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When the Marriage of Your Ex Is a Disaster

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When it comes to matters of the heart, there are no guarantees - just when you may have thought that you have been able to put the breakup behind and move on, your ex may call out of the blue and reveal that his/her new married life has not been going so great. If something like this takes you by surprise, here are a few things to guide you on your way through the torturous path of human relationships.

Be honest with yourself

Whether your ex admits on his/her own or you get to hear it from others, take the news of his/her unhappy marriage calmly – at least for the sake of public appearances. Later when you are by yourself, examine clearly your thoughts and feelings about the matter. Has the news left you unmoved or just a little concerned but wary of getting involved? If so, then you can simply say that you are sorry things haven’t turned out better for your ex and quietly distance yourself from his/her marital life.

However if upon hearing the news of your ex’s disastrous marriage if you feel glad that he/she is not happy with the new partner, you need to ask yourself why you feel this way - do you secretly hope that this will offer you a way to get back together? Or are you just glad that now your ex feels what he/she made you go through - feelings of sweet vengeance are common when you have been through a messy breakup for which you held your ex mainly responsible for. The only person who knows the truth of your feelings is you and you can take the right path only after you are honest with what you feel and why.

TIP: Read the guide to prevent a break up or get back with your ex.

Do not interfere

Whether or not you wish to get back together, ideally you should avoid interfering into your ex’s marital issues. Let him/her sort things out with the spouse; don’t become his/her therapist or marriage counselor. Even if you are optimistic about getting back together, keep in mind that trying to help your ex get over the spouse, or solve his/her problems, will not attract him/her to you. Above all don’t try to convince him/her to leave. For one, a person - no matter how unhappily married - will leave the marriage only when he/she is ready and not before; and for another, manipulative behavior never works in the long run. Your ex has to figure it out for him/herself what to do - even if he/she does act on your advice or pressure now, he/she may resent you later. Most importantly don't confront the spouse. Telling him/her about you and your ex will only make the latter angry and destroy any chances of getting back together. Your ex knows best how to deal with the spouse and has to figure out his own way of leaving him/her.

Is your ex looking for support or something more?

If you think your ex’s unhappy marriage is an opportunity to get back together, ensure that your ex is on the same page – you don’t want a situation where you may have misinterpreted a single call from your ex or an accidental meeting at the elevator as expressions of his renewed interest. However there are certain signs which should tell you that he/she is trying to get back in your good books. A higher visibility than before or an offer of spending more time with you is usually a sign that your ex is testing waters. An even surer sign is when he/she reaches out to your friends and family and tries to mend bridges but especially when he/she visits you at your home. However don’t conclude anything until your ex has actually expressed his/her intentions to you – he/she may only be venting when talking about their disastrous marriage and not necessarily planning to walk out to be with you again. Only when your ex clearly says he/she misses you and wants to get back, should you consider what to do about it.

Do not succumb to an affair

However the most important thing to do is to keep yourself from having an adulterous affair. Even if your ex is unhappily married, he/she is not less married. A married person who cheats on his/her spouse is merely looking for sex. Bear in mind that at that moment, your ex does not want to leave the spouse and that is why he/she is ready to have an affair with you. If he/she really wanted to leave the marriage, he/she would have done so before having sex. If you already had sex with your sex, stop rightaway. Tell him/her you cannot be with someone who is dishonest. By not falling into bed with him/her, you are showing him that you are a person who deserves respect and are marriage material.

Don’t try to be the spouse

Even if your ex is unhappy, he/she must be getting something positive from the marriage or from not breaking up. This could be access to children, financial comfort, emotional support, social reputation, having someone to do stuff with like vacations, or simply having someone to do household chores. There is no point in competing with the spouse in these areas. Don't make the mistake trying to be a better "nurturer” or “provider” – you will be wasting your time and energy while your ex would be having the cake and eating it too. More likely, trying to turn into the spouse will only result in you pushing him/her away – there is a reason why your ex is unhappy in the marriage and you don’t want to turn into that reason.

Figure out what you can do

However if the marriage is a disaster, clearly it is not fulfilling an important need for your ex – try to find out what that is and do the needful. For instance your ex may be feeling overwhelmed by a high-functioning, ultra capable wife and needs to feel wanted and useful again. Or perhaps your ex’s husband, though rich and successful, cannot fulfill her emotional needs. Do your homework to find out how to give your ex what he/she is lacking but keep in mind this rarely means sex. Instead this usually means getting to know him/her as a person and becoming friends all over again. Try and get him/her to feel safe with you, to share their hopes, dreams, fears, emotions and insecurities with you. Also, once you do this, you may discover things about his/her personality that you don't like and re-evaluate your decision as to whether or not you want your ex back at all.

Get a life

No matter how truly unhappy your ex is in his/her marriage, don't get too attached. Being too needy or appearing jealous of the spouse will make you come off as emotionally immature and make your ex wary about getting back together. Avoid initiating contact, calls, texts and emails. Let your ex come to you on his/her own. He/she needs to do so on their own time and for their own reasons.

Above all have an active social life – go out with friends, family and even date others. Having a healthy and varied social circle will keep things in perspective and you will be able to come to a deeper understanding of your personal emotional needs and whether your ex – already struggling with a bad marriage – can actually fulfill them.