Care and Feeding

My Girlfriend’s Nasty Attitude Toward Her Ex Is Freaking Me Out

Is she about to turn on me next?

A man looks over his shoulder at a couple arguing.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by fizkes/iStock/Getty Images Plus and MangoStar_Studio/iStock/Getty Images Plus. 

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Dear Care and Feeding,

I’ve been dating my girlfriend, Ami, for just over a year. She is a kind, funny, warm person—until it comes to her ex-husband, Geoff, with whom she shares two children. When she interacts with him, she is condescending, rude, contrary, and primed for a fight. (Before I met him, I was dreading it because of how she talked to him on the phone and how she talked about him to me. I was surprised to find him pleasant, friendly, and tolerant of her attitude towards him.)

She is vague about the details of their marriage and breakup but has told me that no one cheated and that he was never abusive but that he was a “worthless POS as a husband.” As an ex-husband, he can do nothing right: He bought 8-oz. water bottles for their daughter’s birthday party instead of the larger ones; she didn’t like the cake he let their daughter pick out because it didn’t go with the party’s theme—you get the idea.

We were having dinner with her sister and brother-in-law recently and her sister made the comment, “Geez, Ami, you nag Geoff as much after the divorce as you did before. Let the guy finally have some peace.” Other family members have alluded to her bitterness over his asking for a divorce, and the whole family seems to like him (when he shows up to the girls’ functions, they all seem glad to see him, and Ami’s dad and brother still use him as their accountant). I know no one can know what really goes on in a marriage, but it is hard for me to reconcile the person Ami is/was with Geoff and the person she is with me. This is especially confusing since my ex-wife and I have an amicable co-parenting relationship of our young son, despite the fact that her infidelity ended our marriage. It took a lot of therapy for me to work on moving past hurt feelings to co-parent respectfully and kindly and it just feels wrong to be with someone who doesn’t attempt to do the same. Should I look at this as a red flag, or is this a “mind-your-own-business” situation?

—Will She Soon Start Nagging Me?

Dear Will,

I think it’s both a red flag and a mind-your-business situation. That is: You have no business passing judgment on the way she feels about—or treats—her ex. As you note, nobody ever really knows what’s going on in anyone else’s marriage (it’s hard enough to understand what’s going on in one’s own marriage). But if you’re seeing an aspect of Ami’s personality that you dislike, the question of whether she will or won’t start to nag you is moot: the point is that you’re seeing something in her that makes you uncomfortable. Pay attention to that.

I will say that you seem awfully eager to give Geoff the benefit of the doubt and blame Ami—which, if Ami were aware of, would be a real red flag for her. To be honest, I don’t have much hope for this relationship. But if you love her and want to give it the old college try, be honest with her about all of this. See what she says. Then the two of you can decide if you want to move forward.

Michelle

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