Dear Carolyn: My husband’s sister conducted a two-year affair and her marriage ended. Sister blames Ex for the failure of their marriage, refuses to admit to the affair (even after moving in with her lover), stalks Ex’s dates and otherwise harasses Ex, continually cancels her days with her children and disparages her own children to Ex.
Because Ex has always acted like a brother to my husband, and because we want to be a source of stability for the children, we remain close to Ex.
We also believe Sister’s behavior indicates a need for help, but she refuses therapy.
Sister tries to disrupt our time with Ex and children, screaming and crying that our relationship with Ex is “preventing her from moving on with her life.” Now she is using social media to tell everyone we have supported Ex’s “planned scheme to cut her off from friends and family.”
We have never disclosed her affair to anyone. I don’t know if revealing some details would sound alarms to others who may also encourage her to seek help. Any advice? Ex’s lawyer has all of the details, but Ex, and we, are concerned about taking any steps that would expose the details to the kids. – Balancing Defense and Blame
You use “defense” in your signature, but Sister’s instability clears your name of her charges. She and the kids are far more at risk than your reputation is.
Enlisting others is a good idea, to help Sister get help. The affair is but one detail of many in her public cry for help, so you can sound the alarm without it.
Please also urge Ex to add a good family therapist to his roster of professionals. Continue updating the lawyer, yes, but a mental-health professional is the one you want making the call on how best to protect these kids.