“Do you know what she’s done now?”

My friend didn’t even wait for me to say hello when I answered the phone.  She needed to vent.  And vent she did.  I could tell this phone call was going to last awhile so I stopped typing and leaned back in the chair and I listened.  I heard about all the frustrating and controlling actions her husband’s ex has done recently.  I listened as she described how lonely she feels at times being a stay at home mom with two young kids and very little adult interaction, how even when her husband is home he is studying for school and needs the kids to be kept away, how they have very little time to be alone as a couple.  She has no family nearby to offer her support, and calling long distance to France to vent to them is too expensive.  I heard her worries and concerns about her family and raising kids today and how so many factors work to destroy families.

I understood many of her concerns and frustrations.  I have dealt with them myself at times.  I felt that my friend mostly needed to be heard and that she would be able to solve her problems herself.  I think most people vent as a way to problem solve, that they aren’t really asking for advice, they just want their feelings validated and a forum to help them think.  Speaking aloud to a listening ear can lead to solutions.  I chose to simply ask a few questions and keep listening.

My friend calmed down as she talked and she even came up with some immediate solutions to some of the difficulties her husband’s ex has caused.  During the conversation she asked me three specific questions and that is when I shared with her how I have solved some of the same problems in my own family.  They weren’t given as advice, or even suggestions, it was simply a sharing of some things we have done.  They may or may not work for her family or her situation.  Every family and every situation is different with different personalities involved. 

*As far as dealing with a hostile ex I have learned to step back and let my husband deal with his ex-wife.  And he lets me deal with my ex-husband.  I used to walk around feeling so angry at some of the things Hub’s ex would do.  I’d let the anger build up until I felt like I would explode.  Then I would take action and it always ended up burning me in the end.  It was a painful lesson to learn, but it has worked out best for us if Hub deals with his ex alone.  He doesn’t volunteer information that he knows will make me angry, and I no longer ask.  Much peace has been the result.

*It is a top priority for us to have a date or some alone time at least once a week.  Thursday evenings are usually when we are able to go out.  Sometimes it is dinner or a movie or both.  There have been times we shopped for household items together.  Last week schedules were so crazy that all we had time to do was take a walk around the neighborhood.  We held hands and I talked about a new business opportunity my sister has presented me and Hub talked about his garden–he loves his garden!  It was nice to be walking and talking alone without any distractions.  The point is to make it a priority.  The marital relationship has to come first.  And if that relationship is strong there isn’t much a plotting ex can do to interfere.

*We make sure to have a sit-down dinner with all family members present as much as possible.  It gets more difficult with teenage work and sports schedules, but we have made sure our kids know it is important to us.  Studies have shown that families that eat regular meals together stay closer and the kids make better choices.  If the kids happen to have friends at the house when dinner time rolls around we simply invite them to join us for our meal.  I have enjoyed the mealtime conversations we have had.  Our teenagers have shared alot over mealtimes, maybe things we might have never known.

As our conversation came to a close my friend thanked me for listening and for letting her vent.  I told her she could call me anytime.  She seemed happier, and calmer.  We will get to visit in person on Thursday and I look forward to hearing how she is doing.  In the meantime, I remember her and her family in my prayers.