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Advice from Dr. Stanwix: Cheating Niece

Advice from Dr. Stanwix: Cheating Niece
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Dear Dr. Stanwix,

My husband has been seeing my niece for the last two years. I had my suspicions for quite sometime and even asked him flat out if he was having an affair with her. He refused to admit anything; however, I have since found evidence of their affair.

I checked his cell phone one day when he was in the shower and found a thread of text messages that spanned an entire month. In these messages I read some very provocative and quite disheartening messages between the two of them. They made plans to meet in secret places, arranged trips together behind my back and said some very explicitly sexual things that made it completely obvious they were sleeping together.

This has not only caused a rift in my relationship, but also in my family. My brother (the father of my niece) refuses to accept that this is happening. He will not look at the evidence and doesn’t believe me. This has become a situation where some people in our family are taking his side and others are taking my side.

This is between my husband and me and I don’t want to make this a family issue. Unfortunately, my husband is trying to play us off of one another so he doesn’t have to accept responsibility for his actions.

Can you please give me some suggestions on how to deal with this complicated situation?


Cheating Niece

Dear Cheating Niece,

Families are difficult dynamics to navigate. As we grow and make families of our own we often have conflicting allegiances. We want to be loyal to our original families, but we often have to make our current families our priority. Bottom line, your brother doesn’t want to believe you because that would mean he would have to accept that his daughter betrayed you. This brings both of his families into conflict and this can be very difficult for someone to accept much less deal with.

While I am quite sure you are upset with your niece, the only way to take the focus off of the family and put it on your husband is by dealing with him and him alone. You can always express your displeasure to your niece at a later time, but it’s best not to fight a two-front war at this point.

Once you have the focus on your husband, you must confront him directly about this problem. Tell him you have irrefutable proof of his extra-marital affair with your niece and that you will not accept his denial or familial subterfuge. Give him an ultimatum, he either stops this and discusses the situation with you or your relationship is over. While I know that this sounds easier than it is, you must make it very clear to him that he has crossed a very serious line and will have to pay the consequences.

Given how this has affected your family and relationship with your husband, you may be more of a mind to just finish things altogether. That’s perfectly all right. He has done you a serious wrong and if you can’t find it in your heart to forgive him, then don’t. It wouldn’t be so bad if he had simply come clean when you accused him of this. However, if he is unwilling to be truthful with you, you need to think about whether you can trust him.

Once your situation with your husband is dealt with, then you can move on to your niece. Your brother can’t ignore the facts forever. In time it will obviously be substantiated that your niece has been seeing your husband. Your brother and the others in your family who have sided with your niece, will have to admit they were wrong. Try not to be hard on them. They may have their loyalties askew in your estimation, but that doesn’t mean they were wrong to disbelieve you. The important thing is that they know the truth and support you through this difficult time.

What you should do is sit down with your brother, his wife and your niece to discuss this situation as adults. I am not sure how old your niece is, but she may be young and impressionable. Your husband may have influenced her decision.  By the same token, she may have been the one to instigate this affair. It is best to get the truth directly from your niece and discuss this problem with your brother and sister in law.

Keep in mind that, while your niece is part of your family and definitely bears some responsibility, it is ultimately up to the spouse to remain faithful to his/her significant other. In other words, the bulk of your anger needs to be directed at your husband for failing to maintain his commitment to you.

You may end your relationship with your husband. However, ending your relationship with your family is much more difficult. Don’t let your husband’s infidelities affect that relationship too much. After all, family is all we have.

Best of Luck,

Dr. Michael Stanwix

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