ASK ALMA: Ex-wife taking up too much time


Dear Alma,

My husband was married very young, from the age of 20-22. The marriage was a disaster and they divorced without having a conversation or even seeing each other in court. He didn’t contest it or show up to the court date. She recently found him on Facebook and asked if she could give him a call. When he came and asked me about it, I said it would be ok. My husband and I are very close; we have successful adult children, and a lovely grandchild. We are very active in our church. I said yes, because we’ve had a wonderful life, a happy and loving 25 years of marriage. I was ok with it at first, but lately they’ve been having long conversations on the phone and what I thought was going to be a one or two time thing, is still going on. He talks to her while I’m in the room. They seem to have a really good friendship building. My patience has run thin. I recently told him the conversations need to stop and he said no. She’s not married, lives in another state, and has cancer. He says he wants to be there for her, but I don’t think that’s his place. I trust my husband but I don’t trust her. I think she is lonely and just reminiscing about my husband. I know I opened this can of worms but what do I do to put the lid back on. Should I threaten to leave and give him an ultimatum?


Tampa, Fla.

TBT Tampa, it would never sit well with me to tell someone to leave a marriage of 25 years. What may be a deal breaker for one, might not be for another. What I will say is, you are not the number one woman in your husband’s heart – right now. I know, I know, that’s a handful of hurt to hold, but honesty is what you get while sitting in the Ask Alma Café, and you my dear took a seat.

First and foremost, don’t ever offer an ultimatum, or you may find yourself unaccompanied. Giving an ultimatum to your partner is like offering a cold glass of pride and arrogance. The offer of “my way or the highway” doesn’t give the other person a reasonable choice or viable option. You have one of two decisions to make. You can turn the other cheek and wait for this circus to pass through town, (‘cause we both know it will), or you can start to do what’s needed to regain your number one “I’m every woman-wife #1” status. The choice is up to you.

Since your husband was honest enough to bring this to your attention and ask for permission, I don’t think these long talks are a threat to your marriage. As you mentioned, she’s in one state and you guys live in another. When one takes the time to finalize, wrap up life lessons and loose ends over the years, it can be cathartic. I think he’s trying to extend a more compassionate side of himself because she’s ill. Don’t fault him for that. Deal with him based on what he actually does, not what you’ve imagined him doing.

Mark my words, the rambles of reminiscing will begin to roll away, because at some point one of them will remember why they divorced in the first place. I anticipate that will be your husband. If you had asked me this question 20 years ago, I would have told you to tell him to get the steppin’ but I know better now. Twenty-five years is a long time and as his wife, you’ve gotta dig in deep, do a better job of weathering this storm. Since it’s the first real tsunami in your relationship, lay down some rules but don’t grab your umbrella and run. Tell him what’s on your mind, tell him how this situation makes you feel and ride it out. I’ve got a good feeling about your husband and I think he’ll revert with a sack of sorrys before you know it. Be prayerful, exercise your patience and rely on your faith.

You’ve invested 25 years of your life to this man and your family. Play to win in this game called marriage, and remember you’ve got a 25-year home field advantage!


Alma Gill’s newsroom experience spans more than 25 years, including various roles at USA Today, Newsday and the Washington Post. Email questions to: Follow her on Facebook at “Ask Alma” and twitter @almaaskalma.