Hi, Suzie. My name is Olivia, from London, England.
My husband had an emotional affair that turned into a sexual affair with a friend. I have been going through your betrayed recovery course and have found it to be very helpful. I do have a question that isn’t specifically addressed in your course.
My husband has shown remorse and would like to reconcile with me, but his affair partner is also friends with his parents, and I feel betrayed by my in-laws….because they’re still friends with this woman.
How do I move forward with my husband knowing that his parents are still friends with the affair partner?
My husband told them not to have her over if he or my family come to the house. And I’ve decided that unless their relationship with the AP changes, they are not my family if they continue to interact with the person that helped destroy my marriage.
Thank you. I look forward to hearing your advice.
Thank you, Olivia, for taking the time to share your question.
Your situation, of course, is kind of sticky and a bit of a tricky one. On the one hand, I want to really spotlight the fact that your husband has shown remorse. This is a key factor for me and something that I look for when it comes to working with couples who want to reconcile. One of the key ingredients is that the person who has broken their vows does show a certain amount of remorse.
I like the fact that you’re using the word “remorse.”
Because for a lot of people, they get confused between seeing guilt and seeing remorse.
While someone can feel guilty for having had an affair, it doesn’t necessarily mean that that translates to remorse.
Guilt is when you can look at your actions from the way that they are viewed socially and feel some shame or feel some embarrassment.
But with remorse…
…you look at your actions and you see them as something you regret. You see them as something that doesn’t match your identity or how you self-identify. It’s something that doesn’t match your values.
And so, when you see that mismatch of values for yourself, you experience a state we call remorse. This is, again, very important in the reconciliation process. And it’s a key factor that I look for when I’m working with couples who are ready, or feel like they want to give it a second chance. So I want to really spotlight the fact that he’s got this remorse.
The next thing that comes to mind from your question is that secondary feeling of betrayal. This happens a lot in situations where the affair partner is someone that’s already in the social circle.
So, for example…
I’ve worked with clients where the affair partner is another family member, a neighbor, somebody’s friend, or a best friend. So when it happens where the affair partner is someone that’s already in a social circle, it brings up a different dynamic, almost like a secondary betrayal, exactly like you’re describing it.
And in your case, because it’s your in-laws, there’s an additional sense of betrayal, a deepening of the betrayal, if you will.
And so in your case, you’ve got two pieces that you’ve got to process through.
One piece is the betrayal of the marriage vows, the sanctity of the marriage vows, the betrayal of trust between you and your partner. You’ve got to heal that and you’ve got a process through that.
But you’ve also got to work with the fact that there seems to be some sense of disloyalty in your in-laws. No, I don’t know your in-laws. I can’t coach your in-laws and I can’t speak for your in-laws since they’re not on this call.
So, what I would advise you to do is to maybe have a sit-down with your husband and with your in-laws…and explain to them without anger or judgment how this is feeling for you.
Now, you may have already done this. As you said, you communicated some boundaries to them.
You’ve said to them, “Hey, I don’t want to have the affair partner over if I’m there”, (or within any kind of proximity). Communicating your boundaries is the first step in that conversation. But if you haven’t already done so, I’d like you to deepen that conversation, and explain to them why it’s landing as a betrayal for you.
Now, playing a little bit of devil’s advocate…
I don’t know what the relationship is between them and the affair partner. I don’t know if she’s someone that they were close to prior to your marriage. I don’t even know what your relationship was with your in-laws prior to this situation. Not that any of those things really matter, but they do need to be represented in the conversation that you guys have.
So in a way, I’m suggesting a mini intervention. And if you can have someone in that conversation who’s who’s a little bit objective, who can maybe explain how it’s landing for both sides, then that might actually help.
The other thing that was mentioned in your question, how do you move forward with this second piece of the puzzle?
Here’s what I want you to do.
A big part of affair recovery is just putting things in the right order. It sounds simple, but it really has a profound effect.
What I want you to understand is what is truly important in the reconciliation process is not your in-laws’ relationship with the AP. As painful as it is, it’s not what’s important.
What’s really important is that you and your partner deal with the issues and the aftermath.
The mistrust, the distrust and the things that this has brought up in your marriage.
In other words…
I want you to focus on dealing with your marriage first.
It’s easy when we’re going through painful things to look at all the other things that are the factors…but not necessarily the most important elements. Yes, your in-laws’ behavior is a factor, but it’s not the key focus. So I want you to take the spotlight off of what they’re doing or not doing…and put one hundred percent of your effort and attention on your recovery process.
I hope you found something helpful here for you today. Whatever you decide to do, remember, at the end of the day, Love Wins!