I am feeling a little left out. Do children whose parent’s have had affairs not ever have a say about what really goes on after the fact, or how their parent’s affair affected their daily lives? Is it a product of our “don’t whine and get over it” society that these children, who are now adults, can’t express how their parent breaking the bonds of trust in a marriage has left them feeling a little off kilter?
I did a very cursory search to see how many articles, books, blogs, etc. that I could find that were written by adult children whose parent had had an affair, and how they are dealing with the repercussions of these actions. I was pretty shocked to find out that most writings that deal with infidelity are directed towards the spouse who was cheated on, the “other” man or woman and/or the cheater, themselves, and if the topic of the children of the affairs is addressed at all it is by some therapist or psychologist explaining what happens to these children. I do not want to belittle the mental health professionals who spend their time helping families heal from such a horrible experience as infidelity, but what about the people who have actually lived it and suffered or are currently suffering with decision to go outside the bonds of marriage, and what effect does it really have on our adult lives?
I have come to the conclusion that there is still a lot of shame involved with infidelity, even for the children. I also believe that a child who lives through an affair is still protective of their cheating parent even when they are disappointed by their actions, and they may not want to disparage this parent in anyway by discussing their shortcomings. I, on the other hand, have made a decision to break free from the taboo of talking about parental infidelity. It was not my decision, and therefore I shouldn’t feel ashamed.
My father cheated on my mother twice. The second affair happened when I was twelve and with that affair I gained a step mother, who was previously called the “other” woman. When this affair happened, which ultimately led to the demise of my family, I turned the other cheek because I wanted a relationship with my father and his new bride, regardless of the situation. I buried a lot of hurt and frustration for the sake of family harmony and my little lie worked well for twenty-one years, until my father decided to have another affair with a woman that was younger than me, his thirty-three-year-old daughter. All the hurt and anguish of my father’s first affair was brought out ten fold, and now my father cannot understand why I didn’t feel sorry for my stepmother and why I am so angry. My human reaction toward my stepmother was “Karma is a bitch”, but the sympathetic part of my soul said, “You remember that hurt you saw your mother go through, don’t you?”
The thing about my family is that we are not people you would see on Jerry Springer or even Dr. Phil, well at least not all of us (that is a topic for another time), but an affair happened to my family and as a child of a parent that had an affair I am expected to put on my big girl panties and deal. But I don’t believe that it is that easy for a child to get over parental infidelity and the repercussions that can last for years and years. We need a voice.