#1136: “How can I dump my husband’s ex?”

Dear Captain Awkward,

My husband (“Mike”) has been married before, but he and his first wife (“Sarah”) divorced many years before I (she/her pronouns) met him. Mike has never given me any reason to be jealous of Sarah, and for the first several years of our marriage I made a point of being friendly with her. As might be expected of two women who married the same man, she and I have similar personalities in some ways, so it wasn’t difficult to hang out with her. And besides, it seemed like the right thing to do for my husband to foster friendly relations with someone with whom he was partnered for many years. They never had any children, so really this wasn’t very complicated, especially as Sarah was as gracious and cordial to me as I was to her. She and I even got together without Mike there sometimes. (In case it matters, I should say that we never discussed how she and Mike broke up or the details of either of our marriages with him.)

But then something weird happened. Last year I found myself in an unhappy professional situation, and Sarah offered to recommend me to her employer. I enthusiastically accepted her offer. While this would have been a new field for me, the company sounded like a nice place to work and had a mission with which I felt comfortable aligning myself. At her request, I gave Sarah my resume and then revised it slightly on her suggestion. A while later she ran into Mike downtown and told him I would be receiving a call from someone at her company and that they would ask me my salary requirements. Although under company rules she was not supposed to reveal it, she confided her salary in Mike so as to give me an idea of what the company paid.

I got really excited and discussed with family what I should ask for. I settled on a number that was about 2/3 of what Sarah had said her salary was (for a position with responsibilities that would grow to be like hers). The salary I wanted to ask for was well within the range of what I have earned in previous positions, but when Sarah heard my number she said it was too much, since I didn’t have a background in this field. I pointed out that I had other professional experience that would serve me well in this field and expected to work long hours that would justify premium pay. But I also asked her what I should say instead — like, if there were a magic number that I should be considering if I really wanted this(?), but she refused to say. And then . . . I never got a call from her company.

After that she was kind of vague about what had happened, but when I finally cornered her (by sheer chance, I ran into her downtown) she said she had decided I probably wouldn’t really like the job, so she had told her colleagues not to recruit me after all. I told her she was wrong, that the job really appealed to me, and that I hoped she would correct the record with her colleagues. She grudgingly agreed to do so, but then she disappeared for a few months — as in not responding to Mike’s birthday wishes and dinner invitations. Then just recently she suddenly turned up in our email as though the whole thing had never happened. She said she had been quiet so long because of being busy at work; and asked if we wanted to go to a show with her.

My problem is that I feel humiliated by what happened. She put me in a position where I was making a case to her that I was very unhappy with what I was doing at the time (and am still doing) and would love (love!!!) to work at her company. After I confided to her that my whole career wasn’t as fulfilling as it appeared on the outside, she basically withdrew her help. She indicated she didn’t think I was worth the salary I wanted to propose, a salary that was tens of thousands of dollars less than hers. And maybe that’s true, maybe the company could find someone with superior skills who would ask for less money. On the other hand, maybe the whole thing was a set-up for her to convey to Mike and me that her s**t is far more together than mine. I feel as though she encouraged me to be vulnerable with her and then found a way to use that vulnerability to undermine me.

I should note that Sarah did something similar once before. She offered Mike and me a valuable gift and later withdrew the offer with the explanation that she had the impression I didn’t really want it. But I did want it! And I argued hard that I would love the gift, but she refused to be convinced. The incident was annoying, but since Mike believed in my sincerity I wasn’t really harmed so overlooked Sarah’s odd turnabout.

Mike says this is just kind of the way Sarah is (and one reason he divorced her), but I know he would still prefer to have all of us be friends. On the one hand, I feel guilty and petty for not being able to forgive and forget this job debacle; on the other, I feel too embarrassed by the whole episode to be able to hang out with Sarah anymore. I can’t say for sure that she set out to hurt me. It’s possible she meant to do me a favor and then realized she had promised more than she could deliver and couldn’t find a graceful way to stand down. But that’s not what she chose to indicate to Mike and me, and I’m afraid if I give her another chance to socialize with us it will ineluctably lead to more of these (passive-aggressive?) incidents. Now I just want to be done. Am I justified in saying I’m finished being friendly with the ex-wife, or should I suck it up for Mike’s sake, or is there, perhaps, a third way?

Thanks for reading this and also for all you write, which has been incredibly helpful to me in rethinking my issues with my faaaaaaamily-of-origin.

Best wishes always,

(Wife) #2

Dear Wife #2:

Sarah WAY over-inserted herself in the whole entire job application and negotiation thing. Like, you wouldn’t even have applied there without her suggestion! And, I think it’s actually pretty great to be transparent about money when you’re trying to hook a friend up in your industry or with your company, even if it’s just a “from what I can tell, their range is a-b, after 5 years there in a similar job I make closer to b, good luck!” reality check, but what’s deal with criticizing you for asking for too much money?  She wasn’t the hiring manager, your salary wouldn’t be coming out of her pocket, why would you try to get someone you call a friend to be paid less than they are worth?

Then there’s this:

she said she had decided I probably wouldn’t really like the job, so she had told her colleagues not to recruit me after all.”

What? How is this her decision?

This is fucked up. It’s bad friending AND unprofessional, and in your shoes I would not be all “oh yes let’s get drinks jolly good” with Sarah right now.

At this point I have two questions for you:

  1. What’s the worst that could happen if you told Mike, “If you want to still be friends with Sarah, cool, but after that whole thing with the job I’d prefer to keep my distance.” 
  2.  And what’s the worst thing that would happen if you stopped making any effort where Sarah is concerned? Like, don’t email her back. At all. Unless or until you feel like it (if ever). Let Mike do the “No, we don’t want to go to the show” honors now and forever.

My read is: She knows exactly what she did, and she hasn’t apologized. She set you up and then she sabotaged you. That’s fucked up. If she does apologize someday down the road, and it is an actual apology and not an attempt to justify herself, a that point you can consider then if you even care.

You tried to be friends with this lady, it sounds like it didn’t work out. It’s okay to leave it there! “I tried. It didn’t work out.” Your husband is a grown-ass adult who can choose and manage his own friendships. He can handle a “Yeah, I don’t really like her, so if it’s the same to you, I’d rather not” from his wife. And if he can’t, that’s a MIKE-problem, not a Sarah-problem. As you say, there’s a reason he’s not married to her anymore, feel free to invoke that anytime if he’s a pill about this.

I think your brain is trying really hard to make sure you avoid any “jealous wife” stereotypes here. I absolve and pardon you! Even though you have committed no crimes! You tried your best! This lady was crappy to you and you don’t have to give her another chance to play Lucy with the football to your Charlie Brown, especially since she’s not even trying to apologize.

157 thoughts on “#1136: “How can I dump my husband’s ex?”

  1. I totally agree with the Captain, Sarah let you down and you are totally allowed to have feelings about that.

    I have people like that in my life, and sometimes I’m better at avoiding them than other times. I’ve found when I can’t avoid them, it helps to preemptively write off any gifts/favors they offer as some kind of fantasy, and mentally dismiss the idea that they could ever be possible. It sounds like that is how your husband is dealing with it.

    It’s entirely possible that she is withdrawing things because she’s being manipulative or passive aggressive. Or maybe she doesn’t really have the power to give you those things and is trying to save face by framing it as something she decided. Either way, my first choice would be “avoid her” and my second choice would be “pretend everything that she promises will turn into a pumpkin at midnight.”

    1. I agree that it sounds like Mike has already built Sarah’s weirdness about gifts/favors into his expectations of the relationship, which is why he’s not terribly concerned by it. LW, I just wanted to tell you that it’s totally OK for you to decide you’re not interested in being friends with someone who acts like this, even if your husband feels differently. I place a very high value on trust in a relationship, and have a hard time even spending time casually with someone I don’t trust. If you don’t feel that you can trust Sarah after this job thing, that’s completely acceptable and not something you should feel guilty about.

      1. Yeah, “is this person messing with me, or they just incredibly inconsiderate of my feelings” is the type of mystery you don’t always gotta solve.

        1. Yes! Being deliberately inconsiderate or being flaky doesn’t matter; either way, they’re not a person you need in your life. I always feel ten thousand times better when I quit trying to deal with it and just get rid of them.

        2. Call off the Awkward Detective Force! I repeat, abort mission. Come back to HQ for a nice cuppa African Violet tea.

    2. Or maybe she doesn’t really have the power to give you those things and is trying to save face by framing it as something she decided.

      This occurred to me as well. It makes sense for the story about the valuable gift, as well. It may be that Sarah is prone to over-promising and under-delivering and her strategy for coping with the inevitable disappointment that results from her behavior might be to blame the people she made promises to rather than saying, “I’m sorry, but I’m not going to be able to deliver on that.” It may be that the company received another CV from someone and decided to hire them instead of the LW (hence no call), or it might be that there weren’t actually any open positions and Sarah made up the stuff about the call (or the hiring manager told Sarah s/he would call the LW as a courtesy, then change his/her mind).

      However, even if it’s something more malicious, you are correct that the LW should treat all promises from Sarah—and especially the over-generous ones—with skepticism. It’s also fine not to want to be her friend. In fact, the LW would have been within her rights not to want to hang out with her husband’s ex-wife regardless of how nice or helpful that ex-wife was to her.

      1. Ditto that last sentence. No one is obliged to be friends with a partner’s friends, no matter how wonderful that person is. For me, I couldn’t do it — too much risk for boundary violations on both sides.

    3. This was my thought exactly. Sarah over promised, with both the expensive gift and the potential job, and then rather than admit she couldn’t afford it, or didn’t actually have the professional standing to get the LW an interview, she tried to pretend that the LW was in some nebulous way at fault. But whatever the reason, the simplest approach going forwards is just to say ‘no thanks’ right away when Sarah starts talking big.

        1. That’s what I thought — that she overinflated her salary to show off to her ex-husband without thinking how that would play out, and LW’s 2/3 number was larger than her real salary.

  2. Maybe this is because LW left out some details because she didn’t feel they were relevant to her problems with Sarah. But as written I see absolutely no communication between LW and the prospective employer. No interview. Not even a phone conversation. Just everything happening with Sarah as an intermediary and single point of contact. If that’s a correct understanding of what happened, I find that extremely weird and disturbing.

    1. Yah I noticed that too, and wondered the same thing – was it just left out, or was it all through Sarah? Because if so, yes; that’s a little sketchy.

      1. Yeah … most employers like for people to submit resumes through the appropriate channels. Any jobs I have ever applied for where a current employee of the employer recommended me I still had go through appropriate channels. The one or two times in my life where I had the opportunity to witness someone trying to bypass this process were absolute disasters too. Those times were with really shady companies who were desperate and did not have any of their crap together to begin with. That doesn’t sound like the case here. To put is in perspective, my mom’s bestest friend in the world (like the friend you call when you need to hide a body) is the Vice President of a a massive consulting company. Even when I applied to that place, I had to submit my resume through the appropriate channels lol. So, I agree with the sketchy if that is in fact the case. Like was there ever a job?

        See, and my tendencies to think so black and white, it would bother me to No End that my significant other is happy being friends with a person like this! But I also recognize other people have different levels of tolerance for dishonest behavior of any kind. Me personally? I find dishonesty to manipulate and hurt others to be a huge No Interested in even your friends friends haha (I joke, but … kinda)

        1. Every job I had before I got married and moved away from my hometown, I got because my mom was very good at networking and would find me the jobs through her professional contacts. She would say things like, “Apply at [company], and when the application asks how you heard about the position say you heard from [name of Mom’s work acquaintance].” I knew I was going to get these jobs, because Mom knew all the hiring managers, but yeah, I definitely still had to put in the applications and go through the interview process.

        2. Yeah, I once applied for a job through a friend that went through the official channels, and she pushed hard for me, and I still didn’t get the job because it was a long shot (the person they hired over me looked better on paper and interviewed better but turned out to be a train wreck in the job and they fired her [lol] but by then I’d already found a different job). I trusted my friend who was pushing for me, but I still absolutely would have gone through the official channels even if I didn’t have to just for appearances.

          Also, I agree with not being friends with people like that. I have given way too many flaky, crappy people way too many chances in the past, so nowadays I stay very far away from people who display those tendencies, AND I keep at a distance people I feel give too much leeway to people who display those tendencies because it tends to bleed over. Maybe I’m harsh, but my life is calm, I’m happy, and I have better quality friends these days.

      2. In my company (a large law firm), it‘s absolutely fine to send in an application through another employee (eg if I‘m referring a friend they‘ll send their application to my email and I‘ll forward it). It‘s not seen as sketchy or weird at all. So I guess it‘s a company culture sort of thing and/or depends on the size of the company.

        1. Oh, sure, at my company too. But then the hiring manager will get hold of the applicant directly, not use an employee as a go-between.

          1. Exactly. Passing on a resume, sure. But then the friend who passed on the resume is no longer part of the discussion after that. They might be asked for a reference at most. They definitely do not play broken telephone through the friend, nor involve them in discussion of hiring or salary.

            Once the person in charge of hiring gets the resume, if they like it they email the applicant and take it from there.

            Unless this company is just a handful of people (like half a dozen) and is really informal and disorganised?? But then the LW would be working super closely with ex which doesn’t sound that great anyway.

        2. I am at a bank and we have channels for referrals. But then we don’t get to know anything about the job hunt until the referred person is either hired or not. We sure as poop don’t get into salary. After CA and some other states enacted their laws recently, I don’t even get to ask people’s salary when I am the hiring manager.

          My uncharitable thought is that Sarah wanted to find out the LW’s salary and came up with this ruse as a way to do it.

    2. I honestly think Sarah might have made up the job. Or at least made up the part about “you’ll be getting a call to discuss salary requirements.”

        1. Entirely possible, but I find it so hard to wrap my head around something like this – why create some massive fiction? Does it make ex wife 1 feel powerful, in control? Maybe she likes the praise that comes with offering to help the LW out? So, so bizarre.

      1. My guess is that Sarah made up the gift, made up the job opening, and made up her own salary. LW is better off far away from her…

      2. Especially since salary negotiations generally happen towards the end of the recruitment process, not as a first step. Why would a company waste their time talking about compensation when they don’t even know if they want to offer a candidate the job? I guess it’s possible, because companies do all kind of weird things. But it would be very weird.

          1. I don’t know, in some ways it makes sense to find out if you’re in the same ballpark on salary before you do a bunch of interviews. If you can’t meet someone’s salary expectations, why waste their time with interviews?
            But I work in an industry where we have set payscales, so it’s not an issue for me.

          2. There is also a difference between FRIEND INTEL and hiring manager information. If I’m applying at a friend’s company at that friend’s behest, I’m gonna ask my friend what they can tell me about salary info, even in a “hey, is there any info you can give me about salaries that would help me understand & negotiate, whatever you’re comfortable with telling me” way, and I’m going to factor that into my discussions with the hiring manager – are they lowballing me, is what they are telling me consistent, is my friend being underpaid, how much room do I have to negotiate, etc. At no point would I expect the friend to be determining my salary, though I would listen if they said “Hey, their range for this is pretty low, be conservative.” It’s just information for me to use, or not.

          3. In my recent job search (Massachusetts) this was always part of the first conversation. Why interview if your desired salary range and their budgeted salary range are wildly mismatched? I do think Sarah was making things up, but talking salary upfront is totally a thing.

          4. It’s somewhat common where I live. I’ve seen several job listings (and applied to some) where they ask you to send your cv, cover letter and a salary request to a recruiter before anything else happens. I would not find it weird if a friend gave my information to their employer and told me that they want to call and that they’ll want to know how much salary I’d want during that call. But I would find it weird if salary was the only thing they would call about, instead of say, salary + time for interview. And the part about Sarah telling the employer to call the whole thing off definitely sounds weird.

        1. Something I figured out many years ago which I think isn’t always acknowledged in the way friendship is often spoken about, is that spending a lot of time with someone does not make you friends. Calling someone a friend doesn’t make you friends. Having friends in common does not make you friends. Wanting to be friends does not make you friends. Even telling each other personal things doesn’t make you friends.

          NOT being friends doesn’t mean being enemies or unkind or uncivil to each other. It just means… not friends.

          Friendship is an actual relationship, and it involves, among other things, liking each others’ company, and being kind to each other.

          I remember very clearly realising at some point in high school that one of the people I spent a lot of time with and refered to as a friend, was not actually a friend of mine. I didn’t hate her, I wished her well, we had friends in common, but she and I were not actually friends, if I looked at it clearly. We were two people who kind of stressed each other out, who in some ways respected each other but who were in some sense more pretending to be friends and wanting to be friends than actually _being_ friends. She was routinely meaner to me than the bullies we had united against a few years earlier. She had her reasons, her life was really stressful at the time and even at the time I could see that she was not a terrible person, just one under a lot of stress… but neither was she actually my friend.

          LW, it does not sound like you and this woman are friends or ever really were. I think it can be freeing to stop pretending. Maybe reframe her as an acquaintance?

          1. Now I’m wondering if we knew each other in high school. 🙂 I had a similar “friend” – we had the same extracurricular interests and spent a ton of time together as a result. But one day someone said offhand to both of us, “You two are like best friends or something, right?” And we looked at each other and realized (possibly for the first time) that we didn’t even really like each other all that much (we both stammered through an answer to the actual question). We kept on going through the friendship pretense, though, because it was easier, but I don’t think I spoke to her again after graduation day.

        2. Yes, if Sarah made up the whole thing–which definitely sounds plausible–she may have expected that when she told LW her salary requirements were too high, that LW would accept that information and walk away from the job herself.

      3. I get the sense that she may not have made up the job, but I’m quite sure she made up everything else and didn’t pass anything from the OP to the employer or vice versa, at least not accurately. She’s already proven she’s dishonest; there’s no reason to trust her again.

    3. I didn’t catch that and am glad you pointed it out. That particular job opening was months ago, but I wonder if LW might deal with prospective employer now. Sidestep Sarah as the intermediary and contact point. I suppose it matters how this particular business is set up and what sort of power Sarah wields within the company, but for a future job in the company, LW could treat it as she would any other job opening.

    4. I’m reminded of a situation when I was 12 ish, and a similarly aged friend would spin stories of how we (well, our respective parents) were totally planning a trip to Disney world. With details of the boring-to-a-kid bits like which hotels were booked. It took me a while to think of asking my actual parents, only to find out that no, this wasn’t true, and they confirmed with friend’s parents that they weren’t planning anything either so there was no question of friend having misunderstood.

      That friend faded from my life pretty quickly after I stopped believing the stories. I have no idea why the stories were being spun.

      Is there any chance this job was a grown up equivalent of Our Parents Are Totally Taking us to Disney World?
      You don’t need to find out for sure, and you definitely don’t need to know why, to stop believing the story and spend less (or zero) time with the story spinner.

      1. I had a similar friend experience, when I was nine! You’d think it’d be something people would grow out of? Obviously she liked the positive attention of our mutual excitement about Disney World or whatever (Cedar Point, in my case), and getting to be in the know was fun for her; it makes sense that a nine year old (or even a twelve year old) might not think through the long term consequences of lying about something like that.

        Or, a kid might not realize that you and a friend can have fun daydreaming about a future vacation / dream house / making a tv show together without lying and saying it’s actually going to happen.

        But it always baffles me when adults do it. I’ve encountered it more than once! So, I don’t know what that’s about, but it does tend to be grounds for dropping a friend for me.

          1. I don’t remember, but I do remember creating an hour-by-hour schedule of what we would ride, and looking up estimated wait times online and having spirited debates about “coaster priorities.”

            I did eventually go to Cedar Point as a teen and discovered I can ride about two actual roller coasters and then I’m 100% done for the rest of the day, haha.

        1. I had an ex who would do this and it would drive me totally bonkers. And that is the story of how I got to go to Brazil because he didn’t realize that backing out after I got a passport/took time off from work etc wasn’t going to go over as well as he thought (it was work for him so it was a trip that wasn’t completely pulled out of his ass)

      2. I worked with a fabulist. She was nowhere near as damaging as Sarah or even your friend–she basically “me too’d” things that other people said or did, and made up skills she obviously didn’t have–but she was a lonely woman with, it turned out, no family when she died. At work I’d tell her jokes and she’d say “I’ll email that one to my brother!” Turns out she didn’t have one.

        So most of the time this kind of fantasy spinning is irritating but ultimately harmless. But when people take it beyond that point into actively putting energy into making you believe things that don’t exist for whatever weird/petty/jealous reasons they have, it’s totally okay to quit playing along. You don’t owe reality checks to people who want to cash them at the Liar’s Bank.

        1. 1. That is… really… intensely sad. I feel so deeply for people like your coworker, and get their struggle… but there had to have been some healthier ways to cope and grow, even in a situation like that.

          2. “You don’t owe reality checks to people who want to cash them at the Liar’s Bank” is the best zeugma (I think it counts?) I’ve ever heard, and is slick as hell besides. This deserves to be a patch on a rad leather jacket.

  3. Wow, Wife #2, in addition to everything the Captain said here, Sarah sounds like she has bad boundaries and a predilection for low-key drama/subtle game-playing. This is not a person who is going to be a healthy addition to your life or your marriage. People can be unhealthy without doing so overtly or with specific intent.

    You should feel free to tell your husband “Yeah, after the whole job debacle, I’m not really feeling like hanging out with Sarah right now.” He can hang out with her if he wants, and he’s free to tell Sarah any number of things , ranging from “Wife couldn’t come, she had a cold,” to “Actually, you were kind of crappy to Wife during the job application process, and she needs space.” If he expects you to swallow your own discomfort so that neither he nor his _ex-wife_ have to feel mildly awkward, that’s a whole separate problem, and with addressing with a couple’s therapist.

    Best of luck to you, from a fellow Wife #2.

  4. Yah, Sarah had absolutely no standing to withdraw you like that. Even if we were to assume best intentions, she would have come to you and talked about the job further, and then perhaps encouraged YOU to withdraw if she truly thought it wouldn’t be a good fit. Regardless, that is your decision to make, not hers! So I’m definitely with the Captain when it comes to just dropping her altogether. You do not need Sarah in your life, and Mike can deal.

    Thanks for nothing, Sarah. UGH with people.

  5. LW says that she thinks Mike would prefer if they were all friends, but she also says that this kind of behavior is literally one of the reasons Mike divorced her (and doesn’t mention Mike pressuring her into becoming friends with Sarah in the first place). I suspect that if LW talked it over with Mike, she might find he’s not as opposed to breaking off a close friendship as she worries!

    1. Yeah, a divorce is a big deal, so she must have done a lot of that kind of behavior for it to be a reason (just one!) for a divorce. Also, you’re not a Jealous Wife if you dislike your husband’s ex. There’s really good reason to distrust her and not want her around here. If I were the LW, I’d be prepared to expect some gaslighting from Sarah trying to make the LW look bad to Mike (possibly the employer as well, but I don’t get the sense that the employer has any idea the LW even exists).

    2. Yeah, I get a feeling that maybe LW’s husband’s been dropping some unnoticed hints about how his ex wife isn’t the world’s best person, actually, and LW just hasn’t been getting it, so Husband’s been biting his tongue and letting it play out. Once she tells him “wow, your ex does some shitty things” he’s gonna yell a la ‘we were on a break’ “that’s why I divorced her!!!!”

  6. LW – you do not want to work at Sarah’s company. Even if they called you tomorrow with an offer, do not take it.

    Sarah’s weirdly manipulative, you know from your husband this is typical enough behaviour to contribute to the end of their marriage, and further contact other that very surface social chit chat is not a good idea.

    Let your husband be friends with her. Enjoy the extra Netlix time (or whatever) and try for jobs at companies that don’t contain your husband’s ex.

    1. Very good point! Even if this job offer was real, it sounds like Sarah wanted to use it as some bizarre lever into her husband’s and the LW’s lives.

  7. Great advice as always, Captain. Chiming in to say that though all of this is deeply frustrating and in no way your fault, I think Sarah inadvertently did you a favor. If she’s this manipulative now, imagine if she *had* helped you get the job and you’d ended up working where she works.

    You owe this lady nothing, especially not your time or friendship, but in terms of your own peace of mind going forward, it may be helpful to stop thinking of this as an opportunity she sabotaged for you, and more like a bullet dodged. I know that’s easier said than done when you’re still stuck in a job you don’t love, but as lovely as this company seems to you, they employ her and apparently let her dictate hiring decisions even when she’s not supposed to be directly involved. Both she and they are suspect as a result.

    Good luck in the job hunt and I hope you can release yourself from the tyrannical overlords of the Land of Might Have Been.

  8. Yeah, you can stop hanging out with Sarah since she has shown you twice that she likes to “decide” things for you.

    Also, did you ever actually speak to anyone at the job or everything went through Sarah? That seems weird. Maybe there was no job and she was just pulling your strings or she overstated how much pull she had with the employer and she was too embarrassed to tell you. Either way, you gave it a great effort and she’s not being a very good friend.

  9. Another option, if you want, is just to tell Sarah directly why you don’t want to hang any more. “You know, when you took it on yourself to tell your employers that I didn’t want the job there, that was out of line. I appreciate all you’ve done, but I won’t be comfortable hanging with you in future. I wish you well.” And then go no-contact.

    (This is a suggested alternative rather than something I’m particularly advising; either this or ghosting her could work, and you know her so you’re better equipped than us to decide which will be the better option. At the end of the day, I think the most important thing is that if you want no-contact you go no-contact, whether or not there’s a short one-off explanation from you first.)

  10. Your reaction to all this has nothing to do with being a jealous wife. Someone you considered a friend got you excited about a great opportunity and than withdrew it arbitrarily just because she could. Someone you considered a friend disrespected your adulthood and decided for you what’s best for your career. The fact that it’s First Wife doing it is just coincidence. I was all set to give her some grace (maybe she got weirded out at the idea of working with New Wife and had a knee-jerk reaction to her discomfort) but then you said she’s pulled stuff like this before and your husband said she did the same when they were married. So she has a pattern of enjoying power plays and playing games with people’s emotions about important things like a gift or their career.

    I think you’re totally justified in using the Captain’s suggestions. If this is her habit, that’s not a friend you need. And it doesn’t make you a jealous new wife. You can be cordial and polite when you encounter her. You can rejoice that your husband has at least an amicable relationship with her. But you don’t need to be BFF’s with someone just to prove that you’re not jealous of them. And for what it’s worth – YOU got the guy. You win! If anyone’s jealous, it’s her.

    1. “Power play” is exactly how this struck me, too. The gift thing seems even weirder than the job thing: offer something valuable and then tell you you don’t actually want it, even when you tell her you really do? Who the hell DOES that? Someone who enjoys power plays.

      It doesn’t even really matter what her motivations are, though. She’s shown herself to be Lucy with the football, as the Captain said. Staying away from her will save LW any further frustration. If Mike has a problem with that, remind him that he divorced her and so can you!

      1. having seen… distressingly similar behavior before (in other people’s relationships, fortunately, not my own), I would feel 100% confident in putting it down to “power play by jealous ex, jerking LW around to make herself feel better by hurting LW and/or Mike without having to reveal herself as ‘the bad guy’.” I would put her in the “never trust with anything ever again” box and limit any future contact to the absolute bare minimum.

        also, to satisfy my own curiosity, I’d research the purported employer’s hiring practices and salary ranges. I doubt it’d be possible to find anything definitive, but I would not be even slightly surprised if it turned out that basically nothing she told you about that job had any connection to reality. buuut that’s just me, truly. 😉

        1. Could be either. I have a friend who’s like this, and it’s absolutely a power play, but it’s also the sort of thing she aims at everyone–it’s a way of making herself feel important, and the drama itself is part of that.

          …I deal with it a lot like it sounds like LW’s husband does, by not believing anything she promises and bowing out when drama starts (it helps that she lives a long way away now; if we were in the same hemisphere on a regular basis I doubt we’d still be friends). The friendship is still worth it to me even knowing that I have to tune out like 75% of her extravagant promises, but I don’t blame the LW one bit if she wants to be done with it.

  11. I’m a little confused why the LW’s husband is not saying it’s time to not be close with Sarah. I get that being close with significant past people when everyone plays nice in the sandbox can be affirming and good, but in a case where the ex is so egregiously not nice I think that distance is probably in order. LW, I would say be nice when you run into her but be clear with your husband about why you no longer trust her and you would appreciate not seeing her socially until you can work through these feelings (I myself would probably say that this is indefinite, but it’s possible for feelings to change). He can continue to have a nice relationship with her, but you don’t have to be close with her.

    Think of it this way – if something similar happened with a separate friend of yours wouldn’t you just go low contact and give it some time and maybe in the future once you worked out these feelings come back to the relationship, or not depending on the situation? Just because this is your husband’s ex does not preclude you from going through standard relationship feelings. I absolve you from any guilt related to not doing what your husband would prefer but instead putting up reasonable, helpful and healthy boundaries with a person who has hurt you.

  12. What I see as a reason to not resume the same, or any, friendship is the loss of trust. Without any acknowledgement or explanation or apology how could you have any more than a superficial relationship?
    My sister could do something like this and truly not maliciously but because of her own changing comfort level. Like she would spontaneously offer help but on reflection anticipate that she herself would be uncomfortable having wife#2 working there and start back pedalling. The reasons given for “sabotage” might not reflect the reality of wife #2 but in sister’s mind they’d make sense. Sister has many times failed to understand or appreciate the effect her decisions have on others.

  13. Wouldn’t have gone down the “get a job at my spouse’s ex’s company with the ex’s help” at all. Too complicated, and this situation has shown one of many reasons why it’s too complicated.

    You seem to have handled it really well so far & I’d take the advice already in the post. You get to not be friends if you don’t want to be friends, you get to end relationships whenever you choose, and anybody can see why you might not want to buddy up to your husband’s ex anyway. Good luck!

    1. Yeah, the thing for Sarah to do was encourage you to apply if you were interested and leave the ball in your court there. Maybe put in a good word for you if you did apply. There was no reason for her to be so deeply enmeshed here.

    2. Complicated and awkward. Heck, LW could even have ended up with Sarah as her boss at some point! Scary thought. “LW, you deserve a 10% raise.” Raise time comes and nothing. “Oh, I decided you didn’t want it enough.”

  14. Even if you decide to remain some sort of friends (either now or later after an apology), I don’t think you should actually trust this woman with anything meaningful again (physically, professionally, emotionally, etc.).

    She’s proven she’s not reliable and you have ample proof that it’s a consistent pattern of behavior (the weird gift, the acknowledgement from Mike that it’s part of who she is and why they’re no longer married, etc.).

    That’s probably not ever going way at this point in her life, so you need to at least be wary for that to protect yourself.

  15. It definitely sounds like “I decided you wouldn’t like this” is Sarah’s way of going “I’ve decided not to make this happen but I don’t want to look like an asshole by admitting it.” Given that she’s a repeat offender (to you specifically, and I assume to Mike before they separated), it also sounds like she enjoys the social capital of offering nice things but not the bother of actually following through.

    (I had the whole “I figured you wouldn’t want [extremely nice thing]” pulled on me once or twice… in highschool. An adult should know better.)

    Having a friendship where any nice thing promised or planned could be stopped at a moment’s notice – and getting a gaslight-y ‘oh you didn’t want it anyway’ non-apology instead! – sounds entirely exhausting. Calling it quits sounds like your best option, but at the very least, you should follow her example and take a break from the friendship for a few months; for me personally, the resentment caused by situations like this is usually pretty quickly outmatched by the resentment of having to hide my resentment!

    1. Oh, yeah! The resentment of having to hide the resentment is the worst! A true relationship killer.

  16. LW, if you didn’t have to worry about the stereotype about being jealous of your husband’s ex, would you want to be friends with Sarah? I notice that you don’t refer to her as a friend (outside of Mike’s desire for all three of you to be “friends”) in your letter, even though you’re “friendly” and you sometimes hang out without Mike.

    Sarah’s behavior is problematic—my guess is that she’s probably not setting out to hurt you, but that she over-promises and doesn’t know how to own up to it gracefully—but I think there might be a larger issue here that you’re both feeling pressured into a contrived friendship. You feel pressured to forgive her in situations like this (when you don’t, and it’s okay that you don’t), and for her part, Sarah might feel like she should make these generous offers (which she later realizes that she can’t keep) to show just how fine she is with her ex’s new wife.

    Some people put a high premium on being friends with their exes (or with their partner’s exes or their ex’s new partner) because they see it as a sign of maturity. It’s not—at least not necessarily. Getting over a relationship and its ending like a mature adult means not behaving inappropriately or maliciously towards the other person after the split and not letting every gathering with your friends become about how upset you are (talking about it a little is fine, venting is fine, provided you have the right audience for it). Friendship is nice when it happens, but it can’t be forced, and it might not last forever, because some friendships—even between non-exes—don’t last forever. Trying to force a friendship where one wouldn’t exist organically is immature, even if it’s ostensibly more pleasant than holding your ex’s belongings hostage or showing up at their work begging that they take you back.

    You are not and never were obliged to be friends with Sarah, and it’s not the end of the world not to be. If Mike is upset about this new state of affairs, then he can navigate those feelings and get over them himself instead of making you (and Sarah) pretend to be friends for his sake.

    1. Excellent point. You don’t have to be friends with anybody you don’t want to, and you’re not a Jealous Wife for not liking somebody crappy. It seems like Mike would be fine without the LW and Sarah hanging out.

    2. As an example: my husband was married twice before he met me. I’ve met both his exes. I like his first wife; she’s funny and smart and we have a lot in common. She friended me on Facebook.

      I am not similarly fond of his second wife, who has said nasty things about me behind my back but is sugary-sweet to my face. I wouldn’t choose to hang out with her or even chat on the phone if she didn’t have a child in common with Mr. Bells.

      Both these relationships were over before we met. There’s nothing for me to be jealous of. I just like one of these people better than I like the other.

  17. Not sure how accurate this is, but does anyone else get the vibe that Sarah wanted points for giving LW nice things, only to panic when she got to the point where she needed to show her hand and didn’t actually have the thing, so she pretended she thought LW didn’t want it anymore, thus freeing her from the obligation? The fact that there’s been nothing from the actual company is kind of a red flag too.

    Regardless of what else you do with her, I’d make a mental note that you shouldn’t trust her amazing offers until you actually have proof of them in front of you.

  18. I want to speak to the LW’s sense of obligation that she have a relationship with Sarah. That’s just…not the case. There are no kids or pets whose raising needs to be negotiated between them, probably no shared property or anything of the sort that would link the LW, or Mike for that matter, with Sarah. They are no longer married. There is no reason to have a relationship with Sarah! Let alone due to some sense of duty towards Mike. He, of course, is allowed to be friends with his exes and you are allowed to feel however you feel about that, and set boundaries around that accordingly.

    I speak to this because you sound kind of like someone in a polyamorous relationship trying to be open-hearted towards a metamour, when there can be pressure for everyone to get along and it’s hard to escape certain relationships if your partners are still dating them (not that boundaries are not possible). You are not in this situation! I encourage the LW to free herself of the sense of obligation she feels towards Mike about Sarah, and towards Sarah. Good luck!

  19. Wow, my first thought was that Mike is basically communicating, “My ex-wife had x and y behaviors and treated me in z ways and that’s one of the reasons why I divorced her. Now you’re friends with her (because I want my ex-wife and wife to be friends) and the same x,y,z behaviors are present but you have to continue a relationship with her and don’t get to opt out like I did.” That would be hypocritical as well as problematic. Re-reading though, I’m wondering if Mike doesn’t actually care that much about his ex-wife and wife having a relationship? LW says “I know he would still prefer to have all of us be friends.” Did he say this or is the LW assuming? It sounds like the LW has taken all the initiative to forge a relationship with Sarah (“for the first several years of our marriage I made a point of being friendly with her”). It might be that Mike just wants them to get along well enough that they can occasionally attend events with overlapping social circles without it being awkward. Like if Mike and Sarah have a mutual friend Amy and Mike wants to be able to go with LW to Amy’s creme brulee night that Sarah was also invited to and have Sarah and LW treat each other politely.

    1. I was wondering the same things. Maybe I’m being very immature about this, BUT if my husband’s ex had treated me badly, and I think that Sarah did treat Wife #2 badly, then I think I might be a little bit hurt if my husband just glossed it over and continued being friends and hanging with her socially. I would never hang out with someone that had hurt my husband.

      But others might see it differently.

      1. Yes, I kind of see it as not glossing over as much as agreeing, “Sarah is not a very nice person, so I’m not married to her anymore, and maybe you would do well to not depend on her emotionally” sort of thing. LW said it seemed like a nice thing to do, not that Mike pressured her into the friendship, it might just be LW’s idea of what she’s supposed to do/be

        LW: here’s another Internet-person saying you don’t have to be very close with Sarah!

  20. All of this! Look at it this way- if this lady wasn’t your husband’s ex wife, if she was a relatively new connection you had made on your own, would you still want to be her friend after a couple incidents like this? Probably not! At best this person has a habit of overpromising on things she can’t actually deliver, and then gets flustered and blames you to cover up her inability when the bill comes due. At worst she is engaging in some circuitous power trippy games for nebulous reasons. Not great either way, and it doesn’t sound like you have enough of a relationship foundation to withstand that kind of structural flaw.

    You describe this friendship as something you’ve gotten into mostly because it seemed like the right thing to do for your husband. Rest assured that you have now done all the polite good-sport-second-wifing called for and more. Your husband isn’t in a coparenting situation with this lady- him maintaining good relations with her is completely optional, you even more so. You are 100% free to execute the slow fade or whatever your personal African Violet strategy is. Notifying your husband and asking him if he has a preferred relationship escape hatch he’d like for you to use is a courtesy. The “Let’s all be mature adults and stay friendly” approach to things like this is contingent on everyone involved acting like mature adults, and staying friendly, it’s not a iron clad rule that you have to tolerate endless weirdness from someone you don’t like all that much.

  21. LW, you are right to feel that Sarah did something really awful to you. Showing off her ability to get you a job, like she is playing
    lady-of-the-manor, then changing her mind and sabotaging you because she didn’t want you to make a decent salary? Then pretending that it never happened? WTF?

    My narcissistic sister does this stuff. She likes to show off how generous she us, how helpful, and *such* a mentor to those less fortunate. She gets the credit for offering help that is then not actually given (or even taken away).
    Example: she bought herself a new computer, and the (giant, boxy) old one was taking up too much space in her apartment. She didn’t think it was fair to be forced to pay a fee to recycle it. I was at university. Out of the blue, sis offered to give me her old one, which I had to drive an hour to pick up. I was happy to do this as I had no computer of my own, and I was grateful to my sister. Sis bragged to everyone about how she was helping her underachieving sister to succeed in life by giving me my own computer. Not just mentioning it to a few people, but conducting a full on campaign of self promotion. Lots of emphasis on her awesomeness and my sad and overwhelming need for her help. Not being sensitive, she actually did say stuff like that. And I was happy to have a computer, but it wasn’t like I couldn’t live without it. Three months later, she called and told me that a friend of hers wanted the computer. I was told to pack it up and drive it to her friend’s house, over an hour away. She said that she never offered to let me have it, and that she only let me borrow it because I begged and made her feel guilty. I never once objected, and I gave the computer back, but that was the last time I ever accepted help from my sister. If nothing else, I did learn a valuable lesson. Eventually, her behavior got so bad that I cut off contact with her completely, and I am happier and more emotionally healthy for having done so.

    LW, Sarah sounds a lot like my sis. She likes being in the role of succesful and respected benefactor. She wants attention and adulation from people for being so generous and helping those in need, but doesn’t want to do anything real to actually help. And you are expected to go along with it and not challenge her. If you want to pull away from this woman and her ridiculousness, I think that is a good idea. She sounds like a very untrustworthy and manipulative person.

    LW, I hope you have good luck and success in your job search!

    1. EW. I cannot stand people like that. You never show off what a caring person you are! That automatically makes you not caring. If you have to announce it, you’re doing it wrong. Do the caring thing and let other people do the thanking and bragging on you. For example, I’m proud of my accomplishments as a lead volunteer at the local animal shelter, but I brag on the animals, not myself. That’s why I’m there. I love them, and I want to give them the best possible lives while in our care, and I want them to get the best possible homes as soon as possible. I’m glad my non-volunteer friends think it’s awesome that I volunteer, but I don’t need them to adore me. I want them to look at cute pictures I post and get motivated to donate or help out or adopt. Most good volunteers are like that. Bad volunteers think they can show up, not listen to anything I say, not pay attention to the rules, not do any real work, and still get credit for helping all the poor little homeless animals. They’re the ones who brag about volunteering but don’t list any specifics of what they do, and they typically don’t last very long because they recoil in horror once made to actually work. Sarah sound like a bad volunteer. She talks a big game, but when pressed for specifics, she flakes and disappears. She probably lies about a bunch of stuff to other people, too.

      Sally, I’m quite sure everybody else got sick of your sister’s crap and distanced themselves as well. If I heard a bunch of “Oh, I’m helping out my poor underachieving sad sack no-life sister” crap, I’d roll my eyes, assume none of it was true, and tune out. Nobody sincere ever says that.

    2. Yes, sis is a piece of work. So far she is good at covering her real self with a very nice mask. Some people figure out her game, but I try to just let happen what will happen. I am better off with no contact. Thanks for the words of support 🙂 This community is awesome! Jedi hugs!

      LW, you have good instincts about Sarah’s sketchiness. You don’t need to stroke her ego or pretend she is your friend. Sarah is not your friend or your benefactor. I hope your job search goes well with Sarah out of the picture.

  22. Wow. Yeah I’m with the Captain, even if she hadn’t been weird and passive aggressive, you can still decide not to be friends with your husband’s ex. That is totally reasonable! Even if she were a totally nice person! In one way you’re kinda lucky, in that they didn’t have kids, so if hubby backs you up on this you literally never have to see her ever again.

    1. Even if they had kids, why would LW need to see her? My mom and step mother have met three times: when my mom caught SM doing laundry at our house, at my college graduation, and my wedding.

  23. LW, if Sarah offers you and/or Mike something again in the future (help, a gift, whatever), set all expectations of her actually delivering on the offer to zero. Even if you outwardly say, “Sure! Would love to take that old luxury yacht you aren’t using anymore off your hands!” you should inwardly decide to believe it when you see it. And then let it go. Don’t do any more of this: “I argued hard that I would love the gift, but she refused to be convinced.” Also don’t do any more of this: “I finally cornered her … I told her she was wrong, that the job really appealed to me, and that I hoped she would correct the record with her colleagues.” The arguing and convincing feeds into this dynamic and puts you in a one-down position where she is dangling something just out of reach and you are more or less begging. Of course if you stop interacting with her you won’t have to implement either of these things. But I predict sooner or later she will try to suck you in with some kind of offer as an attempt to restart the dance. If/when this happens, dance different steps than you have previously and you will be much less stressed out.

    1. Oh, yes.

      -You want this?
      -Sure, that’s great, thanks!
      -Well, you don’t seem like you *really, really* want it.
      -Oh? Okay, whatever.

      *Record scratch*

      1. Ding ding ding! What she really craves is the feeling of power and making you (LW) beg for something.

  24. This was a total asshole move on Sarah’s part. That’s great that your husband would prefer that you all be friends for Reasons That I’m Sure Are Really Good and Not Definitely Just To Make His Life Easier (I am being very sarcastic here) but you actually do get to decide whether you want to be friends with someone who pulls bullshit like this.

    Sarah and Mike aren’t co-parenting and I don’t really see any reason why you need to stay friendly with this person if you don’t want to. Give yourself the gift of picking your own friends.

  25. Dear LW, I am going to second The Captain, boskage and many other commenters: ghost this Lucy.

    … but before/while you are doing that, I would encourage having a conversation with Mike about this all. Sounds like this Sarah is somewhat manipulative and if she still has any influence on Mike she might be tempted to try further messing up with you through Mike, like for example claiming that you are jealous or envious of her job. I do hope that since Mike knows her he will not be susceptible to her mind games, but it is best to talk these things out clearly, just to be sure.

    You have already done quite a lot of emotional work with Sarah. You have tried your best, been friendly and given her the benefit of doubt. Perhaps now is a good time to stop that and completely root her out of your life. Block her in social media, do not answer her calls or texts and if Mike still wants to have some kind of relationship with her he can – but I would advice that you agree what kind of information about you he can pass to her.

    How about applying for a new job, this time without “help” from her? Perhaps someone more reliable, like a friend or a trusted colleague or a family member could help you? Her actions during the job debacle sure sound sketchy.

    Best of luck to you!

  26. I know someone with a lot of inside knowledge of government who is fond of saying that if something looks like it’s either a conspiracy or just sheer incompetence, nine times out of ten it’s incompetence. I think this situation is kind of analogous. So when I saw this: “…maybe the whole thing was a set-up for her to convey to Mike and me that her s**t is far more together than mine,” I had my typing fingers poised to write “If she wanted to sabotage LW, there are ways to do it that would cost her less effort. It’s more likely that Sarah thought she was helping LW out at first, and then realized that she’d fucked up (maybe she’s afraid of recommending someone who she’s not confident has the right skills? maybe she realized that there’s only so much closeness she wants with her ex-husband’s wife? who knows), and backed out, using a couple of fibs to try to cover her tracks.”

    Then I got to the part about the expensive gift, and I thought, “Well, maybe Sarah just gets excited and overcommits herself, and then changes her mind later. Maybe she has complicated feelings and is trying too hard to be Gold Star Ex. Offering to buy and expensive gift for your ex-husband and his current wife sounds like a classic case of overcompensation.”

    And then I got to this: “Mike says this is just kind of the way Sarah is (and one reason he divorced her),” and I thought “Eh, maybe this really is the one time out of ten.”

    In any case, it doesn’t matter that much what’s in Sarah’s head, because the important points are that 1) LW is uncomfortable, and 2) LW doesn’t have to be friends with Sarah. Even if Sarah was the world record holder for coolest ex and had never done anything to make LW uncomfortable ever, LW still wouldn’t have to be friends with her. This situation sucks. I hope it’s at least a little helpful that if LW decides not to be friends with Sarah, Society happens to have her back on this one, because being on civil but not really friendly terms with your partner’s ex is pretty standard.

    1. This describes my thought process perfectly— especially since I’ve reneged on an almost job offer before when it became clear the person was not actually going to be able to do the work (think not putting an RA on a grant because the grant turned out being smaller than expected so this would be the only RA and the RA started flaking out on the current work or started talking about how much they hate work in general and someone else great became available ), but then I kept reading…

  27. Yes agree fully with the Captain. Sarah sounds like she is exerting some control/ego stuff on you. She is working out her own stuff, and you got dragged into her drama. Refuse to be a player in the drama! Or at least that’s my feeling. She likes the feeling of giving then taking away. And likely, she isn’t even conscious of her weird issues. She probably thinks she was selfless in the whole debacle, and then it “got weird” and it’s not her fault. Don’t play into it!

  28. She definitely “Lucy and the Football”-ed you, and I do believe she’d do it again without hesitation. Whether or not it’s because you’re Wife#2 or because she’s that kind of person, it’s better to know what she’s willing to do and cut your losses. If your husband still wants to be friends with her, he can do that if he wants to.

    1. Sorry, but another thing. If you wrote in and left out all the ex-wife stuff, I would still encourage you not to be friends with her. Friends don’t treat friends like that.

  29. Now I just want to be done. Am I justified in saying I’m finished being friendly with the ex-wife, or should I suck it up for Mike’s sake, or is there, perhaps, a third way?

    I’m agreeing with your gut and everyone else here that the best thing for you to do moving forward is to refuse any further “opportunities” that Sarah holds out for you to audition for her approval.

    You are very justified in being done with her entirely. No more attempts to be friendly. No more hanging out. No more sharing of personal stuff. No returning to the old status quo by pretending these harmful interactions didn’t happen. Sarah broke whatever friendship was there, regardless of what her intentions were. The consequences for that are that you no longer are giving her one hot minute of your time and attention.

    You definitely shouldn’t suck it up for Mike’s sake. He can have whatever relationship he wants with her moving forward. Why does he even feel the need to do so? Maybe he could try unpacking that in therapy? Not your problem. Not your circus, definitely not your monkeys.

    Sounds like you’re pretty confident that the first option is the right choice for you. So whether there’s a third way is irrelevant. Go forth and live a rewarding life surrounded by people who are good friends that support you and leave you feeling good.

    1. “He can have whatever relationship he wants with her moving forward. Why does he even feel the need to do so? Maybe he could try unpacking that in therapy?”

      I’m a bit confused – is the suggestion that one shouldn’t have a relationship with one’s ex, and that wanting it necessitates therapy? I have a friendship with some people who I have dated, because they are good people and it wasn’t the right time / place for us.

      If the suggestion is that Mike should question his expectation that the LW have a relationship with Sarah then totally agreed as that’s weird.

      1. I think the idea was, given that he acknowledges that she is weirdly manipulative with stuff like this, why does he feel like he has to be friends with her? Especially now that she has jerked around LW.

        Personally, I moved around a lot growing up, and I tend to attach a lot more meaning and significance to “having a history” with someone than most people do. I have several friends who are deeply flawed, but I will work around a lot of flaws rather than write off someone who has the near-mythical (to me) quality of *having known me for years*. But jerking around my spouse would be a deal-breaker for sure, if for some reason I didn’t warn my spouse ahead of time that “FYI, Sarah can be kind of game-playing about promising things and yanking them away.”

      2. Not because she’s an ex, but because she’s some who apparently treated him badly and has now treated gis wife badly twice.

        Why stay friends with someone who does this?

        Genuine question. But, probably a question best sorted out in therapy.

      3. I have no problem with people being friends with exes. That pretty much has been my pattern except for the abusive ex. I am still good friends with my current ex. We hang out quite regularly.

        But. If she’s this problematic, that this shitty behavior is just part of who she has been to him and contributed to the divorce happening, why even continue to socialize with her? Why not just polite acquaintances that exchange updates a couple times a year? Why isn’t she just “Someone I used to know“? Why is LW tying herself in knots worrying about whether it’s okay with Mike for her to no longer put effort into being friendly with Sara? She’s clearly reacting to something on Mike’s end. Which is why maybe he might benefit from unpacking some of this in therapy.

  30. “I feel too embarrassed by the whole episode to be able to hang out with Sarah anymore. I can’t say for sure that she set out to hurt me. It’s possible she meant to do me a favor and then realized she had promised more than she could deliver and couldn’t find a graceful way to stand down. But that’s not what she chose to indicate to Mike and me.”

    So if this was someone you knew rather than someone through Mike, is that a thing you’d be comfortable saying to/about them? That you’d be willing to take action on? I think that’s totally reasonable and to the extent you find yourself needing to say anything beyond “no thanks” (which should be almost never, you’re not obligated to be anyone’s friend) that’s all you need. Or a more compressed “you really treated me poorly and I was hurt and I don’t care to expose myself to that again.” If your husband wants to shrug that off as just how she is, well, that’s a whole bunch of other shit right there. But at least you can just respond “and it’s a how that I don’t want to associate with.”

  31. I had WTF eyebrows throughout this letter, but this bit:

    She offered Mike and me a valuable gift and later withdrew the offer with the explanation that she had the impression I didn’t really want it. But I did want it! And I argued hard that I would love the gift, but she refused to be convinced.

    actually made me blurt “WHAAAAAAT?” LW, that is… so. Freakin’. Weird. Who does that? Who offers a gift and then forces the recipient to do an interpretive dance of desire for said gift in order to actually receive it?

    Someone who’s not giving a gift, that’s who. The person who does that is offering you payment for a demeaning job to which you never applied.

    1. Yeah, this whole ” you didn’t clap hard enough, Tinkerbell’s dead” thing is bizarre at the very least.

    2. Someone who is not actually in a position to deliver the gift but has too much pride to admit it.

  32. I dislike the fundamental “my friend must be your friend” concept, especially between couples. There is absolutely no need for you to be friends with Sarah! She can be an absolutely wonderful person (although she isn’t), and you still don’t have to interact with her.

    1. Yup, this. The hubs has friends I’m not crazy about, and vice versa. We just hang out with these people our own and save our group hangouts for the peeps we both like.

  33. Yes, yes, absolutely.

    And you don’t even need to be 100 percent sure she did this on purpose (though I bet she did). You are not her therapist or her diety, nor are you deliberating a criminal sentence.

    Her intent doesn’t matter.

    She’s jerked you around twice. Once was enough. Maybe it was premeditated. Maybe this is some kind of unconscious pattern of dealing with people. Maybe she’s just got issues about over promising things she can’t deliver. Maybe the whole thing was a lie and there never was a job in the first place.

    Doesn’t matter. You can just plain not like her and not want to be friends. It’s got nothing to do with jealousy or her being the ex – she’s just a person you know, who is not a reliable or trustworthy person.

  34. LW, I don’t really understand why you were friends with Sarah in the first place. You don’t sound like you were ever really excited to hang out with her–more like you thought it was somehow your duty as her ex-husband’s new wife. For the record, marrying someone doesn’t come with a requirement that you become friends with their exes. It might require civil coparenting if they had kids together–but in your case they don’t, so it doesn’t really require any contact at all. If your husband wants to maintain a friendship with her, he can do that…but you also aren’t obligated to be friends with your spouse’s friends.

    If you never really wanted to be good friends with Sarah, that in and of itself would be plenty of reason to not socialize with her. You don’t even need all this shit (and it is true shit, what she pulled on you) to justify that. I think you should tell Mike that he can be friends with Sarah if he wants, but you don’t want to be around her. You’ll be civil if you happen to run into her at the grocery store or something, of course, but you don’t want to make plans with her or spend your time hanging out with her. If he wants to be friends with her, he can navigate his friendship himself; it’s up to him whether it’s worth his time.

  35. Yeah, I too was going to say, she’s Lucy to your Charlie Brown. It’s a huge personality flaw, and its owner will do this again, and again, and againagainagain. How do I know? Because I’m Charlie Brown to my own daughter playing Lucy. I keep getting taken in, and when I’m good and pumped, she pulls the rug out. It sucks.

  36. i love this advice! she did something not very nice and is now pretending nothing had happened. you don’t have to do emotional work for her.

    so, i’m in a similar position right now and i’d love some input. i really want to work a this company and turns out my friend is actually leaving her position there in less than a month. a week ago she told me she recommended me to her boss (we have worked together before), but would be giving him my contact information the next day. and then nothing happened. she gave me excuses for the first couple of days (like she didn’t see him that day etc.) and then stopped mentioning it altogether. what do i do? do i ask her? i think she may be afraid my performance would reflect poorly on her because i’ve been struggling with depression and am not as efficient as i was in the past.

    1. Is the position posted on the company’s careers page? If so, apply for it directly. Let your friend know you’re doing so, in a heads-up kind of way. If she feels able to recommend you, it’ll serve as a reminder for her to follow through on that; if she doesn’t, well, you’ve still got the same shot as anyone else.

      If it’s not posted publicly, I don’t think there’s much you can do. Keep an eye out in case the company posts it later. But also keep in mind that your friend’s failure to get you the job may well have nothing to do with you or your performance. Maybe she’s not getting along with her boss, or simply hasn’t had an opportunity to bring it up as she focuses on wrapping up her work. Or maybe the job just isn’t available; maybe they’re assigning her duties to existing employees instead of replacing her, maybe the big boss has a kid that needs a job, maybe someone internal transferred into it without them opening it to new applicants. Maybe she did give her boss your info and her boss decided not to follow up on it, and she’s not sure how to break the news. There are so many reasons for this kind of thing to not work out the way you hoped–try not to be too hard on either her or yourself here.

  37. I like to see it this way: is it good for the man on this situation to have his “so hot I’m being fought over” fantasy stroked all the time? Because this is it, not “friends for his sake”. Your hubby doesnt care about the quality of your friendship, and has no idea of the emotional labour here. No kids involved? No friendship with his ex. Simple.

  38. LW, it sounds to me like Sarah’s power tripping you. I could definitely be wrong but it sounds like what she wants is to hold things over your head and make you grovel and beg for them. That’s pretty toxic.

  39. Is there another geek social fallacy of Thou Must Befriend All Thine Exes And the Exes of Thy Lover or Be Considered Jealous and Unjust?

    I don’t really get the whole ‘Yeah that mean/annoying thing that person does is just how they are; but y’know….Friends!’ Especially when it’s an ex. Breaking up with your ex means you no longer have to navigate your ex’s nonsense.

    Is this just me? I admit I have a high friendship bar for only a worthy few. A good, sensible, happy-with-her-lot friend of mine is still friends with a not-even-an-ex who moped all over her wedding in an embarrassing display of unrequited love. She has room in her flock even for such thoughtlessness; but honestly I couldn’t be arsed with him. Or ex wife lady.

    1. I was wondering if it wasn’t a Cool Girl fallacy – the best way to prove you aren’t jealous, insecure or controlling is to be friends with your husband’s ex-wife.

      1. It’s definitely a cool girl thing! But this thing with exes seems to blight people regardless of gender.

  40. LW seems to be very cautious around interfering with her husband’s relationship with the ex. And I get it on some level. I am “do not fuck with this” friends with one of my exes (partly because we had a very strong friendship but not a strong romantic connection, so it eventually devolved back into a really strong friendship). But I would encourage LW to remember that your husband and this woman are not together for a reason–whatever that reason is (and it’s probably a prismatically-complex one at that), he has probably learned at some point to view her behavior objectively. Don’t shy away from speaking honestly about how you feel about Sarah to your husband.

  41. I don’t think Sarah’s the issue here. If she was your friend without Mike being the intermediary driving it, I don’t think you’d be too conflicted about her not being your friend any longer after the way she’s treated you. Where I do see the problem is with Mike. I don’t think it’s your job to force yourself onward in the “friendship” with Sarah to support him. Rather, given her treatment of you, it’s his job to support you and not require you to swallow your own feelings about the matter. Why isn’t he doing that?

  42. The askamanager.org blog is a great Q&A resource for all things job search and career. I imagine she would say that most anything could have happened to derail this job opportunity, often something outside your control (like another candidate who is a better match, or the company changed their hiring plans). It’s strange that Sarah told you something so weird. But also as Alison from askamanager.org says all the time, people in hiring do rude things all the time – they shouldn’t but they do. And you’re not obligated to keep dealing with them. Of course there is the personal relationship layer on top of the professional interaction. But surely if a friend or relative were to mess you about in a professional situation, you would be within your rights to cool your relationship with them.

  43. Oh OP… You are being so played by this woman.

    You wouldn’t like the job? Before that you wouldn’t want the gift? Excuse me but, who the fuck does she think she is to dictate to you what you would/wouldn’t like? She likes what she’s doing because she has “power over her ex husband’s wife.”

    The fact that you were ever gracious enough to include her in your life with your husband is astounding. I’m not even the jealous type but no way no how would I be “friends” with Husbands EX wife (if he had one) because then there would be three people in the marriage.

    Make no mistake there are three in yours. I’m not a fan of ultimatums, but TBH in your position I think I’d be talking to husband about choosing a side of the fence, post haste.

  44. Whether she is someone flighty who makes promises to big to keep… or a a toxic jerkface that gets her kicks saboutauging her ex’s wife… she has shown herself to be absolutely untrustworthy.

    It is fine to treat her as the “flakey” friend or simply the NOT friend because she is a flake. You tried, and it didn’t work, and you see no reason to continue being let down.

  45. Hi!

    With the evidence this Shady Sarah’s presented to you, and your knowledge of her previous marriage to your husband, here’s where you’re at now:

    Her asshole moves she pulled while with your husband helped cost him his marriage. Divorce is NOT a socially simple or inexpensive act, and it’s for damn sure not simple or cheap legally. If her pattern of behavior was bad enough for him to terminate an entire social and legal contract, it’s more than reasonable that same behavior would make you want to terminate a much more casual relationship, in which you don’t have any legal obligation to her, or really even any social obligation.

    Her first asshole move in your “friendship” cost you (and husband) a valuable gift.

    Her second asshole move in your “friendship” cost you a job.

    Do you really want to find out what the third asshole move in your “friendship” is going to cost you?

    (Now “cost” looks a really weird word to me! Is it even real anymore…??)

    Additionally, I’ve dealt with a few former “friends” like this, and I can pretty much guarantee you: for every shitty thing they’re doing to you that you find out about, they’re doing three more shitty things to you behind your back and probably lying to all sides. (For example–what if there’s more to why the company didn’t hire you, if the job ever existed at all? Something nasty she was saying about you to them? You may never know.) Not trustworthy, and definitely NOT safe for you and husband to be around.

    I hope for the best in this for you and your husband! If it hurts Sarah’s feelings, well, she kinda earned that paycheck (while screwing you out of your own potential one at a new job).

  46. “I tried, it didn’t work out” and so I give myself permission to stop tying myself into knots over my in-laws.

    Thanks Captain

  47. Not to echo chamber too hard here- but this definitely sounds like an overpromise, under deliver. I don’t know anyone with this much power within a company (“Directly send me your resume…okay, now without any formal interview / meeting / anything at all, let’s talk about YOUR SOON-TO-BE SALARY!”)

    If anything, it sounds like Sarah gets swept up in her own fantasy. (The fantasy that she has the means to deliver on a big gift. The means to deliver on a stellar job). Then, when reality hits (“I can’t afford that / I don’t have that kind of power within the company,”) shame hits, and then she retracts / avoids / disappears.

    It is a very blown up microcosm of, “Yes, I’ll come to your party, even though I’m flying in an hour before the start time at rush hour and there is no humanly way I could actually make it but I’m saying YES because YES makes me looks awesome,” …and then you get a lot of weird, frustrating, vague, blame-adverse messages when this person who was team-party realizes they can’t make it, and they couldn’t make it all along, and they should have realized / communicated that before three hours after your party ended.

    It sounds like Sarah has withheld A TON of information of what actually went down. There are plenty of good guesses on this thread already. The only person who actually knows? Sarah.

    Good luck, LW! Detangle the search for an awesome, healthy, fulfilling career from this person- she was never going to be able to deliver on this, and it was never on Sarah to get you out of this shit job (although that would have been nice, and things didn’t have to get weird on top of all you’ve got on your plate). Good mantra for now: bullet dodged in that you won’t have a coworker / colleague who takes on more than she can deliver and often leaves you scrambling, confused, and in a lurch when she can’t say a clear, “OH SHIT I can’t actually do that.”

    (I don’t think this behavior is mean or malicious. But the consequences in your life are the same: inconsideration needs no ill intent to feel bad on the receiving end.)

    1. Yes, my in-laws are this way. They often renege on things. DH and I have learned the hard way never to rely on them for anything. If it is something we could live without, we tell them OK and if it happens, great. If it is something like private school tuition that would cause real problems if it were suddenly yanked away, we don’t accept it in the first place, no matter how badly we want it.

      In their case, I think it is partly what Kelsey described, wanting to feel good and promising nice things feels good. It’s also partly that they like people being in their debt, because then they can make the people dance to their tune. Also of course, partly that in the end, they don’t *really* care how any of this affects anyone but themselves. So they never really sit down and quietly ask themselves whether they can truly commit to the thing.

      But in the end, it doesn’t matter. Flaky people == don’t rely on them for anything important.

      1. Yep, I didn’t interpret this as malicious at all. Just somebody who over-promises, under-delivers, and then shame spirals about under-delivering and comes-up with “I didn’t think you wanted it” as a weird out. Maybe I’m naive, but I would never suspect that this is some sort of power trip or manipulation game. I’d just roll my eyes and make a mental note note not to take any of her promises seriously. It wouldn’t be a big deal to me from a casual friend. I did actually think it was pretty weird that the LW “argued hard” that she wanted a present that the ex wasn’t going to give her. It sounded to me like a “soft no” that she wasn’t hearing. It just seems really weird that you’d ever try to convince somebody to give you a present. I usually agree with Captain Awkward and the commentators so I’m surprised that I read the situation so differently. I do agree that if this sort of thing is bugging the LW, she shouldn’t be friends with the ex though.

  48. May I just add an aside about your calling yourself “Wife #2”?

    I’m a second wife myself and it took me quite a long time to realise that my position may have been chronologically second but that I was actually now in the top slot. Please stop thinking of yourself as second – I think it’s part of the reason you are putting up with so much crap from Sarah.

    I agree with other posters that it’s more convenient for your husband if you can be friends with his first wife, but you honestly don’t have to, and I think it damages your amour propre to do so.

    Take your own space and your own place, LW. You don’t have to share any of it with Sarah.

  49. Honestly I think it’s weird to want or be pressured into being friends with your spouse’s ex when there are no children involved. (Of course if you happen to meet and really hit it off and manage to overcome the natural weirdness and genuinely want to be friends because you really like each other, that’s different.) Yes sometimes people remain friends after a divorce, but it’s also very normal not to continue any contact with an ex where there are no children but to drift away entirely. The LW has nothing to do with this woman and it’s honestly super weird she felt pressured to get to know her in the first place. She has nothing to do with the LW’s husband anymore

    1. Sorry I had another thought: the Captain has received a million letters from people feeling pressured into unwanted friendships or unwanted levels of contact from exes. It would be a good idea for the LW to read some of those responses.

      Once you break up with someone (unless of course you have a child together, or, I don’t know, run a Cinnabon franchise) you have NO ties and NO obligations towards that person. It’s absolutely 100% fine and normal to never speak to an ex again if that’s your choice.

  50. It occurs to me that the people I know who are on friendly terms with exes are mostly in shared/overlapping social groups, so even if they’re not on “let’s all get together at so-and-so’s house for the weekend and put out a zine” terms, there’s an incentive to be cordial at parties and such. I also have a friend who rebuilt a friendship with her ex on the basis of co-parenting their child, but it sounds like neither of these things apply here. LW talks about things she and Sarah have in common (some of which Mike was drawn to), but not about being in the same choir or role-playing-group or something else where she’d be seeing Sarah even if neither of them ever called the other again.

    That doesn’t mean LW had no reason to be friendly with Sarah. It does mean that if she decides to stop, there’s not a lot to lose there. “Mike, love, after what happened with the job I’ve realized you were right to break up with Sarah, and I won’t be seeing her anymore.”

    1. Yeah, there’s something to be said for maintaining cordial relations if there are overlapping social circles and you don’t actively dislike each other, but none of that obligates you to maintain an actual friendship with someone who jerks you around and makes you feel weird and shitty.

  51. The relationship stuff has been well addressed but I find myself wondering at the weirdness of the “job offer” stuff. I’ve learned over at AAM that you can’t recommend someone for a job if you’ve never worked with that person, you can only forward a resume and suggest the person as a candidate. I can imagine Sarah’s conversation with HR or the hiring manager… “please consider this person for job x.” “Oh, interesting, but I see from her resume that she has no experience in field x, and you’ve never worked with her, so what are you basing your recommendation on?” “Well, she’s smart, and my ex husband is married to her so we have similar personalities and talents.” ….crickets… seriously, no qualifications and she’s “sort of” related to another manager there? That goes on the “no”pile PDQ. It does sound like Sarah has some weird traits but I can’t figure out why the LW ever thought this was a way to get a job. Neither working for or with husband’s ex nor working for a company with such messed up hiring practices seems like a good opportunity to me. Bullet dodged, and start looking for work in conventional ways if you want out or the current job so badly.

    1. Well, the value of “networking!” is so over-hyped, I can see how someone might think they’re finally managing to network. Which is “the only way to find 80% of the jobs out there!” supposedly. I’ve even seen it stated as strongly as “don’t apply by sending a resume to HR unless you want to work in HR”.

    2. Not everyone reads AAM, for one thing. And given how often Allison runs letters or columns countering all the bad job seeking advice that people promote, and how often that advice is still tossed around (GUMPTION! Hit the pavement & fill out paper applications! etc) PLUS, as Jitz Girl says, people treat Networking! as the be all & end all of job hunting, it’s not surprising at all that LW thought this was a legit way to get a job. I can tell you for sure that my parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles (all born between early 1900s-late 1930s), wouldn’t have blinked an eye over it because it was such a normal thing in their era (“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know!”) even for professional jobs at big, serious, well run companies.
      And honestly, while this may no longer be considered the norm, this kind of nepotism absolutely still happens- one of the managers at my husband’s work got his job that way. No previous management experience, had a totally unrelated job with the Big Boss’s wife & she told her husband to give him a good position where *he* worked.
      And on top of that, Sarah presented herself to LW as though she really had the authority/position/pull/rank to do what she said, and made encouraging noises until it was time to pull the football away. It’s really not LW’s fault for believing this woman at face value!

  52. The relationship stuff has been well addressed but I find myself wondering at the weirdness of the “job offer” stuff. I’ve learned over at AAM that you can’t (effectively) recommend someone for a job if you’ve never worked with that person, you can only forward a resume and suggest the person as a candidate. I can imagine Sarah’s conversation with HR or the hiring manager… “please consider this person for job x.” “Oh, interesting, but I see from her resume that she has no experience in field x, and you’ve never worked with her, so what are you basing your recommendation on?” “Well, she’s smart, and my ex husband is married to her so we have similar personalities and talents.” ….crickets… seriously, no qualifications and she’s “sort of” related to another manager there? That goes on the “no”pile PDQ. It does sound like Sarah has some weird traits but I can’t figure out why the LW ever thought this was a way to get a job. Neither working for or with husband’s ex nor working for a company with such messed up hiring practices seems like a good opportunity to me. Bullet dodged, and start looking for work in conventional ways if you want out of the current job so badly.

  53. I’ve known people like Sarah. People who promise the sky and the moon and then can’t follow through at the last minute. I get it – sometimes things happen and plans fall apart; that happens to everybody from time to time. But it seems like there are people who promise things they can’t promise and then have to back out because they just can’t follow through. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a few go-rounds before you can figure out that they’re not actually ever really going to do what they promised. Even something as simple as “let’s meet for lunch at 12:30” turns into you knowing there’s about a 25% chance they’re actually going to show, so you start bringing a book assuming you’ll be lunching alone.

    The thing is, this is a real bummer if it’s someone you actually like. this is a great way to ruin friendships.

  54. Say you did manage to stay friends with her for whatever reason, you would spend all your time waiting for her to pull her next stunt. Maybe she’d pull it, and that would suck. Maybe she wouldn’t, and it would still stuck, because you’d be constantly on alert for it anyway. Whatever your intentions – and I’m sure they’re good – I don’t think it’s actually possible to be friends under those circumstances.

  55. This is a power trip. Sarah wants to be known for being generous and clever and providing awesome things.. but she doesn’t want to actually DO anything. And she’s trying to condition you like she did Mike – to be wowed and impressed at her offers but never expect her to follow through.

    I’ve known a lot of people like this, and they have little to no redeeming value as friends.

  56. What if every time it runs through your head that you should “be friends” with Sarah, or every time Mike suggests that he wants you to “be friends” you substituted “be civil to” instead? Put out of your mind everything you know about being friends and instead think of what it means to be civil. I’m civil to lots of people I don’t know or don’t like all the time. I bet a lot of us are. I greet them pleasantly. I don’t actively do anything to annoy them. I don’t ignore them or pretend we’ve never met when I run into them at the supermarket (assuming we have actually met). If these people say “let’s do lunch,” I answer “of course! love to!” And that’s about it. Sheer civility. If one of these people were to offer me a great gift or favor, my answer would be “sounds terrific! thanks for thinking of me!” If they nag me that I have to jump through a hoop to receive that gift or favor, I wouldn’t be rude, I’d give the same “sounds terrific! thanks for thinking of me!” answer. No reason to reveal any of my thought processes to someone who’s not a friend.

    1. Actually, I don’t see anything that suggests he ever even said they should be friends!

      The LW said that in the beginning, she made a point of being friendly – no mention of Mike’s opinion to that. She DOES write “but I know he would still prefer to have all of us be friends” at some point – but note the “I know”. No “he says that”, no “he wants” – it sounds more like she simply inferred his preferences.

      From what the LW writes, it’s entirely possible that Mike just wants them to be civil like you said, and she interpreted that as “be friends”. Just downright asking him could solve the matter entirely.

  57. LW, there’s a strange smell coming from your and your husband’s Friendship Fridge. It seems to be coming from this Sarah-shaped jar of jam. Putting some of this jam on toast has been correlated to repeat incidents of Relationship Poisoning. I can’t quite read the expiration date on the jar… is it 2006 or 1996? Maybe even 1986? I think getting the stinky Sarah Jam out of the Friendship Fridge is long overdue. Hubby wants to keep the jam, maybe sealed in double ziploc bags? Well, it still needs to go into his own personal Cooler of Stuff Wife Will Never Have To Deal With.

    LW, if you have to deal with the Stinky Sarah Jam again for whatever reason, wear gloves and don’t open the jar. In practical terms: polite and very distant “Things are fine at my job” with no personal details, no personal info on anything, and “Thank you for offering, but I/we don’t need that, it’s not necessary, don’t trouble yourself” when she inevitably makes a fake offer again.

    An ex of mine was a lot like Sarah: lots of talk, no follow-through. A project he volunteered to do for me went unfinished for many, many months. When I asked him to finish it, he said “You wont actually use it.” But he just let all the parts and materials (which I alone had purchased) stay where they were, taking up space. Finally, I told him that since he wasn’t going to finish the project, I was going to throw the stuff out and use the space for something else. Guess what? He finished the project.

    I’m not saying Sarah would follow through in a similar way on anything, given an ultimatum. But it is interesting, sometimes entertaining, to see how people like this react when they realize that you don’t value their empty promises as much as they want you to.

  58. This seems like a chain of events for which “Ghosting” was invented. You’ve now got two events that form a pattern of behavior of this person and your husband has confirmed it. He even said that this was one of the reasons he divorced her. “When people tell you who they are, Believe Them!”

    No one is benefiting from this relationship that, being childless, does not need to exist. And everyone will be better off without the it.
    You’ve proved your can get along with her. Step back into your two-person marriage and let this former alliance become the past.

  59. LW, I think considering friendship styles might help here. My definition of friend material is someone I know, trust, have current shared interests and if you are my friend, I will invest energy in spending time together. If a friend hurts me, I want to fix things. I have few exes I care that much about to be friends with.

    My partners definition of a friend is someone he partied with in his youth/a friend of a friend he partied with/an ex he partied with who he shares good memories. Unless you burned his house down or broke his heart, he will happily chat about your holiday photos or mail you a birthday card. He doesn’t put much emotional energy in or put time into regular meet ups so he has a higher tolerance for people I wouldn’t want to be friends with long term. His default is to have exes in his social circle unless they are evil incarnate.

    He has a large crowd of friends who wanted to welcome me, one of his exes is now my best mate/dogsitter and I am making her wedding dress. Another of his platonic friends drove me nuts and our attempted friendship ended in me African Violeting her after she refused to cool things down. She no longer speaks to me. My partner was fine with both outcomes: because they were not his friendships to manage.

    You don’t mention what kind of friendship Hub and Sarah have now, given that men are generally less socialised to do the emotional labour of friendships (doing lunch, talking out conflicts, spending holidays together, sending gifts) perhaps Hub doesn’t envisage you continuing to be besties with Sarah? Maybe letting this go is less about jealousy than it is giving yourself permission to drop the emotional labour here and that not be a comment on your personality? I struggled with African Violeting my partners friend because I didn’t want to admit that I had befriended a person I later realised I disliked. I felt like a bad person who owed this friend and my partner more loyalty. I look up to my partner who happily kept this friend around (but at a distance where her annoying traits didn’t bother him) which meant I wrangled with this good person/bad person fallacy for ages (how come he can be mates with her? Am I just mean?) Bottom line was no one died when I was true to myself and let the friendship go in a fair, firm way.

    I suspect that this is a clash in friendship styles and it is ok to be a team where you do friendships differently. The art of acquaintances is one I’ve learned from my partner and my partner has equally got closer to a few of the genuine friends in his circle. I don’t have to be best friends with that ex he met on his hilariously goth MySpace page in 2007 to be a good partner to him!

  60. This letter seems to have a lot in common with the next one in the queue, the lady who can’t catch a break to write at home.

    Both seem to involve the subtext of emotional labor. The next woman in the queue is expected to drop what she’s doing to cheer teams she’s not interested in for her husband, to applaud the dog’s antics for her daughter, to problem solve traffic and logistics, and even to commiserate over the cats need to lick the keyboard. All for people who know she has an important project to finish and are still making demands of her emotional labor skills.

    This LW has a husband who divorced an earlier woman for good reason, but who seems to implicitly or explicitly expect LW to go along to get along, to assist them all with being ‘friends’ when the previous wife has proven to be a saboteur, and to compress herself into being the grease that smooths the wheels of their odd couple threesome. Even if he’s not some ogre, and it’s likely he’s not, LW seems to expect this of herself to an inordinate and unfair degree.

    Please dear LW, you are not responsible for your husband’s relationship with his ex-wife. You do not have to smooth the way. You do not have to make things well. You do not have to pretend what she didn’t isn’t crappy just because she’s the ex-wife and you fear the appearance of misplaced ill will. You do not have to talk yourself out of the crappiness of it.

    In fact, you’re allowed even more leeway for ill will. You’re allowed even more space and breathing room from this lady than if she *wasn’t* your husband’s ex-wife. Your reaction is well justified! Your ill will towards her, she has earned! It’s not even ill will predicated on hubby’s past, with no basis in your own experience. You now have your own experience!

    It’s very uncommon for an ex-wife, ex-husband, and new wife all to get along hunky dory, hang out a fair bit, and go out together. Sure it’s not unheard of, but it’s uncommon. It’s uncommon for a reason. Frequently good, sound, fair reasons. Even without sabotage by one of the members, the emotional labor can be too great. And it sounds like *you’re* the one who has been doing the emotional labor to make the uncommon thing work. You’re the reason this threesome friendship has been functioning. And it’s okay not to be the reason! It’s okay to drop the ball on this emotional labor.

    Sweet goodness gracious, you do not have to hold together the relationship of your husband with his ex-spouse. You don’t have to hold together the relationship of your husband with anyone. Not with his mother, his brothers or sisters, his father, his boss, his neighbors, or anyone else. But for Pete’s sake, especially not with his ex-wife.

    She seems like a very one-up, one-down type person, and prefers a relationship where you (and probably husband) are one-down. You don’t have to accept that. Husband can make his own decisions but you don’t have to accept that for your interactions with her.

    You are off the hook here, sister.

    I know from experience that it’s really hard to drop the rope when we’ve been trained for a lifetime that we are the Holders of The Rope. That the rope is a Sacred Duty that only women can perform for their spouses and loved ones. Yea, that even the rope is permanently grafted into our DNA and affixed to our hands like stigmata. That we cannot drop the rope even if we wanted to without creating untold suffering in the masses of our families. But we can.

    It’s not all big bad ogre men, and crappy saboteur ex-wives, expecting us to do the emotional labor to keep up appearances of smooth and happy functioning relationship. It’s ourselves that expect it of ourselves. Like the Captain said about the next writer in the queue, she has to retrain herself as well as retraining her family.

    It’s okay to tell your husband here that you’re good on the ex-wife front, that you’ve had your relationship with her and it’s come to it’s natural and logical end, the way friendships do. And that you’re not going to pretend otherwise. You’re not going to go out of your way to trash talk the lady, you’re just not going to pretend the friendship hasn’t come to a natural conclusion due to the consequences of her choices and her actions.

    And it’s okay to tell that to yourself too. Write it out. Post it on your mirror. Put it in your purse next to your ID and read it in the morning. Drop the rope.

  61. This calls for an African Violet. Sarah is no real friend of yours. You are winning at the ‘not jealous of current husband’s past wife’ thing, you can leave it at that without needing to be Sarah’s friend as well. Sarah isn’t behaving as a friend to you.

  62. Just want to point out, no one will really be surprised that the new wife doesn’t get along with the ex-wife. (And if they are surprised, it says a lot about them.)

    1. Yes, this. Like, why on Earth does Mike insist on them two being friends? It looks like a situation where he is always winning, by having the ex around, and also having a wife, and he’s the good reasonable one, while the ex behaves like an unreliable asshole and the wife simply puts up with her. Because if there are two episodes this size, no doubt there are many more situations that LW has played down because she is in a situation where she feels saying anything might be interpreted as ‘crazy’.

      What is this business? Why does the LW sign as ‘Wife #2’? Why is this situation considered normal?

      It feels sketchy to me, it feels like there might be a Mike problem too, not just a Sarah problem. Aside from the Captain’s advice in relation to LW and Sarah, which I think is spot on (this woman is not her friend and distance is the best thing for the LW, so she can spend time with people who actually love her, or just with… herself), a conversation with Mike might be in order too, if the LW feels like it.

      Why is he not totally on her side and saying, this Sarah woman is an asshole? Why does he want them two to get along, when this is not normal at all, and a situation where the logical thing would for the LW to be uncomfortable? If she asks these questions to her husband, is the LW worried she might start getting left out of things? This is a rhetorical question: Mike obviously wants double the female attention, while the women get to deal with the rivalry and the bullshit.

      In this situation, I would expect nothing but complete understanding and support from my husband. And I would not want to share space or free time with his ex, no matter how friendly she might be, nor how close to my husband she might have been in the past. They are broken up now, no? Then that shit is over. If they wanna be friends, please and thank you not near me. I think he is getting away with being a selfish dude, tbh.

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