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Husband's Ex-Girlfriend

Husband's Ex-Girlfriend


Dear Rachel,

An old Israeli girlfriend of my husband calls him on the phone and keep on calling him "motek." I know that the word means "sweetheart" and I find it offensive. Am I wrong? Am I over reacting and should I just be quiet? I don't call any of my old boyfriends sweetheart... I don't even talk to them. By the way, we have been married for 18 years.


Dear Anonymous,

I can certainly understand how uncomfortable you must be feeling in the situation you write about.

And you have every right to be.

The misuse of one’s words is tantamount to the misuse of one’s sexual energy

The Torah teaches us that what defines us as human beings is our ability to speak, and that is why we are referred to as a medaber a “speaker.” Furthermore, there are two forms of speech, one which is verbal speech and the other which is physical speech. This is why speech is actually considered a euphemism for physical intimacy and therefore the misuse of one’s words is tantamount to the misuse of one’s sexual energy (Talmud, Ketubot 13a; Sefer Yetzirah 1:3).

When we speak, we take from our innermost essence and share it with another person. Speech is our conduit for expressing what is deep within us and through speech we can implant those thoughts, ideas and feelings within another.

So it is clear that words are powerful. And so much more so for words of endearment that can lead to emotional connections. Words can open our hearts in meaningful ways to people we may never have wanted to invite in. Words of endearment are never innocent, even if the intention of the speaker is. Even when the speaker has no hope of evoking feelings through the words, the listener may react differently. Warm words can elicit and invoke emotionally charged feeling and memories. And take you to a place that you never wanted to go to in the first place.

Such words, when said to others, are problematic because they can impact a marriage. It's not only the fear or possibility that the words could potentially lead to action; even if they do not, they could lead to problematic or inappropriate thoughts, which are in some ways even more dangerous. If words are intended to connect two people together, and the words are words of endearment, then the reaction that should be achieved is one of loving feelings for the speaker. And being that the listener is your husband, there is simply no place for him to be listening to words of endearment from another woman, nor should she be saying them to him.

Warm words can illicit and invoke emotionally charged feeling and memories

The Torah tells us that when we get married, we have a special relationship with our spouse. And certain things are reserved only for our spouses. One of these things is specifically words of endearment. We do not take these special terms and "throw" them around to others. We reserve them and keep them private, so that they serve only to enhance our marriage.

In the same way that our "physical speech" (i.e. relations) is something that takes place only between husband and wife, so too words of endearment, words of love, which are considered the predecessor to all forms of physical contact.

So what should you do now in this situation? I would encourage you to talk to your husband when he is calm and it is a time and situation that are conducive for effective communication. Explain to him how much it means to you when you share words of endearment with each other, and how much it bothers you when such words are coming into your marriage from someone else. Explain to him how all ways of affectionate communication should be reserved for each other only. Let your manner be one that is loving and not accusatory, so as to have your communication to him be most effective. Just speak from your heart, since we are taught that "words from the heart enter the heart" (another proof that no one else should be speaking words of affection to your husband!).

And remember the directive from King Solomon that "words from the wise, when spoken gently are heeded" and hopefully your husband will recognize that his conversations with his ex are causing unnecessary tension and he will put an end to them.


"Dear Rachel" is a bi-weekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Sara Esther Crispe.

Sara Esther Crispe, a writer, inspirational speaker and mother of four, is the Co-Director of Interinclusion, a non-profit multi-layered educational initiative celebrating the convergence between contemporary arts and sciences and timeless Jewish wisdom. Prior to that she was the editor of and wrote the popular weekly blog, Musing for Meaning. To book Sara Esther for a speaking engagement, please click here.
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Anonymous Los Angeles October 25, 2013

Former Israeli Girlfriend! I am just wondering if your husband's former Israeli girlfriend continues phoning him? If this continues to go on, I would give him and ultimatum. You and he need to sit down and have a serious talk..Is she his "backup girl" in the event things do not work with you and he? This is how I would feel....Why does she have time to phone your husband? what does she hope to gain out of their "former" relationship? Is she hoping that you and he will Divorce and he and she will get back together? Where do your children "fit into all of this?"...Is your husband thinking about his former girlfriend during your romantic times together? .Have you told your husband how it would make him feel if your former boyfriends phoned you? Reply

Anonymous Sacramento October 25, 2013

Cheater needer pumpkin eater! Ugh the other woman! Obviously she does not value herself enough to move on and clings onto your husband because of her own insecurities. When I and my husband got married his ex-girl friends kept calling him and he do not tell me nothing about, then came out of the blues after my daughter was born spills the truth, and I did not take it well. Men, they think they could get away with everything. Reply

Anonymous San Pedro, CA September 6, 2012

husband hide's things and lie's to me including .. My husband has lied to me or failed to tell me things throughout our Marriage including a phone call he made to his ex-girlfriend. At one point in our Marriage (as Newlyweds) I almost left him, because of her. We were just starting our lives together when one day I noticed he had written a birth date in our address book, he hadn't written anyone else's so I paid close attention to this date. He had written it as one of our friends birth date reminder (not a close friend). After investigation I discovered this was not this friends supposed birth date and confronted him. He confessed that it was his ex-girlfriends and also that she had been sending him card's through out our engagement for various occasions. The cards were not innocent they said things like ,"call me at work", (she was also Married) and she dotted her i's with little hearts. Now I find out he call her after our kids were born, because he saw her at a store. We were both there and he didn't tell me a thing. Reply

Anonymous Los Angeles August 3, 2012

Grieving! I lost my husband to Cancer last year. He and I were everything to one another. I was his caregiver...This grieving process is very difficult. I find comfort in visiting friends, family, walking my dogs, working,,,I need to go back to Chabad...When my husband was alive and well, we attended Chabad...When he became ill, we both prefered to keep his illness amongst our family exclusively.. Under Jewish Law, what is the appropriate amount of time to grieve the loss of a spouse? Start dating again? I feel guilty when I am out with friends and family for dinner and they are cheering me up so that I can have a good time, however I feel quilty when I start to feel good.. Reply

Anonymous USA February 13, 2012

my husband's girlfriend kept calling, even though I begged her to stop. She knew I was beaten up every time I complained. I was pregnant and almost lost my baby at birth. She knew this, but didn't care Reply

Carlotta Butler New York, NY March 16, 2011

Agreed A little bit of exaggeration to file a divorce - because his X-girlfriend calls him baby?! I think First and foremost if your confident and secure with who you are as a women - something like this wouldn't even phase you- Reply

Anonymous Roanoke, VA January 31, 2011

Southern girls unite!!! I'm sorry, but I call friends and acquaintances "dear," "honey," "darlin'," etc.

Those are colloquialisms in the Southern US. I'm probably not going to change anytime soon. I have bigger fish to fry in my lifetime.

(However, I also have enough sense not to say it to an ex. LOL.) Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 19, 2011

Husband's Ex-Girlfriend You should have talked to your husband about this during the FIRST year of marriage! 18 years is too long for this to go on!

You need to tell your husband he married you, NOT his ex-girlfriend! He needs to know this behavior is NOT acceptable when you're already married!

If he can't let go of the past, divorce him! Reply

Cynthia Seattle, USA August 3, 2010

Overstated "all ways of affectionate communication should be reserved for each other only".

I think you misspoke here. You can't seriously be saying that we shouldn't tell our parents that we love them, call our children "dear", or give a hug to a friend. Reply

Yvette las vegas, nv June 26, 2009

Husband's Ex Girlfriend It's very irritating that she would call any given time of the day to speak with him. I soley understand that the two of them need to speak only because they have a child together. It bothers me at times when they would be on the phone talking about what had happened to their relationship in the past. I on the same hand have a child with my ex and never do we discuss those topics when we are on the phone. She would ring his cellphone and house phone and then leaves messages on the house phone so that she can be heard by everyone. He does his duty and pays child support each month to her and still she calls asking for more money on the side. He gives into to this and it bothers me that he has the odasity to even ask me if I have money to give her. I've told him about my feelings towards all this numerous times and I don't feel as if he takes it seriously. I just don't know what to do anymore!! Reply

Alene San Francisco, CA October 16, 2008

I will Never Forgive My Father! You shouldn't accuse him of anything! However everytime, his ex girlfriend phones him, "it takes two to flirt"! When she phones him and then you spend romantic evenings with your husband after she phones him, I would be concerned if he is thinking about her or you during your "romantic times together" Just remember that everytime she phones him it exasperates all of the times they shared together, thus your marriage will consist of three and not just the two of you! This topic brings a great deal of pain to me because my own father's ex girlfriends used to phone him. My mother and I answered the phone and there were "hang up's" on my mother and myself. One day when I was 16, I prurchased recording devices at Radio Shack and recorded the conversations, My father was indeed having an affair with these women. My parents divorced, This was a horrific time in my life and my two younger brother's lives. I don't blame this entirely on the other women! It takes two! I don't forgive him Reply

Anonymous Quuens, NY October 11, 2008

Cheating Husband Once you hear the words " I am confused!" start making a divorce list. Reply

Alene San Francisco, CA September 14, 2008

Husband ex-girlfriend Your husband's ex girlfriend needs to "get a life" and stop trying to agitate and destroy your marriage. Your husband is disrespectful to you by allowing his ex girlfriend to phone him and call him "sweetheart" This is inappropriate behavior from your husband for allowing this to happen and the ex girlfriend for phoning him long distance to flirt with him. You need to communicate with your hubby and ask him what he wants, her or you and ask him how he would feel if one of your ex-boyfriends phoned you and flirted with you. It is imperative that your husband cut off this relationship completely before it turns into an extra marital affair. It is obviously on this road. Everytime she phones him, he is reminded of his prior relationship with her! He needs to tell her never to phone him again so that he can focus on you and your marriage or else, you will need to phone her and tell her to respect you & STOP Reply

Anonymous December 19, 2007

room for only one woman Your husband may not realize how you feel about his conversations with his ex. Tell him. Be kind and Don't accuse him but make it clear how you feel.

Men also seem to be oblivious to flirting and other behaviors. He may think that "she is just being nice." I've heard that one before. We sat down and talked and he agreed that if our positions were switched, he would be uncomfortable also. It just never occured to him what was going on.

An ex anything should not be involved in your life. You can't have a future together if he (or she) holds on to the past. Reply

love port arthur, texas November 24, 2007

my husband leaves the house without saying anything, but one night i checked his phone and they have been talking for about 45 minutes what would you think Reply

Anonymous hallandale beach, fl May 31, 2007

Other woman? Answers are guesses when we are unaware of what the husband's replied to the "terms of endearment". To be meaningful ought we know what he said?
An 18 year marriage that is healthy should not be uprooted by a one-sided review. Reply

chuck May 22, 2007

Motek? A female friend from almost 20 years ago still calls him sweetheart? Hubby has to get his priorties straight! I cant condone this no matter how 'lonely or sad' she is, she needs to move on. But the hubby should know better. Reply

Anonymous ft.lauderdale, fl March 30, 2006

"motek" Toby,

Thank you. I am the wife and what you wrote really comforted me. I cannot stand the "motek" thing... What you wrote really made me feel like I am right. Just like how Rachel replied.
Thanks Toby. Reply

yitzak orji portharcourt, nigeria March 30, 2006

husband ex-girlfriend i want to submit that the answer to that questttion was justified. Reply

Anonymous Buffalo Grove, IL March 30, 2006

Husband's Ex-Girlfriend Regardless of how sad or lonely this ex-girlfriend may be, the fact is...SHE IS CALLING and CHASING a MARRIED MAN. I think this calls for a firm and final comment to her to back off. Her phone calls are wrong on so many levels here. And, to be honest, if the husband is talking to her at all..he does so in TOTAL disregard for his wife's feelings, and for his vow of marriage. The wife needs to tell her husband, firmly, that he needs to cut off all contact with this other woman. He is married, has made a lifetime commitment to his wife, and I'll assume, children. There is no room is this marriage for other women. Period. Reply