Wife wants ex to stay with them dur­ing vis­its

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Style & Seen - NATALIE BEN­CIVENGA Natalie Ben­civenga is the Post-Gazette’s Seen and so­ci­ety ed­i­tor. She has a mas­ter’s de­gree in so­cial work from the Univer­sity of Pitts­burgh. Need ad­vice? Send ques­tions to nben­[email protected] Fol­low Natalie on Twit­ter @NBSee

DEAR NATALIE: My wife and I are in our sec­ond mar­riages. Thank­fully, we both main­tain cor­dial and gen­er­ally ex­cel­lent re­la­tion­ships with our for­mer spouses. Her as­so­ci­a­tion with her for­mer hus­band is much more ac­tive than mine with my ex-wife be­cause they share cus­tody of their 9-year-old son. Also, her for­mer spouse is not skilled in some as­pects of sin­gle liv­ing, so she as­sists him with some clothes pur­chases, help­ing him set up a dat­ing pro­file and of­fer­ing other ad­vice.

I have been cor­dial and friendly to him, and I greet him by name. He is po­lite but per­func­tory with me and has used my name just once in the 1½ years that I have known him. The ex-hus­band cur­rently lives about 15 min­utes from us. He will be trans­ferred to a job out of the area soon and will be sell­ing his home here.

My wife and I have also been con­sid­er­ing a move from our home. My wife has sug­gested we pur­chase a home with a garage apart­ment in which her ex-hus­band could stay when he comes to the area to spend time with his son. She has asked me to con­sider this although rec­og­niz­ing that de­spite hav­ing no con­cern about my wife’s faith­ful­ness to me, my vis­ceral re­sponse to the idea is a re­sound­ing “no.” How should I han­dle this sit­u­a­tion? — TOO CLOSE FOR COM­FORT

DEAR TOO CLOSE FOR COM­FORT: You have ev­ery right to feel the way that you do. It is not ap­pro­pri­ate at all for her ex to stay with you when he is in town. She may feel guilty that they are di­vorced and have a child, but that is no rea­son to cre­ate ten­sion be­tween her­self and you.

Her ex may be a nice per­son, but there needs to be healthy bound­aries. Hav­ing him above the garage crosses the line, con­sid­er­ing you are un­com­fort­able with it. Tell her how you feel. You don’t have to jus­tify feel­ing this way. If the shoe was on the other foot, I bet she would feel un­com­fort­able and even threat­ened, as well. When he comes to town to visit his son, he can ei­ther stay at a ho­tel or find other ar­range­ments. It’s not your job to house her ex-hus­band.

DEAR NATALIE: My hus­band and I are con­stantly bick­er­ing. At first, it was just the way we com­mu­ni­cated, but now the con­stant lit­tle an­noy­ances are re­ally start­ing to take its toll. I feel as if I have to gear up for a fight ev­ery time I walk in the door.

I have a stress­ful job, and the con­stant nas­ti­ness be­tween us is re­ally caus­ing is­sues. He just pushes my but­tons and then I re­tal­i­ate, and, let’s just say, it isn’t pretty.

We haven’t been ro­man­tic in months, and I’m start­ing to worry that we are drift­ing apart. We’ve been to­gether eight years and have three chil­dren. I don’t want to di­vorce, but we can­not con­tinue this way. Any sug­ges­tions? — TOO MUCH BICK­ER­ING

DEAR TOO MUCH BICK­ER­ING: Get your­selves to a mar­riage coun­selor. Ev­ery re­la­tion­ship has its own “lan­guage.” While some cou­ples bicker and it doesn’t harm the re­la­tion­ship, it sounds like it’s erod­ing into some­thing more sin­is­ter than ban­ter.

Re­pair­ing the fight is more im­por­tant than peo­ple re­al­ize. If you aren’t re­pair­ing af­ter ar­gu­ments, they be­gin to build, to fes­ter and cre­ate mas­sive amounts of re­sent­ment and ten­sion. It sounds as if you are head­ing down this road and you need a re­boot. A cou­ple’s coun­selor can help give you both tools to speak more lov­ingly and more re­spect­fully, even when you are ar­gu­ing.

Re­mem­ber, it took you eight years to get to this place, so don’t ex­pect a mir­a­cle overnight. Baby steps to­ward heal­ing will take time, but the ef­fort you both put in will be worth it.

Natalie’s Net­work­ing Tip of the Week: Don’t get weighed down by wor­ry­ing about mak­ing the “per­fect” con­nec­tion with peo­ple when you are out net­work­ing. Think about it as mak­ing friend­ships and con­nec­tions. Some­times you click; some­times you don’t. Just be open-minded and friendly and see what hap­pens.

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