My husband & I began our relationship 5 yrs ago and got engaged 10 months later. We have always had a special connection. Very much in love from the start. We struggled during year 2 and decided to part ways. My fiancé became my ex. Then a year later, we had both grown and came together again. We got married soon after. We were the happiest newlyweds. Then one morning it all came crashing down when I discovered photos of my husband and my sister/best friend together sexually. I was devastated and felt betrayed. My husband and I went to therapy and my sister, shockingly, apologized for not telling me before we got married but said she wasn’t sorry for it happening. To this day she has not spoken to me or tried to make things right but my husband has. She was at my house twice a week at least. We were very close. My husband did everything in his power to keep our marriage intact. I have forgiven him. But I can’t believe that my own sister would do this and even worse, do nothing about it. How do I live with my husband wondering, “Does he think she’s better than me sexually in certain ways? Does he compare us? What did they say to each other?” And how do I deal with the fact that my sister has betrayed me in the worst way and doesn’t seem to care? The worst part is in my own head thinking, “They had sex in the bed I sleep in. They lied to me for so long.” I’m living a nightmare. Please help me.
-Wife Trying to Forget the Impossible
Dear Wife Trying to Forget the Impossible,
Although this happened before you and your husband were back together, he crossed a devastating sexual and emotional boundary. Even in the event that all of this went down as one mistaken night of passion, it’s problematic that neither of them told you. Most things can be worked through if there is honesty and openness from the start. Maybe you wouldn’t have moved towards getting back together if he had admitted what happened, but that would have been your decision to make, not his. He restarted your relationship through deceptive omission that has led to significant pain for you and your marriage.
Also, why did he hold onto the pictures? Besides carelessly forgetting that he had them, I might question if he was somehow trying to hold onto them as a way to hold onto their sexual relationship or for other unhealthy and regressive reasons.
It will be important for you two to process those questions you are having as a way to continue the healing process.
There is pain here, but there is hope. I want to remind you that the choice to remain in your marriage and to do the work to remain in the marriage is up to you. If you are committed to doing so, continued therapy and processing is needed. You feel vulnerable and unsafe in your marriage because of perceived expectations and comparisons. It will be important for you two to process those questions you are having as a way to continue the healing process.
I would also guess that part of you is questioning that if he would violate this boundary, that there could be other emotional or sexual boundaries that he might violate. It will be important for him to genuinely communicate that he understands the emotional gravity of the mistake that he made and that he can commit to protecting you and the emotional health of your marriage into the future.
Dear Wife Trying to Forget the Impossible,
What a shot to the heart. This is sloppy for so many reasons. How could two of the people you love the most cause you so much pain? While they are both equally at fault in this, your husband has expressed sincere remorse and is making attempts to move on, whereas your sister has expressed nothing but a measly insincere apology.
It seems the biggest factor weighing on you is your sister’s lack of compassion and remorse. With the closeness of the relationship you shared with your sister I can’t begin to imagine your heartbreak and disappointment. Knowing her so well, are there any reasons, that perversely, would compel her to do something like this (i.e., competition with you? Revenge?) Is she desperately seeking your attention or approval? Whatever the case, you won’t know until you communicate with her.
Is it possible that shame and embarrassment is preventing her from speaking to you? If there is any hope of restoring a relationship one of you has to reach out and unfortunately it looks like it has to be you. Is this what you want? If so you need to be transparent about how traumatizing this has been for you. Also mention that her lack of regret in the situation is most confusing and hurtful. See how she responds. If she expresses remorse and you desire restoring a relationship with her, it may be rocky. You say that you and your husband went to therapy. You and your sister may need to as well.
People change. Values change. Your husband and sister can change too.
The thoughts you are experiencing about your husband fantasizing over your sister are understandable considering the gut wrenching images you came across. With that said, you know that obsessing over them is not healthy for you. These thoughts will lead to continual self-doubt and subsequent punishment consciously or subconsciously of your husband.
I’ve always disliked the saying, “once a cheater, always a cheater,” because it implies one’s shitty action becomes a cycle of bad behavior forever. That’s not always the case. People change. Values change. Your husband and sister can change too.