My sister and my husband had an affair

It was over 20 years ago, but the pain has resurfaced again now because I have started seeing her Facebook posts about how great her life is. I feel so angry. How can I handle this?

Lynda Martens
Lynda Martens
Marriage & Family Therapist, MSc, RP, RMFT

Emotional pain is different from physical pain that way, isn't it? Even many years later, an old wound can be ripped open again by a small trigger.

You were betrayed by two people close to you. That's a complex injury. I don't know whether you're still in the marriage or not, or whether your sister is still in your life. Perhaps not, as your contact with her seems to be through watching her facebook activity. 

I'm curious about why you're just now seeing her facebook posts again. Are you feeling more open lately to seeing how she's doing in her life? I guess if you were open to having your sister even in the periphery of your life again, you will have to figure out how to handle those triggers. If you can't, maybe consider unfollowing her or detaching from facebook for a while. 

So your sister is happy, or she at least appears happy. Your mind might go to some unhelpful places, like "She doesn't regret the affair" (you don't know that), "She doesn't deserve happiness" (that would be a harsh judgement), or "She doesn't care that I'm hurt" (again, there's no evidence of that). Where does your mind go? It's important to identify your worst thoughts in connection to her. 

When you have those worst thoughts identified, ask yourself "What evidence supports that thought as truth?" It's likely that either there's no evidence, or that the truth is so far from you that you can't know what she's feeling or thinking, which makes having those thoughts pretty futile.

A therapist can help you determine what emotions are being triggered here. It doesn't help you and your happiness to carry around resentment, ill wishes, or the need for revenge. Forgiveness is not about saying that something was "okay". It's about saying "It happened. I accept that I can't change it, and I don't want to carry the emotional burden around all the time". Forgiveness is putting it down. She... (trust me this is true)...she carries her own burden of shame for what she did. For you to spend time feeling angry doesn't affect her burden. It only adds to yours. 

Can you find the tender emotion under your anger? You're hurt. Validate that hurt. Honour that hurt. Take care of that hurt. You can stay away from people who disregard your needs, and you have the power to forgive those who make mistakes out of their simple humanity if you want them in your life. 

If you continue to struggle, please seek the help of a professional who can assist you in navigating these waters. :)

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Cory Ian Shafer LPC
Cory Ian Shafer LPC
Psychotherapist, Jungian, Hypnotherapy

First thing that you must realize is that most people only post the "best parts" of their lives on Facebook, some people even go so far as to make their lives seem better or more interesting and post mostly false views of their life. Facebook is watered down, candied version of our life, you put on there only what you want people to see. The questions you should ask is "How have I grown from this?", Is my marriage currently in a good place? I really wish there was some form of magic that could be performed to solve peoples issues and help them sort out their emotions and troubles, however there is not, the closest we can get is by using {time and insight} to heal our wounds.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

What is going on in your life that brings up more sensitivity to the affair?

The best way of handling your hurt is by noticing your own feelings and the current circumstances that increase your sense of pain.

Concentrate on your own life and making your life the best it can be.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

A mediated safe talk session between. You and your sister.

Then, you and your husband have a mediated safe talk.  So both hear what you feel in the respective relationships. 

Possibly the last step is a mediated  safe talk with sister, husband and youcoversation, in the future.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Earl Lewis
Earl Lewis
Relationship Expert
Affairs and infidelity are tough areas to address. The power of the affair comes from the feeling of injustice that seems to have happened to you. The struggle I notice people have is with the forgiveness. Forgiveness is something that is asked of you from your partner but also you have the power to give. I assume you want to forgive or have forgiven. However, the forgetting part is difficult. 

It seems that image of her happiness may have triggered something in you that isn't happy. I'm not sure how often you are triggered by her but it seems there is something there you need to process. The forgetting part sadly is difficult to put past your mind. However, it's being able to see the unfortunate situation they did and be able to walkthrough it even though it's painful. I think maybe speaking with a local therapist about this as it's often difficult to process alone. Also, see how you are feeling as days go on. Do you find yourself obsessed? If so, you may need to seek a professional counselor. 


The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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