Q: My siblings and parents live close to one another back in my home state. They see each other frequently and are involved in each other’s lives.
My brother recently learned that his wife has been cheating on him, not for the first (or even second) time. When this happened before, he tried to stick with it and work it out for their children, but this time they have agreed that divorce is the next step.
They may maintain the facade until the end of the school year. In the meantime, he wants to pretend everything is normal. My brother insists that our parents and siblings continue to treat my sister-in-law normally. I could understand if he wanted us to treat her civilly, difficult as that might be, but he also wants everyone to include her in family events and even go on family vacations with her.
She has had repeated affairs, lied to him for years, showed another family member the steamy texts she sent her lover — the list goes on. We feel that she is taking advantage of his loyalty and commitment to his family. Do we really have to go along with the farce that nothing is wrong until the divorce is final? We want to support him, but is that reasonable or even possible? A sanity check, please!
A: You aren’t supporting him, though, are you, as much as you’re supporting their children?
Presumably that’s the whole point of waiting: Your brother and sister-in-law have decided to upend the kids’ summer instead of their schooling.
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And that means the kids don’t know their parents are splitting, which means if you invite the whole family except their mother, they’re going to ask some really excellent questions now that your brother wants to answer in June.
The wisdom of all of this is not up for any discussion we’re invited to join, so don’t even mentally wade into those weeds. Stay focused: What’s left for you to navigate is logistics, phrasing and the amount of pucker on your face when you greet your sister-in-law.
The degree of difficulty in full inclusion depends on how ambitious the family events are. If there’s any way to minimize everyone’s ambition until your brother’s divorce is in progress, then that’s your sanest bet. But if plans are already in full awkward bloom, then your only choices might be to speak your disgust or swallow it, which, around the kids, is really no choice at all.
You can, of course, express your concerns and even set limits in private conversation with your brother. You can exercise your prerogative not to invite your sister-in-law to your home, for example. You can promise civility but not acting. Discretion but not fiction.
But with every choice you also have to accept the law of ripple effects: Her infidelity means his time-release divorce means your shunning your sister-in-law means their kids get rocked by the wake. It always ends in the kids.
So the apt motto might be: Suck it up. There’s an end date, and everyone else in this mess has it worse than you do.
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