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What's in a Name?

Mistress Maeve


Published June 4, 2008 at 3:06 p.m.

Dear Mistress Maeve,

I recently started hanging out with a guy who's going through divorce. I'm smart enough to know that I shouldn't get too close until the divorce is final and he's passed the "rebound" stage. I'm doing a good job of keeping it casual, but there's one thing that's bothering me. On occasions when he refers to his ex, he still calls her "my wife." I realize that, technically, they're still married, but it makes me feel awkward when he says it. I've jokingly brought it up to him, and he said that saying "my soon-to-be ex-wife" is too long and personal, and that "ex-wife" is inaccurate.

Am I overreacting? I consider myself a pretty cool cucumber, but this is getting under my skin.


Reluctant Mistress


Dear Reluctant,

Before your cucumber gets pickled, it's time to have a chat with your "husband."

His use of the word "wife" could mean nothing at all - it could just be an off-the-cuff, conditioned way of referring to the person he married. (Plus, he's right: "Soon-to-be ex-wife" is just too much.) However, continuing to use the phrase "my wife" may also indicate that he's not ready to let her go. In which case, what is he doing with you?

Regardless of his reasons for using "wife," his language is bothering you; therefore, it's time for you to stop "jokingly" bringing it up and let him know how it makes you feel. If he likes and respects you, he'll change his vocabulary or share more with you about his emotional state. Either way, his response will give you more insight into where you stand.

Hey, here's an idea: Why doesn't he try calling her by her name? Because, honestly, if he's saying "my wife" while on a date with you - whatever his reasons - that's just plain tacky. Reluctant, follow your gut on this one. Dating a guy who's going through divorce is difficult enough - one who won't give up the ghost of the old relationship is worse.

Good luck,