My sister and her husband are divorcing after 14 years together. I’ve always liked my brother-in-law and he’s been generous to me. He has a high-paying job and before Covid, he was always on invitation lists for big entertainment, sports and social events.
When my sister’s job/kids prevented her from attending, my brother-in-law would take me, or he’d get an extra ticket and the three of us would attend together.
Now, I don’t know how to handle conversations when I see him. Is he still my “family” if he isn’t still hers?
Do I again hug him hello now that it’s being allowed between double-vaccinated people?
Also, my sister and her husband have a daughter, 12, and a son, 10. I’ve been very close to them and often “babysit” just to hang out sometimes. I’m now wondering if, when their father has his own place, and maybe meets someone, do I sometimes go there to spend time with my niece and nephew?
I’m wondering how my sister will feel about my having that contact with the man she’s divorcing.
I don’t fully understand their “problem” since my sister hasn’t been completely open about it. They were visibly in love when they married.
She’s travelled sometimes for work, and so has he, but they stayed in close contact and discussed everything about their children. My parents moved into their house if both were ever away at the same time, which was rare.
To many including me, they seemed an ideal couple. My sister isn’t dating yet and doesn’t ever mention another man or interest in meeting one. But there’s little doubt that my brother-in-law will find a partner soon, if he hasn’t already.
Where do I fit into his “family” as his former sister-in-law? Would it be traitorous to my sister to maintain that friendship?
In the Middle
Get out of “the middle,” because it’s your sister’s situation that matters most at this time.
You don’t know the whole picture that’s affected their marriage. Instead, you only think that “they seemed an ideal couple.” Yet it’s perfectly normal regarding the private life of a couple, that your sister hasn’t confided to you every detail of their marriage breakdown.
But of this you can be sure: It’s not a casual reason, your sister’s not happily sailing through the current changes in her life. That’s why your important role at this time is to support her as much possible.
Having close companionship with your brother-in-law, at this time, would be notably unsupportive of her and look bad on you by friends, as well as family.
In time, as both sides settle into their new situations, and especially if the two remain amicable and are both involved with their kids, you’ll likely see him periodically at larger family gatherings.
But accepting invitations any time soon, to attend an event with your ex-brother-in-law, places overt self-interest first, and sister support last.
My best friend’s been married for nine years. Her husband’s arrogant, but very successful, respected in his field, and also earns very well.
Though they outwardly seem happy, he’s repeatedly critical of her. He’s always “helpful” in that know-it-all way of teaching everyone, especially their kids, the “right way” to do everything (his way!).
I fear they’ll end in divorce though, for now, she says she likes that he challenges her.
A good friend knows when to mind their own business. She’s not complaining, and frames his manner as a challenge. Respect her attitude, and stay supportive.
Reader’s Commentary Regarding the hard-working, ambitious woman deeply disappointed in herself for marrying and staying with a man who initially just seemed “easy-going” but throughout marriage didn’t work nor help with their children or house (August 3):
“I read this letter and it sounded like my life. In my case, I met a lovely man to marry who was caring and a good dad.
“Then he slowly showed his true self after the kids left home: No conversation nor getting involved with kids’ lives, so I finally decided to leave him.
“But I wisely left before I retired. I have my full pension now, though we had to split the house and assets. But he was employed and able to support himself so no spousal support.
“I’m very happy. Tell your letter-writer to move forward before either of them retire when she’ll be forced to support him.”
Alone but Not Lonely
Tip of the day:
When a close relative/friend is divorcing, be supportive. Wait till they settle before resuming friendship with their ex.