Dear Richard Madeley: My ex keeps revealing things about me to my new partner

Richard Madeley agony uncle illustration
Richard Madeley agony uncle illustration

Dear Richard,

After a difficult divorce five years ago, I met someone and we’ve now been together for two years or so. My ex was initially quite resistant to my girlfriend meeting our two children, so we thought it best to take things slowly.

However, we have got to a good place: the kids seem happy, my ex has set aside her reservations about my girlfriend, and my girlfriend often goes to my ex’s place for handovers.

This is all good. The problem is my ex has clearly warmed to my girlfriend and keeps telling her things about me – neither particularly intimate nor especially unkind, but somehow proprietorial – food or music I like, places my ex and I visited together. My girlfriend comes home from these meetings saying, ‘I didn’t know you liked X, as if I’ve been remiss in not telling her, and I don’t know quite how to respond.

The latest thing was a request that we visit a restaurant I often went to with my wife when we were married. I think I’d feel a bit strange doing that – after my divorce I felt it was a good time to embrace new things.

I don’t want to disrupt this more or less harmonious routine for us or the kids. It’s also really helpful that my girlfriend is able and willing to do some weekend handovers because of our work schedules.

But I really don’t want my ex to start sharing more intimate confidences, and I suppose I just don’t like this feeling of being talked about, especially if there’s some sort of agenda behind it all. Is there any way I can dial this back a bit?

— John, via email

Dear John

No, there isn’t. You have zero control over this aspect of the complicated equation involving your ex, your current partner and your children. I strongly advise you not to meddle.

What could you say to either woman that wouldn’t sound over-sensitive, controlling or even paranoid? To your ex: ‘Stop talking about me and our times together. To your partner: ‘Don’t listen to what she says about me?

Everything comes with a price tag. The price of these smooth weekend handovers is a spot of mild discomfort for you. But it really doesn’t amount to much, does it? A preferred restaurant. Favourite food. Frankly, that’s the kind of thing a lot of people post about themselves on social media anyway.

In any case, your ex will soon run out of things to disclose: the well of trivial information will eventually run dry. As to her moving on to more intimate subjects, you yourself say there’s no evidence she’s even been hinting at anything like that. So stop worrying.

Compared with many in your position, John, you’re in pretty calm waters. Don’t rock the boat.