A Preexisting Condition
by: Wayne and Tamara
Direct Answers - Column for the week of December 2, 2002
I am 25 and have been married for two years. This past August I began an affair with my husband's younger brother. I feel just terrible and want to end the relationship, but I feel I am in a hopeless situation.
The guilt is overwhelming, and I feel I need to come clean with my husband before I can get past what I've done and move on. However, I'm sure you can see the conflict. Since the affair involves someone so close to my husband, I don't know that we could ever get through this.
I don't want to destroy the relationship between my husband and his brother, not to mention that this news would destroy their entire family. I feel like I should divorce my husband, cut off all contact with him and his brother, and live with the consequences of my actions--loneliness, guilt, and the burden of my sins. Can you please help?
Kerri, you want to whip yourself with a cat-o'-nine-tails, but this is not something to whip yourself about. It is something to understand. There is no point in becoming just another miserable person on the planet. Too many people already fit that category.
Your affair is not the problem. The problem started before that, and it involves what you brought to the marriage. When two people have that ultimate love which everyone craves, they never forget who they are married to. Forgetting the other person would be like forgetting their own name.
If you truly loved your husband, you couldn't have done this. If you hadn't done something so severe, he would want to work out your differences. Your reasons for marrying this man were not sufficient to sustain the marriage. So you sought a way out.
If you decide to divorce, you owe your husband an explanation. You may want to tell him you deceived yourself about your feelings for him. If he did nothing wrong, you need to tell him that.
It is up to you whether or not you admit sleeping with his brother. The question is, Does he need his brother more than he needs to know what his brother is like?
Perhaps you don't feel worthy of love. If that is the case, you need to explore this issue as well. The marriage you want is the opposite of what you did. Like every other human being you deserve love, not loneliness, guilt and anxiety. But until you understand why you acted, there is no way to end the cycle of doing wrong, then punishing yourself after the fact.
Wayne & Tamara
I have been dating Nick for over three years now. He is wonderful. One problem though. His family often makes very racist comments. Not just jokes, but mean-spirited comments. I have friends of many backgrounds, and I am deeply offended when I hear these things.
Nick does not have any racist feelings, so he is not part of the problem. At the same time, he never confronts his family about their hurtful comments. By letting his family know how I feel, I risk angering them and having them take it out on Nick, and I'd rather not do that. Should I say something?
Brooke, some years ago I read a remark by the science writer Guy Murchie. He said that no one we see, no matter where they come from, can be less than about a fiftieth cousin to us.
Beyond that, nearly every spiritual tradition condemns this sort of prejudice. When Tamara and I run into this situation, we either speak up, or we get up and leave. People deserve to be judged on their individual merits, and remaining silent, denies our common humanity.
You and Nick are serious. You cannot allow this to continue. His family needs to understand that these remarks are unacceptable in your presence.