Children and Infidelity

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I hear my kids in the other room down the hall giggling, playing together and happy. If there is one thing in my life that is perfect, it’s my kids. My husband and I have put 150% of ourselves into them making sure they are confident, happy, loving and caring children. Every parent loves their kids and thinks they are great, but I guarantee if you met my kids you would say: “wow, those kids are pretty amazing.” [Not to pat myself on the back or anything.]

I was reading information on infidelity this morning at the bottom of the list of articles was a section on children. My husband and I have not told our children anything. During the affair, my kids were aware that their father was disconnected. They voiced their concerns to me just before I figured it out. One of my son’s told me he felt that his father was not engaged when he was home with us anymore. He was concerned that we were arguing (we only argued when my husband was gas-lighting me too). My son was concerned. I was concerned too. Knowing that my child had concerns was my breaking point to going through my husband’s emails.

My husband and I are very involved with all three of our children. We aren’t those crazy parents that over-schedule our kids but our kids play at least one sport throughout the year of their choice and have to be involved in the community through a club/organization of their choice. Whatever else they do is up to them but school is their first priority. Working hard and doing their best is a lesson we feel is most important. Being honest and trustworthy is also important to our family.

I don’t want to tell my kids about their father’s infidelity. I am afraid it will change them. I fear it will change how they view and respect their father. I still have feelings of humiliation that I am dealing with. So when I read an article today about the positive aspects of telling young  (school-aged) children about a parent’s infidelity it took my focus off myself. The article said that being honest with your children allows them to understand that they should be honest with you about sexuality and life’s challenges. They talked to children that know about their parent’s infidelity and the kids said that they knew their parents were still their parents. They were reassured that the parents loved them and were going to work on their marriage (or sometimes not) and this was a life lesson.

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I am torn. As you read above I have a son. I am fearful of how this knowledge will affect my son’s opinion and respect for his father. My husband literally taught my son while he was in his affair about the importance of a man being honest and trustworthy. My son will recognize his father lied to him. My husband will be humiliated to admit his affair to our children. Although his humilation ranks low on my list of why we shouldn’t tell the kids.

Before I read this article I believed telling the kids would lead to them someday cheat on their spouses… almost like telling your teenager that you drank or had sex as a teenager.

Do as I say not as I do

type parenting. Even if you are saying this is why you shouldn’t cheat on a partner–kids respect their parents and they may not see the negatives. I fear my children will feel they can make the same mistakes and be okay. The article believes that the truth may be difficult depending on the age of the children and that teenagers and adult children actually have the most difficulty with the knowledge of a parent’s affair. But the author told her children when they were eleven and thirteen years old and feels strongly it was the right thing to do. One of the reasons is that an affair is built on secrecy and when you keep your spouse’s affair a secret it perpetuates infidelity in society. Telling people the truth teaches a lesson that

affairs happen to good people in good marriages.

Honesty with children helps them to be honest with their own sexuality and relationships when they grow older. The author compared the mindset of an affair’s secrecy with the way a teenager sneaks around to have or explore sex.

Is telling my children going to destroy their happiness and innocence? Do my kids need to know to be better people and prevent infidelity in their own lives? Who out there has told their children? How old are your children? I know that at least two of mine are in the age range where they could know about their father’s affair. I just fear them having a fallout with their father. I fear them losing respect for him or me. I don’t want them to fear we will divorce  when I am having a bad day or their father doesn’t answer his phone or is working late. I don’t want to break their hearts or destroy their happiness. I truly believe that kids only get to be children for so long and we shouldn’t rush them into adult issues too quickly. I also don’t want them to ever make this mistake in their marriage.

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31 thoughts on “Children and Infidelity

  1. Our oldest kids were early and mid teens when my husband had his affair. My daughter is the one who first suspected. To my everlasting sorrow, I told her they were just friends. They worked together. Dad would never do that, etc. He was very disconnected from us, and very critical during the time of his affair. They felt that very personally at the time. My daughter tells me now that there was a time she “hated” me, because she thought I was letting her dad get away with what she was SURE was cheating. In truth, I thought I was being a great mom for shouldering the burden, keeping the kids’ lives “normal” and only discussing my suspicions behind closed doors with my husband.

    For several months after I found out about the affair (he had ended it a year previously, but they had continued to work together during that time) we did not want the kids to know. When we finally told them (on the advice of our marriage counselor) it was very healing for all of us. They were not surprised at all. It was a relief for them as well as us to have it out in the open. My husband apologized profusely to them for dishonoring his commitment to me, for betraying our family and for damaging his relationship with all of us. He told them that he was going to work hard to rebuild the relationships and he has. They are reassured that we are in counseling, that we are working on and are committed to our relationship. That what happened had nothing to do with them, that his disconnection from the family was nothing they caused. It has also led to some great discussions about the misuses of today’s technology, and he has been frank with them about setting boundaries in this regard. It is such a personal decision and it is a very hard one to make. It depends on sooo many factors. I wish you all the best in your healing journey. Thanks for a great post@

  2. I have mixed feelings about telling the kids. We told our 21 year old daughter and within a month she cheated on her boyfriend of 3 years with a boy who she’d dated when she was 15. I don’t know if there was any connection but it sure seemed like there was. My daughter is the kindest, sweetest girl there is, just a lovely person. I was shocked when she did it, and even said to her how could you knowingly hurt someone you love and especially after what you’ve
    seen me go through. She eventually ended up back with the boyfriend of 3 years, now with a lot of damage between them.

    My step-son knows his father was unfaithful, we did not tell him outright but he figured it out. He had major behavior problems for months afterwards. Both the kids asked us all the time if we were going to get divorced. It was awful. If I had it to do over I don’t know if I would tell them or not. The way we acted thought they knew something was wrong. It’s a hard decision to make.

    • That would be my biggest fear. I recall finding out that an adult I looked up to as a young and naive teenager had slept with multiple people before they got married. This person was my mentor through high school and college and we were quite close. When I found this information out I still believed that the person I would lose my virginity to would be the man I married. This man told me if he could do it all over again he would wished his wife was the only woman he ever was intimate with (very romantic, I guess). Within two months of finding out this information I lost my virginity to a boyfriend I had only been with for a few weeks. He didn’t love me or probably even care about me. We dated for about six weeks until I found out he was sleeping with one of my friends behind my back. I think it was easier to lose my virginity knowing someone I looked up to had told me he didn’t wait around for the right person either. And trust me, I know it’s not common/realistic to only sleep with one person in your whole life–but I didn’t even respect myself when I was sleeping with this guy.

  3. I don’t think there is a rush to tell them. You can always tell them, but you can’t un-tell them. You can tell them everything after you get more time to recover. You can also consider being vague by telling them now that you are working on some issues and that you love them and it will be okay. It’s okay to portray that marriage is hard and takes work.

    I have been thinking that I may eventually tell everyone, but everyone doesn’t need to know now when we’re going through the hardest part. I have a two year old so of course he doesn’t know (we haven’t even fought in front of him). He has seen me cry and I’ve just said that I’m a little sad, it will be okay, and everyone gets sad sometimes. But someday should I tell him? I don’t know…

    • I guess this is how I feel right now. I’ve been able to carry on with the kids and my husband has stepped up even more.I feel like I would rather be on the other side of the mountain before we let the kids know.

  4. No right answers to this one , personally I would say nothing , my father had an affair when I was a child , I grew up knowing nothing of this until my wife had an affair , my parents response was to assure me things can work out for the better , my parents have been happily married now over 40 years and I am no worse off for being kept out of it and still have as much love and rspeect for my father as ever , his failings were as a husband a long time ago, but never as a father
    Stay well regards “I”

  5. My children know. My 18 year old and 16 year old daughters took it the hardest. They were very angry for a long time and lots of name calling was thrown around toward both of us. But, it’s been about 4 months now and they are back to the way they were before the affairs. Our counsellor said it is a brilliant life lesson for them to see that even adults make mistakes and have to work it out. They have learnt not to take things for granted and appreciate their mum and dad being together like never before. I think they will think twice before going down the same path.

      • I also have a 14 year old daughter and a ten year old son. My son knows that some people came into our lives that have hurt our family but he doesn’t know how. I believe that is too young. (Last year, I had an affair and then my husband had one 4 months later) All my children have ever asked for since is for their mum and dad to be happy and to be a family again. Kids bounce back. Trust me. If they see you guys working it out and spending quality time together, that is the best gift you can give them

      • I also want to say that my kids werent sat down and told what happened either. They just knew. We felt the worst thing we could do to them was to sweep it under the carpet with them. They don’t know details of either affair, but the girls were given a chance to tell us how it made them feel. My husband and I have apologised to them through family meetings. We openly admitted our mistakes and took their brutal honesty on how it’s affected them. That is better than sweeping it under the carpet and thinking they will just get over it. Good luck

    • I can’t believe I never read that post before. Tunnel vision on my part. I appreciate hearing your story.
      I look at my marriage now and our relationship and it is more loving. The kids are constantly saying: “stop kissing!” … something we were neglecting to do for the past year or so (PDA). I’ve noticed our kids are happier seeing us being loving and affectionate towards one another.

  6. Such good comments. In the book “How my husband’s affair became the best thing that happened to me” by Anne Bercht, she describes a breakthrough her teenage daughter had in being able to finally forgive her dad, but it took her years. If you choose to tell, they will always feel unconditionally loved and know that no matter what you will never leave them.

  7. All my children know. They are 11, 9, and 5. We couldn’t hide it from them. For months, my husband treated us all badly – and I taught my boys that it was okay, that it was just “Daddy’s crazy brain” (my DH had a traumatic brain injury the year before). My eldest son was with me when the love letter literally fell into my lap. He knew before I did what I was reading and confronted my husband.

    But to answer your question, I’m glad my kids know. My husband cheated on all of us, not just me. He needs to make things right with all of us. And my boys are learning from him. We speak openly of infidelity and how to treat people you love. My husband uses his past behaviour as an example of how lying, etc. can spiral out of control. My boys don’t hate him, although my oldest does openly admit that he worries about my DH when he travels, but Bug and my son discuss it.

    As parents, we’ve decided to show our boys how life may not be perfect, but what’s important is how you handle the bumps and bruises. My boys love their father, and that will never change.

    • Your boys are about the same age as mine except I have a teenager. He was the only one with me the weekend I discovered the affair. I didn’t reveal what I was upset about but I couldn’t hide my pain. He held me and was there for me.
      I know you are right about honesty and not living under a veil of secrecy… I am just not sure how to even tell my children or family and friends. Thank you.

  8. Pingback: Children, Youth & Adults = The SOCIETY | Life & Social updates

  9. (I’m on a word-limiting phone that lets me write only short snippets per post. This’ll take a few posts to complete)…

  10. I agree w/DawnRaeMiller. WSs betray the ENTIRE family, not only the BS. Shielding kids from “real life” can result in…

  11. DEEP resentment in later yrs when the truth comes out, as I learned the hard way w/my children (now in their 30s)….

  12. (WS) & Bubsy (BS) in their 2/9/13 response to a 2/8/13 comment from Susan (an OW), @ whyhaveanaffair’ blog…

  13. find my LONG answer to Susan’s 2/14/13 question to me @ the above link. GENUINE respect is based on TRUTH, not ILLUSION.

  14. My daughters were 18 months and 3 months old when my husband cheated in 2005. The girls don’t know anything. We now have a 4 year old sun. We barely spend time together and communication is breaking down so much so that I almost separated from my husband. The kids hear us arguing and me crying. We keep trying to get help, but keep ending up on the same road. Change is slow-going and I am very unhappy in my own home. All I know to do is wake up every day and keep living. My youngest daughter now goes from super sweet to downright defiant in a matter of seconds. Hates being told what to do. Maybe not telling the kids has had a subliminal affect on the household dynamic over time.

    • I think our children are more aware than we think, even from a young age. They feel and sense the truth in any situation. I hope you can find the courage to pursue your own happiness, whatever that may be. You deserve to be happy and content.

  15. I am a dad/husband who has cheated on my wife of 21 years. Not to rationalize my affair, but from the beginning of our marriage my wife never showed love towards and always tore me down and belittled me. Throughout the years I’ve always told her everyday (and meant it) that I loved her, but it was never reciprocated. Day after day, this one sided marriage had just beat me down. While it would’ve been nice to have some sort of support structure on both sides (for my wife/for me) to figure out how we should move forward, friends nor family (hers) wanted to even acknowledge there were any issues. …….to get to the point, I had been friends with someone at work for about 5 years, never having an inclination of having any type of affair, but one day the friendship became closer and I gave in without the thinking because of the lack of love and even general compassion that I had desperately needed from my wife.

    I have 2 daughters, 19 and 14 year old and they both have been daddys girls. We’ve always done things together, talked, played and interacted (never doing much at all with their mother/my wife), so we’ve had a strong bond. As well, they looked up to me. I had the affair and had the hardest time being around them (my girls and wife) without feeling guilty. Without realizing what day it was, I told my wife and daughters and that I had an affair. The day was father’s day. My daughters thought I was joking at first, and their smiles turned to tears. I had gone from the greatest dad to the worst dad ever in about 5 seconds. I am an A+ jerk and will never forgive myself for destroying them. Everyday, I hurt for them. They tell me everything is ok and that they understand, but I don’t believe them. I know they’re hurting inside and just trying to ignore all of the pain. I’m still at home, with my wife and still do things with my girls, but I’m absolutely tore up inside. I’m not looking for pity or pats on the back. Looking back, I wish it were easier to find a way to separate and/or divorce my wife before having an affair, but I thought that I couldn’t tear us apart. The thought of my girls living away from me or their mother just kills me. My wife and I just can’t live together. Even the children who say it doesn’t affect them, is wrong. Both of my daughters told me that they don’t respect me or wife anymore. Everyday, I think about suicide (not acting on it, but think about it) but could never do that to my girls. I feel like the worst person on this planet. Anyone who says an affair doesn’t affect children is wrong.

    • You are right, the cheating spouse doesn’t realize the ripple affect their affair will have on everyone they love. Some marriages are just not built to last but adding an affair to the mix will make things so much messier. Have you read: “How to Help Your Spouse Heal From Your Affiar”? The book is written for anyone–not just spouses trying to rebuild their marriage. It’s short and sweet. You can download onto your iPad/phone if necessary.
      What were the reasons you married your wife 21 years ago? What did you love about her? I am not trying to tell you to fix this but it’s natural over the course of a marriage for you to experience highs and lows in the love you feel for your spouse. Relationships aren’t always good but they shouldn’t tear you down either.
      I would recommend going to therapy if you aren’t already going. Make appointments to go with your daughters too. They feel betrayed. They feel like you cheated on them and this could affect every relationship your daughters have in the future. You said that you were closer with your kids than their mother but you were the one to betray them. This relationship is important to mend because you don’t want them to believe all men cheat or will betray them. You don’t need to burden your daughters with the details and you should not speak ill of their mother–regardless of whether or not she’s cold and mean. She is their mother.
      Another book that is incredible and may relate to your own story is “How My Husband’s Affair Became the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me.” Most of this book is written from the wife’s perspective but it includes passages written by the husband and teenage daughter. It tells the story (and it’s a rough one) of a man that believed his wife did not listen or support him. Their daughter struggles to respect either of them and she recounts this story from a teenage girl’s viewpoint.
      The thing is you did this and everyone in your family has to live with it. In my opinion you will gain more from helping your wife and daughters heal from your mistake than just abandoning ship entirely. This doesn’t mean you stay in the marriage–it means help them through this storm. No matter what you are a family and that matters.
      Lastly, you are human. You screwed up but it doesn’t mean you are a horrible person. But if you want to earn your daughter’s respect back–prove it and do whatever it takes. Take care… read those books too.

  16. Wow, so many great stories and wonderful insight.

    Soon after my D-Day my kids kept catching me tear up here and there and I could not hide it any longer so I asked my husband to sit down and talk to the kids. He told them that he had hurt me very badly and he did not deserve my forgiveness and he asked that they be loving and respectful to me as I heal through this process and if they had any frustrations they are to talk to him and not take it out on me. The kids both were very upset at first assuming divorce was inevitable. This really helped me to be able to be real and allow my kids to see me going through a very difficult time but also see me pick up and go on with the day because bottom line it has to get done. My husband and I no longer had to avoid conversations and wait to speak in privacy. It allowed us to get back into our regular routine which was a big comfort for me to heal. A dear friend said to me when all of this started “your kids will do as well as you do”. How true this has been. They both have times of insecurity and of course the melt downs… but they both periodically check in by asking how I am doing and I do the same for them. We are only 6 months into healing but we are all trying. Forgiveness is a journey. It will be a very long time before I can truly forgive but I am trying. My main concern with the kids is when they do find out the reason for the hurt will this be a bad example to have stayed or will it be a blessing for them to see people go through “better or worse”. This scares me to death but only time will tell.

  17. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing your story. In spite of the pain you still feel, I respect and agree with your value of truth and honesty. Harboring a lie to keep the peace is no better than a lie of deceit. Your family story is so complex and my heart aches for both you and your mother (and siblings). Have you confronted your father? I just wonder if he has an explanation for what he has done or sees the damage he has caused.

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