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How do I deal with Sister's affair - family falling apart(348 Posts)
I recently posted about this subject - well things have got a whole lot worse.
My married sister (2 young DCs) is having an affair with a married man. She has told me, my parents, some of her friends and her sister-in-law (married to her DHs brother), and has told her DH that she wants to separate but is adamant that she won't tell him about the affair.
Last week, I found out who the OM is. He's a friend of the family, and 2 days after she told me, we all had to see him at a community event that he was involved in. He was brazen, cocky, swanning about the place like he owned it and smarming up to me and my parents. Sister didn't tell him that we all knew "in case it made it difficult for him" (poor him).
The worst bit was when she brought her 2 DCs along, and we had to watch him smarming up to them too... I wanted to snatch them away from him and scream at him. The whole event was incredibly difficult for me, my DM and DSis-in-law who knew who he was. My DF doesn't know about him and thinks he's wonderful... watching DF being friendly with him makes me feel sick.
DSis best friend has been with her throughout this, and DSis has portrayed her as supporting her in this affair. Recently her friend has backed off from us all as a family, and DSis told me it was because she was being self-centered and was miffed that she wasn't getting all the attention. I now know it is because the poor girl could no longer cope with being around my family while she knew everything and we didn't. I had thought badly of her, and now I'm so sorry that we were wrong about her. DSis has lied about her friend to protect herself. Her friend knows this and is still being supportive, she is an incredibly strong person. But she has also recently started to tell DSis that she has to come clean and it's gone too far.
DSis-in-law is utterly distraught. She found out the full story around the same time as me, but cannot tell her husband (brother of my sister's DH) for obvious reasons. My DSis has put a terrible burden on her shoulders which is utterly unfair.
My DSis is arrogant and hard faced about the whole thing. She is adamant that she is in love with this guy (she is infatuated and addicted to him according to her friend), will not tell her DH, and that her and DH can separate amicably as friends and this will never come out. (she has already asked her DH for a separation) It is OBVIOUS to anyone with a pair of eyes that she is having an affair, so her DH is bound to find out.
She is now pushing everyone away from her, being defensive and blaming her friends for not supporting her. My DM is just about holding it together but she is under terrible strain. My DF thinks the sun shines out of her arse and keeps defending her, but he doesn't know who the OM is. DSis-in-law is terribly upset and angry. I am utterly furious, disgusted and worried.
I think her mental health is now suffering, she has lost a drastic amount of weight, is not eating, and is on the edge emotionally.
I want to be there for her, but I know she won't listen to sense. If I tell her off for what she is doing, she will cut me off. I want to support her but I can barely look at her because I'm so angry.
Sorry for the essay.. What the hell do I do??????
"My DM is really upset that we're not friends at the moment, she told me that she could cope with DSis' affair, but couldn't cope with us falling out.
So they're trying to get me to not rock the boat and go along with her, support her and be there for her"
Do your see the inequality in this, OP? The onus is all on you to keep the peace. There is no pressure on your sister at all to behave in a way that would safeguard her relationship with you. She is the free agent who gets to do whatever she likes, you are the sub-person who has to bend your will and feelings to accommodate her behaviour.
I think the real root of the issue here is actually your relationship with your parents and the way they have enabled a hierarchy in the family where your sister takes precedence over you. All you have said about your relationship with her and with them and the way they see you both seems to back this up, to me. The way they can cast you as the bad guy when your sister goes running to them with tales of how nasty and unsupportive you've been but they can't and won't believe that she is capable of being cruel and hurtful to you, even when faced with evidence, because "she's just not like that."
I know this is a very hard thing to take on board, and I think that's why you deflect so much energy into trying to work out how to handle this particular situation - hard as it is, it's nowhere near as hard as realising that your parents have let you down very badly and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future. But I think that starting to really look at this issue is the route to freedom for you.
It would probably mean you would need to put some boundaries around yourself in regard to all your family, not just your sister. Thankfully it sounds like your DP is a good'un and your relationship is great: let that be your priority instead of worrying about your "poor" parents. They were the parents who enabled this dynamic of pandering to your sister to arise and take hold and they are the ones perpetuating that dynamic at your expense. And get some support for yourself if you need it to deal with your feelings around being subordinated to her like this.
I think Talking is right, OP.
I desperately want them to realize what she is like - but they're not going to are they? I need to let go of that, and I might relax a bit more.
They can't. They have a huge emotional investment in refusing to believe she is as she is, and they will put huge pressure on you, deny what you say and even blame and get angry with you before they would face it. They're parents - they want to pretend she isn't a lying, controlling adulterer who bullies her family. So they bully you.
This is so common in families it's almost the norm. Your issue is not only your sister, I'm afraid. You're all playing your roles in this dance from the sound of it.
Trouble is I can't physically show them the email, because it incriminates her OM who my DF doesn't know about
You are still playing their game, to their rules and you can never win that way. Its tough but you either need to change the rules of collusion and deception (tell your DF about what he doesn't know, tell your DSis to face her responsibilities, etc ), or stop playing their game altogether.
Forward the e-,mails to your Dad, sorry but you are still covering for her - so what if they find out who the other man is, if she really doesn't want that to come out she shouldn't have started telling people. You are letting your Sister, her OM (or exOM now), and your Parents dictate how you react to something.
Forward the messages, then be unavailable for a bit. Do'nt reach out to your sister or your parents, just be 'busy' for a couple of weeks while everyone else sorts out this mess. "Oh gosh, would love to see you, but I'm doing XYZ/Oh I'd love to talk to you, but I've got someone visiting/Oh I'd love to listen to your angst sis, but DH is taking me out, sorry."
Let it all implode, and stop playing their games. I think now you've seen what she's like, it's unlikely you'll be a close friend to your sister ever again, that might pain your mother, but she allowed the favouritism to go unchecked. What she means is she and your DF thought you would be there for your Dsis forever no matter what, not that you'd be there for each other. I bet if the tables where turned your sister would have told your DH, would have called you every name under the sun and wouldn't be nicely listening to you.
I bet if the tables where turned your sister would have told your DH, would have called you every name under the sun and wouldn't be nicely listening to you. Damn right she would. One thing that has been bugging me throughout this is my Sis is usually so defensive about our parents, if I argue with them she will say things like "Don't speak to DF like that, you should respect him because he is your father" but its ok for her to lie to them, and set DF up for a humiliating fall with her OM, she would be SO angry if I was upsetting them like this. In fact, when I told her how upset DM was, she put the phone down on me as she couldn't bear to hear me tell her...
Anyway, after lots of thinking I have manage to crystallize my response, which is this:
I love her, and I will always be there for her if she ever wants to talk. BUT that support is on MY terms, not hers. I will tell her like it is, as I always have done and as she would do to me. I will not 'hold my tongue' and 'just be nice to her' just to save her feelings - she has created this situation and must face the consequences. She does not get to dictate how others react to her behaviour. If she cannot accept this, that is her choice, but she and my parents can not accuse me any longer of not being there for her. I am there for her, I always will be. On. My. Terms.
I just need to keep repeating this to myself, DP and Sis whenever I get accused, and made to feel like a bad person.
I now also realise that she already made this choice long ago - she cut me out of her life and turned nasty on me when she started having the affair (which I didn't know about, but quickly worked it out).
Bearing in mind we were best friends, and tell each other everything, I found it very hurtful that she was doing this. I never said a thing, and suffered in silence as she pushed me away and got more and more nasty. This, it now seems, was her making the choice back then that she didn't want my 'support' because she knew full well that I would have told her from day one not to be so stupid and would have insisted she nip it in the bud immediately.
Instead, she confessed to her friends who initially supported her in starting her affair, so she could regale them all with her stories of how this silly man was chasing her. Now that the shit has hit the fan, and when her friends temporarily turned against her, she suddenly 'needs me to be nice to her'.
Since then, she has recently confessed to another friend, who is supporting and encouraging her in pursuing this man (I really don't get it, all of these friends are happily married!!), and so that friend is the new favourite "she totally understands me, we're so alike, my other best friend just doesn't understand" etc etc.
God, she's lovely isn't she...
Again, apologies for ranting - this thread has become my therapy, and writing all this down is really helping me to understand my feelings
Your family sounds incredibly toxic, PlasticBag. You need a best friend who is not someone appallingly manipulative, self-centred and controlling; this woman is not capable of being friends with people, never mind a good sister.
Can you see how messed up it is that you are preventing yourself from proving your point to your dad because the email breaks one of the many secrets in the web of lies at the moment, and tells him who the OM is? So bloody what if it does?! You're allowing him to think badly of you to avoid a fact falling into his possession when your sister had decreed that It Shall Not.
This house of cards is coming down soon. And at the moment the only person who isn't looking out for their own best interests is you. You seriously need to stop staying you're going to be there for your sister and get the fuck out of the way til the dust settles.
Hi, I've been following from the start and think you've had some great advice, and it's great that you have worked out your (internal) response, which will stand you in good stead over this and in the future.
You'll probably be better able to stick to your guns if you don't engage with your sister and your parents in any depth. e.g. if you mum says 'you must support your sister, smile and say 'I do, I'm sure she'll do what's right for her'*, then change the subject. If your sister wants to talk about her drama in depth, smile and say 'sorry, haven't the time right now - sure you'll do what's right for you'* Add in lots of distracted (but not judgy) 'hmms' if they keep going on. Keep conversations short - you're clearly having lots of conversation with them, as you know the ins and outs of who your sister favours this week, and that's not helping you keep you distance. Cultivate excuses to cut conversations short - pot boiling over, just eating tea, about to go out, DH calling you - whatever. Keep the tone light and distracted (A tip to keeping the tone light - force yourself to smile while you're talking - I'm assuming most of this is by phone)
* which isn't a lie, because she will, even if its not right for anyone else.
Don't get into conversation with any of your family or friends(apart from your DH) over this - you've said your piece, and while you'd like all the relevant people to be informed, you can't do anything. And it would be helpful stop reporting back the she-said, I-said conversations to your parents, as much as you can - it reinforces their view of you as a child to be told what to do.
Yeah I'm starting to see how messed up it all is. I'm not going to worry about sending my parents the emails, I think it proves how irrational she is but I've given up trying to convince them when they refuse to see any bad in her. Sending the email would just stir things up and make me seem petty.
I don't care any more, they will never see her for what she is. I can't change that.
You need a best friend who is not someone appallingly manipulative, self-centred and controlling - interesting you should say that, because my sis has never liked my other close friends. I have one very good friend, who is strong and wise and has always been very good to me. My sis doesn't like her because she things she is 'possessive of me and wants to control me'...no evidence of this, Hmmm someone projecting there I think.
The one saving grace in all of this is my DP who is being fantastic. I recently moved in with him, away from the village where my sis and parents live. My sis made it incredibly difficult for me to move, piled on the emotional blackmail, told me that she just couldn't understand why DP couldn't move in with me (I work from home, so can work anywhere. DP runs his own business which is 5 mins away from his house. My house is absolutely tiny, his is big - makes obvious sense that we should live in his house but my sis claimed not to understand this ^at all^). It broke my heart to move in with DP away from my DNs because my sis warned me that I would not see them as often, and I was so afraid of that.
She still makes derogatory comments about where I live "I could never live there", "Oh when I drive through (the area where I live), I just can't wait to get out of there I hate it so much", never visits because she "just can't stand the area" etc etc. We invited them all over for Christmas dinner the first year I lived with DP. My sister's comment the next day "It was lovely, but I'll never do that again" - because it was so awful for her not to be 'at home'. That hurt me so much after all the effort we made.
Ironically I hate my sister's house, it's awful, but I would never say anything bad about it, it's her house. And double ironically, she's going to have to leave it anyway because of her marriage breakdown.
I have to make all the effort to visit my family because they never come to me. My house is lovely, it's 30 mins away from where they all live, they pass it to take the DGCs for a day out but don't visit me very often because they 'just want to get back home'...
I try to rise above it, say that I love the house and love my DP so that is what matters. But it does hurt.
God this thread has become about so much more than my sister having an affair. I do love my family, and they love me, but yes, it isn't a normal relationship.
This thread is becoming my mechanism to walk away from it all
Thanks Crabby good advice there.
I think the trap I'm falling into is
1) I wanted to know the ins and outs, because we're close and I've wanted to be involved and kept in the loop. Obviously, I've now learned that I can't be involved, it's affecting me too much.
2) I've wanted my parents to see how much she is hurting me, and to realize what a bad person she is hence the 'I said, she said' conversations. This isn't working - they won't see it, never will, and I need to get over it.
Every revelation I have like this, I relate to my DP and he just goes "Yep. You know this, you've always known this" - he is being very good at standing back, letting me vent and supporting my decisions but not influencing them. He should be a counsellor, as should all of you lot
God your family are a shower of shite aren't they?
Particularly your sister. What a vile cow.
If I were you I'd leave them all to it. Morons.
Your DP was very wise to let you have these revelations in your own time - I can imagine part of him has always wanted you to put some distance between you and your family but I don't think you could have seen his point of view so clearly before now. And of course that is the unintended consequence of this kind of bomb going off in a family or a group of friends (as happened in my case). All sorts of things rise up to the surface and nothing can ever go back to the way it was before.
I would put your emotional energies into yourself. Detaching from your family is likely to be upsetting and I do think it would help you to get some counselling outside the support from your DP. And frankly you deserve to spend some time devoted to your own wellbeing after years of this utterly exhausting family dynamic. You're so used to putting everyone else ahead of yourself you need to learn it isn't wrong to focus on your own needs.
I remember your first thread OP, and I felt sorry for you being in such an awkward situation. Having read more about your family dynamics, I'm horrified
I can't believe your sister put so much pressure on you not to move away from the village you lived in - she sounds very suffocating. It's sad to think your family refuse to visit when you're only 30 minutes away - my sisters and I are scattered across the country, but will still make the effort to visit each other. Your family sound very insular.
I would agree with previous posters that about of distance from them and the whole drama would do you some good.
I still think you should stop trying to protect your DSis from your DF's disapproval - perhaps him being upset and shocked at her will be a 'safe' example to her of just how crap this news is going to be recieved when it eventually gets out... but mainly, you are still letting her desire to control what you do with the information she's given you be priority over wht's best for you. Forward the e-mails to your dad. Switch off your phone for a couple of days...
Bit of an update - just for me to vent my feelings and gain some perspective.
I haven't spoken to my sister in over 3 weeks, since our last argument. She has made no attempt to contact me, and I haven't with her (apart from briefly seeing her at a family dinner, where we were superficially nice to each other) I feel so, so much better.
But this is the longest we've ever gone without talking - and a lot is happening in my life - I have suspected endometriosis, I'm TTC and DP has fertility issues, so it's a scary time and normally I would have talked it through with my sis. She doesn't even know about any of this because she's so wrapped up in her own world
I have told a couple of my close friends the whole story, and they have been fantastically supportive - they both live far away so they're not connected to the whole saga, so I felt safe in telling them. It has really helped to talk. I'm ashamed to admit that I used to think that as I had my sister as a best friend, I didn't need any other close friends. How wrong I was. I'll always be grateful for my friends.
But my DM is not coping well at all. I had a good long chat with her last night, and she is close to breaking point. She said she keeps waking up every morning and hoping it's all a bad dream. She actually saw and spoke to the OM recently at an event he was hosting. My Sis had bought tickets for my DM's birthday to see this guy... and DM found it very difficult. His wife, child and PIL were there, all proud of him... DM briefly spoke to him and said this was very difficult - he said that he has never had feelings for anyone like he does for my sis. DM said he was also standing there with a pint in one hand, mobile phone in the other, texting. Sis later told her that he was texting her "Your DM is looking at me" etc.... WTF, does he get off on it or something?
My DF still doesn't know who it is - last night he shoved a programme in my face from said event wanting me to look at pictures of the OM. I brushed it aside, and he had a go at me ... my sis sat on in silence, watching me having an ear bashing. My DM is a wreck, unable to talk about it in front of DF... petrified that I'll say something. I asked her why the fuck she doesn't tell him - she said that my Sis had promised to tell him herself this week. She hasn't. But in a way, I'm with my DM on this - I want my sis to be the one to tell him, because I want her to face the music, see his face and the hurt she's causing. If we do it for her, she's getting off lightly. I want her to have to do the difficult bit.
For the OMs part, he has told my sis that he has told his DW that things aren't working, and they "have agreed to work on their marriage"....while he continues to have an affair. He did attempt to end it with my sis - he said he needed some space from her and if she heard on the grapevine that he was single in a few months then all was good - so in my book, he tried to dump her. She was having none of it and has pursued him until he relented. - So I think he's basically a weak man who doesn't know what the hell to do.
The worst bit is that he is his poor DW's second husband. Her first DH left after having an affair so "He can't possibly tell her as it would hurt her too much"... WTAF... didn't stop him doing it did it?!?!?
I bumped into DSIL as well yesterday. She also looks close to breaking. She told me that she has decided to tell her DH (remember he's the brother of my Sis' DH). Apparently my sis's DH has been asking questions again, and they have all been suspecting sis is up to something. She knows that when she tells him it will blow the whole thing out of the water. She said she feels awful as to what it will do to everyone - I assured her it was not her doing this and it wasn't her fault. I told her I support her 100%. But she said she wanted to warn my DSIS that she was going to do it first - I told her not to, DSis will just hit the roof and try and manipulate her.
And DSIS? She's 'on top of the world' apparently, as she is going away for the weekend with OM. For the fucking weekend. Leaving her DH and 2 young DCs at home... and she STILL totally believes he will never suspect.
I have a feeling that she will come home on Sunday to a giant shit storm.
In the long talk I had with my DM yesterday, I told her that what upsets me most is the realization that my Sis is not a nice person. Her actions are despicable, but what I will never forget is her attitude to everyone else in this whole thing. She has changed forever in my eyes.
Sorry for essay - thanks for reading if you've got this far. Just feels better to write it all down.
Blimey, you really are going through the mill and my heart goes out to you.
I understand about wanting your sister to have to face your DF. Ultimately though, you and your DM and DSIL have to do what's best for you without martyring yourselves to DSis's cause.
I think both the OM and your sister are getting off on the drama. She keeps pushing your parents in front of OM, and why on earth tell your mother what he was texting? I know it's hard, but more fool your mother for going to the event. Detach, detach, detach. See how much fun it is for DSis when no one in her family wants to talk about it any more.
I'm reluctant to post suggestions for you or your DM and DSIL because I think really detachment is the best course for you, and for them. Your DSis is an adult, she has made her bed and has to lie on it. It is tragic to watch her mess up, because damage to others (especially her children) is inevitable, but the sad reality is that you have no other option.
I think you've done really well not to speak to your sister, and to tell your mother the truth about how you see things. I have found that the more people realise you will tell them the calm, simple unvarnished truth in a situation like this, the more carefully they will tread with you. They know they might hear something they don't like, and they know you can't be co-opted into deceit and manipulation.
It all should have been blown out the water long ago. Your BIL and your nieces are going to need so much support because even when the affair is common knowledge your sister's completely absorbed/fuck everybody else attitude won't disappear overnight and not will the drama. You also need to give done thought
Sorry, some thought to the hurt of your father to find the whole family have colluded against him and made him look a damn fool publicly and in his own home by not telling his the truth about the OM. You all have s lied to him by omission. Your sister's affair is going to damage more than her own marriage at this rate but has the potential to bring down others.
But I am very glad you have distanced yourself, it can only be to your benefit.
I would continue to distance yourself from your sister. But I think the time has come for you to be honest with your Dad about what is going on.
Be honest with him, tell him you have something horrible to tell him but you can no longer lie for your sister. Why should you be berated for something you are not doing wrong.
My DF still doesn't know who it is - last night he shoved a programme in my face from said event wanting me to look at pictures of the OM. I brushed it aside, and he had a go at me ... my sis sat on in silence, watching me having an ear bashing
...*I asked her why the fuck she doesn't tell him*
...Erm, why the fuck don't YOU tell him?
The whole thing is fucking ridiculous. Everyone's lives are being so affected because they choose to keep dsis' secrets, making everything difficult for themselves and prolonging the awful situation that so many are suffering in. For fuck's sake, will you all just stop it, grow up and have a normal fucking conversation with your df/dhs without first thinking 'hm what am I allowed to say/what shall I keep a secret?'. Spit. it. out. It's unfuckingbelievable that the whole family are voluntarily totally vocally constipated because every fucker thinks they know more than someone else, and doesn't want to let on what they know. Are secrets currency with you all or something?!
Jeez! What a mess. You have to tell your dad..you just do. No way should you and your mum be dealing with all this stress and secrecy for the sake of someone who doesn't seem to give a shiny shit about anyone else.
Your poor BIL ...and the OMs wife. Such a horrible mess
I disagree with that Mike, if the OP had blown the whistle earlier in the piece i think her family would have made her out to be the bad one and they [unreasonably] doubted her motives and were seeing sibling rivalry and dereliction of sisterly duties
at least now i think her DM sees the situation for what it is and understands what the OP has been trying to say for years that you can't blindly support blood relatives without having regard to the wider ramifications and that she loves her sister but she is a PITA
i think its up to the OP's sister or DM to tell the Dad and the OP has applied reasonable persuasion in this regard
Op. What a complete nightmare. I don't know how you are doing it but there is no way I could live like that. I wouldn't be able to keep quite because I would feel complicit. But everyone is different and you are doing what you think is best..
Thank you all for commenting - it really helps.
* I have found that the more people realise you will tell them the calm, simple unvarnished truth in a situation like this, the more carefully they will tread with you. They know they might hear something they don't like*
YY to this. that really resonated with me. A few weeks ago when you were all telling me I must detach I really couldn't see how I could do it because we were so close. But the reality is that she detached from me a long time ago when hiding her affair, and continues to detach for the reasons Eldritch stated above.
I miss my sister - but I know that what I'm doing is the best for my mental health (I'm not the strongest of people). I miss my DNs terribly - one of them told me they missed my dog the other day, I said "Well come and visit him at my house then" and they said "Mummy won't let us"
But I also miss my DPs - I can't be with them without talking about the situation, and I feel that I'm stressing my DM out more as she sees how angry I am. She's exhausted by it all, so I need to give her space as well. I've urged her to talk to her friends about it, she needs to find an outlet.
Yes my DF is going to feel like a fool. I think it's time to give my sis a deadline to tell him and stop making a fool out of him.
I'm another thinking that your DF should be told, he should have been a long time before in all honesty.
I'm not suprised your DM is not coping, not only does she know what your sister is doing but she's causing problems in her own marriage with your Father too. It's really selfish and unfair that your 'D'S expects her to keep it up.
She should tell your DF herself, say she's known for a few weeks and was waiting for your sis to tell him herself but as that hasn't happened she feels she must now inform him. It may well relieve some of the pressure she's under.
Your DF deserves to be informed by one of you before he hears it on the grapevine or when the shit really does hit the fan - imagine how you would feel if you were him.
Sorry you found you could have Endo and are having problems TTC - sincerely hope it all works for you x