Dear Mary: I've fallen for my wife's lovely sister. Should I gamble all and just tell her?

My wife and I are married for 17 years. Like all marriages, we’ve had our rough patches, ups and downs and arguments. She loves me immensely and I love her also. We have teenage children.

My problem is that I’ve developed feelings, which are getting stronger all the time, for her older sister.

She is separated, she visits us on average about once a week and sometimes stays for a night at the weekend.

We get on very well and she is a lovely person. Every time she visits, I always feel myself drawn to her. My feelings for her are getting stronger and stronger all the time, to the point that I can’t wait for her to visit or stay over and I would really like to let her know my feelings towards her.

I can’t tell if she has any feelings for me other than me just being her brother-in-law, but to be brutally honest, I think so much about her that I hope she would.

There were a few times when the sister and I would be together, maybe having a coffee waiting for my wife to come home from work, that I was on the brink of telling her how I felt but I always chickened out.

I know that my wife would be devastated if anything happened between her sister and me and that I would end up losing a lot, and I know that I run the risk of ruining whatever relationship I have with her sister if I tell her and she says she has no feelings for me.

Having said that I’m still tempted to take a chance and tell her how I feel and face the consequences afterwards.

Can you give me advice on how to deal with this?

Mary replies:  I am so glad that you chickened out. Just think for a moment of what an impossible situation you would have placed everybody in. Your wife – who loves you to bits – would feel totally betrayed.

It actually doesn’t matter whether or not the sister reciprocates your feelings. If she does and you go ahead and get together, having first broken the news to your wife and children, your wife will be devastated.

If, however, the sister just looks upon you as a very good friend and brother-in-law with whom she gets along, well then she would be utterly appalled at your confession of attraction, and blood being thicker than water may well feel honour bound to tell your wife what you had said.

So whether or not you get together with your sister-in-law is immaterial – your wife will be hurt beyond measure through no fault of hers.

Your sister-in-law would then be unable to meet up with your wife in the family home and there would be no overnights which she probably enjoys immensely.

It is amazing how one’s social life shrinks upon separation, particularly for the female, and I’m sure she looks forward to the time she spends in your home.

Then your teenage children must also be considered. Even though by now they are almost fully preoccupied with their own lives, they would find it extremely difficult to understand why their father went off with their aunt, if we follow the first scenario, or else why their aunt no longer comes to visit and why everything between their parents suddenly went pear-shaped.

Because, believe me, things would never be the same again if you were to throw caution to the wind and tell your sister-in-law how you feel.

It has been said that if we share a fantasy it ceases to be a fantasy and we can no longer use it.

Now that you have shared this particular fantasy with me, I hope that you will be able to let it go and instead get on with living your life as best you can being thankful for all that you have.

Once again, I am reminded of Seamus Heaney’s words which although written in a different context are very relevant to your situation: “Whatever you say, say nothing.”

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at [email protected] or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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