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Woman angry at husband for confusing people by calling his late spouse 'wife.' UPDATED.

Woman angry at husband for confusing people by calling his late spouse 'wife.' UPDATED.


When you marry someone with a late ex, there are bound to be some complicated dynamics. Grief is not linear or logical and can show up in all sorts of unpredictable ways. If you don't feel confident in your relationship, it can trigger feelings of jealousy or insecurity as they grieve and gush about their late spouse.

In a popular post on the AITA subreddit, a woman asked if she was wrong for telling her husband to stop calling his late wife his wife. She wrote:

'AITA for telling my (29f) husband( 34m) not to call his ex-wife his wife?'

So my husband (Daniel for privacy) and I have been married for just under a year and I love him very much, he has an 8-year-old daughter (Jane for privacy) from his previous marriage who I love as my own, he's always been respectful and patient which is part of why I decided to marry him. We met right before the pandemic when he had been recently widowed the year before so we tried to take things slow.

We ended up quarantining together and after three years we decided to tie the knot. The wedding ceremony was everything a girl could dream of and we've honestly had very few issues in our first year as a couple. It wasn't until we went to pick up Jane from her summer camp that I started seeing an issue.

I went to meet up with him at the front desk, I found him chatting with the camp coordinator which is all well and good until I overheard what he was saying. He mentioned that 'my wife made me this jacket actually, she was really good at all that sewing stuff.' He was referring to his ex-wife(Alyssa for privacy) NOT me. It bugged me a little but I brushed it off as a one-time thing, an accident.

We don't talk about Alyssa much unless we're around Jane, and even then he usually refers to her as 'Jane's mom', I never heard him call her his wife, especially now that WE were married. It wasn't until a week or two later that I learned he does this a lot. We were at a get-together with some friends from work, my first time meeting them. It was all good until one of them asked me questions about baseball.

I admitted I didn't know much about the sport and he said that was weird because Daniel had mentioned I was really good at the game and even played some in college, it left me very confused. After talking to some more guys I found out this was a common issue, a lot of them thought Alyssa and I were the same person because Dan called us both his wife.

At this point I got really offended, we had been married for 10 months and he didn't even call Alyssa his ex-wife yet, I was super awkward and explaining to people that he still called his ex-wife his wife was utterly humiliating, especially the amount he does it, not just one or two people but the whole office. When we got home we fought.

He said he didn't even think about it that way, that since he never divorced Alyssa he never stopped thinking about her as his wife, he still stands by the fact that Alyssa is his wife, despite how embarrassing it is to explain to people that I'm not his second wife but rather his new wife and Alyssa his ex.

I told him that if he wasn't ready to move on then he shouldn't have married me, if he can't commit to being my husband then he shouldn't get to call me his wife. I spent the next night at my sister's house ignoring his calls, we recently started to smooth things over by not talking about them but I can tell that this is going to be a sore spot in the marriage I am trying so desperately to save.

People had lots of thoughts about the situation.

_mmiggs_ wrote:

YTA. She's not his ex. He is her widower. There is a whole world of difference between a marriage that ends in divorce, and a marriage that ends in the death of one of the partners. If you can't cope with the fact that he can love both you and his late wife, then you shouldn't have married him. You are completely at fault here.

AnonymousPuffin222 wrote:

I'm going back and forth but I think ESH. You HAVE to stop saying 'ex' wife. They didn't divorce. You just have to stop using that term. However, she is his LATE wife and you both need to start using that term to refer to her.

It's disrespectful of you to call her his ex, and it's disrespectful of him to talk about her in a way that makes people think you and her are the same person. She is his late wife, you are his current wife. It's not that complicated.

MaybeAWalrus wrote:

YTA. Alyssa is not is ex wife. It's his late wife.

If you don't want to have to deal with a late wife and a man's past, don't marry a widower with bagage and try to erase a part of his life.

Comprehensive-Fun47 wrote:

ESH. She’s not his ex-wife and you can’t expect him to call her that. But he’s making a habit of being unclear about your marriage and it’s actually confusing people. It seems like he might have some unprocessed grief. Instead of being jealous of a dead woman, try talking to your husband about what he’s been feeling lately. You should talk about his late wife together, not just for the child. It’s healthy.

justbrowsing987654 wrote:

NAH. He’s mourning and it’s hard to say “ex” when it’s not like divorce but death but it’s also not fair to you to be put in those awkward situations. I was more Y T A until the examples made it clear he’s doing a terrible job at differentiating when talking to others and setting you up for awkwardness.

Like many questions on Reddit, I think more communication to each other instead of us is the answer and I wish you both well.

After receiving lots of feedback, OP jumped on with an update.

Alright, I've very clearly made a mistake with the language in this post. I was under the impression that an 'ex-anything' just referred to someone you were once with, but I am seeing now that for a lot of people ex specifically means a breakup.

I've spoken to my husband and he says he doesn't use 'late wife' because it immediately puts a damper on the conversation and makes people think of grief and loss which is not always the best. We're trying to find a way to refer to Alyssa that is comfortable for both of us as 'late wife' is to heavy 'ex wife' is too light and 'first wife' is apparently a no-go because he doesn't like the idea of numbering his wives.

I also see a lot of confusion in the comments which I will try to clear up. I am not trying to replace Alyssa, I would never ask Jane to call me mom, she calls me Lilly, and I am not trying to erase Alyssa's memory either. She was a fantastic woman and a wonderful mother and wife, we have photos of her on our walls.

We remember her all the time and Dan makes sure to raise Jane in a household where she knows how loved she is by everyone including Alyssa and I respect that completely. They had a life before me, they were a family before me, and I am not trying to take that from them.

I admit, I was definitely an AH in how I behaved, but I was never asked to be put above Alyssa as a wife, just that my husband would have enough respect for me to differentiate us.

It sounds like OP and Dan were able to have a constructive conversation that should ultimately lead to a resolution.

Sources: Reddit
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