Ask Ellie: In-laws’ suggestion to go to marriage counselling a thoughtful gesture

Advice columnist EllieDear Ellie: I’m a man, 38, starting discussions about separating from my wife of nine years because I believe she’s having an emotional affair. She’s on the phone with this man frequently and she now hides the phone from me because I saw a sexy message to her from him.

I also believe that they may have had a sexual liaison last year before the March lockdown. My wife’s parents have been urging me to first go to marriage counselling with my wife. They believe her that she never cheated on me, and also say that I may be affected by feelings of insecurity that emerged a couple of years ago when I had financial problems.

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My in-laws live in our city and have been very involved grandparents of our two young children. They used to babysit or just visit every week before COVID, but have been online with the kids regularly since the pandemic.

My own parents live in another country and have told me that they are sure I’ll “work things out.” They’re not the type to intervene.

I really like my in-laws, they’re very nice people and helped me during the worst period of worry and stress over my money problems. I don’t want to cut them off completely.

How do I just tell my in-laws to mind their own business?

A Private Matter

Caring, helpful in-laws are a resource to respect. Shutting them down when you may need them most, is unwise and ungrateful.

Their suggestion that you two get marriage counselling rather than plunge into separation discussion on your own, was thoughtful, not intrusive.

An experienced marriage therapist is also an important resource when you’re considering a major change in the lives of everyone, including your young children.

Today, it’s an online process to “meet with” the therapist separately for some sessions and as a couple for others. The discussions are usually about what’s changed or escalated between two people who initially came together presumably in love and optimistic about the future together.

All factors in your relationship need to be considered, with the guidance of a professional. Even the reflection on that period of financial and personal insecurity, and how it may have affected both you and your wife, is worth a closer understanding.

Don’t turn away your in-laws. Get counselling.

Feedback regarding the Very Frustrated Mom who keeps fighting with her son, age 15:

Reader – I feel for both the parent and son who are having difficulties, especially now. Your advice to the mother to “listen” to her son will help.

She could also look for a parent support group. As example, the Association of Parent Support Groups in Ontario which meets online now, can help immensely to enrich the relationship between the parent and the child. Their APSGO website will provide helpful insight and ways to contact the organization. (Ellie: Search for your local parent support group.)

Reader – Her son will always be her child but he’s no longer a little boy. He still has a lot to learn about life/the real world, but if she’s raised him with proper values, morals, how to treat women, his mother needs to set healthy boundaries so there’s mutual trust and respect. Otherwise, it’s a controlling and toxic relationship and he’ll leave her. She’s not allowing him to exert his independence on choices he wants. Her son’s safety and welfare should be the only concerns and slapping him is abuse.

Dear Ellie: My husband of six years has never talked to me about his ex-wife whom he was married to for 20 years, in another country. They divorced a few years before we met on a dating site.

We took our time getting to know each other over two years before we took the chance of meeting in person halfway between our home countries.

We were in love by then, and he proposed. Our new life together has been everything I’d wished for after being on my own after my divorce.

But I wonder why he never mentions his ex. Does it mean he still has feelings?

Curious

His feelings are for you, which he shows in many ways including discretion. The latter is part of his love and thoughtfulness in keeping his past with another woman in the past. Since everything in your life together is going so well, don’t go looking for things to worry about.

Ellie’s tip of the day

Caring in-laws can be a resource of love and emotional support.

Send relationship questions to ellie@thestar.ca. Follow @ellieadvice.

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