*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Family connections are not just about married partners. Sometimes, a partner's siblings might notice things that a spouse needs to know, but they're not sure if they should interfere in their relationship, particularly if what they're about to tell them might end all the trust they had in their spouse.
How far can siblings go when they see something that could cause issues, and should they keep quiet to avoid a divorce instead of letting the wife or husband know there's a problem in their relationship?
My friend Tammy has been married to her husband, Jonas, for 11 years. They have one daughter and a son, and Tammy is a stay-at-home mom. Jonas has been working to support his family, and his job also requires frequent travel.
"We agreed I should stay home with the kids because we couldn't really trust a babysitter with them. And I didn't want to burden my parents or my in-laws with having to look after them every day. I know they love their grandkids, but they need to rest sometimes," Tammy said.
It wasn't easy for her to adjust to being at home and focusing on doing the cleaning, cooking, and dishes while preparing tasty meals and running errands.
"I used to care about promotions and work projects a lot. In the beginning, I felt like I wasn't doing anything meaningful, but then I realized my family was the most important part of my life. I wouldn't go back to how I used to be. And I've found new reasons to be happy. Changing to a full-time mom is the best thing I've done," Tammy said.
While his wife was getting used to taking care of their kids and house chores, Jonas worked longer hours in the office and had to be away at least four times every month.
"His travels were a bit hard to handle because I would be on my own for five or six days, but I knew he was doing it all for our family. I made tasty dinners when he was back and did my best to find time to be together and remind him how much I cared about him," Tammy said.
As time went by, their kids went to kindergarten, and then they started school. Through it all, Jonas always supported his wife and bought her presents on anniversaries and special occasions.
During the past year, though, his presents have been so much more frequent. And it got to a point where Tammy began wondering if he was trying to make up for something.
"I know he likes to bring me gifts, but I'm getting like ten presents every week. That's way more than I ever expected. He told me it's because he has a higher salary now, and he does, but still, it feels strange. Like he's apologizing for something I don't know," Tammy said.
Jonas has one sister, Hannah, and two brothers, George and Andrew. His brothers are married and live in different states with their families. His sister is also married and has her home in the same town as Jonas and Tammy.
And while she was shopping last week, she saw something that made her reconsider everything she thought she knew about her brother.
"I always believed Jonas loved his wife, and he'd never look at someone else. But as I searched for a present for our mom's birthday, I suddenly saw him walking hand in hand with a woman. It wasn't Tammy and not any of his friends. She kept smiling and laughing, and he bought her chocolates and flowers. Next thing, they went inside a jewelry store. I went in after them, and I saw how he bought her an expensive bracelet. They hugged, and I heard him tell the person at the register she was his future wife," Hannah said.
She left after seeing that since she didn't want to find out even more things that would take away the good opinion she had about her brother.
But what she saw made her wonder what she should do next. Was it ok to avoid mentioning it at all, or should she go to Tammy immediately and let her know Jonas was interested in someone else?
"I know all about relatives interfering in marriages and ending trust, and I didn't want to be the one to do such a thing. But how could I go on seeing them together and know he might leave her anytime or that he's dating another woman while she's happy believing he's in love with her?" Hannah said.
Unsure what to do next, she went to talk to her parents. They were also surprised to find out what she'd seen and kept asking if there was any chance she could have confused things for what they weren't.
"Unfortunately, everything was so clear, and there was no way to find an excuse for Jonas, not after he said that woman was his future wife," Hannah said.
Her parents advised her not to say anything and let Tammy find out for herself, but she still felt uncomfortable.
"I saw him with another woman; do I tell his wife? I don't want to cause a divorce, but won't she be even more upset when she realizes I've known all along and chose to keep it from her?" Hannah said.
What do you think about this situation? Are Jonas's parents right in asking their daughter to keep quiet and not let Tammy know he's seeing someone else? Should Hannah tell her sister-in-law what's going on so she can decide for herself if she wants to stay married to Jonas?