Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] How can I help my brother move on from his cheating wife?

Margarita Holmes
[Two Pronged] How can I help my brother move on from his cheating wife?
Her brother is cheated on and suffers from depression as a result. What can she do to help him?

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives

Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.


Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,

My eldest brother, “Ed” has a broken marriage. He is an architect, who worked before in Malaysia.

In 2018, he got a message from his son “Crispin” that my sister-in-law (his wife) is cheating on him with a lesbian. Crispin was 8 years old then and experienced a lot of trauma getting beaten by the mother, forcing him to accept her relationship with the lesbian. The boy even witnessed them having sex and confronted her “why are you doing this to daddy?”

She replied with no guilt, “She is your daddy now, forget about the one in Malaysia. He’s worthless.”

“Ed” sought the help of the Iglesia Ni Cristo Minister, the church where they belong. He wanted them to have marriage counseling and save their marriage but my sister-in-law continued her affair with the lesbian.

Ed lost his career in Malaysia because of depression and became an alcoholic. He and Crispin moved out of the house and live with his parents.

Crispin seems ok but Kuya Ed remains an alcoholic How can he move on? Was it really harder for a man to accept that his wife cheated with a lesbian? Was it harder for his ego?

Ed wanted to regain their house to sell but he and Crispin had moved out and the wife made the house as their love nest with the lesbian.

He badly needs money for this pandemic era and this situation worsens his depression. His wife wanted him to commit suicide by provoking him even posting sweet videos of her and her lesbian lover in her social media account. How can I help my Kuya Ed? May you give us an advice for us as a family to help my brother?

God bless you both.

Tess


Dear Tess,

Your account presents a number of issues which affect Crispin and Ed in different, but overlapping ways. 

The more obvious are: physical and mental abuse, depression, alcohol, abandoning the house, and the sweet videos.

Let’s begin with Crispin’s situation. He has suffered at the hands of his mother, been exposed to situations inappropriate to a preteen, seen his family collapse, and ended up with his grandparents, which may or may not be a good thing. 

One might expect trauma after all this, and clearly he should seek professional help. Should that be unaffordable or unavailable locally, religious and non-religious groups also provide pastoral care, though you should remember that some have their own agendas and not all their interventions are necessarily helpful.

Ed’s situation is more complicated because he is a husband and father, is unemployed and currently probably unemployable (because of his substance abuse and depression). If he is to get his and Crispin’s lives back on track he also needs professional help and if he is unwilling to accept this, perhaps the family can assist in motivating him. 

As we know nothing of his relationship with Crispin or indeed anyone else, it is difficult to be more precise.

Filipinos rightfully pride themselves on their strong family ties and these ties will be of inestimable value to Ed and Crispin as they face these problems. Religious belief of whatever type can also be of great solace.

Please write again if you wish.

All the best,

JAF Baer


Dear Tess,

Thank you very much for your letter. I am so sorry that your brother Ed is undergoing terrible bouts of both depression and alcoholism, which seem to have been brought on by his failed marriage.

It may be difficult for him to get over both, so your love and support could certainly help him get better. 

Research has shown that, being part of a loving family helps keep people on an even keel. Not only that but having a sister like you, who is so obviously on his side, can help get Ed get back on the path to wellbeing and mental health.   

However, it will take more than love and unstinting support. It will take a great deal of discipline.

Why do I say that? Because it will be far more helpful to Ed if you stop concentrating on how awful his wife – let’s call her Samantha – behaved/behaves.  

I get it. You hate her. In your eyes, she is a terrible mother who prefers her lover to her child, a godawful wife who reduced your brother’s career to rubble. Plus, she continues to humiliate him by posting pictures and statements about her current relationship! What’s not to hate?

However, it is not good for either you or Ed to focus on the past, especially for Ed who, if he wants to move on, should literally move his focus from what has happened and what, in fact, is still happening to what could  happen starting now and well into the future!

To really help Ed, you need to be more than simply supportive, Tess. To really help Ed, you have to get him to focus on what is truly important.  

It is cathartic, and thus relieving, to rail against the past – how awfully Samantha treated her own flesh and blood, how cruelly she talked about  Crispin’s father to him, etc., but that is precisely what you have to cut down on. Being someone focused on the present and the future will help Ed far more than venting about his ex wife. You can be the role model Ed so desperately needs at this time in his life.  

If you spend your time and energy on how the present and future can be healthier and happier, rather than on how the past was such a bummer, you will encourage Ed to do the same. 

I do not mean merely changing the subject whenever Ed brings up Samantha’s betrayal. Of course, it would help Ed if you stopped yourself from making gatong (fanning the flames) but it would be even better if you helped him realize certain truths: how mere anger is counterproductive; how self compassion is necessary for everyone, how forgiveness of self and of others is a must when going through life.

Help Ed move on from this “coulda-shoulda-woulda-what-if?” mentality to the “Yes I can” Obama rallying cry and help make it a reality for Ed, Tess. 

Help him find a good lawyer and a mental health professional whose area of expertise includes alcoholism when he’s ready. Then be with him on his journey towards mental stability and enduring health.

Would you do that for him, Tess? 

All the best,

MG Holmes 

– Rappler.com

Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email twopronged@rappler.com with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.