Q. My two-year marriage was fraught with infidelity on both sides. Five months ago I was finally able to tell my husband that I wasn’t happy and that we needed to move on from each other as amicably as possible. He grudgingly agreed to the divorce, and currently it’s pending in the court system. After our initial talk, displaying (yet more) poor judgment, my husband went to my family and disclosed all the sordid details he knew about my affairs, including the identity of my ongoing affair partner. My family was completely horrified and enraged. They cornered me in my home, screaming horrible things about me and my lover.
Over the course of the last few months, I gradually have patched things up with my family, although tension over the subject remains. They know I’m still seeing my affair partner (now boyfriend) but it’s become a don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy, with no mention of him or how I’m spending my weekends.
My boyfriend and I (late 20s/early 30s) plan to move in together in a few months (my mother is a frequent and welcome visitor in my home), and I have no idea how to handle this awkward situation with my family. Right now, I feel so cowed and afraid of upsetting the apple cart that I can’t even bring myself to mention his name around them. But I love my boyfriend very much, we get along so well, and he makes me very happy. How do I go about broaching this sensitive topic?
A. Your family wants you to be thoughtful about your life, so show them that you are. Talk to them about your decisions. Disclose your concerns. If your mom is a frequent visitor, she’s also a friend. Tell her: “I want you to know that I’m enjoying my time with [boyfriend]. I feel awful talking to you about it, but I don’t want to leave you out.” Let her react. It’s possible that she’s had a million questions but has been afraid to pry.
But get ready, because mom is going to ask you why you’re moving in with your boyfriend. For the record, I’m asking that, too. I understand that you’re really into him. but . . . you’re not divorced. You’ve barely had time to process all of these changes. And you didn’t leave your husband for this man in particular. Are you really ready to get serious with the next guy? What’s the rush?
You don’t owe anybody explanations, but if you want to keep your family close, you have to talk to them. And it’ll be good for you to say this stuff out loud. Sometimes when we say it out loud, it makes us more accountable.
If you want your family to take your new relationship seriously then treat it with a little more respect than you treated your marriage.
Wow. Nice to know your family loves you unconditionally. Maybe I’m missing something here, but how does it hurt THEM if you cheated?
I don’t blame them. These are the people that stood up for you at your wedding, am I right? Though you may not deserve a lifetime of shunning, your family deserves to be angry at you.
Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at email@example.com.