Q: My brother’s wife left him and their two young sons to “redefine herself.”
She wrote my family members an email saying she would still like to be included in our gatherings and maintain strong relationships with all of us. My brother is a good guy, and we are distraught by her abandonment of him and their children.
I have not replied to her email yet. Should I keep quiet or call her out for deserting her family, then expecting my friendship?
“If you see something, say something” is great for rooting out terrorists and other potential criminals. But it is lousy protocol when applied to other people’s marriages. I get that you feel protective of your brother. And absent any particulars, walking out on your family for no reason seems like a mean thing to do. But I doubt that’s the whole story. Don’t you?
Here’s the thing: You are not the star of this movie; you are barely a supporting player. So whatever catharsis you would feel by giving your sister-in-law a nasty piece of your mind would be irrelevant (and possibly damaging) to the central crisis: your brother’s predicament.
You are not going to scold his wife back into their marriage, and alienating her will be no favour to your brother. Spend your energy helping him back onto his feet, and making the little boys feel as secure and loved as possible. I am not suggesting that you give her a cupcake party. Only that it is smarter for you to be neutral during this fluid period.
Once there are children in the mix, exes rarely disappear forever; we learn to coexist. For now, tell your sister-in-law you want the best for everyone. And when waves of anger roil your innards, burn them off on bike rides with your nephews instead.