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Conflicted fool

Published on June 22, 2013 by xeno

I have a major major problem that might kill me some day. My wife and I have been married for 7yrs and about 18months ago we allowed my wifes little sister to move in with us. My sister in law and I have always had a great relationship and we have been close even before she moved in. She went through some hard times and came to us to help her out. I love her. A major part of me loves her as a friend and a sister but a part of me wants more. I care about her so much. The thought of her moving out crushes me. Yes she is younger than me and my wife but not by much. And it is not a physical thing either, she gets me and understands me in a way my wife doesn’t. I don’t really think about making love to her, I just have the feeling to hold her kiss her and be with her 24/7. she is such a wonderful person. Now I must say my wife is a terrific woman, she is very loyal to me and I know she loves me with all her heart. And she is a bombshell, way prettier than the little sister. I love my wife and I would/will never cheat on her. My question is, how can I destroy this attraction I have for some that will never love me and I do not want be attracted to? I cant take this, sometimes I want to end my life because I hate feeling conflicted. My wife deserves better, they both do… and its not like I can kick my sister in law out, she needs us and it would be so cruel. I’m at my end. I don’t want to feel this way anymore. Help me


First things first, don’t panic. This can be fixed. Take special time to be with your wife and improve your communication skills with her. You can have that kind of special bond with your wife; it just takes some work. Think about all the reasons you fell in love with her, and all the ways you make a good match (I’m assuming) and build from there. Make communicating with her on a higher level a priority. Share things with her like you do with her sister, and see where it takes you. Be open to the relationship changing (in a good way). It sounds like you have a solid, dedicated marriage to build on. Just remember why you two fell in love, and take it from there.

When I read your earnest description of how you feel about your wife and her younger sister, I was deeply moved by how much you love them, but I was also troubled by how harshly you’re judging yourself.

First, is it possible for a decent man, a man who’s good right down to the depths of his soul, to have strong, romantic feelings for his sister-in-law without acting on them? You’re probably too young to remember an interview President Jimmy Carter gave to Playboy Magazine way back in 1976 (the stone age!) in which he said, “I’ve looked on a lot of women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. This is something that God recognizes I will do - and I have done it - and God forgives me for it.” From this quote we can safely conclude that Jimmy Carter’s God is not a hanging judge. Also for the rest of us agnostics, you don’t even have to believe in God to be your own hanging judge.

Second, how can you ever lessen the pain you’re in now by destroying the attraction you have to your wife’s younger sister? How can you, or any of us, lessen the pain we feel from having romantic feelings for a sister-in-law, or our spouse’s closest friend, or a first cousin, or some other family member?

Third, what’s the difference between guilt and shame? There’s a heck of a big difference! Guilt is what you feel when you’ve seriously screwed up or actually done something that hurts someone who loves and cares about you. Guilt is a painful feeling but you can do something about it. You can make amends to the person you’ve hurt.

Fourth, There’s only one cure for the shame you're feeling and it takes courage to seek it out. You must be able to speak about it to someone special who truly loves and cares for you. That special person must be able to listen to your shame and be there with you without judgment.

Finally, here are some additional thoughts you may find useful that I picked up from Sue Johnson, another gifted therapist who collected them from people who know something about how to cope with shame:

“A person’s heart withers [i.e., your wife’s heart] withers if it does not answer another heart.”- Pearl S. Buck.

"Like a scratched cornea, relationship ruptures [i.e. secrecy] deliver agony.” - Thomas Lewis, et al.

"When someone loves you and says your name, you know your name is safe in their mouth.” - Billy, a four year old posting on the internet.

"Talking with my wife is a relief from the things that happen here...….like that first breath you take when you have been under water for too long.” - Joel Buchannan, a U.S. soldier in Iraq.

"And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so? I did. And what did you want? To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the Earth.” - Raymond Carver.

Yours truly,

Andre Moore, Director of Marriage Couples Counseling and Life Coaching in New York City