Dealing with brother's new family

About 3 years ago, my brother-in-law and his wife (married in the Church and with two children) announced they were separating… they are now divorced. No annulment has been sought.
He was seeing another woman, with whom he is now living and has a child. My husband is planning to invite his brother and new family over for Christmas. It is a difficult situation, given that receiving them at our house (from out of town) will place us in a position to acknowledge them as a couple…
We are concerned about the message this will send to my children, and to my brother-in-law’s original family, but then again, my mother in law suffers from what he calls the "distant’ way we treat my brother-in-law. We want to act in charity and love, according to our Faith. My husband has called his brother’s attention to his situation, asking him to rectify, but to no avail.
Any advice? What are we called to do?

Is it a case of love the sinner but not the sin?
Saint Augustine said: Cum dilectione hominum et odio vitiorum, which translates roughly to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”

God is love (1 John 4:8). God showed His love to us while we were still sinners:
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-8).

Nevertheless your position is difficult and many of us face this in our families.
Opposing your brother’s wishes could harm your relationship, brothers are brothers.
“Anyone who says ‘I love God’, and hates his brother is a liar, since a person who does not love the brother that he can see, cannot love God whom he has never seen.” [1 letter of John 4:20-21]

“Since the Father loved us so much that He sent You to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away, we too should love one another.” [John 4:10-11] “By such love, everyone will know that we are Your disciples.” [1 letter of John 4:20-21] “Let us love one another, since love comes from God.” [John 4:7]

Our love “is not to be mere words or mere talk, but something real and active; only by this can we be certain that we are children of the truth.” [John 3:18-19] Your apostle Paul exhorts, “Do not let your love be pretence, but sincerely prefer good to evil. Love each other as brothers should, and have a profound respect for each other…If any of the saints are in need you must share with them;
and you must make hospitality your special care.” [Romans 12:9-13]

Perhaps you can speak to your brother-in-law’s wife and explain how difficult this is for you.
The worry regarding your children and her children is a valid one, but I don’t think this is an easy situation for any Christian who is concerned for the morality of their children. It may or may not be fitting for you to explain that you aren’t happy about the situation but that you are obeying God in loving others regardless. I can quote scripture all day, but I understand that it still is a personally difficult situation for you.

May God guide you and bless you with the gift of finding the kindest and wisest way with all the people you are considering, and in accordance with God’s love.

If you are able to give love to your brother-in-law and his second family who knows if God will not use your love and sacrifice in some way towards their conversion. Already your mother-in-law, loving both her sons, is hurt by your seeming lack of love for her other son. It is not the case that you lack love for him but that is how it could appear to your husband’s mother, and brother, and as the child grows, to your new niece/nephew.

I do understand your difficulty regarding your children and hurting your brothers’ wife and children. I’ve faced such dilemmas myself.

You and the family is involved are in my prayers. May God guide you as He desires.

Jesus.our Lords peace be whit You.
What is harder,to be whit sinner,or to face the reality. I am strongly against divorces,and I am divorced,but has never,and will never,date or marrie or anything,but that is my choise,it just happens to be right also in the eyes of the Church. Everyone do their own choises,and we can do nothing or wery little about it,so all we can do is pray,accept that others do other kind of choises,but are as good humans as we are because we are not to judge others,we can pray for them,but thats it. Welcome them whit open arms,they have not done wrong to You,and therefor You do nothing wrong by standing by them,sometimes we all need to be humble,and I think this is a occasion when You should be.

As a parent, I think you are correct to be concerned about the message that this sends to your children. What a tough spot they put you in! Your MIL puts you in that spot too.

I suggest that your husband offer BIL and BIL’s mistresss the choice of separate rooms or better yet staying elsewhere overnight.

I think it is UNcharitable to allow them to scandalize your children by sharing a bedroom in your home.

If your husband is set on having them over for Christmas, it may cause your children confussion to see their aunt and other cousins missing, (if they don’t already know the situation.) I think that having them over to dinner or to spend the day with your family would only cause minimal damage.

I’m sorry that your MIL has chosen to be upset with the actions of the son who kept his wife instead of the one who dumped his wife. Your husband’s sister in law suffers from the way your BIL treated her. You are being very charitable to your BIL’s first wife and children by considering how this situation affected them. Don’t let your BIL and MIL bully you. You and your husband aren’t the ones who broke up a family.

My sympathies to you.

I personally would never allow the homewrecker in my home. If it hurts her feelings, too bad. But that’s just me.

What will happen to the aunt and cousins now that the brother has a new “family”? Are they still invited to family gatherings? This is the thing that troubles me so much about these situations, that in order to show love to one’s own family member, one is expected to exclude the first family members. People tend to see divorce as a solution to their problems, but the reality is that it creates even more lifelong problems, and very often the burden of divorce is born by the children and extended family of the divorced couple.
I don’t know how to advise in this situation. But I don’t think that I would allow the brother to bring his mistress to stay in my home. They would have to get a hotel suite, but would be welcome for daytime visits. That allows for being able to see them, but demonstrates my concern about their cohabitation and fornication (and adultery). These behaviors are destructive to their souls and causes scandal among family members. I would also make a point to be welcoming to the aunt and nieces/nephews who are probably not going to be comfortable visiting during the same time as the brother and his new family are visiting. Perhaps I might schedule a visit for another time, or send greeting cards or small token presents expressing my love for them. These are what I might do, but I cannot advise any of these things for you specifically, having not enough knowledge of the particulars of your situation.
It is a tricky situation, but just pray about it and talk about it with trusted friends who know your situation better. I hope that you find a satisfactory solution for this dilemma. I know it is so difficult to hold together an extended family after a divorce, especially one that breaks up a family with children.

That would be my offer too. Asking a house guest to abide by a basic house rule is not asking to much. If they don’t want to, give them the name and number of some local hotels.

Keep in mind that you also have a NEW niece or nephew.

You don’t have to let them stay with you. That’s your choice. But you can’t change the fact that this is your husband’s brother… and that the “child” is a blood relation as well.

I’m just going to share MY personal feelings on this. I would evaluate the brother and how he effects my family when he is around. Can everyone function? No crazy fighting? etc… If he can be in our enviroment without disrupting the whole place, He’d be welcome. Hisex-wife with my nieces and nephews would be welcome too. And his girlfriend, unless she was an awful person, who is now the MOTHER of another neice or nephew would be welcome. And if they couldn’t act civil… then the uncivil get to leave.

And I wouldn’t even start in with my kids about their sins. If my kids ask, I tell them in an age appropriate way that they made a choice. If they are already alert to the fact it might be a sin, then you say YES, they have chosen a path against God. And then you ask them to pray for them… This is no longer a thing he can just make right… he has children spread out now. Please consider them as well. Don’t make him disown one or more of them to RIGHT his wrong.

This is your family. No one’s is perfect. And trying to create perfect is silly. I’m sure every member has a sin on hand… just not as glaring… and if our only goal is to not SEE sin, then I think we’re a little short sighted… But then that’s just me…

I missed the part about the child being a blood relation. I assumed the child referred to was the child of the mistress’s from a previous relationship. If I was wrong in assuming that, and the child is actually already part of the family, even if the parents never marry (which hopefully they will), then I would have to change my approach.
IF we are talking about the brother and his lady friend with whom he has a child, then I would invite them to stay in my home during their visit. I know that many people may disagree with how I see this, and I am fine with that. Like I said in my previous post, I cannot give counsel here, I am just saying what I would do. But if the child in question is already a niece/nephew, then just by virtue of that fact alone, I would invite the child and brother and lady friend to stay in my home. I would not want to request them to find other accomodations when they are already a family, even though their way of becoming a family has some serious problems. I would also encourage the couple to get married. I don’t know about whether or not the couple could marry in the Catholic Church, but the OP mentioned that the brother had not sought an annulment. I am not sure if I would be sinning in encouraging them to get married, but as I see it, there is a child involved in this situation (a point I somehow missed earlier) and I cannot see a way to resolve this for the best of everyone involved if the couple does not marry. Perhaps other more mature Catholics have better insight.
Oh dear, and I thought this situation was a difficult one before I understood the child was a relation…

Yes, the toddler is my BIL’s.
I am thankful for all your comments, I know it is complicated, and I am at least happy to see it is not as straightforward to know how to act and what to do.
The aspects you have mentioned have been in our debates about this issue… My questions are whether “love the sinner and not the sin” can go into love (or accept) the sin along with the sinner if the sin goes on long enough…

I wouldn’t either. Beyond even the morality of it, it would be a HUGE disrespect to the BIL’s actual wife and their two children.
The OP’s children surely remember their aunt and cousins, and will be confused and upset when a new woman with a new child comes into their home taking their places. I would personaly want my kids kept away from that. The OP can have contact with the BIL without having his mistress tag along.

Yes! The voice of reason. :thumbsup:

This is obviously a sticky situation. And as we all know, we can’t choose our family.

First I would NOT let them share a bed in my home because it is a sin to allow sin to take place under your roof. If your BIL and girlfriend are ready to accept that then I would have them over and be charitable in every other way and try and have a good time.

If your children ask, give them the answer all kids hate to hear ‘I will explain when you are older’ and when they are over 10, explain.

The bottom line is, he is your husbands brother and as such does need to be included in famly get togethers


I would let them stay. If/when the kids ask, I would explain in an age appropriate way.

Do you ask all married couples if they are using ABC before you let them stay with you? The Church says contraception is a grave sin. It’s just not as visible. Family is family :shrug: unless they are truly toxic, I say you should try to make the best of it.

How bad do people have to be before we call them “toxic”?

Divorce is contagious. Studies show that “Not only can the risk of divorce spread from one couple to their friends or family, it can also affect relationships at least two degrees of separation away from the original couple splitting up, according to the findings of sociologists and psychologists from three North American universities.”

This BIL announced his sins to the public. He left his wife, involved the courts and publically divorce his wife, then moved in with his mistress.

It might be easier if the BIL’s behavior was awful in some other way beside infidelity and adultery. People who seem “nice” and otherwise pulled together, can make this whole mistress&divorce seem like something nice, normal people do. It is not nice, and it should not be normal.

Cheating on his wife and divorcing her was toxic to his first marriage. It destroyed the home of his older two children. It affects the people around him, including the op and her children. As they try to celebrate the birth of our Savior together with their extended family, one aunt and a couple of cousins are likely to be missing from their celebration because BIL decided to sin publically. What this op, her BIL and the whole family really needs for Christmas is a Savior.

This isn’t about rejecting somebody because they sinned. This is about considering the feelings of the wife that was cheated on and the children that had to deal with the consequences of that sin.

I WAS the wife that was cheated on once. The “other woman” was my cousin. I know all too well the pain I endured when other family members welcomed that woman to their home or family functions or trips when I wasn’t welcome. Yes, that happened. I was uninvited while the “other woman” was. By people who were supposed to love me.

It’s not right. It’s WRONG. And out of respect for the feelings of the wife, this new woman who wrecked her life and home should never be accepted into any family members home. I’m sorry if that sounds harsh but I’m getting sick and tired of the way this society is so accepting of adultery and willing to just blow it off and move on like it doesn’t matter. It DOES matter, it doesn’t ever STOP mattering to the victim.

I’m sorry you had to go through that. I can’t even imagine the pain. :frowning: Divorce and adultry is so commonplace now that I think people forget the pain and wreckage they cause. Even on CAF there are people who will post on adultry threads that the victim should just forgive and forget, because to feel pain and anger would be “uncharitable” or “unchristian.”

It’s terribly sad that the BIL’s and his mistress’ feelings are given more importance than the feelings of his wife and his own children. HE chose to leave his wife and kids for another woman, and he needs to deal with the consequnces of that disastrous decision that wrecked three lives and is impacting others.

I agree, this is a very sad situation. I can’t imagine the pain. Although I worked with a woman whose own sister cheated with her husband. The betrayal is beyond my immagination…

Curiously, The family that uninvited you? Where they your cousins, brother’s, sister’s, mother, father? Frankly, I don’t think they should uninvite you. Granted the pressure of being together would be off the charts. But are they to disown their OWN daughter? Sister? Even if she blew it BIG TIME!!! And honestly, I would have a hard time with that person in my house. Zero respect for marriage, and zero respect for family.

Now, if YOU’RE parents uninvited you… then WOW to a whole new level.

Divorce and that which leads to it, breaks up families. However, IF we can keep from breaking up the whole family then we should. We can’t control the actions of everyone. And if you don’t want to hang with a person, you shouldn’t.

And mason… OMG… does your cousin and ex have children? What of them? And what of their technical relationship to your children, half brother/sister/cousin.

Your case is different. To me anyway. I would be WAY more disgusted, and unable to keep from showing it. Especially for your ex, who NO ONE is related to.

In the case of idiot brother… Like I said, I’d still invite his ex, and my neices and nephews. And I would expect the adults to behave.

My parents and sister stood by me every step of the way, I’m talking about extended family. While most were 100% supportive, there were some that chose to have a close relationship with her and pretty much wanted nothing to do with me. Yes, they are nice and friendly to my face, but there is no question where their loyalties lie. There were times when family members got together for something and I wasn’t invited because she would be there and “they wouldn’t want to make me uncomfortable” type of thing. Uhhhhmmm, it should have been the other way around! That’s why I firmly believe the OP should rather invite her sil and the children for Christmas instead and the heck with her brother. Seriously. Don’t let that poor woman have to deal with the pain of knowing there was a family get-together with the other woman that she was left out of.

As for me, I eventually reconciled with my husband. Only by the loving Grace of God did he completely turn himself around and has been a model husband for the past 11 years. I have worked hard on forgiveness with God’s help. To be honest, it was harder to forgive her than him, I don’t know why, but I eventually made my peace with it and now I can actually look her in the eye and greet her when I run into her.

I found peace but the destruction it did to my extended family lives on and will always be there. I forgive her. But it still hurts when she is included and I am not.

Every now and then I will be haunted by the question “what if?” What if they did have a child together and wound up together with my own family broken forever? I cannot imagine…I just can’t imagine.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit