‘Toxic Triangle’ Asked:
I often feel like my partner is not giving me my place in this toxic triangle of a relationship. I love him very much. I feel like he’s put up with his ex (mother of his children) for so long that he’s become accustomed to her BS and in return, I feel I don’t get the respect I need and the boundaries I set keep getting crossed. She is constantly dangling his daughter in from of him like a piece of meat to get her way all the time because she knows he will always take the bait. It’s frustrating for me to see this happening and when she disrespects me I don’t feel he backs me up. What do I do? I don’t want to give up on him and me but I don’t want to stay in this relationship if this is how it will continue to be.
Dr. Zoe Answered:
Baby mama drama is tough! Hats off to you for getting in the ring. But you may be fighting the wrong fight here. You can’t change either of their behavior and you don’t belong in a triangle of a relationship either. Triangles are always unhealthy and a recipe for disaster in relationships.
The frustrating news is that you are probably right and have an accurate assessment of what’s going on between him and his ex. But all that knowledge doesn’t fix it.
Step Away From the Fight
As difficult as this may sound, it’s not his job to get her to respect you or your boundaries. She’s not going to do it. His defending you would just mean that he will spend more time engaged in arguing and fights with her—which might make you feel a little better, but will ultimately be detrimental to him, his child, and your relationship.
It is his job to respect you, however, and I hope you are demanding that respect. You teach people how to treat you and they will generally treat you as well as you demand. You have to be willing to distance yourself from someone who won’t.
You didn’t mention what boundaries of yours she is crossing. This can only be addressed if you and your man are agreeing on the boundaries. Then the two of you can create consequences if she crosses them. Many people aren’t willing to do this because of fear. He is afraid that he will lose his daughter and so he jumps through her hoops. This is a sad, but common occurrence.
Support Your Man
If you don’t want to give up on an otherwise wonderful relationship, then you need to step away and support your man in his struggle. He is probably trying to be the best father he can be and is acting out of fear. If you distance yourself from their interactions and let him do what he feels he needs to, while being clear that you feel she is manipulating him, you may be able to have an influence on him and things could get better.
If you don’t feel you can do this, this might be your time to step out—before a marriage and more children get involved. The worst thing you can do is to marry a man, expecting him to change. Marriage will make this worse, not better.
Baby mama drama is often complicated and filled with power struggles. The best you can do is remove yourself from the struggle and see if your relationship can blossom. You’ve got this! It just takes a little grit and grace.
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