Monday 10 December 2018

Dear Mary: Our new daughter-in-law had an affair and our son is devastated

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Mary O’Conor

Our son, who is in his thirties, got married just over a year ago to a girl that he has been with for the previous six years.

We had no concerns and it was such a happy event for the whole family. She is a lovely easy- going girl who made our son very happy and she easily became part of the family and has had a great relationship with his siblings.

Since Christmas we have become concerned about our son as he appeared not to be in the best of form and down in himself when we spoke on the phone.

He has a demanding job so we accepted his explanation that work was stressful and as he lives a good distance away we accepted that.

Imagine our shock and horror when he arrived home unexpectedly four weeks ago and completely broke down and told us that his wife was having an affair with a colleague.

It had been going on only for a short time when he found out and he is totally gutted and not coping at all.

He loves her and will do anything to make the marriage work. She says that she loves him and is sorry for causing so much hurt but she is also admitting to having feelings for this other man.

They are attending counselling at his insistence but she has given him no guarantees about their future and says that she needs space to think.

Meanwhile, our son is barely coping, he looks dreadful and my husband and I, who are the only people who know about the situation, are beside ourselves with worry and the stress of trying to carry on as normal with the rest of our family and friends.

We do not know how best to advise or help him.

They have had a great life together to date, they have lots of friends and a lovely home, good careers and no money worries.

We are numb with shock that she could betray our beloved son in such a way and after such a short time since their wedding.

We are trying not to say anything unhelpful and have assured him that we will never mention it or treat her differently if they come through this.

Our daughter-in-law has no idea that we know and my son feels guilty that he has told us but he was really falling apart and we have a good relationship.

Can you advise us how best to support our son? I have been tempted to speak to her parents who are completely oblivious to the situation but I am so afraid of doing the wrong thing and making matters worse.

Mary replies: My late mother always told me that we worry about our children until the day we die. I did not believe her until I had children myself and realised just how right she was.

As our children grow we try to protect them from the world in all sorts of ways and as they become adults it is very difficult to stop.

We don't want them to be hurt and would rather take the brunt of the hurt ourselves which of course is impossible.

You have been faced with a very difficult situation and it is indeed testament to how close your son is to you that he has confided in you.

You have done all the right things - you were there for him, you have reassured him that you won't hold this against your daughter-in-law if they stay together, and you have kept this very personal story to yourselves rather than share it with family and friends.

I don't think there is anything to be gained by you telling her parents - they certainly will not be able to change the narrative with regard to their daughter because it will be her own decision as to whether she goes or not.

You would very probably be blamed in some way if you told them - and your son would also be in trouble for having told you.

There is nothing further that you can do, other than by keeping in touch with your son and assuring him that no matter what happens you will be either at the end of a phone or there in person for him when he needs you.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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