Q: What should you do when a relative cheats on and ultimately leaves his partner for another person and then brings the new person to the family holiday functions?
A: At the very least, be nice. If your relative has not discussed the old or new relationship with you, you don’t have a full understanding of what happened. Criticism offered in such a vacuum could come back to haunt you.
If you still have a relationship with the ex, it’s normal to feel torn. You might feel that you have to be cold and distant to the new partner to show your loyalty to the former one. But that’s not mandatory. You can be cordial to the new one while continuing your relationship with the ex.
The chances are high that your relative and his significant other are worried about being judged by the family. It would be meaningful to them if you made an extra effort to involve the new partner to feel included. The situation is difficult enough to begin with, so showing acceptance of the new relationship can make family gatherings less awkward.
ANITA A. CHLIPALA, licensed marriage and family therapist and author of “First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love”
A: What is important to recognize about affairs is that they have an impact on the entire family. And when working with relational issues, there are so many dynamics that are outside of our control.
Two things can be true at once. Your hurt can exist at the same time as your desire to repair and be close to your family member. You can also acknowledge your love for your family member while not supporting the actions that led to betrayal.
The best way to approach this issue would be to talk with the family member assertively about your feelings and experience, as well as offering empathy for the tough position the family member is undoubtedly feeling.
JEFFREY KRAFT, licensed marriage and family therapist