You've seen celebrity clinical psychologist Dr. Sherry Blake, author of The Single Married Woman: True Stories of Why Women Feel Alone in Their Marriages keep the Braxton sisters calm on the hit show, Braxton Family Values. Now it's your turn to sit in her chair...
Hi Dr Sherry,
I'm in a very awkward situation. I've been married for 10 years. Together my husband and I have 2 children, a son age 13 and a daughter who is 10. I have a 21-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, however my husband has been in her life since she was 4 years old. For the past few years, my intuition has been telling me something has going on between the two of them in an inappropriate manner. I discovered the truth a few months ago that they are involved and are having sexual relations. They claim that they only have oral sex but I have strong feelings that they have crossed the line even further. I confronted my husband who lied at first but eventually told the truth about them being involved. My daughter instantly caught an attitude and barely told the truth. I initially put them both out of our house but ended up letting them come back simply because I couldn't deal with the emotional sadness and disappointment of my other two children. They were just so sad that their dad was out the house. My daughter had no where else to go so I welcomed her back but she still walks around like I owe her. My husband seems to be very regretful but I don't trust either one of them at this point because they have betrayed me more than I can say. My question is, what should I do in this situation because I love them both so much but this is very painful and hurtful and I don't know what to do next.
Describing your situation as an awkward situation is an understatement. You are in a situation that is of dire seriousness and urgency. While you discovered the truth or part of the truth a few months ago, you have been suspicious of inappropriate sexual activity between your husband and daughter for a few years. A few years ago would have made your daughter a minor child. At this point, you do not know when the inappropriate behaviors started and the extent of the behaviors. Regardless if the sexual behavior ranged from touching to oral sex to sexual intercourse, it was all inappropriate and possibly illegal. It is highly likely that it started long before you became suspicious. You may have not had any reason to question your husband's behavior with your daughter given he has been in her life since she was 4 years old. If she was indeed a minor when the sexual behavior started, it is a legal matter. Now that you know that something happened, it is up to you to do something about it. Your daughter is likely to have been a victim of sexual abuse by your husband. This may account for her attitude towards you. Your husband is an adult and responsible for his actions. It will be a big mistake to just sweep what has happened under the rug and pretend it never happened. You have a 10-year-old daughter in the home as well as a 13-year-old son. You have a responsibility to protect both of them. Given your husband's inappropriate behaviors, you have to wonder if your 10-year-old daughter has also been a victim. There are several steps needed on your part. First, I recommend you sitting down with your 21-year-old daughter and have an honest conversation. Do not blame her for what has happened and let her know that you understand that it was not her fault. Try to get her to tell you the entire story of what happened. I recommend that the two of you go to psychotherapy to address issues. As painful as it may sound, I also recommend that you make an official report of the abuse to the police and the Department of Family and Children Services in your city. This is necessary not only because of what has happened but more importantly because you have a minor daughter in the home. You may possibly be liable if by chance your husband has been sexually inappropriate with your younger daughter and you failed to make a report about what has already happened. It is not your job to do a thorough investigation and decide what should happen. That is the job of the police and the official department that serves and protects children. I also recommend that you seek legal advise from an attorney that specializes in sexual abuse cases. It may be difficult to have your husband in the home until you are clear about what has been going on in your home. He needs some psychological help but that is his responsibility. It is important that you are honest with your children about some of the possible changes that may take place. They should be told information on an age appropriate level and only overall general information. Although you have a lot to deal with, don't forget to take care of yourself in the process. In fact, you need individual psychotherapy because your situation is painful and serious but it is not hopeless for the sake of you and your other children! --Dr. Sherry
Email us your questions for Dr. Sherry now and be sure to include "Ask Dr. Sherry" in the subject line.