After working so hard to repair my marriage, I discovered that my husband has been sexting his sister-in-law. Is there any coming back from this?

Husband (44M) and I (38F) have just come out the other side of a pretty dark place. Or so I thought. We’ve been married for 3 years, together for another 2 before that, and have two wonderful kids. Our relationship went from strong and unproblematic to tense, with us constantly arguing and at odds with one another after the birth of my second child. No previous issues with infidelity – the arguing was just about him consistently failing to show up when I needed him. I had a really traumatic second birth and needed a lot more help, but he suddenly disappeared, was busy, declined my calls. We worked through this with a marriage counsellor, and I thought we were in the clear, but a few days ago, my husband left his phone out while putting the little ones to bed, and on it was a notification from his SIL. I don’t want to go into too many details as I’m still in shock and don’t want to expose him, but I read back in their conversation and realized they had been exchanging nudes and flirty messages for a few months. I immediately called him out and confronted him, and he broke down and told me they had ended up speaking, alone, around Christmas time, and he had messaged her afterwards. He claims this was only because he thought we were about to divorce, and he was otherwise incredibly apologetic and sorry. He also claims that nothing physical ever happened, and that he just went after her because he has always known she has a bit of a crush on him. I’m devastated as we’ve worked so hard to rebuild our marriage and I honestly was so sure we were in the clear, but the fact that he’s been cheating, has kept it up, and that it’s with a family member is ruining me. What are my next best steps? – Sarah, MD

Dear Sarah,

After everything you’ve been through, working so hard to repair your marriage, this discovery must really leave you feeling shattered. Let’s try and sift through some of the meatier bits going on and try help you unpick all those emotions!

Firstly, take a deep breath. Allow yourself to feel the full intensity of everything going on. There’s no minimizing this; it’s a major, major betrayal. Once you’ve felt those feelings and the initial shock subsides, it’s time for action.

For the time being, some degree of separation might be beneficial. It doesn’t need to be permanent, but creating space will help you think more clearly and determine your next steps without the added stress of daily life with him. Right now, prioritizing yourself is key.

On top of some space, I strongly urge you to seek individual therapy. Having a safe and professional space to unravel the trauma and hurt caused by this is invaluable for your healing journey. Remember, his infidelity – with a family member, no less – impacts you deeply.

You might also want to consider returning to couples therapy at some point, if your husband demonstrates genuine remorse and a willingness to repair the immense damage he’s caused. However, don’t feel pressured to make this decision right away. Take your time, listen to your heart, and go only if you feel it could be beneficial and you think yourself capable of moving past this.

In addition, your husband needs to fully comprehend the depth of his betrayal, regardless of his excuses. Emotional infidelity can be just as devastating as the physical kind. Secrecy and flirtation violate your trust and cross boundaries that should never be breached within a marriage.

On top of that, and about your husband’s claims — be honest with yourself. Do you believe him when he says nothing physical happened? Trust your intuition on this, and do what you need to try and understand if he is still lying. He was, after all, willing to continue this emotional affair and only really guilty and apologetic once caught red-handed.

The somewhat harsh reality is that rebuilding trust is not a quick fix. It takes relentless effort from both parties, and even then, success is not guaranteed. Take the time you need to figure out what you truly want and deserve in this relationship. Don’t rush into any decisions based on the fear of being alone. You might also find some value in discussing your legal options with a lawyer should you choose that path.

Lastly, let’s address the matter of informing his brother. Consider how that might impact their relationship, how his brother might react, and if the potential for escalated family drama will cause you further pain. Is there any benefit to you in telling his brother, or does it risk more fallout? What would your reasons for informing him (or pushing your husband to inform him personally), and are they self-motivated or for the brother’s benefit?

Ultimately, the choice of involving others in this ordeal is yours. He betrayed you, and you don’t have to bear the burden of deciding who else needs to know. Focus on what you need. Let your husband sit with the full consequences of his choices, including whether or not he must tell his brother.

Finally, know that you deserve a partner who treasures you, respects you, and honors your relationship. You know him better than anyone, and if you think he’s unable to give you the support and attention you need, have faith that someone else will.

All the best,

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Ask Evie

Evie is on a mission to revolutionize relationships and help you sort through your emotional woes. Her popular column helps readers break free from societal restraints and create empowering relationships - both with their inner selves and with those around them. With a wealth of experience in relationship counseling, backed by several professional certifications, she’s open-minded, big-hearted, and extremely compassionate… But she’ll also be completely honest in telling you the (sometimes) brutal truth, so you can get straight to the heart of the matter. Maybe you’re trying to save a marriage that currently feels like a sinking ship? Or worrying that your new friend isn’t quite as nice as they seem? Perhaps you’ve accidentally killed your partner’s goldfish and are weighing up the pros and cons of going to the pet store and finding a doppelganger, or fessing up? Whatever the dilemma, Evie’s at the ready to help sort through the emotional turmoil and guide you towards the next best step. To get in touch with Evie, click here.

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