I'm sure I'm being unreasonable, but...
November 17, 2009 2:38 PM   Subscribe

What can I do to get along with my husband's family?

My husband and I have been married 12 years, the last several of which have been somewhat rocky. He "met up" with a high school crush on Facebook and began an online emotional affair with her (she is married as well and lives in another state). After a couple months of high drama, that relationship ended and we are both working together on repairing our marriage. We feel pretty solid and have come quite a long way and I don't feel that this woman is a threat at all. The sticking point is that she is Facebook friends with my husband's brother and his wife, along with a few other mutual friends. My in laws know the entire story of their relationship and they know that it dredges up all sorts of memories of a particularly horrible time whenever I see her name, much less cheery messages back and forth between them. I've asked them once to please respect my feelings and to be supportive of what my husband and I are going through and to "unfriend" this woman, which ended in them giving me blank looks and vague "we'll think about it" answers and of course, they are still friends.

I'm really really trying to be the bigger person here and not let this bother me, however I agreed to watch their child while they go on a vacation next month-it was only after I said that I would that I found out that they are going on vacation with this woman. For some reason, this has me really angry. I feel as if the friendship with her is more important to them than my feelings and how seeing them make plans together and be all buddy-ish might be hurtful to me isn't a concern of theirs at all.

I realize I have no right to tell them who they can be friends with and I really should be the bigger person and go about my life, but it's difficult since my husband and his brother are close and my son loves his cousin. How can I spend time with these people who I feel are disrespectful of my feelings and still act like none of this bothers me? I'm trying to keep a friendly relationship for my husband and son's sake, but it's very difficult some days.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (43 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Is it possible for you and your husband to remove yourselves from Facebook? I know how you must feel. I'm sure a lot of us have been there, too. But it's not fair to ask other people to stop talking to this woman online because you might see it. Taking yourselves away from this situation will keep you from being faced with unpleasant memories all the time, and there are still plenty of ways to keep in touch with your friends and family. I'm not saying that this is absolutely the right thing to do, but if you're asking them to alter their Facebook interactions, I think it makes more sense for you to alter your own.
posted by katillathehun at 2:43 PM on November 17, 2009

I feel as if the friendship with her is more important to them than my feelings...

I'm truly not trying to be snarky here, but are your feelings more important than their freedom to be friends with whomever they like? You can ignore them on Facebook, both by not looking at their profiles and by clicking "Hide" when their status updates come up in your feed. Or, as katillathehun says, just get off Facebook altogether.
posted by runningwithscissors at 2:47 PM on November 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

You don't get to ask other people to un-friend someone. You can't do that.

Stop using Facebook? At least for a few months?
posted by rokusan at 2:47 PM on November 17, 2009

For some reason, this has me really angry.
Just reading that made me angry, too.

Facebook only creates a vivid networked illustration of how these people know each other. While I'd agree with Katilla that perhaps it's in your best interest to delete both accounts, that wouldn't separate you from a situation like this - a situation I'm actually quite appalled at.

Your description of high-school crush fails to really grasp the depth at which your in-laws know this woman. I realize you're anon but perhaps you can shoot a mod some responses..

What else was she to your husband and/or his family that they are still so friendly towards her -- enough to go vacationing with her?

And are you sure you've made it very clear to them what the situation was and how it has affected your marriage? I realize this is a pretty sensitive/sore subject for you but that might explain the blank looks and seemingly careless reactions to do so.

Looking at previous comments, I'm not sure if I'm missing the point or if this Facebook thing is the main problem. The way I'm reading it, the fact that they are having you watch your nephew while they go off and have fun with a woman that contributed to putting quite a large dent in your marriage is a bigger issue than the Facebook one.

Deleting your account / hiding posts by that person are 100% effective digitally, but it sounds like you need to make it more clear in the physical world that situations like the one they've put you in aren't helping you cope with this.
posted by june made him a gemini at 3:01 PM on November 17, 2009 [6 favorites]

Hide them in your feed, and move past it.
posted by MadamM at 3:02 PM on November 17, 2009

You can't control your brother-in-law and his wife. They have every right to be friends with this person and had no idea that their friend would have an emotional affair with your husband. They have chosen to remain friends with her. Your marriage is on the mend, and hers may be as well.

All you can do right now, or ever, is control yourself. You can choose to stay away from the person if you'd like but you cannot expect everyone else to. Turn that request onto yourself and delete your Facebook account. You are in control.

Do you still have anxieties that your husband will run away with this person? Or, are you choosing to remain angry because your husband and high-school crush are human and and looked for comfort in a forbidden place? If there are no anxieties or stress that your husband will leave you, let it go. You don't need to remain angry and you are not a victim. Take comfort in the fact that you and your husband's marriage is stable. Since you have forgiven your husband you may consider forgiving the high-school crush. I would also seriously consider apologizing to your brother-in-law and wife for asking them to drop their friend.

I'm sure this is a difficult time but it's something to work on privately with your husband and yourself. Don't drag other people into your private marital affairs and don't ask people to pick sides -- it never ends well. Best wishes.
posted by Fairchild at 3:04 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Delete your accounts. Why on Earth do you think you get to tell them who to be friends with?
posted by spaltavian at 3:04 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

You know, for some reason, even though I read it clearly, I did not make the connection between them asking you to babysit and their vacation being with this woman. My suggestion about Facebook stands, but you definitely have a right to ask them to find another babysitter. That's such a low move on their part that I can't help but think they might not understand your feelings as well as you think they do. Many people don't take emotional affairs as seriously as physical infidelity. Could this be such a case?
posted by katillathehun at 3:09 PM on November 17, 2009 [6 favorites]

Unfriend them.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:14 PM on November 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

You can block that woman on facebook, even if you aren't friends with her. This will mean you won't see any more messages from her on other people's walls. I've done this, though in my case it was my boyfriend's ex who was leaving the messages, and I knew she was still interested in him but he had no interest in her at all. When I couldn't see the messages she left on his and his mom's walls anymore, I immediately felt a lot better.

This doesn't address the larger issue, of course, but is it possible that you'll feel better if you don't have constant reminders of their friendship thrown in your face?

As far as getting them to respect your feelings regarding this woman, I'm not sure I have any fantastic advice. Can you sit down with them and talk to them about it? I'm also curious what your husband's take is on this whole thing, as it is his brother. Would it be possible for him to talk to them about it?

I don't think you can tell them who to be friends with, but it does seem to me that they are being pretty inconsiderate. In the end, your best bet may be to try and ignore it. Making it so you can't see the messages that upset you anymore would probably be a good first step towards that.
posted by rosethorn at 3:16 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

As far as As for
posted by rosethorn at 3:21 PM on November 17, 2009

I would be less concerned about Facebook (I'm "friends" with and chat with lots of people from my past on Facebook, but they're really not involved in my life in any meaningful way) and more concerned about the fact that they are taking a vacation with her, knowing that she nearly broke up your marriage, and are insensitive enough about it to have the gall to ask you to babysit. It's a free country, and they can do what they like, but that doesn't mean what they're doing isn't a little shitty. I feel for ya.

But anyway your question was about how to get along with them. Here's what I think you should do:

Facebook has a feature that lets you hide people from showing up in your feed. Hide these people. In fact, if you don't think it will cause more of a blow-up then it's worth, unfriend them. Because they are certainly not your friends. I don't know how close you were to them before all this happened, but if it were me, I would start a process of detachment from them. Avoid them at all costs and when you have to see them in person, be polite but nothing more. That's all you owe them. The pain will fade eventually but you need to not feed it by interacting with them more than necessary.
posted by weesha at 3:32 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Echoing katillathehun that I didn't catch the "they're going on vacation with her" portion.

This is where your husband, IMHO, needs to man up. You didn't have a romance with this woman, and this is his brother. He should be approaching his brother and letting him know that neither of you is cool with the continued more-than-facebook-casual relationship with the woman who his brother was cheating on his wife with.

To repeat: your husband needs to explicitly let them know how painful their continued close contact with this person is for both of you, assuming that he understands your feelings and agrees with them.

On preview: I think others are correct that you can't control who they're friends with, and maybe in some ways it's inappropriate to express thus to them, but it's pretty damned inconsiderate on their part to continue to have this level of friendship with her. It's fair to at the very least let them know explicitly how you're feeling, IMHO.
posted by liquado at 3:34 PM on November 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'm guessing from your inlaws perspective they probably see it as: you got jealous and mad at your husband for talking to an old flame from high school a little too much. They probably believe you are over reacting and that since there was no physical relationship, no harm no foul.

It's obviously a lot deeper than that for you. People have varying opinions on emotional affairs and your in laws aren't willing to end what I am guessing is a long term friendship with this woman over it. I honestly don't think I would either, but the very least they can do is respect your feelings and keep their relationship with you and their friendship with her separate. They should not have asked you to babysit while they went on vacation with her. They should find someone else or pay someone else to stay with their kids.

I should also say you need to redefine what you consider "respecting your feelings" to be. It's unreasonable to define it as ostracizing a long term friend because she got too emotionally close to your husband. I understand this was hurtful to you and your marriage, but you are putting all the blame on this woman rather than on your husband who is really the only person who owed you anything. The emotional affair should really be a private matter between you and your husband, rather than grounds for an active campaign to hurt this other women and put your in laws in a situation where they have to choose between you and their friend. Let it be.
posted by whoaali at 3:43 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

That does sound very hurtful. The way to stop feeling so bad about is to stop having reminders of it - block the lady on facebook, unfriend your in-laws, and decide to have other plans the week they're going away. Do something really awesome that week so you don't remember to think about it.

Also, what does your husband say about all of this? Does he understand how hurt you're feeling? Can he intercede on your behalf in any way? Can he phrase it as an issue of respect towards him as well as you? If they don't seem to feel that you deserve consideration, would they show consideration to him?
posted by amethysts at 3:44 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Block the woman on facebook. Tell the inlaws that in the future you will be unable to watch their child when they are vacationing with [this woman], and that you feel rather hurt that they asked for that favour. You have no right not to ask them to be friends with her -- the high school thing suggests they've been friends with her a very long time -- but they don't need to get your help when they're doing so. If your husband doesn't agree to help you out with this, then your problem is with him and not your inlaws.
posted by jeather at 3:45 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

He should be approaching his brother and letting him know that neither of you is cool with the continued more-than-facebook-casual relationship with the woman who his brother was cheating on his wife with.

I don't think that this is right. You can avoid someone all you like, and you can ask that someone not be mentioned in your presence, but you don't get to pick who your family members are friends with.

If they know how much this hurts and choose to have contact with her anyway, well that's a separate problem. I agree it was insensitive and a little dishonest of them to get you to babysit under those circumstances. Maybe their priorities are out of order, or maybe there's a reason why they're close with her that you can't parse because of your really unfortunate circumstances. Really though, there's only so much you can do without making things a lot worse.

Hide their feed on FB. Or stop logging in altogether. FB is really piss-poorly designed to accomodate these sorts of situations, it's always trying to bump you up against people that you're deliberately avoiding.
posted by hermitosis at 3:51 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

You don't get to tell them who they can be friends with.

At the same time, they can be respectful of your feelings and not bring her up in conversation. Tell them that you don't want to know if they are going on vacation with this person, hanging out with her, etc. It's perfectly reasonable to ask that she not be mentioned around you.
posted by desjardins at 3:54 PM on November 17, 2009

I agree with the advice to detach from your in-laws. I would assess what I can expect from them and what I can't and I would not hope for anything more. I cannot fathom asking my brother-in-law to babysit my child while I went on vacation with a man my sister had an inappropriate relationship with, longtime friend or not. That is so inconsiderate of your feelings that it verges on hostile.

I do not know what I would do after I already committed to watching the child. It will cost you something to tell them you are uncomfortable with it, but for me watching that child that week would feel like swallowing bile.

I encourage you to block this woman on facebook so that you do not see her activities on the pages of others. I also encourage you to discuss this with your husband since he might know best how to negotiate his family.
posted by Original 1928 Flavor at 4:39 PM on November 17, 2009

Yes, block her.

You don't have to be friends with someone to block them. Once you have blocked her, she will not exist on Facebook to you. Anything that she does or that someone does to her will not show up for you. I'm not sure how it works when she's tagged in photos, and thinking about potential vacation photos, you just might have to have that willpower to avoid looking at that album when you see your in-laws post it.

I too believe that emotional affairs have the potential to be just as bad as physical affairs. And if a high-school friend had [emotionally] homewrecked my brother's marriage, that's really not someone that I'd want to be friends with anymore. I don't know the depth of the in-laws' friendship with the homewrecker, but I'd think their loyalty would be to you, their "sister," over her. If some guy that they'd been friends with had been cheating with you on their brother, I wonder whether they'd be going on vacation with him.

However, there's really nothing you can do about it. Either they're insensitive or they're assholes or who knows what else, but you have no grounds to dictate whom they're friends with. But you definitely should call them up and say, "you know what, something came up [that something being the knowledge that they're going on vacation with the homewrecker] and I shan't be able to babysit after all." I advise TOTALLY against bringing up anything to do with the homewrecker or their friendship. There's absolutely nothing you can do and saying something will do absolutely nothing but harm.

You don't mention your husband's part in this at all--his opinion, his feelings about their friendship, what he's said to you or you to him about it. Please post back with that.
posted by thebazilist at 4:44 PM on November 17, 2009

Your husband needs to be talking to them about this, and encouraging them to be more sensitive.

You should just hide them on Facebook.

The vacation...well...just try to look at it as a fun time for your kid and move on.
posted by kathrineg at 5:00 PM on November 17, 2009

And if a high-school friend had [emotionally] homewrecked my brother's marriage, that's really not someone that I'd want to be friends with anymore.

To be clear, the poster states that the woman is also married, so technically the brother is a "homewrecker" too.
posted by lalex at 5:26 PM on November 17, 2009

Echoing that you don't get to decide who your in laws are friends with on facebook. But you know what that means? Your in laws dont get to decide for you. And if I were in your place I would defriend and block my in laws. You can still be nice and cordial to them at family gatherings, but obviously your facebook connection to them is causing you stress and grief and they don't seem to care much.

Also, your husband needs to tell his brother that you won't be able to watch the children.
posted by skjønn at 5:33 PM on November 17, 2009

follow-up from the OP
1-Deleting the Facebook accounts isn't really an option since we both have family, friends and coworkers on there. I have hidden my brother in law, his wife and about 4 other people that I have in common with her. Back in the thick of it all, I unfriended his family and it caused more problems than it solved. Hiding them was an excellent idea.

2-The history of the friendship is that my husband, his brother, his brother's wife and this woman were all members of an extra curricular activity together in high school. (20 years ago) After high school, she had not been in contact with any of them until this past spring when they all reconnected on Facebook.

3-My inlaws knew of the emotional entanglement (they weren't discreet and flirted openly on FB) before I did and then this woman told them about the relationship. They were supportive to her when talking to her and supportive of me when talking to me (they didn't want to "take sides"). I've seen the emails, texts, IM conversations and they were full of "I love you" and her worrying that his family would view her as a "homewrecker". She also urged him to leave me and to try to take custody of our son. When he broke the relationship off with her she was very angry with him and they haven't spoken since.

4-I don't put all the blame on her (although I would like to) and my husband and I are working very hard on fixing our issues. In addition, I've begun therapy myself. My husband accepts his role in the situation as well as I accept my role in the situation, each of us has blame to share. He is truly sorry and 6 months out we are able to rationally discuss my fears and his feelings without it being a screaming mess. I'm positive that he is not in contact with her anymore.

5-The biggest issue is that my husband loves his brother and family (not so much his sister in law) and doesn't want to be estranged. I understand his feelings and he says he understands mine as well-he just doesn't really know what will make everyone happy. (He doesn't deal well with confrontation and would much rather all this go away and we all live happily ever after). I love my husband and don't want him to miss his family-I just am not sure how to be around these people.
posted by jessamyn at 6:19 PM on November 17, 2009

"Oh, I'm so sorry! I'm not going to be able to sit for you during your vacation. My apologies!"

I wouldn't necessarily Un-friend the in laws (too much drama, could potentially blow up in your face and make everything worse), but block them and hide their feed so you don't put yourself through the bullshit.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 6:19 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

At first I thought you were being TOTALLY OTT. Then I considered again.
I think blocking dangerwoman on Facebook is the appropriate action. As for the rest...
Is your relationship really, *truely* on the mend? For an inappropriate situation where nothing physical happened, you seem quite scared about the prospect of continued contact. I can understand that, but I personally would shrug it off. But, you may feel that there's still fire there.
It's entirely possible that your Brother-in-law and Wife see you as "jealous, bitchy wife who can't stand our brother talking to *an old friend*". Sure, it wasn't talking, it was bad karma. And she's an ex. And you're not jealous or bitchy, you're hurt and worried. But it's easy to see it in that way if you don't know the whole story.
They might see you as the outsider here... They've only known you 12 years, they've known her since highschool... Even though she wasn't around recently.
I think your brother needs to talk to them and reveal what happened, and clarify that you don't care if they're friends with her, but asking you to facilitate that friendship is beyond the pale and you won't be doing so. OR, not doing so again... Nephew might be excited about spending time with Aunty anon, so make sure you don't hurt him. Kids don't understand complex adult relationships and likely only knows this woman as an old friend, and friends are fun, right?
posted by Quadlex at 6:36 PM on November 17, 2009

There's a difference between hiding them and blocking on FB. Blocking someone also makes you invisible to the other person. It sounds to me that this woman is still trying to wiggle her way into the family. I wouldn't want her to be able to read my wall or posts either, so unless you change your privacy settings so that only friends can read your posts, friends of friends probably can. BLOCK not hide.
posted by tamitang at 6:44 PM on November 17, 2009

After reading your update, I don't think this is something you can just put a bandaid on. Your husband has to stand up to his family. I don't think there's much you can do to fix it from your end. If he's afraid that taking your side means being estranged from them, it means that they're ready to choose dangerwoman over you. He's being complicit in that by not telling them off.. And that's a serious problem. His family doesn't get to decide who he's married to.
posted by amethysts at 6:54 PM on November 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

She also urged him to leave me and to try to take custody of our son

What the fuck. You are right to be angry.

He just doesn't really know what will make everyone happy. (He doesn't deal well with confrontation and would much rather all this go away and we all live happily ever after).

Well, he certainly lost that option when he started his emotional relationship with the other woman. I think it's your husband's task to deal with his family and to ask them to be more considerate of your feelings. Yeah, they should be able to associate with anybody they want, but they don't have to rub it in your face.

It sounds your inlaws are also adverse to confrontation, and that's why they were supportive to both of you. It's not an excuse for their behaviour, but you might be able to understand why they did it.

I'd still babysit the nephew. It's not his fault his parents are assholes. However, I understand you'd need to be a saint to do it and not be angry or stressed out, which will not be good for your kid and your nephew.
posted by clearlydemon at 6:58 PM on November 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Wow, I could not disagree more with the majority of these answers, and I find them pretty shocking. Sure, everyone has the right to be friends with whoever they want. So what? Since when does having the right to do something make it okay? I also have the right in a lot of places to beat my dog to death. Similarly, I would never in a million years be friends with someone who tried to break up the marriage of someone I loved, and get their child taken away from them. Much less someone I had barely spoken to in 20 years. That is a complete betrayal. What that says, tacitly, is that what she did you doesn't really bother them that much, or at all. That it is okay with them that she tried to rip apart your life. You are not being unreasonable at all to be surprised and hurt by that. I would be livid.

I really don't know how to solve this problem. Hide them all on Facebook, sure, but that doesn't solve the underlying problem. Which is that you can't trust your in-laws to have your back, when it comes to things you don't know about. You can't count on them to protect you if someone's hurting you/screwing you over. They're not even going to care if someone's hurting/has hurt you. It just doesn't bother them. Blank look.

I guess if it were me, I would do two things. First, I would make one last attempt with my in-laws, giving them the benefit of the doubt that they just didn't understand how deeply I was hurt/how serious the situation was/the details of what she didn't try to do, as opposed to knowing and just not caring. I'd try to explain it to them as bluntly/clearly as possible.

If that didn't work, I'd do as Weesha said and start detaching from them. But, I don't think you necessarily have to detach from them in any overt way, if you don't want to harm your son's relationship with his cousin. I would detach from them emotionally. I would try to divest myself of all emotional ties and feelings of friendship, because along with that go the social/loyalty expectations that we have of our close friends and family. And because of their total failure to meet those expectations in this case, I wouldn't want to put myself in the position of having them in another situation in the future, and being hurt again. I would probably aim to expect nothing more of them, in terms of loyalty, than I would of a slightly unfriendly stranger. When I saw them, I'd still be polite, just not close.

TL:DR; They have the right to be friends with whomever they want, and you have the right to not be close to people who would want to be friends with people like this woman.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:31 PM on November 17, 2009 [7 favorites]

Ok, I'd like to retract my earlier comment. When you said emotional affair I took it too mean an intense and close friendship that made him less emotionally connected to you and turned his focus away from his marriage (which while I understand can be upsetting aren't really "affairs" as I consider them). Not she was actively trying to break up our marriage and family. I understand now why you want her erased from your life.

Yeah it's unacceptable that your in laws won't ostracize this woman (don't want to take side?? I'm pretty sure they just did). They are making a statement that they do not fully support your marriage, your family, or you. I would be deeply hurt.

That being said, there is nothing you can do about it, so fake it and try not to let it get to you. Whatever your relationship was before this happened with your in-laws, well it's been redefined. Keep them at arms' length, but play nice. Go through the motions to allow your husband and child to maintain a relationship with them, but that's it. And yeah you can no longer watch their kid, something came up, sorry for the inconvenience. You're sure they'll understand and hope they have a great trip!
posted by whoaali at 8:01 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

She also urged him to leave me and to try to take custody of our son.

Do they know this part? Because before I knew this part I thought you were overreacting.
posted by kathrineg at 8:04 PM on November 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

I realize that I am going to reiterate some of the comments above, but here's my suggestion:

I tend to believe that treating people as though they have the best possible intentions tends to serve everyone best, in the long run. And even if you're wrong in doing so, you're wrong in a way that garners you sympathy and compassion, instead of defensiveness and hostility.

So I recommend that you start by having a conversation with your husband. Acknowledge his fears about creating strife in his family, and his need to keep everything smooth. And then move into emphasizing that given how tender things are between you in the wake of this betrayal, you really need his support on this issue in order to move forward. Do this in a way that conveys that you have faith in your relationship, and in his desire to continue to mend things between you (which is something that you have conveyed in the way you wrote this question). Explain why his family's relationship with this woman hurts you, and ask him for his help. And he does owe you his help. It is only appropriate that he be willing to demonstrate that your marriage is a priority to him.

This next step is predicated on the success of the first. So, if that conversation with your husband goes well, go to his family together. Be willing to acknowledge how nice it must be to reconnect with someone from their path, but explain how much this experience, and this woman, have hurt you -- and not just you as an individual, but 'you' as a family. His extended family needs to understand how damaging this was, and it's okay for you two to explain it. Explain that she wanted to take your husband, and your son, from you. Explain that you understand you have no desire to determine their friendships, but that it is important to both you and your husband that this woman be kept out of your lives. Approach it with the assumption that they truly had no idea how awful this was, and that now that you're telling them, you're sure their loyalty to their family will trump the 'fun' of reconnecting.

The reason that I suggest this approach is that it gives your in-laws a graceful 'out.' I'm guessing that they don't realize either a) the gravity of the situation and how much it hurt you, or b) that your husband is invested in making things right again. You probably need part 'b' to make this approach work, but I have to say that if you don't have that already, then you probably have bigger fish to fry.
posted by amelioration at 8:34 PM on November 17, 2009 [4 favorites]

3-My inlaws knew of the emotional entanglement (they weren't discreet and flirted openly on FB) before I did and then this woman told them about the relationship. They were supportive to her when talking to her and supportive of me when talking to me (they didn't want to "take sides"). I've seen the emails, texts, IM conversations and they were full of "I love you" and her worrying that his family would view her as a "homewrecker". She also urged him to leave me and to try to take custody of our son. When he broke the relationship off with her she was very angry with him and they haven't spoken since.

I don't have a right to be, but this upset me on your behalf. These inlaws were not supporting your marriage. They're supposed to be your family -- not this woman's family, but your family. And family doesn't support family breakups. The reason you're upset is because they are valuing her friendship over being your family.

If I were you, I'd never speak to them again, but I'm known for not being able to hide my feelings. You didn't do anything wrong and you're the one working the hardest at making sure everything is okay. They did this to you and continue to do so. My read is that they're taking advantage of you.

That being said, I don't know what the effective cure for this all is, but I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to cause them all kinds of inconveniences and unhappiness. I'm not saying it's right, but I think you need to just take care of yourself and be clear with your husband about their behavior. After you've been honest with him, you've done what you can do and it's up to them to make things right.
posted by anniecat at 9:30 PM on November 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

My inlaws knew of the emotional entanglement (they weren't discreet and flirted openly on FB) before I did and then this woman told them about the relationship. They were supportive to her when talking to her and supportive of me when talking to me (they didn't want to "take sides").


OK, I change my previous answer. Fuck 'em. Family comes before friends, especially ones you haven't talked to since high school. You still can't tell them not to be friends with each other, but MAN, what asshats they've been. I understand why you're so upset. I would be fucking enraged at my husband's family if they knew he'd been flirting on Facebook behind my back and there'd better be some scorched earth between them and her. Detach from these asshats. Don't babysit their kid; after this they can damn well pay for a sitter. Seriously, how you have not ripped these people's faces off, I have no idea.
posted by desjardins at 9:36 PM on November 17, 2009 [6 favorites]

I'm going to validate your feeling of anger and dismay. Your in-laws are assholes.

Their behaviour makes them look like they're pretty loyal to Miss-arrived-from-the-past-ten-minutes-ago-child-stealing-wannabe [who gives a shit whether she, say, played the tuba as a kid with them at school twenty forever years ago] instead of their long standing bond with your husband/their brother/son and you. Boo hoo.

The FB unfriend suggestion is not going to happen, but it's a tangible sign that they don't seem to care about your marriage or your place in their family. [hello, um, they didn't want to take sides and 'supported' her DURING the affair? They would be dead to me!] Act accordingly - you're not their babysitter, or their friend til they get their shit together on this. Being related doesn't mean you have to be friends.
posted by honey-barbara at 1:16 AM on November 18, 2009 [2 favorites]

Your inlaws might be insanely conflict averse like your husband. Or they might really be very good friends again with this woman, and, like friends do, supporting her even though she did something fucked up and wrong. (Just like they support your husband even though he did the same.) Unfortunately, this means that you're stuck in the middle.

These people aren't friends of yours, and the way they value family is not the way you value family. They are taking a friend to be equal weight with their sister in law. (It sounds to me like your husband has not said anything to them about this.)

You need your husband with you on this to figure out what you can and will ask of your inlaws, But you should probably accept that they won't cut her out of their lives, and figure out what this means for your relationship. You don't want to enable that friendship, obviously, nor do you want to go to social events where this woman is. Is there more? How does your husband feel about those issues, and about the friendship his brother has with this woman?

You're not insane to want them not to have a relationship with her. It is normal and reasonable that you feel betrayed. But it doesn't seem like they have any intention of changing that, so you want to figure out how you will deal with it. Amelioration has a very nice way to bring it up with them.
posted by jeather at 5:32 AM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I think anyone would be upset in your situation. But, I can see a few things here that might influence how your in-laws are thinking. First, as others have pointed out, do they actually know that this went beyond some flirtation? Second, you have forgiven a very direct betrayal by your husband. Maybe they feel it's appropriate to forgive their friend's indirect betrayal (meaning, she didn't betray them, she betrayed you, and mostly betrayed her own husband). You may wonder how they could stay friends with someone like that, but they are related to someone like that (and you're married to someone like that). "Blood is thicker than water" is a very nice idea, but cutting even non-family out of one's life can be a very big deal. Third, if your marriage has been rocky for several years, they may have decided that they should just live their lives and remain as detached as possible from your marital issues.

As for the babysitting, that seems fairly appalling if they know the full extent of what your husband and the other woman did. Even after your update, I don't think you can fairly expect them to stop being friends with her. You can, however, expect them to keep their friendship with her entirely separate from their relationship with you. The babysitting thing seems either clueless/ignorant or hostile. It's possible they didn't think of the "other woman" issue and saw it as a way for your kids to have some fun spending time together. That's a generous way of looking at it, and, if true, they're clueless.
posted by Mavri at 8:03 AM on November 18, 2009

I understand his feelings and he says he understands mine as well--he just doesn't really know what will make everyone happy. (He doesn't deal well with confrontation and would much rather all this go away and we all live happily ever after).

I think this is your problem, honestly, not so much the inlaws.

There's two options here: either there's a whole other side to this story we're not getting, that makes it very clear why your in-laws remain close to this woman and makes your husband believe that their request for you to watch the kids while they all vacation together is not out-of-bounds--and he's too conflict-averse to say so to your face. The second option is that this is really totally out-of-bounds uncool and your husband damn well knows it, but he's too conflict-averse to say something to them.

Neither one is a very good option. I really don't think it's okay that's he's playing both sides here, no matter how uncomfortable drawing boundaries with his family makes him.

If it's the first option, he should be explaining to you exactly why this is okay, and you two should be talking about it and negotiating exactly what is fair for you to do in order to let your husband continue to have a close relationship with his siblings. If it's the second option, he really needs to be talking to his brother and letting them know that if they want to continue having a close relationship with your family, then the topic of this woman is verboten for the time being in your presence.

Everyone above who said that you can't control who your in-laws are friends with are exactly right. But you can and should draw boundaries for yourself about how you allow your husband and other people in your life to treat you. You're obviously a kind and loving spouse to want to twist yourself up in knots to allow your husband to avoid this discomfort of either explaining the full story (to either you or his brother, whoever he actually disagrees with here), but I think you're doing yourself and potentially your marriage a pretty big disservice here. Your husband is lying to someone, even if it's just lies of omission so everyone can go along to get along, and expecting you to swallow your hurt and anger is really monumentally unfair.
posted by iminurmefi at 9:29 AM on November 18, 2009

I just want to put my two cents in and agree that you have the right to be angry.

I think it is unbelievable that they want you to watch their child so that they can go on vacation with this wannabe home-wrecker. What are the odds that she goes after your brother-in-law next?

I agree with all the above who say that your hubby needs to tell them they are being insensitive. They should at the very least not speak of this person to you or your husband, or about her in your presence. If they were decent people they would tell this woman to go to hell, but I think we've established that they are not decent. They can at least pretend to have a shred of human emotion and not talk about the witch while you are around. Your hubby needs to tell them in no uncertain terms that you and he are working things out and what she tried to do to his marriage. Just so there is no grey area. Then he can tell them to shut up about her. If they don't then I think you need to distance yourself. Don't do them any favors, don't go to family functions, nothing until they promise to behave.
posted by TooFewShoes at 5:40 PM on November 18, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm late to the party but I was once in a position similar to your in-laws - two of my friends had a messy break up, with lots of anger and drama. One side definitely deserved more of the blame, but I wasn't willing to entrench myself in their drama and start a civil war between my groups of friends. Not worth it, and they were both great friends in their own ways (though neither were great in romantic relationship skills). I refused to escalate drama between them, and I was honest about things that might upset them - for example I gave them both fair warning that they were both invited to an event, but I refused to invite one and exclude the other. Years later, I'm very glad I handled this the way I did.

I suspect your in laws see this situation in the same way - it's not their drama, the people they care about (brother and the other woman) are acting crappy, and the best they can do is be kind to everyone, de-escalate drama, and refuse to change their lives around because their loved ones suck at romantic relationships.

my husband loves his brother and family (not so much his sister in law)

I suspect this has more to do with things than you think - why wouldn't they favor an old friend who actually likes both of them, over relatives that are disdainful of one half of their relationship? I think your dislike of your sister in law really tips the balance towards treating both sides as equally messed up.
posted by fermezporte at 7:48 PM on November 18, 2009

She tried to get her filthy paws on your son? Oh HELL no. Assuming the in-laws were aware of this and continued to associate with the psycho, they'd be dead to me. Dead. As in, I would actively block them on Facebook and any other stupid social networking sites, filter their emails to my spam folder and set Gmail to automatically delete them on arrival, avoid events where I knew they would be present, put their phone numbers into the "ASSHOLES: DO NOT ANSWER" contact I use for telemarketers and other assorted scum, and never speak to them again. Ever.

Someone who would allow such a toxic and dangerous person continued access to my family is not someone I would choose to have in my life. It's possible your in-laws haven't been fully informed of the details. If not, they need to be, and your husband should be the one to do it. If so...cut them off like a gangrenous limb, and don't do it halfway. They are poison.

By the way, if your husband is serious about working things out, he needs to fully commit to you and your child, the family he chose. That means he has to stand up to his family of origin even though it might result in estrangement. If he can't do that, you need to think seriously about whether you're really interested in spending the rest of your life with a simpering adulterous pantywaist of a man who chose his toxic family over his wife and child. I sure as fuck wouldn't be.
posted by balls at 9:24 PM on November 18, 2009 [3 favorites]

Amen balls.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:24 AM on November 19, 2009

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