How common is it to fall in love with your brother or sister in-law? Statistics tell us that 17% of marriages involve having an intimate relationship with an in-law. It is unclear how much that number changes if you add falling ‘in love’ with an in-law. It depends on how you define ‘in love’. Infatuations develop between in-laws far more often than most might imagine. Why does this happen? The most common reasons range from surprising to shocking.
On the shocking end of the scale is sibling rivalry that can be downright vicious. These brothers and sisters are so covetous and resentful of a sibling that they simply cannot allow them to be happy. They actively pursue the spouse of their sibling for the sheer pleasure of destroying their happiness. Not surprisingly, these people rarely engage in this behavior because they are really interested; many are narcissistic and incapable of loving anyone but themselves.
Slightly less shocking, but equally disturbing, we find sibling rivalry that is based on the need to feel as desirable, loved and attractive as their sibling. These people actually imagine they are attracted to the in-law because they require the justification of violating their brother or sister in such a manner. Their infatuation lasts just long enough to assuage their ego; and possibly destroy the relationship. Many maintain this well-kept secret for future use; they may ‘need’ another boost to their ego in the future, or even financial aid. Some people who do this actually enjoy what they perceive to be ‘power’ over the in-law and their sibling. Their reward lies in their perception that they are indeed more desirable, a better lover and more loveable; and that means everything to this personality.
Next are the siblings that are shocked to learn they are attracted to or have feelings for their in-law. Initially they ignore it and feel uncomfortable in their presence. This group actually has a conscience. Many try to escape their feelings by avoiding their sibling and spouse completely, hoping their feelings will diminish. Those who fall into this category are more likely to honor the interests of their siblings by not acting on their feelings. They still require a solution. Seeking counseling outside the family is a safe option; you may also have a good friend you can trust and talk your way through this.
Beyond these most common situations we find those who fall hopelessly and helplessly in love with their in-law. There are a few contributors to this malady. They have watched a sibling fall in love, witnessed their happiness, heard the best stories about the attributes of their partner, watched the loving care a sibling has been treated to and found all of this irresistible. And why not, they have seen and heard the very best of the in-law. Siblings typically grow up under the same influences. They are guided by the same rules and wisdom; this includes what makes a partner desirable and worth loving.
Daughters who have enjoyed a good relationship with their father are more likely to be attracted to a man like him; all of his daughters! They are seeking the same traits and characteristics in their idea of a perfect man. The same holds true for boys who enjoy a loving relationship with their mother. They seek what has been attractive and nurturing. Unfortunately, sisters and brothers looking for the same traits may ignore the cardinal rule of ‘hands off’ of their sibling’s spouse. It is the rarity for this to progress to a divorce and a marriage to the other sibling. Traveling this path is fraught with peril, pain and loss, and rarely worth it.
There are many instances of a sibling who marries the spouse once the brother or sister has died from illness or accidents. Statistics show that in the age group under 62 there is less than a 50% success rate in these relationships. This may be because there is too much history for a clean slate, a good beginning for any new marriage.
If you realize that your sibling is infatuated with your spouse and you want to maintain a good relationship with them you are leaps ahead if you talk to them openly and honestly; without anger or judgment. If you are still uncomfortable with their intentions after this, you can decide together how you want your relationship to proceed. Even if the decision is painful, it is far less so than all the emotions that occur by ignoring the situation.