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My ex-brother-in-law cheated - now he thinks he’s a marriage expert Add to ...

The question

My sister’s husband cheated on her for years, then met a much younger woman on the Internet and split, leaving her to raise their five children. With a stay-at-home wife’s support, his career blossomed. They are quite wealthy and just had a baby. Meanwhile, my ex-brother-in-law has set himself up as a marriage guru.

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He gave a nauseating toast at his son’s wedding recently, lecturing us all on the four important elements of a good marriage. He regularly Facebooks on the topic of marital bliss. I can understand his wife’s insecurity needs stroking, but this gushing means my sister is publicly humiliated on a regular basis. I really think somebody should set him straight. Would I be justified in dropping him a note?

The answer

Wow. Two things: 1) How annoying. 2) As I’ve often said: beware so-called, soi-disant experts in any particular field. Especially in the arena of stuff such as relationships and marriage.

How does someone become a “relationship expert” anyway? How do they figure? And someone calling themselves a “marriage guru” just makes me want to install motion-sensing, voice-activated teddy-cams all over their house and see just how blissful everything is in their private lives.

Once I was invited to participate in a panel – what’s called in the ad game a “guru group” – of so-called experts to spout off on the topic of “intimacy in long-term relationships,” sponsored by a sexual lubricant company.

One “expert” was a couples’ counsellor/shrink who was clearly out of his mind. Another was a “sex expert” because she owned a sex-toy shop. And one of the panelists was presenting herself as a “marriage expert” because she’d been married five times.

Shouldn’t a “marriage expert” be someone who got it right the first time and made it last?

And you should’ve heard the rubbish they were talking about sex. That it should take a lot of time, should incorporate “playfulness” and “laughter.” Poppycock. I’m no expert, but to me sex should be nasty, brutish and short. And if someone’s laughing you’re doing it wrong.

But I digress. Your ex-brother-in-law certainly sounds like a piece of work, and a pain in the tailpipe to boot. For starters, you have my permission to mock him. God gave us the gift of mockery for just these types of situations.

Could be behind his back – as an ex-sister-in-law you’re ideally positioned and well within your rights to aim darts, barbs and zingers at his self-congratulatory posterior. You could actually be helping your sister out. Kind of venting on her behalf. That way she can always take “the high road,” and speak only well of her ex, especially when her kids are within earshot.

But ideally you do it to his face. So for example, if, at a cocktail party, say, with tiny bits of shrimp in his beard, he begins to unpack a soliloquy on the four cornerstones of a good marriage, you could say something like: “What about fidelity? Is that one of the cornerstones?”

Or: “Does what you’re saying apply to first wives? Or just the second, trophy wives?”

If you don’t feel comfortable with that, much can be conveyed with a simple snort or eye-roll.

As to slipping a note under his door: Only you can know whether it’ll just ruffle his feathers, or burst his hot-air balloon of self-importance, and bring him back to earth.

One way or another, whether cloaked in humour or written down or imparted over a cup of chamomile tea, I do think you should find a way get your message across.

Look at it this way: You’re actually doing him a favour. I’ve said it before and please pardon me if I repeat myself, because it’s kind of the cornerstone of my personal belief-system: Humility is no less than the mother and father of all other virtues.

To continue the aviation metaphors, hubris will turn you into an Icarus, flapping your melted wings as you plummet towards the cornfields at 16 metres a second, every time.

And that’s the sort of fate it sounds like he’s heading for. Now, if you do have a serious chat with him, I wouldn’t hold my breath or eagerly glance out the front window waiting for the letter carrier to arrive with a thank you note from him pointing out the error of his ways.

He may freak out. He may turn his back on you. So what, really? As an ex-sister-in-law you’re also perfectly positioned not to care.

And who knows? Maybe some day – probably in the distant future – he’ll look back, realize you may have had a point, and change. Don’t laugh. It does happen.

What am I supposed to do now?

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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