and had been in a care home with dementia for some years. She was always critical of me and how I brought up our three children.

She was embittered, supercilious and judgmental about almost everyone who wasn’t a blood relative. She was also a racist, and appallingly rude to the kind black nurses at her care home.

My husband was not fond of his mother either but he seemed to soften after she got dementia. I am going to the funeral for his sake only but I honestly don’t know how I’m going to manage not to tell some other members of her family (who can be equally unpleasant) what I really thought of her.

‘I am going to the funeral for his sake only but I honestly don’t know how I’m going to manage not to tell some other members of her family (who can be equally unpleasant) what I really thought of her.’ Stock image used

A: At funerals everyone is expected to say nice things about the deceased. However, your late mother-in-law does sound pretty unpleasant and it would be wrong to portray her as someone she was not.

It is important to acknowledge to yourself how hurtful this must have been over many years. So you don’t have any obligation to pretend that you liked her. If someone else is nice about her, you don’t have to agree with them.

There is an argument for simply ignoring the views of other family members if they are similarly unpleasant – not to avoid a scene, but simply because these people are not worth your time and effort. But it’s important to call out racism and other unacceptable views when the situation arises.

So if, at the funeral, you are put on the spot, as long as you remain calm and polite, I see no harm in saying that you found her very difficult and that some of her views were abhorrent.

If you have a problem, write to Caroline West-Meads at YOU, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email [email protected] You can follow Caroline on Twitter @Ask_Caroline_

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