My Boyfriend’s Ex Is Difficult, and He Won’t Let Me Vent

Hello, I am a 29-year-old who is in a split family with three kids. My boyfriend and I have been together for three years, and have a very busy life together. My problem is that my boyfriend’s daughters have different mothers. One mother is overall OK to deal with, but the other mother is CRAZY! I have been dealing with her for three years now and have lost my patience, but I can't talk to my boyfriend because he always thinks I am yelling, mad, or trying to control things when I even tell him, "All I need to do is vent." How do I deal with this? I am a person who needs to talk to let things go. - Needing to Vent
Dear Needing to Vent,

Your pain shoots through your letter like a lightning bolt. I feel for you, and I would like to help you find some ways to make life better. I wonder how you are able to take care of everyone, and worry that you may not be taking care of yourself.

Some ex-partners are OK to get along with, as you know from experience, but some can be like a combination of mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and devil mom. That’s what so-called “crazy” mom sounds like she feels to you. I’ll call her CM for short. CM is driving you crazy, too. I can tell how upset you are, and how much you need a listening and helpful person to confide in, someone who will let you vent and then work together with you to take some next steps.

Venting, blowing off steam, is necessary sometimes, like an emergency siren to warn people that something is wrong, but if the siren blows too often or too long, people get annoyed and they stop paying attention. This is bad for everybody, most especially the person blowing the siren. Getting stuck in “siren mode” is physically harmful—you raise your blood pressure, hurt your vocal chords, and disturb your body’s equilibrium. After you’ve let off steam, it’s important to take some long, deep breaths and then go on to figure out ways to make life easier.

I agree with you. You can’t vent to your boyfriend; also, you should try to avoid talking about CM in front of the kids, because this would upset them, making family life even more difficult. CM’s daughter will feel singled out and maybe inspired to defend her mother, either directly by arguing or maybe even by acting out herself.

I have a lot of questions about your living situation. Is one of the children your birth or adopted child? Are all the children girls? Do all three children live with you or do some visit? If they visit, is everyone there at the same time? If some children visit and some live with you, then you are facing numerous transitions, which are hard to navigate.

How do you get along with the kids, and how do they get along with one another? Caring for a child who is not your birth child can be tough on everyone—you want to be fair, but your own child may feel closer to you, and you to her. If one of the three children is yours by birth or adoption, then that child is probably the youngest of the group and more likely to get first attention, which makes the other kids feel jealous.

Child care is tough in any situation, but this is more difficult than usual. You know that better than I do. You need help with the kids so you can find some time for yourself. My advice is to find a group, a church or community group or a therapy group, where you can share your feelings with other young women who are going through experiences like yours. A mutual support system can help, too. For example, when my kids were little, I took turns babysitting with a friend who had children about the same age. Another alternative is to seek counseling, maybe family counseling, someone to help you figure out ways to help all of you get along better with one another, creating a calmer family atmosphere.

My last suggestion goes back to my initial reaction when I read your letter. You are clearly at your wit’s end, and I would love for you to find some time to relax on your own as well as with your husband. I don’t know what your favorite things are; some of my favorites are taking walks in a nearby park, doing yoga, and soaking in warm baths. Whatever your preferred mode of relaxation, you need to put up a “do not disturb” sign so you can have the peace and quiet that everyone needs.


Lynn Somerstein, PhD, NCPsyA, C-IAYT is a Manhattan-based, licensed psychotherapist with more than 30 years in private practice. She is also a yoga teacher and student of Ayuveda—the Indian science of wellness. Her main interest is in helping people find healthy ways of living, loving, and working in the particular combination that works best for them, connecting to their deepest energic source so their full range of abilities can be expressed. Lynn's specialty is understanding and alleviating anxiety and depression.
  • Leave a Comment
  • serena

    February 2nd, 2013 at 4:49 AM

    My first instinct, hopefully wrong, is that this guy just uses women and then mnoves on to something new. Two kids by two moms- will you be the mommy of #3?

    I hope that at least you aren’t saying things in front of the children because that would be very hurtful to a young kid, even if it is true. My thoughts are honestly that since the two of you aren’t married and you aren’t really involved in that past life, the best thing to do is try to keep quiet when you can. I know that has to be frustrating but if you want to salvage this relationship then sometimes you have to walk away.

  • Verna

    February 2nd, 2013 at 7:17 AM

    Call your mom- vent to her. Obviously he doesn’t want to hear it from you

  • sudduth

    February 3rd, 2013 at 6:18 AM

    Think he still has feelings for the moms that you might consider inappropriate?

  • Lynn Somerstein

    February 3rd, 2013 at 8:06 AM

    Serena and Verna – your down to earth, sensible thoughts ring loud and clear.

  • SQ

    February 4th, 2013 at 8:35 AM

    Umm…try to calm down and have a chat rather than vent?? That is not only logical but will also make it more probable that he will actually listen to you. You know, you could be telling some very valid points but unless you pout it across the right way the listener will treat it as something very unpleasant.

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