NOTE: I am not an attorney, psychologist, counselor or therapist. These are simply my suggestions and thoughts having dealt with a hostile ex-wife for the last 3 years.
So, what if you are the new wife or girlfriend of a man with a bitter ex wife? How do you cope?
First--if you are dating, make sure the divorce has been final for at least a year before getting involved with anyone--male or female. There is a grieving process, and even mentally healthy people can experience anger and bitterness over a recent divorce, so give everyone time to heal and move on. Normal people will generally be over it and moved on after about a year.
Second--if you are dating, find out if the ex wife has moved on. Does she work? Have friends? Is she remarried? Dating? Some women do manage to remain bitter & hostile even after remarrying, but a woman who is working, remarried, and has a life of her own is far less likely to be a problem. In the cases I'm familiar with, the ex wife continues to need to blame the ex husband for her unhappiness, no matter how long ago the relationship ended.
Third--if you are dating a man with an ex wife, be respectful of legitimate boundaries. It can be hard for children to have people entering & leaving their lives regularly, so the ex-spouses may have agreed to not introduce the child to a new love interest until the relationship is solid & looks like it could be permanent. That is a fair request. In our case, they had determined ahead of time that a relationship had to last 6 months until their son could meet anyone. That was fine. Red flags burst out when WAY before the 6 month mark was even reached, Andy started receiving hostile emails from the ex about me--threatening that he didn't ever want her to meet me, then she demanded to meet me before I met their son, she sent hostile emails saying the son was never to come to my house, I was never to be in the car during drop offs, that their son was "upset" and that he wasn't ready to meet anyone new, sending "statistics" on how many second marriages fail (my personal favorite), long tirades about how much she had worked at their relationship & how much he had hurt her, long blathering emails about how much she had loved him, and on and on and on. Obviously, this woman was trying to control Andy's life and stop him from moving on. THAT is not normal behavior--THAT is a bitter ex wife.
NOTHING ABOUT YOU OR YOUR LIFE WITH THIS MAN IS ANY OF THE EX-WIFE'S BUSINESS. Period. You and your boyfriend/fiance/husband need to be clear on this point. If he cannot stand up to the ex wife, it is time for counseling FOR BOTH OF YOU. You may be dealing with someone who has been emotionally, verbally, or physically abused. Women do abuse men, though there are far fewer resources for men. For information, visit:
Fourth--ask to see the communications with the ex wife. If you are seriously considering marriage, you are about to become part of the equation, and before making that decision, you need all the information. If this man is being verbally abused, he may have a long history of hiding the abuse--even from you. Even though I had long suspected Andy had been a victim of emotional and verbal abuse, I was astounded at the viciousness of many of the emails he had received since the divorce and since I entered his life.
Fifth--make an effort. Attempt to establish a working relationship with the ex wife. I know that sounds difficult, but sometimes marriages have gone so badly and there is so much bad feeling that neither party can ever deal with the other one calmly. Offer to be the contact point for the ex wife in order to put a buffer between them. I can't say that it actually made a difference for us in the long run, but I know in my own heart that I have always been civil, I made the effort, and that there just isn't a way to cope with her.
Sixth--If you do move forward with your relationship, get a support group of other women who have been coping with a hostile ex wife already. You will need someone to help you through this, and if they have already survived a similar situation, it will bring a little perspective to your life.
Seventh--Your relationship with this man is going to require more work, more understand, and more love than most marriages. The ex wife may have more control over him than you do--especially if there has been a history of verbal abuse. Fear is a more powerful motivator than desire for gain, and there will be times when he will choose to do something that may hurt you because he is more afraid of making her angry than of hurting you or making you angry. My advice is to see a counselor immediately--he needs to learn about establishing boundaries, and you need to understand what he has been through. BE VERY, VERY CAREFUL TO NOT DUPLICATE HER BEHAVIOR. If you are angry with something he has done, make sure you address the action and not the person. There can be some very deep wounds there. It will get better. Once he learns that you can be angry with something he did without attacking him as a person, once he trusts that you mean it when you say it is okay to do something at that you aren't just setting him up to yell at him later, and once he learns that you continue to love him unconditionally, he will learn to trust you and you can build your relationship together.
To be continued......