How Do I Repair My Relationship With My Extended Family After My Affair?

By: Katie Lersch: I often hear from folks who want to know how to mend fences after their affair.  So, I might hear a comment like: “I had an affair nine months ago. I lied to my husband and my children. I would pretend to work late when I was really spending time with the other man. Once, I fabricated a weekend business trip but I didn’t leave town at all. I missed my mother in law’s birthday because of this. Sometimes during the affair, my mother and sister in law would reach out to me and want to spend time with me. But, I would decline their invitations. I suppose this is because I was trying to distance myself from the entire family since I wasn’t sure about what was going to happen in my marriage. This wasn’t in response to anything that they did wrong. I love them. I still love my husband. And I betrayed them all. My husband told his family about my affair. I wish he hadn’t done that, but I understand that he needed their support. Now when I see my husband’s family, they won’t even look me in the eye. Last weekend, I tried to approach my mother in law and she basically told me that she is respecting her husband’s decision to try to make our marriage work, but she’s afraid that our relationship won’t ever be the same again. She said that she used to love me like a daughter but now she can only see me as a liar. She even went so far as to say that she hopes that her husband comes to his senses and dumps me. I was angry after this exchange, but I didn’t tell my husband about it. Because I realized that I didn’t blame her at all. My behavior was horrible. I’m so embarrassed. But I do want to save my marriage. And I want to make this up to my extended family. My question is how can I go about repairing my relationship with everyone?”

After my husband’s affair, I did confide in a few close friends and family members and it did affect my husband’s relationship with these folks. Quite understandably, they wanted to protect me and so they turned on my husband. At the time, I didn’t blame them and this gave me comfort. But later, when my husband and I were trying to reconcile, this was a very challenging. They were somewhat hostile to my husband and he was defensive around them.

Know That This Takes Time: Frankly, seeing some improvement in this situation took time and effort. And I believe that no matter what you do, time is going to be necessary. Unfortunately, I don’t think that this is really any way to rush this. Because the truth is, your extended family is watching and waiting to see if you are trustworthy. They aren’t just going to hand over this trust immediately. You are going to have to earn it over a considerable amount of time.

You are likely to be met with some doubt and a bit of hostility. This is understandable also. After all, there are protective of your husband. They love him and they are seeing that he has been hurt because of your actions. It’s only natural for them to close ranks and rally around their own. So where does that leave you?

Know That If You Can Repair Your Marriage, Other Relationships Will Follow: Honestly, your best bet is to just set your sights on becoming the best wife that you can be possibly be from today forward. You have a lot of work to do. But frankly, when you make things right with their son, then by extension, you make things right with them. When the day comes that they see their son happy and in a fulfilling marriage again, then they are going to be more likely to accept you again.

This is fortunate because frankly, your first priority is always your spouse right now. Everyone and everything else will have to come second. People often ask me if they need to have a “clear the air” type of confrontation with the extended family. I don’t think that you want to have to a confrontation, but you can attempt to have a conversation. If it starts to get heated, it is best to remove yourself from the situation. You don’t want to make things worse.

You might try something like: “I absolutely deserve for you to be wary of me right now. I am so sorry for my actions and I completely understand your anger. I deserve it. I just want to reassure you that I am going to make this right again. I hope that over time, you will give me another chance. I think that you will see that I am absolutely sincere about making your son happy again. I made a grave mistake and I am paying for it. But I am going to make the best of the situation and rebuild my relationship with your son. I hope that one day, I can rebuild my relationship with you also.”

If you think that they might not let you finish, consider sending this in letter or email form. As I said, don’t engage with them or get defensive. It’s important to understand their anger and then just focus on what is truly important – and that is rebuilding your relationship with your spouse. If you can do that, your relationship with your extended family should improve as well.

As I alluded to, my husband had a lot of work to do in order to reconnect with our family and friends.  But he hung in there and he made this as priority.  And they have seen that he is serious about redeeming himself.  So, they are more open to him once again.  If it helps, you can read more on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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