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Ask Lisa: My Boyfriend Lives With His Ex-Wife

My boyfriend is divorced eight years and lives an hour from me. We have been together two years. His ex-wife ran out of money and having no one he let her move in with him and their son but she is not making a giant effort to help herself. She is recovered from breast cancer so her job hours are limited and she can’t repair her home or buy a car. She is there most of the time. She is also taking on line courses and needs his computer and internet and will take a year to get a degree so she can get a better job. Meantime she is also trying to sell her house, but I don’t see her moving. I see it as a reason to stay with him and his son; using  the “I don’t have a home” as an excuse.

I trust him, but he is very tenderhearted and she is telling him how much she loves him and relies on him and even tries to start an intimate relationship with kissing etc.  He and I visit two weekends a month.  She will call his cell when he is with me to just chat. Sometimes he answers, sometimes not, as they have the son. Once she called to tell him to not forget dog food on his way home from me. He won’t call from his home much now with her there and she follows him when he leaves to call me or will try to talk to him when he is on the phone with me.  I can’t visit as I used to because he tells me to call before i come so he can ask her to leave.  He doesn’t want a cat fight. He had a relationship that fell apart many years ago because of a very similar thing with her. He says he has to help as they were married 20 yrs and share children.

What red flag am I not seeing? I told him i felt like a mistress now. And we had a previous conversation as well where he assured me she meant nothing and that those feelings for her left a long time ago, that I was the  more important person in his life and so very special (he has never said he loves me though). He hates drama and conflict but I am really confused and feel uncomfortable with all this. I don’t want to lose him if there is a solution. What do I do? Thank you for any help you can give me to clear my cobwebs.

Lisa’s thoughts…

That sounds like a tough situation to tolerate and high risk for you. You clearly care for this man a great deal but I’m wondering how much you’re willing to tolerate?

Red flags?  They are waving all over the place.  1) Your boyfriend is living with his ex-wife and mother of their child – and she still has feelings for him/is actively trying to engage him sexually.  2) She’s interfered in his prior relationships and apparently yours now.  3) He’s allowing this to continue.

This is clearly not working for you – and you have a right to feel that way.  How can you be expected to have a fair shot of any sort of authentic relationship under this dire circumstances.  He may care for you but his involvement with his ex is clearly not healthy and it’s not clear what the real story is.  This is very complicated and I also wonder what keeps you around.  Hope for change?

The particularly sad thing about this story is the impact on the child they share who likely wishes his mom and dad were really together.  The child is at the very least extremely confused.  A sticky situation and not good for anyone as it currently stands.

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Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of LoveAndLifeToolbox.com with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in CNN.com, HuffingtonPost.com, MensHealth.com and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.