Dear Fiona: My husband had an affair with my sister, while I cared for my dying mother
“For the last four months of my mum’s life, I practically lived at her house. She had cancer and was very ill for a long time. And with the pandemic, I had to decide what to do for the best, so I stayed with her as my husband said he could cope.
“Mum died last October and while I miss her dreadfully, in many ways I am relieved she is at last at peace. It soon became apparent though, that my husband had been having an affair while I was away. I didn’t know who it was with though, and it took me a while to find out. When I did, it was a dreadful shock – as the person he’d been having an affair with was my sister!
“I couldn’t believe that, while I gave up my normal life to look after our mother, my sister was sleeping with my husband. When I confronted them both, he just went silent, whilst she and I said some dreadful things to one another. She said I must be stupid not to recognise the fact that he had always loved her more than me. She asked him to leave me for her and then stormed out. I thought he might follow her, but he didn’t – and although I have asked him practically every day since, he just won’t discuss it.
“I asked if he wanted to go and all he said was, ‘I’m here, aren’t I?’, as if that should be enough. But it isn’t. The two of them have hurt me very badly. I feel I have lost my mother, my sister, and my husband in just a few short weeks. It’s as if he thinks I should just be able to forget all about it – but I can’t.”
“I’m so sorry to read about the traumatic time you’ve been through. It is particularly sad that, at a time when you and your sister should be comforting one another over the loss of your mother, the two of you are now so estranged. What caused her and your husband to behave in this extraordinary way is difficult to fathom, but I have a few suggestions. Perhaps your sister was upset about your mother’s illness; your husband tried to comfort her, and it turned into something more – that wouldn’t be unknown.
“Perhaps your husband was feeling lost and alone without you and turned to your sister for support. Perhaps the two of them have always been attracted to one another and they took advantage of your absence. None of these things excuse what happened, but it may perhaps start to explain it.
“Your husband’s behaviour now is strange though, and I wonder whether he won’t talk because he is now so embarrassed by what happened. Whilst he seems prepared to ignore his affair, he doesn’t seem to realise that you are left in a strange limbo. Does he realise you would be perfectly justified in leaving him?
“Unless he opens up and talks to you, you can’t begin to know what he wants. Yes, he’s still with you and he didn’t leave with your sister when she asked him to, but this doesn’t prove anything – it certainly doesn’t prove he loves you and wants to be with you. You could tell him that either he comes with you for counselling to work out a way forward for your marriage, or else you will have to consider a separation, and see how he reacts to that.
“A more important question though, what do you want? Do you still want to be with a man who can behave in this way? Yes, he might have been feeling ‘neglected’ but you had a lot to deal with at the time. As for your sister, if there is ever to be a working relationship between the two of you again, counselling will be needed for you both. I fear, though, that you won’t find it easy to forget or trust either of them again. You deserve better people in your life, so you might just find it easier to move on without them.”
If you have a problem you need help with, email Fiona by writing to [email protected] for advice. All letters are treated in complete confidence and, to protect this privacy, Fiona is unable to pass on your messages to other readers. Fiona regrets that she cannot enter into personal correspondence.
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