Dads’ Ex-Wife Obsession Hurts Children

You’re remarried, and you want to believe. You want to believe that you’ve found the love of your life. You want to believe you’ve found a fresh start as a lover and parent. You want to believe your remarriage is untouchable. There’s one small crack in your faith’s armor: your ex-wife.

Even the memory of her stirs up memories of conflict, feelings of inadequacy as a man, husband, and father, making you doubt yourself. Blaming your ex-wife is an easy way to dismiss them and convince yourself that you did everything right. She was too busy being demanding, critical, and selfish to see how devoted, loyal, and capable you are. Success is the best revenge, so you’ll prove her wrong by making your remarriage perfect.

That is, unless she gets somehow in the way of that too. Her continued presence leaves you bitter and resentful. Alimony and child-support salt the wound. If only there were a way to get her out of the way…


Marginalization and alienation leave biological moms feeling alone and disconnected.

Bad news: you can’t. You then try to reduce her impact. You show yourself, your kids, and your new wife that you’re a better parent than your ex. Showing her inadequacy as a woman, wife, and mother is part of your revenge too, and you’ll happily smear her to anyone who’ll hear it.

You tell the children that she doesn’t really matter, and that they don’t need her, and that she doesn’t make them her priority anyway. You tell them their home with you and your new wife is their “real home.” You tell them their step-mom is a better mother than their biological mom. You tell them your lifestyle, religious practices, and eating habits are superior. You tell them a lot of other things, too:

  • She mismanages their child support.
  • She neglects the children’s physical and emotional needs.
  • She’s too busy dating.
  • She’s mentally and emotionally unstable.
  • She’s bad mouthing you and your present wife.
  • She’s lazy.

How Marginalizing Your Ex-Wife Hurts You

Marginalizing your ex wife ultimately boxes you in and limits your options.

These practices come back to bite you:

  • Resentment over how things turned out prevents you from enjoying time with your kids, because their presence reactivates residual helplessness from the remarriage.
  • You spend too much time venting to your new wife about how bad you had it, making her feel like she has to make up to you for your past hurt, thus overlooking her needs.
  • Investing effort and concentration in your ex-wife reminds you that there’s still a part of your life over which you lack control, leaving you frustrated.

How Marginalizing Your Ex-Wife Hurts Your Children

Child feels sad, lacking approval and validation.

Children feel that they are an extension of both parents, both the good and the bad. Suggesting that one parent is significantly flawed plants a seed of self-doubt in the children’s mind. If the the parent is damaged, then they are too. The younger the children, the more perfect they believe their parents to be. Taking that away from them robs them of a piece of their innocence.

What can you do?

  • Let go of your resentment toward your ex.
  • Reestablish a co-parenting relationship with your ex wife.
  • Refrain from sharing negative opinions and feelings about your ex with your children.
  • Focus on the present and your current marriage.
  • Ditch the previous marriage’s emotional baggage with the help of a therapist, in a safe
  • environment where you can achieve some healing and empowerment over your current situation.

Fix Your Expectations

You may have expected that this new marriage will be all that the previous one wasn’t. You hoped to feel in charge of your life but quickly discovered that remarriage is far more complex than a first marriage, even if you married your soul mate.

You can achieve the satisfaction, happiness and love you yearn for, but it’ll take a lot of planning, work, and flexibility to achieve it.

You can’t get rid of your ex-wife, but by parenting cooperatively instead of competitively, your children will be much happier.


6 thoughts on “Dads’ Ex-Wife Obsession Hurts Children”

  1. A ex- husband doesn't want his child to know that he was abusive and cruel to their mother and tha-wife is lyingt was why she left him. In my experience, the father will never tell the child the truth. The ex-wife is the bad one. Never paying child support and wanting to be a real parent Never there for the child Is that fair? Tells the child not to believe anything the mother says; Please I don't get it.

  2. I can see how this article is very real. I know it's geared toward the Dad (ex-husband) and tells him how to deal with his issues. But, how does the Mother (ex-wife) deal with him? How does she overcome all the bad mouthing, damage to her reputation and fix the relationships with the people her ex has destroyed? It's possible, he has also damaged her relationship with her children already and that is the worst part of it all.

  3. My daughter's father left us when she was 13 months old, married his younger secretary, had a baby with her, and then filed for custody of our daughter on the grounds that "he has a family and his wife is a better mother". He has told our daughter she is dirty, fat, inappropriately dressed, and misbehaved because of the "inept care your mother gives you". Our daughter is 6. I am flabbergasted.

    1. It is so sad to hear how some parents shame their children and attempt to alienate them from their other parent. It's harmful to your daughter. Children see themselves as extensions of their parents. If they are told that a parent is bad, they believe they are bad and flawed. It is so unfortunate that he's so hostile toward you. It makes it more complicated to get through the emotional divorce. You can do damage control with your daughter by reassuring her that she is a wonderful child who is loved unconditionally.

  4. emotionallydrained

    I am getting married for the first time to a man that was married for 12 years. They have been divorced for 8 years, but she still despises him. They have two children together, one is 19 and the other is 15, and they have been staying at my house since we are getting married in a couple weeks. The ex wife didn't seem to care at all until she heard we were getting married, and is now trying to prosecute the husband for allowing the children to stay the night at my house. We were dating 6 months before I even met the boys, and were engaged before any sleepovers occured. I'm trying to do my best as a soon to be step parent, but it is SO hard when I feel like the ex wife is creating issues for everyone. She continues to bash me (and she has never met me) and my fiance, and we continue to spend thousands on court fees for no reason, because they are always eventually dropped or dismissed. I'm emotionally drained and would really appreciate any advise from someone who has survived a similar situation.

    1. It is so unfortunate that what could be such a happy time in your life is full of anxiety an uncertainty. Emotionally draining is often the description women in your position use. It sounds like you have planned merging your families very carefully, with much sensitivity and concern for your husband's children. When a former spouse remarries it reactivates the grieving process over the loss of the marriage,( for the other former spouse). Unfortunately in your case it leads to increase in hostility towards your husband and you. What is so sad is that the children are the ones who get hurt the most. Letting your husband deal directly with his ex. with you being in the background as his support may give you some relief. The hostile behavior often stops within a few months, especially when the other side, (you and your husband) maintain emotional neutrality when responding to the verbal attacks. You may want to consider mediation with a trained mental health professional to help reach a dignified and peaceful solution to the issues brought up. Also, talking to a mental health professional who is trained and is experienced in working with stepfamilies may be very helpful in dealing with your husband's ex. and setting boundaries with her.

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