Relationship Connection: My husband’s former fling is now hanging out with my sister-in-law

Woman with hot beverage. Undated | Photo by Samantha Gates courtesy of Unsplash, St. George News

Question

Recently I discovered via social media my sister-in-law has been hanging out with a girl my husband had a one-night stand with prior to our relationship. I find this to be extremely hurtful because I have created the belief in my head that there’s no way his sister is unaware of the hookup because the girl had to have told her.

How do I get over my feelings without confronting my sister-in-law? I don’t want any riffs in the family. It makes me feel super insecure.

Answer

I’m glad you have the clarity of mind to leave your sister-in-law alone. She’s doing nothing wrong and neither is her friend. I believe you’re wise to leave both of them alone and, instead, work on your own insecurities and anxiety. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t talk about this with your husband and seek reassurance.

My first question involves the origin of your insecurity. Are there any lies or betrayals around this previous relationship? In other words, did your husband lie about this one-night stand or his relationship with this woman when you were dating, engaged, or married? If this is someone he’s continued to contact or hold onto, then of course she’s going to feel like a direct threat to your marriage. It’s important for you to know that your husband has completely forsaken his relationship with her and isn’t keeping up with her through this sister-in-law or other means. Even though it was a one-night stand in his single years, it could still be a threat to your marriage if he continues to find ways to keep her on his radar.

If this is the case, then this is your husband’s responsibility to set those boundaries and make amends to you. Additionally, he needs to make sure he does his own personal work to understand why he kept her active in his mind and heart. This isn’t your fault or evidence that you’re not enough. It’s something that requires his own personal accountability and repair.

On the other hand, if he broke off contact with her prior the commencement of your relationship and he was completely transparent about his involvement with her, then there isn’t anything he or she need to do to reduce the threat. They’ve ended the relationship and moved forward in their lives. As you know, all of us need a chance to move on from our mistakes and write a new story. If this is the case in your marriage, then let’s talk about how you can feel more secure with this situation.

I think it’s a good idea to let your husband know that you feel insecure about this part of his story and let him know that this woman is connecting with the family again. This isn’t to blame him or shame him. Make it clear that you aren’t asking him to do anything about this situation by pulling in your sister-in-law or the other woman. Instead, you’re opening up your vulnerability and fear to him so he can offer comfort and support. It also helps you both draw together and become more united.

Hopefully your husband can be understanding and supportive of your need for reassurance. In the popular TV series “This is Us,” one of the lead characters, played by Sterling K. Brown, has debilitating anxiety that pulls him into worst-case scenario thinking. His trick for disarming this fear is to begin talking about his worst fears of where things could go. He shares these fears with his wife and then later with his brother, who are both supportive (and even share their own fears). When you share these things with a safe person, it allows you to regulate your body and your emotions so the fear doesn’t grow unchecked. Dr. Sue Johnson has said that naming an emotion begins to calm the emotional center of the brain and that, “naming the emotion begins the process of regulating it and reflecting on it.”

You can tell your husband that you simply need to talk about your fear and have him care about you and the experience you’re having. If he knows that there’s nothing more he needs to do other than to stay with you in your fear, then you can get the comfort you need. Let him know he doesn’t have to explain anything or prove that you’re the one. His stable presence is an effective form of reassurance.

Having his reassurance and presence is the most powerful way to regulate this fear for two reasons. First, it allows you to name it, which, as stated above, begins to calm your brain. Second, his willingness to stay close sends a signal to you that he’s connected to you and isn’t going anywhere. This is more reassuring than a thousand explanations from him that he chose you and not her.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with him verbally reassuring you about your worth and value to him. However, you need to take the risk of opening up your fears and vulnerabilities with him. Don’t make him do all of the work reassuring you while you stay closed and self-protective.

You have lots of options to seek reassurance. When you have these in place, you will begin to see this other woman as less of a threat because you have the security you need from your husband that he is faithful to you.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Instagram: @geoffsteurer  

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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17 Comments

  • ladybugavenger March 28, 2018 at 8:35 am

    The question asker didn’t give enough information. Is your husband in contact with her? Does he go behind your back to your sister in laws house to see her?

    Is your husband a shallow person that makes you feel insecure?

    My husband makes me feel like i’m the only one in the world. So, I’m not sure if your husband is a douche or you are making something out of this that isnt there. I’m leaning towards your husband is a douche.

    • Sparky March 28, 2018 at 12:24 pm

      I’m sorry you hate men and think they are all douche’s because of some insecurity the original poster has. You’re right, there is not enough information here, why why would you attack the man over this post? Take your emotion out of this and take the question for what it is (little it may be), husband hasn’t done a single thing wrong here to warrant being called a douche you bigot.

      • ladybugavenger March 28, 2018 at 7:39 pm

        Well, you dont know that he’s done no wrong, sparky warky. just because I’m married to the most incredible husband, you dont have to be jealous.

      • ladybugavenger March 29, 2018 at 9:55 am

        Hey sparky warky, i lean more towards woman are vindictive. How about this scenario. The sister in law doesn’t really like the wife and is friends with the one night stand on purpose to cause insecurities. If the wife knows she’s a one night stand, then odds are that the sister knows. If the husband didn’t tell sister than certainly the one night stand told her. And all of this nonsense going on is causing the wife to feel insecure, but the wife can’t put her finger on why it bothers her. But this scenario would bother a nice, naive person. The wife may not see the truth but I just told her so she will see it now.

        • comments March 29, 2018 at 11:40 am

          see LBA, you are an expert on female nature. Able to see thru the BS 😉

          • ladybugavenger March 29, 2018 at 1:51 pm

            😉 been on this earth long enough to see the truth about females.

  • homer498 March 28, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Men are pigs! If you are in a “committed” relationship and/or married, your husband should recognize this NSA/ONS is potentially hurtful to “You, his wife” and be upfront & proactive about even bumping into this girl. Not because you’re insecure, or anything else! He should do it because you are the most important person in the world to him, and being proactive about anything he can protect you from should be a job he loves doing, and doesn’t have to think about it much. If he starts playing games running into her, and teases you about it, tell him we can always call it quits before having a few kids! If he loves you game time is over. If its not; maybe you should be.

    • Sparky March 28, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      Feminism is dying, I suggest you hop on the train the rest of the world is hopping on before you go the rest of your days alone.

      • homer498 March 28, 2018 at 7:44 pm

        You don’t get much do you Spanky! If you want my comeback, you’ll have to get it out of your Mums bum! You assumed I was a “Sheila” because you are what women used to call a “Male Chauvinist Pig!” who is anti-anything that isn’t straight, white, and male. And that’s ok, but don’t confuse a guy that cares about protecting the feelings of someone he loves from being needlessly hurt, with Feminism. And I’m sure Redrock4 gets about as much as you do with her “be strong, and assertive” talk; cause, that’s all that ugly broads have to live for. You don’t see Playmate of the Year running around playing all “strong, and assertive”. They don’t have to; because, whomever they are running around with, they would never let some historical skank come anywhere near her 36-24-36 beautiful mind. Helpless victim ? Helpless victim of what ? Running up my CC balance for the rest of our lives because you’re so freakin hot, you may be a She-devil come to bleed my savings dry!

        • Sparky March 29, 2018 at 1:55 pm

          … are you on about? You had one sentence in there that was remotely relevant to the conversation… Yikes… For the record, no, I know you are a male, I can read, “Homie”. Doesn’t make you sound any less of a feminist.
          Ed. first ellipsis

        • John March 30, 2018 at 11:15 am

          Go eat another liberal donut homer ! Come back when you learn how to play with the big kids and you should stop wiping with a cactus, your personality might improve!

    • redrock4 March 28, 2018 at 5:04 pm

      It’s his sister in law that is in contact with the other woman. Not him – duh. So why wouldn’t you be angry with the sister in law (assuming that she knows about the fling)? Nothing in her statement even suggests that he knows about the woman being friends with his sister. Let’s encourage her to be strong, assertive and feel good about herself. She’s not a victim – she doesn’t need to feel like a helpless victim of men. #mentoo

      • ladybugavenger March 29, 2018 at 9:48 am

        My husband would stay far away from his sister if she was friends with his old one night stand. He would do that for me, so I’m not hurt in any way. He would do it so I wouldn’t have any insecurities. I’m married to the best husband that in no way wants me to feel anxiety, jealousy, or any other feeling than me being #1 in his heart. That’s why I lean towards this question askers husband is a douche.

        Like I said in my other comment, there is not enough info. We have to speculate alot here. People aren’t stupid, they just act stupid because saying you don’t know is easier than facing reality (hi theone)

  • comments March 28, 2018 at 12:44 pm

    “I don’t want any riffs in the family. It makes me feel super insecure.”

    I think you mean rifts. Hunny, you got so many rifts and such a dysfunctional setup here, I don’t even know where to tell you to go with it…

    geeze louise..

  • PatriotLiberal March 29, 2018 at 11:10 am

    I love that people are blaming the guy, like he controls who his sister is friends with. How do we know that they have not been friends their whole lives and the wife here just found out about her hubbys one nighter that happened YEARS AGO? We don’t. I thnk Geoffs advice is sound, she needs to communicate wih her husband. Find out for sure where he stands on this woman then roll with that until she learns otherwise.
    Furthermore, she needs to stop trying to control her hubbys family.

    • Sparky March 29, 2018 at 1:56 pm

      Bingo

    • ladybugavenger March 29, 2018 at 3:11 pm

      Lol….she would have to believe the words coming out of his mouth. Just remember, question asker, actions speak louder than words. If he treats you like your crazy for bringing it up, get away from him. (That’s a sign of a narcissist/sociopath)

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