Inside His Head: My husband is jealous of my ex

Relationship advice from husbands

Welcome back to Inside His Head, where we take a peek inside the minds of men. These guys are married, but are anonymous so they can tell it like it is. Sometimes their answers are illuminating, sometimes annoying. Here’s the latest question:

Q: I’m remarried, but have to talk to my ex-husband on a regular basis because we have two kids together. My current husband seemed ok with me talking to my ex before we got married, but now it’s a constant source of conflict. I want to be with him, not my ex-husband, but he seems so jealous. Do you have any advice for how I can convince my husband that there’s no reason to be worried about the ex? We split up for a reason. Lots of reasons, but I have to be nice to him because it’s the right thing to do for our kids.

GRAY: A little jealousy can be a good thing, but it can also make people edgy. It’s easy to see how your current husband might feel insecure when your ex was married to you longer and has been a father to your kids longer too.

It’s actually pretty normal for your husband to feel jealous even if he was able to keep those feelings in check before you remarried. Letting him know you think being a little jealous is normal may actually help ease his feelings.

There are better ways of dealing with jealous emotions than others. Having a third parent in a relationship isn’t something we always have experience to deal with, so he may have lots of unresolved feelings that come out in the form of arguments. He may feel your kids have a better relationship with your ex than he ever could, for example. Your husband may feel like he’s the one who is temporary in the relationship.

It may help to let him know your children will always be put first and that your ex deserves time with them. Your ex isn’t something that’s going to suddenly disappear from either your or your children’s lives. This is an obligation you have to both your ex and your children and there’s no avoiding that subject.

Your husband may need greater assurances that you want to be with him and some reminders of why you feel your life is better all around for being with him. Over time he’ll likely come to accept the situation and deal with its complexities better. Remind him that neither of you have to be buddies with your ex, but it would be unfair to cheat your children from having time with their father.

But what if your husband has a lot of jealousy and not just a little? He may be unreasonable and abnormally obsessed about your ex or the relationship you and your ex once had. If he’s being confrontational about every phone call or visit or facebook interaction then you need to seek counseling or other professional ways of helping your husband come to terms with his feelings.

If professional help is out of reach then try to get to the root of the problems. He may argue that your ex having the kids for the holidays is unreasonable, but that may be a symptom of a deeper fear – like him feeling your kids will never accept him as “dad” if they’re spending Christmas with their biological father. It can take a while to figure out what the real issues are and they may be very uncomfortable for him to admit, but ignoring or avoiding them will never make them go away.

It’s hard for me to understand guys like this. It sounds like he’s insecure.

Have you two ever discussed the reasons that you split with your ex? Maybe if he sees that he doesn’t do those things it might allow him to see that you’re committed to him. Let him know that his jealousy does more to strain your marriage than anything you’re ex could ever do.

You’ve got to get to the root of his concern.

That’s going to take some honest communication from both of you. Don’t be defensive. Listen to his views without speaking. Then explain the situation from your viewpoint.  If he doesn’t relent I’d suggest counseling because this situation isn’t going to go away.

If the situation is as described, it really is his problem to deal with, not yours.

You owe it to yourself and your children to be civil to your ex-spouse. Your husband needs to grow up and realize you simply are going to have you ex in your life for the foreseeable future. It can be an amiable or painful experience and his behavior will determine how it all goes down.

Of course, you can’t really just tell him to man-up, even though that’s exactly what he needs to do, because that’s simply going to make him feel less secure. And that’s really what’s going on here. Jealousy in men is typically just insecurity and neediness that comes out as anger, bluster and often bravado.

Ask yourself if anything happened recently that would shake your husband’s confidence — maybe a job loss, or demotion or he’s put on some weight or he’s losing his hair? His reaction to your ex might simply be a manifestation of your hubby feeling he’s lost his edge.

This will be something that’s  hard to fix, as egos are tricky things.

If you point out to your husband he’s acting like a jerk,  he’ll likely get all defensive and it will just increase his feelings of insecurity. If you try to boost his confidence, unless you’re a great actress, he’ll likely see though that too and feel like you feel like he’s not as great as he used to be.

Your best bet is to not react when he acts jealous, that’s what your husband is looking for anyway, a reaction. If you must, I’d simply go with, “I”m not going to justify your (behavior, or smarmy comment) with a response.”

Do what you can to genuinely make him feel more secure. While it may seem childish make sure he’s getting enough of your attention and hopefully admiration and respect. Put this in the context of your marriage and never in the context of your ex. Leave all comparisons out of it. Would you rather hear, “I love you” or “I love you, not Sue”?

In the end, though, this is something he’s going to  have to come to terms with himself. Somewhere, somehow his confidence has taken a hit and while you can subtly remind him he’s still the best in your eyes, he needs to believe it before he can act like it. Once he feels he has his mojo back he’ll likely mellow out where your ex is concerned.

Got a question for our Inside His Head husbands? Email it to Gwen & Shannon at mamas{at}nwaMotherlode{dot}com and we’ll pass it along to the three dudes.

Inside His Head: She found a flirty email

insidehishead2OK, ladies, if you’ve ever wondered what your husband or boyfriend was thinking, you might want to take a trip “Inside His Head”. Our panel of anonymous husbands really do tell it like it is. remix (4)Check it out:

(Oh, and if you’ve got a question for our outspoken guys, just send it to mamas@nwaMotherlode.com and it may be featured in an upcoming installment.)

Dear Inside His Head,

I found a questionable email from my husband’s female co-worker when I was on his account the other day. I was looking for a deal coupon to print out, but couldn’t resist looking at his other emails, too. He might be mad that I read other emails, but I’m mad that this woman is flirting with him on his personal email. There’s no telling what she’s doing at work.

Please advise.

GRAY: That you came across this email is probably proof nothing more serious is going on with the woman in question. How does that make sense? If he had something to hide it’s unlikely you would have stumbled upon it to begin with. Unless he’s a tad on the slow side, if he was really serious about going after someone he’d probably be more aware about covering his tracks.

Some folks are flirty by nature and their advances mean nothing. Flirting in the office probably isn’t the best behavior to engage in, yet it’s commonplace. So why does she have his personal email? It’s been my experience that having such information is more common than not. The line between work and home has been increasingly blurred as technology advances.email

So you shouldn’t be mad. Right? Well…no. I think you’re completely within your right to be upset. If I were in your shoes I’d simply ask who this so-and-so is who’s acting so friendly. Most likely it’ll be something completely innocent – like the feisty 73-year old from payroll – and you’ll both be left with a good laugh

Even if the woman has genuine intentions, it could be that he’s tolerating her behavior to keep things diplomatic knowing she’ll have her eye caught by someone else next week. And he may not want to cause hard feelings over such a non-issue. You’ll never know until you ask him. So ask!

Will he be mad that you looked at his email? Please. We know how you women are. I think we just assume you read and monitor these things as a strange way of showing your affection. It’s great that you came up with the cover story about the coupon though :)

MAVERICK: The fact that you found out about the flirty, emailing co-worker by prying into your husband’s personal email takes a lot of the zip out of your otherwise justifiable wrath.

While your apparent willingness to tromp all over his rights to privacy isn’t admirable in any respect, the danger of him being involved in an extra-marital affair isn’t something you can ignore.

If he’s guilty, it needs to be addressed, if he’s playing footsie with the idea of a fling that has to be stopped, if he’s innocent, you’ll still think he’s guilty without finding out the truth so the marriage is in danger on that end.at symbol, email

So, tell the truth. Tell him you’re less than proud of how you came across this email, apologize for being a snoop, but tell him this information you came across has you deeply concerned.

Be prepared for him to turn this back on you. Take full responsibility for the prying but don’t let that be the end of things. Find out what’s going on with this woman. Also, don’t let him minimize it or laugh it off. This stuff is serious – it’s how affairs start or is an indicator one is ongoing.

This coworker could be flirting with him and he might have done nothing to warrant the attention. It happens. Ask him to nip this in the bud. While women are much smarter about this sort of thing then men, he needs to be direct and tell her he’s not interested in this sort of communication.

If he’s been equally flirty with her but nothing has “happened” between the two, urge him to disengage from this woman and to do so clearly and cleanly. No subtle stuff. It needs to stop.

Now the really hard part. If the flirting is simply part of an already ongoing extramarital fling he needs to end it and to find another job and you two need to go directly to marriage counseling. Any other “solution” will not work in the long run.

It’s regrettable that you found out about this the way you did but it could be a real problem if this “flirting” is left unchecked. If your husband is totally innocent, he still needs to know what you did.

The ends do not justify the means in a marriage. And stay out of his email.

MICHAEL: We’ll skip the issue of you “not being able to resist” reading his mail for now and focus on the coworker.

I believe that he’s innocent until proven otherwise. Context can be very difficult to discern in an email so I will caution you not to jump to conclusions.

That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t address the issue. Sometimes work relationships become closer than we intend and we need to be reminded where those boundaries should be. This is your opportunity to do that. Of course this is complicated by the way that you came upon this information.laptop png

You should bring this up to your husband in a non-confrontational way. Explain to him what happened and apologize for reading his email. Tell him you want to hear what he has to say before making any judgements. Find out if perhaps this attention is only one way.

I would ask him why he’s getting emails of that nature from this woman. If he gets defensive about it then I think you need to push it a bit further and find out if there’s anything more to it. More than likely if it was just playful banter he’ll blow it off as nothing.

If it bothers you though then you need to make it clear that its unacceptable and it is damaging to your relationship. It’s unlikely that he can completely avoid this woman but he should try to minimize his contact if it bothers you.

Now back to reading his email. I’ll tell you what I tell my children. If its not yours, leave it alone.

Inside His Head: How to handle your mother-in-law moving in

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Dear Inside His Head husbands,

My mother is planning to move in with us soon — for a while. My father passed away recently and she’s going to stay with us so she can get her finances in order and deal with her grief. My husband is worried about our family dynamic. It’s just a big change. What can I say to help with the transition?

generichead-1MICHAEL: The first thing I hope you can say is that you’ve discussed with your mother exactly how long this arrangement is going to last and that you’ve talked about ground rules for life at the house.

Because it’s your mother you’re going to be the proxy for all disagreements and snide remarks. Be prepared to deal with it. It’s understandable that this type of thing happens, however, it doesn’t sound like it’s been planned for so the best thing you can do is anticipate what the challenges will be.

remix (4)Examples are things like:

♦ Your mother doesn’t hear well so now the television has to be turned up all the time.

♦ You watch what your kids eat very carefully and your mother questions your choices in front of them.

Just having another opinion and voice around the house will make it stressful. You’ve got to make sure that you’re not consistently siding against your husband. Remember you’ve got to put with him forever. Your mother hopefully only for a short while.  Make sure he knows you realize that.

MAVERICK: I’d tell him in the nicest way possible that there’s no sense in worrying about something until an actual problem occurs.

If you mother is overbearing or generally a pain in the butt or objects to your husband breathing air or thinks him a fool, well, you or more accurately he, is hosed. But since your husband agreed to this arrangement, I can assume either he likes your mother or he’s a good son-in-law, or really just a decent guy trying to help here.

The main way you can calm his fears about your mother messing with the family dynamic is not to let her mess with the family dynamic. She’s your mother, so she’s yours to deal with where conflict is concerned. He’s the son-in-law, which gives him less power in the relationship than a bum off the street.

♦ The best way to avoid trouble with the new situation is to head it off.

♦ Make your mother feel welcome, let her pitch in and help, be there for her, be kind, be supportive, be family.

♦ Don’t let her take over your house, determine your family routine, decide what you eat or where you go or undermine your husband’s authority in his own home.

If she likes certain TV programs, get her her own flat-screen for her room – they’re not super expensive now-days and this ill will avoid conflict. Most of us guy-types can relinquish control of the remote when needed or on short trips to visit family, but don’t expect us to do it for an extended period of time and in our own living rooms.

If she becomes critical of your husband, nip it in the bud. Your mother is in a less than happy place and needs support but she doesn’t get to bad-mouth your spouse. If it starts, you have to tell her to stop. It’s your place. Fight the dynamic that says your mom is always right. Your husband does not deserve to be ganged up on.

And remember, even with your mom in the house, he’s still your husband.

Don’t let the new arrangement turn you into your mother’s daughter at the expense of being your husband’s wife. Turn things to your advantage. Let mom watch the kids so you can go out on a date or a romantic mini-vacation. Spend time together.

In short, give your mother a place in your home but don’t let her make herself comfortable at the expense of your husband’s peace of mind or your relationship. This could be a great time for your husband and your mother to become close.

He’s being a decent guy for opening up his home. Don’t make him regret it.

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: “We’ll get a cat…because your mom is deathly allergic. That way she can’t move in,” would likely be my wife’s remedy to the issue should we face a similar situation.

We’re not a culture that’s used to living with extended family and it can be a mess. The best thing is to get your husband’s worries addressed before the situation turns into a bundle of frustration, before your mother even arrives.

I would be worried about never having privacy, always turning around and finding her there, perhaps thinking I’d like to hear the 2-hour story of the summer she grew a pumpkin for the county fair.

So set some boundaries. Maybe meals are family time, but after the last meal of the day it’s understood that everyone gets some alone time, completely uninterrupted. You get the idea.

But what if mother says, “Well, I’m so comfortable here. What if I just stayed? Would that be so bad?”

The thought of having an in-law transition from temporary to permanent would push many husbands right off the edge of the cliff (and, no, that’s not just a figure of speech) but it’s easy enough to allay. Put a timeline in place. It doesn’t have to be meticulous, but don’t let “three months” become “some day.” Always move forward and don’t let a setback derail the whole works.

The most difficult issue would be personality conflicts. Does your husband fear hearing “my daughter used to date that nice boy before she met you…he’s a doctor now” or some kind of continual drone about how he’ll never be good enough? You may need to play referee for a while and make sure his head doesn’t explode. Just keep reminding him it’s only temporary.

Finally, having you on his side can carry a lot of clout. Let him know that if things don’t go as planned you’ll buy that cat she’s allergic to ensure she’s heading out the door.

Inside His Head: Mom and dad disagree about 12-year-old daughter’s swimsuit

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Dear Inside His Head,

I took my 12-year-old daughter swimsuit shopping today and she modeled it for her dad when he got home from work (she really loves it). My husband later told me that he doesn’t think the swimsuit is “appropriate” and that it’s too revealing for her to wear in public. He wants us to take it back, but I don’t want to do that. She feels good in it and I don’t think it looks bad. Should he have veto power? I obviously thought it was OK or I wouldn’t have bought it.

MICHAEL: Fun times. I’ve got to say that in most cases I’m going to default to Mom’s view on things like this.

Unless she’s purposely trying to draw attention to her body, I think you have some pretty good footing to stand on. After all, you were once a 12-year-old girl.  I don’t know how “mature” your daughter is at 12 so that couldn’t definitely play a part in his viewpoint.

Keep in mind that he’s looking at this from the viewpoint of a teenage boy so be considerate of his opinion. I think a lot of this is him worrying about her and how she’s growing up.  He’s likely concerned about all the things she has to go through in her teen years and would prefer to hold that off as long as possible.

I think what you two should probably do is tell her that you’ve talked about it and while you both have different opinions that she can keep the suit, but take the opportunity to discuss how boys might see her and let her know that there are appropriate ways to draw attention to yourself. Showing your body off as a 12 year old is not one of them.

Please avoid making her ashamed of her body though. There’s nothing wrong with it. It’s part of who we are and she’s got to live with it for a long time. Make that an enjoyable time.

GRAY: Men can be strange, can’t we? We’re generally fairly rational until it comes to sports and when our daughters start acting or looking grown up.

So the short answer to your question is no, he shouldn’t have veto power over a swimsuit. But it’s no surprise that a daddy doesn’t want his daughter to grow up. No doubt he’s remembering what boys are like when they see attractive girls in swimsuits, and the reality is it’s not the swimsuit (or makeup, or clothing, etc) that’s the issue.

For a lot of men I think issues arise when their daughters stop thinking daddy hung the moon and give their affection to their teenage sweetheart – or at least look as though they’re playing the part. And even though the swimsuit may look reasonable to you and your daughter it’s entirely possible he believes it’s no more concealing than pieces of spaghetti.

I accept that my daughter wears a bikini and that in a few years she’ll be old enough I too will worry when she’s swimming in mixed company. But I will trust my daughter and wife to have sense in picking out what’s acceptable while I sit back and wonder if we should move to Canada, where the swimming season isn’t nearly so long.

Hopefully your husband will accept, as I have, that the problem isn’t the swimsuit, but a condition called “being a daddy” – a perfectly normal affliction many of us suffer from.

MAVERICK: My first response is, if roles were reversed and you thought the bathing suit was inappropriate, would you want him to overrule you and allow your daughter to wear it?

I think your husband — assuming he’s not a nut or total jerk, and for a raft of other reasons I won’t go into here — should have veto power. Just like you should in a similar situation where roles were reversed.

But you think he’s not being reasonable with the veto. You likely are right. So, in a calm and rational way, see what he objects to about the suit.

In reality, your husband thinks he’s taking care of his daughter by vetoing the suit. He likely is overreacting a bit. You clearly don’t think the suit is inappropriate. Tell him so in a calm way.

Ask him WHY he doesn’t like the suit and listen to his answer with an open mind. Remember, he loves your daughter too. Likely he’s being way too overprotective, but maybe his instincts are right, so hear him out.

Point out your daughter feels confident in the suit and that you agree that it’s a good choice for her. Be calm, make your points logically, and he’ll likely will come around.

Just remember he’s likely vetoing the suit out of an abundance of caution. Is that concern maybe old fashion and a bit misplaced? Likely so. But better a conversation with dad who is concerned than a father who just rubber stamps anything you do, or your daughter does, out of apathy, boredom or distraction.

Got a question for our anonymous panel of husbands? Send it to mamas@nwamotherlode.com and then look for the guys to answer here!

Inside His Head: Wife who doesn’t enjoy tent camping seeks advice

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Dear Inside His Head,

The weather is getting warmer and my husband is starting to talk about camping out. He loves to camp in tents, but I’m more of a cabin camper. He feels like it’s not truly camping if we stay in a cabin or RV. I don’t want to camp in a tent.

I know this is a minor thing, but it’s something that causes us to argue every year. I’d like to skip the fight this year. I know the obvious answer is to humor him, but why can’t he humor me? Our daughters are getting older and it’s a little more complicated to tent camp now anyway. Do you have any thoughts on how we can resolve this running dilemma?

Thanks.

Michael, inside his headMICHAEL: I get both sides of this. I’m not big on rv’s. My wife actually used to not be an outdoors person, but now she’s the one who wants to tent camp. But even I know that it’s not nearly as comfortable as in a cabin.

I’ll tell you what we did a few years ago. We went on an extended vacation and we split the difference. We did half of the time in a hotel and half in a tent. Having said that, your husband has an interest that he wants to share with his family. At the core of that is spending time with you in a natural setting.

If you’re dead set against the tent just explain how uncomfortable it is and that you want to enjoy your outdoors experience. That means sleeping comfortably and then spending the day well rested and enjoying the outdoors.

Your side of that bargain though is to not hole up in the cabin with the girls. Get out and spend time with him. That’s what he’s looking for.

Inside His HeadMAVERICK: Well, it seems like your husband really loves to tent camp. It’s his thing. That’s why he shouldn’t have to compromise on it.

campingLikely you have tons of things that you love that he compromises on for your sake. Probably he does this daily or even hourly.

How about you return the favor?

He clearly wants you, and your kids, to participate in his love of the outdoors. Perhaps you can, in this one case, make your participation in something he loves, unconditional?

Here’s the crux: By requiring compromise in this situation, you are changing the entire experience for your mate.

The reason he doesn’t want to stay in a cabin or an RV is, it’s not camping. That’s just staying in a somewhat modified hotel.

Your position on this is similar to saying — “My husband loves gourmet food and we go on a food-based vacation every spring but I really can take fancy food or leave it. I suggested instead of the typical food tour we just eat at Golden Coral every night. It’s food, right? Now he’s mad. What gives?”

Perhaps you should stop looking at ways to get out of the whole experience, or change it so dramatically that it’s just not the same and instead, make the best of the situation.

If it’s getting odd that your daughters are older, get them their own tent. Tents are less expensive than renting a cabin or an RV, for even a single night. And they last for years and years.

Just because you’re tent camping doesn’t mean you can’t exert some control. There’s an entire industry out there built around the concept that folks like to camp but they don’t want to be uncomfortable doing it.

So, consider the following:

  • Get a cot or a quality air mattress, if you don’t like sleeping, or trying to sleep, on the  hard ground.
  • Get quality bug spray and sun screen. Camping is way less fun with bug bites and blistered skin.
  • Get a tent with lots of mesh and/or windows, or a battery powered fan to move the air if you’re too hot.
  • Get a quality sleeping bag and good clothing if you’re too cold.
  • Get a nice sun shade if the camp area is blazing.
  • Invest in a good camp chair for yourself so you can relax in comfort. It can make a huge difference.
  • A good cooler to keep some drinks icy, even if it’s just for you, can be a godsend.

In the end, your husband shouldn’t have to water down the camping experience if that’s something he truly loves.That doesn’t mean you have to be dragged along and forced to suffer.

Decide you’re going to go on the trip and get yourself the gear you need to make the best of the experience.

Who knows, you might just have some fun.

greg1.thumbnailGRAY: My mom used to make the best pecan pie. I have several memories of eating those pies. Even still her pies are what I measure all other pecan pies against.

And that’s what your husband is doing – not giving your kids a memory of a store-bought pecan pie that you forget about the next day, but the real deal and creating memories that will last a lifetime.

pecan pieI take my daughter camping without my wife because she won’t sleep in a tent either. We don’t argue about it because we both know what the most important part is – that our daughter have fun.

And as long as she’s having fun I’m more than happy to give her the same kind of memories that I have of my dad taking me camping when I was the same age. So if I were to give advice it would be to leave it to your daughters. If they’re having fun isn’t that paramount?

And if your daughters don’t like it, then maybe the time has come to try something different. But I don’t get the impression your husband isn’t trying to get them to do anything they don’t enjoy doing already.

“Camping” in a cabin is hardly different than staying in a hotel, but being in a tent out under the stars, keeping your sleeping bag zipped up to keep the chill from the wee hours at bay is an experience you can’t capture by any other means.

It’s not a matter of not humoring you, it’s the difference between a pie anyone can grab from a store and something unique that not everyone has a chance to do. And those are the memories that will stay with your daughters their whole life.

Got a question for the guys? Email it to us at mamas{at}nwamotherlode{dot}com.