In-Laws And Affairs

by Sally R. Connolly, LMFT and John E. Turner, LMFT



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Question:  In-laws and affairs

My in-laws,  husband’s parent,s know that I had an affair and they are very angry with me. I truly do not think that it is any of their business and I cannot understand why they are holding it against me since my husband and I are working things out and want to stay together. Should we just ignore my in-laws and act as if nothing has happened or should I avoid going to family gatherings since it seems to make them so upset? What is the best way to handle these problems with my in-laws?



Answer: In-laws and Affairs

Working with in-laws after an affair is truly a dilemma and there is no “right” answer. The way to handle this situation involves lots of thinking on your part and talking between you and your husband. Some of the questions to ask are:

  • How important is it to me that I have a good relationship with my in-laws?
  • How important is it to my spouse that I have a good relationship with them?
  • How does this relationship with my in-laws affect my relationship with my own children and our sense of a larger family?
  • How would it affect my relationship with my husband if I did find a time to talk with mu in-laws and apologize for hurting their son? After all, most likely they feel some betrayal and anger because I hurt their child.
  • What affect would it have on me, and on my feelings about myself, if I did have this discussion with his parents, even if they have a hard time forgiving me?
These are not easy questions to answer and really are not the most important things to think about in the beginning. After several weeks, when you and your husband are calmer and a little more peaceful, then begin to think and talk about this.



Steve and Lisa struggled with just this problem. Lisa felt very close to her mother-in-law. Helen really was a better mother to Lisa than her own mother and when Helen found out what Lisa had done, she was initially very angry and then shut down and avoided her. Lisa finally worked up the courage to call Helen and asked her just to listen for a few minutes.

 
 Lisa was able to talk about her own mistakes without sharing any of the problems in the marriage or placing any of the blame on Steve. She told Helen that she was not asking for immediate forgiveness but invited her to just think about it. She told her that she loved her very much and was terribly sorry that she had hurt her son and also his family.

Later that week, Helen stopped by to bring some things for the children and she and Lisa were able to hug and
cry together. It still took several months for the two women to feel that the rupture had been healed; however, Helen respected Lisa’s courage and maturity to acknowledge and take full responsibility for her mistake. She also saw that Lisa and Steve worked hard to put the pieces of the marriage back together. Helen now says that she holds a great deal of respect for her daughter-in-law and believes that their relationship was able to deepen because of, or in spite of, this experience.