The Divorce Diaries: “My Husband Had A Baby With My Sister”

Welcome to our series, The Divorce Diaries. In today’s Divorce Diary we talk to Anne*, who has lived in New Zealand for well over a decade, but has told very few people the true reason why she moved here from Canada…

In our past instalments over the last year we’ve covered everything from when you’re most likely to divorce to whether they’re contagious to whether being on the contraceptive pill can effect your chances! and have now spoken to dozens of women – including one whose husband announced he was leaving her to have an open relationship with a 19-year-old, another who was quite literally ghosted by her own husband and one who had been trying for a baby for a year when he finally admitted he’d had a vasectomy years earlier.

When people ask Anne why she moved to NZ, she returns to a familiar script, listing the reasons she knows people expect to hear: the slower pace of life, the scenery, the fact that it doesn’t get as cold as her hometown in Canada.

But there are very few people in NZ who Anne has told the honest truth to as to why she made the move. Her boss is one of those few, who she finally told, when for the fifth year running he asked, “Ok, surely you want to take this Christmas off to go home?!?”

“By that stage there was a bit more distance so I felt confident I would not cry when telling him,” says Anne. “We had become friends and shared personal information before, but I didn’t want him to see me cry about something that wasn’t work related. 

“I held it together, and he managed to get through it without looking too shocked. He was very supportive and kind – although disturbed – and thankfully, doesn’t bring it up, ever.”

Complete disbelief and shock is the reaction she most often gets when she does tell her story, because the real reason for her major relocation has nothing to do with the weather.

Early in the year that she decided to move, her husband suddenly announced that he was leaving her. As if that experience wasn’t painful enough, six months later her sister gave birth to a little boy. That boy was both her nephew and, technically, her step-son.

Three months after his birth, she made the decision to move to NZ.

“I didn’t know about it [the affair] until there was a commotion outside my house one day and I looked out the window to see my brother pushing my sister towards my front door,” she tells.

“He’d found out she’d been having an affair with my husband and was pregnant, and – essentially – forced her to tell me. We’d been broken up for seven weeks. She was five months pregnant and showing.”

“That’s all I can remember of that day though – just that vision of my older brother half wrestling her up the street.”

“Oh wait, no, there is one other thing I remember,” she says. “I have a memory of being in the kitchen and her saying it was like that movie The Family Stone. We went to see that film together at the theatre one holidays. She said I liked that movie and I had liked the ending and this was the same thing – everyone ended up happy, they were just with the wrong siblings.

Anne’s a bit hazy as to what happened next. “According to my brother I threw a colander across the room and yelled ‘I hated that movie. I hated that ending. I hate you.”

“I think it’s one of the last things I ever said to her.”

She says the rage inside her ran red hot most of the time as she tried to make sense of what had happened. She soon found out the relationship had likely been going on for more than a year behind her back.

“The, ‘I love you, but I’m not in love with you anymore,’ conversation we had feels like a slap in the face now,” she tells.

“They knew about the pregnancy from quite early on, but it wasn’t until they got to the second trimester that we broke up. That part still confuses me. Why wait so long?”

“I think it’s one of the last things I ever said to her.”

One thing that does seem to baffle a lot of people, is that Anne doesn’t know any of the details – she doesn’t know when the affair began, how it started, how often they saw each other and where.

“I have no interest in going over it forensically, trying to make sense of it or knowing any of the specific details,” she tells. “I’d rather not know. Sometimes my mind wanders into that space and I quickly bring it back. I think it’s better to not dwell on the details, or I’d go mad.”

In saying that, she has spent time processing all her anger and hurt – including seeing a therapist for several years. The anger and betrayal she felt towards her husband was immense, but the rage she felt towards her sister was even larger.

“Legally, he was the one who made all those promises, but, the unspoken contract you have with the family you’re born into – that one feels far more callous to break.”

The betrayal also caused something of a rift in the family. Anne has three siblings – a brother who is six years older than her, then two younger sisters. It was the middle sister who had the affair.

“My brother is like the protector of us all – my parents had him a lot earlier than the rest of us,” tells Anne. “He really had my back and was furious. My youngest sister was appalled – but still wanted to be close with her. My parents [sighs], well that’s a tough one, y’know?

“This was their first grandchild, so it was bittersweet.”

What added to the drama was that her sister and ex-husband wanted to buy a house to move into with their baby – and Anne’s parents gave them a substantial amount of money to do so.

“The rest of us work hard – very, very hard – and don’t get handouts from my parents. It was disappointing. It felt like they received a reward for doing something so awful”

Luckily – as Anne said, she’s a hard worker – and has a highly skilled, high-powered job, that there is a shortage of in New Zealand. Once she started toying with the idea of moving away from Canada, she was quickly snapped up and offered work here in NZ.

“I don’t come from a small town, but it felt very small after what happened,” she tells. “I felt like everyone was talking about it. I needed to get away.”

In the many years that have passed since, a lot has happened – although she’s only had one conversation with her ex (the rest has been sorted through lawyers), which she found deeply unsatisfying.

She’s never spoken to her sister since the day she came clean, but she has sent letters to her nephew. She doesn’t mention what happened, she just sends cards at Christmas and his birthday, with a present and photos of herself and her life in NZ. She has also extended a promise that when he turns 18, she will provide him a plane ticket and a place to stay if he wants to come to NZ.

“I started sending them [the cards] when he turned two,” she tells. “My sister and ex obviously thought it was some sort of olive branch offering and tried to be in communication, but that was not my intention. My nephew had nothing to do with the way he was bought into this world, y’know? He’s my flesh and blood and I would like him to know that he is loved and cherished by his aunt – I just can’t be around his parents for my own mental health, but that is nothing to do with him. He sends me thank you letters and Christmas cards.”

Anne’s brother, youngest sister and parents have all been out to visit her in NZ, and she’s been back home a few times – for a couple of weddings and funerals, and for an extended stay when she decided to return to Canada for IVF treatment.

She’s been with her Kiwi partner for many years and recently, now in her early 40s, she gave birth to a daughter of her own.

Anne says that she and her partner are completely smitten with their girl and are looking forward to taking her home next Christmas to meet her family. She hopes she might get to see her nephew again – she ended up meeting him twice when she was home for IVF treatment. She met him at her parent’s home, where he was staying for the weekend, while her sister was away on holiday.

“Meeting my nephew was bittersweet – he’s a lovely guy and I wish I could see him more often. Even though he has some of my ex’s features, I’ve been able to see past that,” she says.

“It was very low-key when I met him, and happened quite spontaneously, so no one had time to overthink it. He was at my parent’s because my sister was away and it was her weekend to have him – yes, from that you will have gathered that my sister and my ex are no longer together. They did get engaged, but they didn’t make it down the aisle. To me, it’s not relevant, but, yes, he did cheat on her and is now with that woman instead.”

It’s something that didn’t bring her any joy, but neither did it make her feel like reaching out to her sister or providing any sense of comfort.

“I still haven’t spoken to my sister and I haven’t contemplated getting in touch, or returning her communication, although after having my daughter I have softened a bit and wonder if it may be a possibility again one day,” she says.

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