Sibling rivalry

My husband loves my sister -- he said so in his online diary!

By Cary Tennis
Published July 22, 2003 7:08PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I've been married to J for nearly seven years. I've known him since I was 18 but didn't hook up with him until I was 27. During all those years, he was involved in various relationships (including a marriage) but evidently harbored a huge crush on me the whole time. I thought this was sweet and that I couldn't go wrong with someone who thought so much of me. Well, now the shoe is on the other foot. Now I'm the wife and have recently found out that he has feelings for my younger sister. He has an online diary that I stumbled onto that is basically an ongoing love note to her.

When I confront him about it he says I'm being silly and that it means nothing. But I know how he felt about me all those years ago, and I know that if I'd given him any signal that I was willing to help him destroy his marriage to run off with me he would have. My sister, however, does not return his feelings, but I can't help but wonder constantly now if he's thinking about her when we're making love, or just being together in general. I love my sister, but she is, honestly, an antisocial, nonfunctional, depressed, 20-something loser who still lives with my parents. It's beyond me how he can have such strong feelings for someone like that and profess that he loves his life with me and our son and that he has the perfect family.

Can someone that says they're madly in love with you successfully control a crush they have on someone else without it ruining the marriage? Is it all up to me and how I handle it? Because I can tell you this: I'm not handling it well. I feel betrayed -- absolutely devastated.


Dear N,

Note to self: Erase those fantasies about my wife's sister from my online diary. (Just kidding, Dorrie.)

Sheesh! It is generally assumed that your past behavior, your thoughts, your feelings, and what you post on your online diary are all connected in some general way to what you're likely to do in the future. So no wonder you're concerned. How can he say with a straight face that you're being silly and it means nothing?

Yes, I think it's possible to be in love, have a strong crush on your wife's sister, and not let it ruin your marriage. But a good rule of thumb is: If you have a strong crush on your wife's sister, don't post it on the Internet!

That's just a basic rule. Maybe it sounds complicated, but really it's not. Just don't type it into your computer. If you don't type it into your computer, chances are it won't end up on your Web site.

That's a nice safeguard, isn't it? Wouldn't it be much worse if your every thought automatically got posted to your online diary? Wouldn't that be an interesting new movie for Keanu Reeves to look stoned in? But this isn't that world.

You and he need to have some frank discussions. There's a kid involved. And there's your sister. And there's his ex-wife. I'm not saying get all these people in a room and start throwing chairs. I'm saying each of these relationships is important and you need to spend some time on them.

You need to begin to sort through all this, make a reasonable assessment and take some precautions. You don't want to be caught unawares if your husband announces that he's running off with your sister. If you think that, in spite of his protestations, he is likely to stray, make provisions for yourself and your son. Do you have a good job? Do you have money saved? Will your family help you if he leaves you? You need to think about these things so you can protect yourself.

Who knows what's going on in his head. It's so hard to tell. In light of that, it's not crazy for you to consider the possibility that your marriage may not last. In fact, you may find as you explore your own feelings about this, that you don't want to be married to him anymore, that you don't really trust him. On the surface, he's just exhibited poor judgment. The tricky part is figuring out his true intent.

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Cary Tennis

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