Dealing with an Ex-spouse
No wife I know wants her world threatened by another woman, especially if that other woman happens to be your man’s ex-wife! We set up boundaries to protect the things and the people we love. But sometimes it’s not always so simple and clear cut. Sometimes people from our past, whether we like it or not, will also be a part of our present.
Divorce is messy and if children are involved, then the other parent will most likely be a part of your life too.
This is what one woman is dealing with in her relationship. Here’s her story…
I found out that my fiance’s ex-wife has been attending our church, and not only that, but her kids are good friends with mine. We had no idea they have been attending and that my children are friends with her step children. How could I as wife to be, handle this situation? How should we as a couple deal with this brand new situation? I’m mostly concerned about the children. I would want my family and marriage to be confidential and things like, where we live not to be discussed with the Ex’s children. If it were up to me I’d ask God to Remove the Ex and their family from the church (selfish, I know) . I would like some advise.
JOLENE ENGLE: So today we are dealing with the topic of an ex-spouse. One woman wrote in and said, “Dear Jolene, I found out that my husband-to-be’s ex-wife has been attending my church. Not only that, but her kids are good friends with mine. We had no idea that she had been attending and that my children are friends with her stepchildren. How can I, as a wife-to-be, handle this situation? How should we, as a couple, deal with this brand new situation? I am mostly concerned about the children; I want my family and marriage to be confidential and for things like where we live not to be discussed with the ex’s children. If it were up to me, I would ask God to remove the ex and her children from the church, selfish, I know. I would like some advice.” I love her honesty.
ERIC ENGLE: Woah, so here’s the first thing I’d have to say: however you got to this point, you have to be willing to live with this reality – it is what it is.
JOLENE: When I’m reading this I was thinking, praise God girlfriend that she goes to church! We don’t know the situation; we don’t know the back story, but praise the Lord that this ex-spouse is at least trying to walk in the Word! I saw it as a good thing, but as I’m reading the concern of this wife, I’m kind of hearing ‘fear’.
ERIC: And before we get into that, I’d have to go back and ask, what are the circumstances of this divorce to begin with? If they were unsaved, then ok, I understand that. But if they were saved and a saved person said ‘I want to divorce you’, we might have an issue there, and that issue is not going away just because they’ve found the ‘right’ gal or the ‘right’ guy. That’s not true, you didn’t find the ‘right’ gal or the ‘right’ guy; it’s not going to be all better, because as a believer, there was something wrong there to begin with. There was selfishness in your heart if you were the one that said, ‘hey, I want a divorce’. I understand circumstances of infidelity and God allows divorce for infidelity; we don’t know all the circumstances of this, so let’s tackle this, as we know it.
JOLENE: For me, I would just look at it as you’re probably dealing with some fear there… and comparisons, and the reality of it is you don’t have to have an ex-spouse in the picture to have fear or comparisons in marriage. Any wife could have that. You want to keep your marriage confidential, and I say, live a life pleasing to Christ! Why would you want to keep a beautiful thing confidential? Now again, she doesn’t want the address known, but why? What again is the concern there? Is she going to come after them with a gun? I don’t get it. She’s attending church… I don’t know if the ex-wife is ‘playing’ Christian, I don’t know if the husband-to-be was saved and the ex-wife decided to part from him and it wasn’t biblical; we don’t know those things. So all I have to go off of is fear, and to help this apply to more than just one wife, let’s talk about fear, because that’s a very common thread amongst women in marriage.
ERIC: And we’ll talk about both sides; maybe this ex-wife is a wack-job. Matter of a fact, I’ll address it right now. I understand wanting to live a private life…
JOLENE: (Laughs)… and here we are on a podcast!
ERIC: Well, everyone knows our story. We live for the Lord, it’s all out there because that’s what we’re about: building His Kingdom. So you can know everything about me that you want, but I’m not one that wants to put my whole life on Facebook and have everyone know what I’m doing everyday. That’s kind of creepy to me; so, I understand the ‘privacy’ thing. But let’s say she is a nut job, then I understand wanting to keep private – though it is easy to find out where you live, whether you want to keep that private or not. And you obviously have to talk with the fiancé that’s going to be your husband and say, ‘look, these are my concerns…’ They’ve got to come to a conclusion there; they can’t just have this fear and think that everything is going to be all right. She has got to communicate with him and they’ve got to come to some common ground as to how they’re going to handle this and how they’re going to deal with this; otherwise, she’s already got problems, before they even get married.
JOLENE: Right. So is the ex-spouse emotionally unstable? Is she a physical threat to the family? Obviously the fiancé is going to know that answer – the bride-to-be needs to go to him and say, ‘what do I need to be concerned about, because I have these fears, but they might not be logical fears.’
ERIC: So let’s go into ‘she’s not a nut job, she’s come to the Lord – she now wants to follow the Lord and she’s shown up at church and there’s fruit.’ Now talk about the fears.
JOLENE: Well, then I would direct her to the scripture 1 John 4:18, “There’s no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” Because fear involves torment – Satan is the tormentor; he is the one who brings fear. Jesus doesn’t bring the fear. That right there will help you to become more biblically grounded. The more spiritually stable you are, the more emotionally stable you will become. Let’s assume the ex-wife is not a nut-job, then the bride-to-be could say ‘yeah, my fears are not logical; this woman is not a threat to our family.’ Now, from one woman to another, I could sit down with this woman and have some coffee with her and say, ‘I’d like her out of the church too because she’s skinnier than me, she’s got better hair, and my future husband has slept with her.’ That is what our flesh says, but she’s not a nut-job – she’s your sister in the Lord. That takes it to a whole other level, this is what the Word says – 1 John 4:20, “If someone says, ‘I love God’ and hates his brother…” Or in this case, sister! “…he is a liar! For he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” She’s either a) a nut-job or b) a sister.
ERIC: And the Bible does call us to be wise as serpents, but harmless as doves. Which means that, yes, you can deal with people, but use wisdom. Based on who she is will dictate how you deal with her. If her life is a fruitful believer’s life and she’s going to church, then you have no choice, if you want to make it to heaven, to accept her and love her. Doesn’t mean you have to spend time with her, necessarily, but you do have to show her love – treat her as a sister.
JOLENE: Well, I’m going to challenge every wife who’s listening to this, when you have unfounded fear, what are you teaching your kids when they see that? I have no idea how old the kids are in this scenario, but they’re making their own friendships and so forth, so I’d imagine they’re probably older than three. Because normally, when you’re around your three-year-old you know what child they played with in the nursery, and so forth. What are you teaching your children about fear and the Lord? Are you teaching them to trust God or are you teaching them to trust themselves? To huddle in a corner, draw the shades back, huddle down, and pretend like no one can come near you? You have to teach them to trust God – you have to teach your children to have faith in God. So this is probably something that she’s going through. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind.” So that’s why I ask is this woman, this bride-to-be, is she of sound mind? Or is her fear due to comparisons? Which could certainly be the case. Or this gal’s a wack-job and the bride-to-be needs to protect her family. But that’s not the bride-to-be’s place; it’s the fiancé’s!
ERIC: Well, and here’s the thing! If she’s going to choose this guy, guess what? His bags come with him! He can’t lose those at the airport, the baggage comes with him, and so she’s got to accept that and how he’s going to deal within their new family.
JOLENE: Well, and it would be kind of nice to befriend the gal; she’s going to be in your life for the rest of your life – as long as you’re married to this guy.
ERIC: If there are kids involved, if there are kids from the past marriage.
JOLENE: Yes, if there are kids involved – I’m not 100 percent sure, it said something about step-kids in there. If you’re a wife listening to this and there are step-kids involved, it’s better to try and have a relationship where it’s an amicable relationship with the other spouse because you’re dealing with the children. That’s part of the marriage. So those are my thoughts on that.
ERIC: What if every time she saw this gal, she encouraged her?
JOLENE: Oh yeah! Then the ex-spouse would have a hard time ‘looking down’ on this bride-to-be. But again, we don’t know the situation, we don’t know if this fiancé left his wife for this gal.
ERIC: Right. A lot of things we don’t know. And we really can’t comment on those, even though we touched on some of those things. Based on what we have, that’s what we have to say!
JOLENE: I’m Jolene Engle, here with my husband Eric, and we’ll see you next time.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 1 John 4:18
If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 1 John 4:20
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Tim. 1:7
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I have a similar situation so I ca relate. My husband of almost 3 years (my 2nd marriage & his 3rd), has an ex-wife that I have purposely avoided like the plague for 2 1/2 years. We were in a car ride together for 3 hrs (another story) and she said somethings that put my husband down. I felt like I was being a supportive wife and decided to end any and all communication with her. I needed to defend my husband, right?! Wrong!! It has caused so much tension and hindered a relationship with my step kids. I finally a few weeks ago had a conversation with the ex wife and my step daughter. We discussed very openly things that bothered each of us. Since then life has been so much simpler. I actually have had some discussions with her that has shed some light on my marriage (after all she’s been married to him too). She started attending “our church” (the same one they went to as a family) and I felt like I couldn’t get away from her. She is at everything for the kids, she is building a house in the neighborhood over from us, and now she’s going to our church! How dare she be a good mom for her kids and do that?? I had to step back and look at my approach and what God was trying to teach me in this.
I learned the world is a bad mean place and why would I want to hinder a loving relationship with my step kids (I don’t like that term I prefer bonus kids). If anyone wants to love my kids I’ve always wanted that there’s enough bad out there they will have to face.
I actually walked out of church with her on Mother’s Day and wished her a good day. The whole time I was walking out I was talking to God. It had to be Him at work because just a few weeks before I was cringing at the sight of her walking in the parking lot and here I was walking out right beside her honestly sincerely wishing her a good day. God is powerful IF we allow
Him to be in our lives.
This will also take lots of communication with your fiànce and without that I’m sorry to say you should second think this marriage. Blending family life is the hardest I’ve ever known and that’s saying a lot!! Just trust God and He will see you through BUT it will be with many lessons learned so prepare or walk away before you commit. Blended families aren’t for the faint…it’s tough but rewarding if you CHOOSE God!!
I know these things happen and sometimes it’s unavoidable. But the problem lies in how people communicate and how the spouse handles themselves in each situation. I get being civil but if you have to do more than that why are they an ex! The bible talks a lot about creating boundaries and being set apart! People don’t like hearing that bc they always want to compare themselves to Jesus and say we are to be a light and help the lost! The light also exposes things that are hidden and un-addressed sin in our lives and others! Some people don’t want change and we are to separate from that way of understanding bc it can hinder us! Rich young ruler story is a great example of this as well bc when he refused to give up what had hold of him he left sorrowful! Jesus didn’t chase him he simply planted a seed and showed him where his heart was! Ex’es are just that for a reason and can also be the most dangerous person for married couples bc of the history! 2nd marrieges have a high divorce rate already so not being guarded and protected in all areas can really be detrimental! Also it’s our job to be mindful and always respect the one we are with and their feelings no matter what we feel!
I have found that my spouse’s ex and I make an effort to get along for the children. His two children live almost 12 hours away, and as his wife it is my duty to support him. I chose to love him, and all that came with that, his children are a part of him, as my two are of me. We have been blessed that all four children love the other very much, step-parents, and accept each other as siblings. He and his ex don’t get along or not, they have moved past that. His ex finds it easier to communicate with me because of my empathy as a once divorced woman and I was a single mom for a while, as she is now and has been for a while. I believe that supporting my spouse and the growth of “our” children is crucial to doing God’s work. We have boundaries, conversations are limited to children’s well being and small talk, but is so much better than not getting along. She tells me how much her kids love me, she is secure when they are with me, know I respect her as their mom, and appreciates all I do. I learned this from my parents and step-parents, growing up knowing that I was blessed with four loving parents. It is a blessing to be able to show our children that they are valued, and that even though we cannot be the family we once were, it is possible for us to be an even better family with healthier, loving relationships for them the emulate. So, with trusting that God has a plan, boundaries, faith, love, and understanding…much is possible! Now my ex…is another story, and not because I don’t try for our kids sake.
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