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Can you make a man in the grip of a MidLife Crisis see sense?

(97 Posts)
SisterAct Wed 03-Oct-12 23:02:08

Namechanger but regular FWIW.

My DB is in the grip of what would appear to be a classic MLC. Has left his wife of many years, and is now shacked up with OW. He claims his marriage had ended in his mind before he had his affair. Well he would say that wouldn't he, but I know that SIL did her utmost to be what he wanted her to be and to try to save the marriage but I suppose he had no reason to really engage with that process as the OW became apparent very soon...He has children, mid and late teens, all in turmoil.

He and OW share what sounds like an addiction to their chosen hobby, something which takes up a lot of time in the evenings away from respective families. They live in lalaland. She has left her DH and children now but didn't until SIL told DB to leave. I think she (OW) sees DB as her escape and rescuer.

Is there anything we can do or say to make him see that destroying his family over a fantasy is not a great idea? Can anyone get him to open his eyes? Or do we just have to wait until he realises that the grass on the other side is still just grass, by which time the damage will be irreversible? SIL says she stil loves him and is devastated by his affair.

He thinks this is all unknowable to anyone else as we weren't there in his marriage, but from reading midlife crisis boards and stuff on here, he is just following the same old script but can't see it/doesn't realise it's all tediously common. If I tell him this he won't get it will he?

When do they wake up?

Charbon Thu 04-Oct-12 20:07:36

adreasta I'd agree with you, if these were fairly superficial friendships I was describing - and if some of the people themselves hadn't admitted later down the line that they'd been inventing marital unhappiness in order to justify their affairs. Your in-laws' marriage is also an example of when others outside the marriage weren't shocked, if as you say it was patently obvious to outsiders that the relationship was unhappy. Consequently I'm not saying at all that everyone re-writes history, but that some do, especially (but not always) when an affair is involved.

Feckbox Thu 04-Oct-12 21:23:42

Carbon I think it's curious to INSIST people ARE rewriting history

Charbon Thu 04-Oct-12 22:41:10

Well yes Feckbox, so do I confused

At least in the literal sense, because we can never know what is in another person's head if they don't communicate it to us. When that happens, all we have to go on is their observable behaviour and the messages they do convey. However I can understand how one party in a marriage who has been told by a spouse that all is well and there is observable behaviour to support those words, being shocked on the discovery of an affair, being left and told that unhappiness was longstanding. I wouldn't be too curious if they had suspicions of their history having been re-written, especially as many people having affairs admit to that very behaviour.

This however is somewhat besides the point in terms of marriages that break up because of affairs. I don't think anyone believes that all marriages are unbridled joy all of the time for all partners, but the mature and kinder response is either to work through it or call time on the marriage. Unfortunately, some people wait for an alternative partner to turn up before voting with their feet (and there is an overlap involving lying and deception) - and others ditch a marriage that was basically sound because they convince themselves that the new person is their One True Love.

There is nearly always sadness at the end of a marriage, but the additional factors of deception, lies and infidelity often make that far more painful for everyone involved, including extended families caught up in the trauma. Like I said, I don't think the OP would feel as conflicted if her brother's marriage had ended without the involvement of someone else. It seems most peculiar to pretend that infidelity doesn't make a difference to how people might feel about the end of a marriage.

Its because the cheater is so insecure and worried about being alone, they're like a monkey.. won't let go of one branch wife and kids until they have hold of another OW

Abitwobblynow Fri 05-Oct-12 10:09:52

Feckbox I am not too sure of your point? You seem to be mixing up two separate (but connected) things.

Whatever the circumstances, intimate betrayal is a serious violation of marriage. Nobody thinks it is OK.
So when a person finds themselves attracted to another and making the decisions to act on that attraction, they never say to themselves 'actually I am a selfish deceitful person who is running away from my issues and doing something to make myself feel better, with someone whom I don't actually know. This is really really going to hurt my spouse children and family BUT I DONT CARE ABOUT THEM'.

That is too honest. So they 'split' so they they can be the 'good guy', the person who was 'forced' by the hideous awful qualities of the spouse who was so bad they simply HAD to take this course of action [which feels sooooo good].

Also, [this new history] is necessarily further distorted as a comparison because the moany old familiar disenchanted spouse who knows all the problems, can NEVER compare against the shiny new admiring Alienator.

That is the rewriting of history. Not that the marriage relationship was flawed, because that is irrelevant. No marriage is perfect, and sticking your dick in someone else is a SEPARATE UNILATERAL act, taken in privacy and secrecy, with a lot of self-justification and absolving oneself from responsibility for the problems in the M, thrown in.

CogitoErgoSometimes Fri 05-Oct-12 10:17:15

Either way, whatever the justification for leaving, whatever the rationale real or imagined, what is really not going to happen is that your sister says to you 'you're being a fool, go back to your wife'.... and you leap to obey. hmm

When my marriage broke up it was extremely distressing but I would have been seriously embarrassed if any of his family had taken it on themselves to try and get him to come back. If he returned, tail between his legs saying 'I'm only here because my sister told me to come home' ... I'd have had nothing but contempt for him.

Abitwobblynow Fri 05-Oct-12 10:23:38

So for instance, my H went from being distant and unhappy to being completely psychologically abusive during his affair.

He didn't want to be married anymore, I was a bad wife and there was no use working on anything because he did not love me anymore. He wasn't having an affair at all, he was very depressed and didn't know what he wanted, so lets not talk about divorce [but get the f away from me and shut up].

Because I am stupid and trusted I believed all this, and that gave him the space to work out that OW wasn't filling up that empty hole either, whilst I backed off and worked on what a bad person I am.

It turns out in counselling after discovery, in all the unpacking, that he is and always has been a very deeply selfish person who has ignored and devalued me for years, that I responded during our M in fine borderline pattern to a narcissist by raising the aggressive tone to try and get his attention - (which is also abusive, so he was correct but it is only a part and that he focussed on, to absolve himelf).

The IC said to me: do you realise that his affair is the final unacceptably hurtful part of a greater pattern?

Do you see, Feckbox? He rewrote things to justify what he was doing to make me the bad guy and him the victim, but his behaviour to choose an affair was about HIM, not me? [Even though our marriage unbeknownst to me was not healthy - separate, but connected, issue].

To this day, the A is something that 'happened' to him. He was depressed. She was kind. It meant nothing. So the affair has been and gone, but the marital issues (devalueing, ignoring, distance) are still there? Affairs are separate from the marriage, and are a symptom of poor coping and resolution skills, not the marriage itself. Which is shit BECAUSE of the SAME poor coping and resolution skills.

Abitwobblynow Fri 05-Oct-12 10:25:26

Sorry OP I entered a 3 way discussion w Feckbox and Charbon, didn't mean to hijack your thread...

My DP was also psychologically abusive during his affair/s
Op don't force him back to his 'DW' ... she deserves much much better.
Just support her. Take her out, get her to have her hair done, give her lots of loving support, babysit the kids now and again.
Remind her she is of value and worth more than that twat.

^^ By get her to have her hair done i'm in no way minimising what she's going through.. i know.. sad
Just saying she needs support and love to get back on track, don't let her slip into the dark hole that is still loving someone who is treating her like shit.
She has to be strong for her DC's and to do that she also needs support.

Punkatheart Fri 05-Oct-12 17:55:10

Cognito - you do seem to lack empathy but also fail to understand that different families operate in different ways, on different levels of closeness. I have a very close family and yes, when my OH left my brother-in-law spoke to him, my mother spoke to him. They deserved some answers after 20 years of him being loved and supported by my family.

You sound like a lovely source of support OP, simply go on doing what you are doing. Sadly, he has made his choices. She must concentrate on her now and her smaller family.

catsrus Fri 05-Oct-12 18:22:52

OP you are going to have to tread a delicate balance I'm afraid between maintaining a relationship with your SIL and with your brother and the OW.

My ex in-laws have been wonderful (including siblings, cousins and extended family) they have made it clear that I am still someone they want to see and I am included in events which don't involve ex and his new wife (OW). He moved away to live with her while I still live in his old home town so my day to day dealings with them have not changed much and my dcs see as much of my ex MIL as they ever did. She has warmly accepted ex's new wife into her family and said to me "well if we're not in laws we'll just have to be friends".

You and the rest of the family, if you like and value your SIL, will have to find some way of maintaining a relationship with her. It does not have to be a question of taking sides, you can acknowledge that he's done something very wrong by being deceptive while also acknowledging that he probably has made the decision which he truly believes is right for him.

I know how upsetting it is, for many of us "family" is much more than husband and wife and 2.4 children. If we've been lucky enough to find in laws we like and love then it really is a huge sense of bereavement if a relationship breaks down - but the friendships formed can survive smile. Last week I went out for a meal with my ex-SIL's ex-dh and his new dp - because we like each other and try to stay in touch. I love his new dp, she's brilliant - I also quite like the man ex-SIL left him for but tbh he's a bit boring and have socialised with them too.

I haven't actually met my ex's wife yet, and have resisted the temptation to send her a "thank you" card - one of the many positives to come out of him leaving was my finding out that all these relationships were real and not just because I happened to be married to dh. The thing you can do for your SIL now is to show her that too.

have resisted the temptation to send her a "thank you" card -

Tea covered keyboard yet again lol

50shadesofgreyhair Sat 06-Oct-12 10:59:22

I agree with so much that has been written here. I kicked twunt out after 22 years of marriage, and it was a total shock to my parents, family and friends. Only our kids knew how unhappy things were, because they lived in an unhappy house. And yes, Twunt did the whole script thing too, denied an affair (he's now living with her), distanced himself from me and the kids, re-wrote history to make me out to be totally to blame. I didn't tell my parents, we were going through an awfully sad time as a family, they were suffering terribly, and I didn't want to add to their pain and burden. It is possible for people to think that you are happily married, when you're not. After the event, so many people said that things now added up, made sense...but at the time we gave an allusion of happiness, and people took it on board.

Two things that still upset me: firstly, that twunt, never, ever, told me how deeply unhappy he was before things got to the stage where an affair (because he didn't want to be alone, so I totally get the monkey analogy upthread) and leaving was the only way out. I'm not saying the outcome would have been different, but I felt that after being with him for 24 years, and having 4 kids, our marriage had the right to be attempted to be fixed. He really did convince me that everything was ok, and would not discuss any thing that would help us - relate, changing our lifestyles, making time for each other, were all dismissed by him, because he said "everything's ok". I knew it wasn't, but his point blank refusal to co-operate still rankles. Then he said he was off, and there was no discussion, he simply ignored and walked away from all my attempts to discuss things. I still, to this day, don't really know why and I need to know, but am learning to accept that I won't.

The second thing is that my family, in particular my parents, took him into their huge arms and welcomed and loved him from the first day they met him. My parents treated him like the son they never had. I told them I'd kicked him out, and they haven't seen him, talked to him, or discussed anything with him since then. They are deeply hurt, not only by the pain he caused all of us, but the pain he caused them.

Ronan Keating said on Piers Morgan last night that he deeply regretted the hurt he had caused so many people. The devastation, he called it. And it is devasting, the aftermath of a marriage break-up, and the ripples hurt more than the immediate family.

So I feel for you OP, but all you can do is be there for all concerned, and try not to take sides. Their marriage was theirs, and theirs alone; no one can tell them what to do. But he's your brother, so you have to decide how far you can support him. You don't have to do more than you want too. As an aunt, you can be strong and supportive and a rock to their kids and their mum - that would be wonderful.

Saffysmum x

Charbon Sat 06-Oct-12 13:14:10

50shades I think that is a truly helpful post. WRT your own situation and the confusion you still have about it, it could be that your husband was happy before he started his affair and it was the affair that created the dissatisfaction with your marriage, not the other way around. I doubt you'll ever know when the affair first started, but it would be interesting to consider the possibility that when you first sensed that something was wrong, there was nothing you could have done about it even if he'd admitted being unhappy. Because it's possible he already had one foot out of the door and the other elsewhere, so to speak. Happens a lot.

SisterAct Sat 06-Oct-12 14:00:39

50Shades, Pink, Wobbly, Catsrus, Charbon and others, thank you for posting and for the acknowledgment that the shock waves do ripple out a long way.

50Shades what you say sounds pretty much exactly what SIL is saying. DB was telling her that he wanted the marriage to work and that he would do anything to keep his family together (which is why it came as a shock when he had obviously had no intention of bothering) but she now thinks the OW had actually been on the scene for a long time.

He is also interpreting events very differntly from her, which he has to do, in order to justify his actions. (People who want to tell me that he tells the truth and not SIL, well if that's the case I wish he could have been more open and honest about it, and not done the lying and cheating and generally sticking his head in the sand because it has caused a lot of pain.)

So anyway, with regard to my OP, no there's nothing that can be said to him. This is nothing to do with it "not being my business" as some seem at pains to point out. If I can't talk to a brother who can I talk to? But the problem is he currently lives in a different version of reality to the rest of us. (Can't be bothered to keep qualifying what I write in the hope of not offending Cogito...)

SIL will not fade from our wider family as she has been in it for a long time. I hope I can be of help to her and the DNs, if only as someone to listen, and that is already happening. As for him, well - I suppose its a waiting game now. He seems as happy as Larry with his new life, with zero responsibilities.

We have all got to get used to the new status quo, but I feel like I have lost the brother I thought I had, married to SIL or not married to SIL.

expatinscotland Sat 06-Oct-12 14:06:54

They sound like a pair of immature gits who deserve each other. Their families are already dessimated by their selfishness so leve them to it.

SisterAct Sat 06-Oct-12 14:11:16

There is that expat!

Charbon Sat 06-Oct-12 14:29:29

Glad the posts helped SisterAct.

If it's as you and your SIL suspect and the OW pre-dated the problems in the marriage, then the only defence your brother can use is that he bottled up his 'unhappiness' for a long time and the OW gave him the confidence to leave. The fact that he's not even admitting that this course of action was unwise and unkind to your SIL, is a clue in itself. What he might not be able to admit even to himself right now is that he never articulated any 'problems' because there weren't any - or at least, not enough to ditch a marriage over.

This can be a long game. For now, focus all your attention on your SIL and DNs and wait it out before trying to rationalise with your brother.

If you were once close, you might find that later down the line your brother is more honest with himself and others. Keep the door open for that to happen, because your involvement then might actually help him to learn some stuff about himself as a man, partner and father. This conversation wouldn't be about getting him to return to his marriage, because with any luck your SIL will decide that boat has sailed long ago. That conversation will be about what he's learnt from this whole experience - but that is, I think a long way off.

50shadesofgreyhair Sat 06-Oct-12 14:47:59

Thank you Charbon; yes, I think the affair was the cause of the marriage break-up and that it possibly caused the unhappiness. But then that opens another box in my head: if you are happy, then surely you can resist an affair? I have met lovely attractive guys over the years, but done no more than indulge in light flirting and the nice feeling you get when you know a nice person finds you attractive - it brightens your shift at work, it makes you feel good for a few hours...then you leave it alone, nip it in the bud, and get back to 'real life'. So, if ex was happy in his marriage, why did he take the leap into an affair - to taking the huge risk of losing it all?

OP - you sound very insightful, and you're right about re-writing history to justify the affair. You are also right about not being able to talk to him, because he's living in fantasy land. Our teenage daughters are frustrated and hurt by their father, because he is so convinced that he is right, and that the reality of the situation is us 'blowing everything out of proportion' that he refuses/can't see their pain or point of view at all. This has of course made the wedge between him and them bigger. Our sons, have simply walked away from him, and are disgusted for the way he behaved, not only at the time, but now ... by his persistence in refusing to apologise, to take any responsibility, to 'man up' if you like, to the pain he's caused. It really is, all about him.

I wish you luck - I hope that you are able to get on with your own life, and be happy too - because if you can 'compartmentalise' this and go to it fresh and strong in a way to support your sil and her kids, you will do so much good for them. Your sil will get through this, and so will her kids. It won't be easy, but if I can get through it and come out the other side a stronger, happier person, she will.

Saffysmum x

Punkatheart Sat 06-Oct-12 14:59:51

The second thing is that my family, in particular my parents, took him into their huge arms and welcomed and loved him from the first day they met him. My parents treated him like the son they never had. I told them I'd kicked him out, and they haven't seen him, talked to him, or discussed anything with him since then. They are deeply hurt, not only by the pain he caused all of us, but the pain he caused them.

Oh 50 - I could have written that word for word. Worse than my pain was my mother - lovely and innocent woman that she is - constantly asking 'why'?

Oh dear what messes we make and yes, why do men wait until crisis point rather than being brave and talking?

Charbon Sat 06-Oct-12 15:01:12

Why? First because he's a different person to you and secondly, probably because when it actually became an affair, it wasn't a huge leap. Unless he was a philanderer, affairs are very rarely about 'huge leaps'. They are about hundreds of small steps that start off innocently and evolve into something more addictive. You can be happy in your marriage and start a very innocent friendship with someone else. Similarly, you can be happy in your marriage, but plagued with insecurities about other life stuff - and an ego boost from someone else helps with that. Of course it's also possible that he was unhappy for years and showed it. It doesn't sound like it though, from what you're saying.

50shadesofgreyhair Sat 06-Oct-12 15:06:13

I know Punk, I know....it's so bloody hard, I'll never forget the look of shock, pain and bewilderment on my parents faces when I told them. They still come round and shake their heads in disbelief - 18 months on. But they've rallied round me and the kids, and we have good fun times too - it just didn't make sense to them at all, I don't think it ever will.

catsrus Sat 06-Oct-12 15:29:03

I hope this isn't going to sound trite - but I know very few women who don't emerge from this happier and stronger. I know there are some who don't - but I have been very struck with how many women on here end up saying "well, it wasn't my choice, but you know what, life is better now in many ways". I think it is hardest for older children - particularly if there were no obvious signs of cracks in the marriage. for them the whole of their reality gets called into question - they wonder if it was all an illusion of family happiness and nothing was true. One of mine won't have any photos of her df on display she is so angry with him for lying. Not for leaving, for lying about OW.

SisterAct I think you can help your dns realise that there were happy times - no matter how much your bro. rewrites history he was happy too in those family holiday snaps. I talk to mine about good times a lot, in my head I try to think of exH as dead, and talk about him as casually as I would if he were.

It would have been easier, in many ways, if he had gone under a bus - because then the mourning would be cleaner and the memories untainted unless the OW had emerged at the funeral in black widows weeds wailing and renting her garments. I don't want him to become a taboo topic so I make the effort to still talk about him kindly through gritted teeth sometimes which has really helped in maintaining the family relationships too. If you are close enough to your SIL to talk about things like this it might help to do so over a bottle of wine.

SisterAct Sat 06-Oct-12 17:06:04

Catsrus, absolutely everything you say is happening/being said in this case as well. I also think SIL will be fine in the end. But as for the relationship between DB and his children - dunno. a lot of water has got to pass under many bridges I expect. You are right that in many ways a bereavement is cleaner - it's not a chosen rejection. SIL says that too.

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