An old and close friend of mine recently found out that her parents' ( mom & stepdad, birth father out of the picture after bad divorce) marriage was a big ol' sham. Apparently her mom couldn't take the fact that the most recent mistress was given a (supposedly) false indication that marriage might be forthcoming and moved out. My friend had no idea - when her mom moved, she asked if this was due to marital difficulties or if a divorce was forthcoming and her mom completely denied it (there were other plausible reasons for the move). It turns out that her mother lied and one day just unloaded a great deal of information about the situation onto my friend about what had been happening for the past decade. I have been trying to comfort her while she deals with it. There is a lot more information about the way the relationship broke down, but I don't want to put too much out there. I'll just say that she was kept in the dark about a lot of things. She emailed me at work today really really upset saying that she had asked her mom how things stood between herself and her stepdad and her mom basically said that "it doesn't affect you" and that she doesn't have the right to be upset at her about it. I totally understand why she would be upset with her mother (all that stuff I don't want to put out here), but at the same time - I kind of agree with her mother in that, the state of her marriage is not something my friend necessarily has a right to know. I am having trouble responding to her communications about this subject when she has similar conversations with her mother.
1) Is friend out of line to expect updates on the "marriage"?
2) What do I say to help & not hurt?
Are you talking about polygamy?
Not that I can see. Friend's mom and stepdad were married. Mom realized that stepdad was hinting marriage to his mistress. Mom realized that she couldn't live in that situation and moved out. All fine. But then the problem is, they lied to their kid for 10 years about it, pretending their marriage was great.
OP, all I can say is, this is the story of my life. Dead on. Except for a few details changed -- I was in high school when it all hit the fan and it came out that my entire life was based on a foundation of lies. My parents had been separated by mutual consent for many years, but lied to us kids about it and pretended to still be married so as not to "hurt the children". When it was hard to maintain that pretense, they lied more and more extravagantly to cover up the lies.
The one thing I can say is, expect this to take your friend a long time to process. She will be sitting there at driving to work and suddenly some random family memory from 3 years ago will pop into her mind, and she'll realize, "Hey! That was why Mom said X at Thanksgiving....." It takes a long time for all these realizations to occur, when the foundation of lies is just so deep.
As for what to say, the usual about being a supportive friend. Agree if she complains that she feels lied to and betrayed. Don't be surprised if the lying is a much bigger issue to your friend than the affair itself. I don't remember turning to friends, but if I had, it would not be from expecting them to solve the problem. Just to listen and offer support.