Telling Our Children. Part 1.

Before you read this, I want to be really clear about a couple things:

  • I am NOT a therapist, counselor or in any other way in a position to give you advice on how/what you should do regarding this tender subject
  • Based on my limited exposure to affairs and their aftermath, one thing I can say with absolute certainty is THERE IS NO ONE WAY to go through this shitty experience that is THE RIGHT WAY. It is deeply personal, completely different based on so many factors no computer could even calculate the variables. I am in NO WAY trying to say that you should do what I did, or how I did, or when I did.

Ok. That being said, here is what happened regarding my husband’s double life, and our children.

There was never a question in my mind if we should tell our children. Not if. But how. How much. When. Where. Who. Those things took some thought, advice and decisions. Our kids ranged in age from 18 to 26. Three boys, one girl. Our daughter’s boyfriend had called us on 4/2/2014 to ask for our blessing when he asked her to marry him…a beautiful moment that I thought was intimately shared between HUSBAND and me as we huddled together on the phone with SIL to be. A mere 10 days later, that intimate moment began to shatter when I received the anonymous email, and by early June, I knew that indeed there had been multiple affairs along with a little one nighter.

If HUSBAND had engaged in one affair, I don’t know how I would have felt. Perhaps it would have been different, and I would have either moved toward healing me and potentially believing there was a way to heal us and would have done this without letting the kids know.

But HUSBAND’s revelations meant that throughout our entire marriage, there had been lies and deceit and women. As the truth unfolded between us, and he began to realize how much the lies, and then lies to protect the lies, and then lies because he couldn’t remember if he’d lied had affected him even in periods when he wasn’t actively engaging in an affair, we both saw the destruction it had quietly waged.

INSERT FROM PAST for INSIGHT:

Years before, I had attended a parenting session in our neighborhood in which a local (well-known) family psychologist had presented on alcohol, drugs and kids including thoughts on how to minimize the risk of abuse and addiction in your home. I did not want to ask a question in front of the group, but afterward went up to speak to him. “Doctor,” I started. “What is detaching with love? What does that mean?”

DR: Well…if your husband came home and the kids were in bed and he was really drunk…so drunk that he threw up on the kitchen floor and then passed out right there, what would you do?

ME: Well…I’d drag him to the bedroom, clean him up, clean up the floor, and probably be telling him the whole time what a jerk he was, how could he do this to himself and to us…

DR: Right, so in the morning, where does he wake up?

ME: In his bed.

DR: Right. Not smelling, in clean sheets, with all consequences removed, other than your, what appears to be, displaced anger.

ME: So…what should I do?

DR: You should leave him, on the kitchen floor, in his vomit. Allow him to experience the result of his actions.

ME: But!!! The Children!!! I was panicked.

DR: (Stares me in the eye) You Think They Don’t Know?

Why was I so convicted and convinced that telling our precious, vulnerable children was, not only ok, but necessary? Why would anyone shatter the image their beloved children had of their father? Their father, HUSBAND, was terrific in many ways. He is funny, he is resourceful. He knows how to go camping and forget the forks and create forks out of palm fronds. He can grow peppers and figure out why the water heater isn’t working. He helped them learn how to ride two-wheelers and to fish and to say please and thank you.

But he taught them some other things. Like how to manipulate in a cunning way that is so dreadfully skilled no one knows they’ve been played until much later. He taught them how to lie magnificently and to believe their own lies. He taught them fear of being found out, and to cover that fear with jovial moments and surface conversations.

He did not teach them about abiding relationships. Or loyalty. Or truth. Or integrity. Or respect. Yet he lauded himself as so downright honest, trustworthy and thoughtful that even I thought I was the bad egg in the relationship and he was the one who could never do anything wrong, at least on purpose.

So was this about retribution? About setting the record straight and having our children turn on their dad?

NOT IN ANY WAY. It was because deep in their souls, I knew that they knew something was off-kilter. I knew that they knew but just could not quite put their finger on the discord between what they heard and what WAS. That they needed truth and healing as much as I did, and no matter what happened to our relationship, they deserved to know why there was always a funky off-ness deep inside even though the outside of our lives and our family looked so pretty and shiny and whole.

More than anything, I wanted to make sure that our kids could see THEMSELVES in honest light. That they could know that their normal wasn’t really as normal as we all thought/pretended/intended/meant it was, and that they would have some chance to CHOOSE to be different than their childhood’s had predestined them to be.

That all made sense, at least to my muddled brain, and HUSBAND was right alongside. But the hard task was still to come. Telling them.

 

 

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45 thoughts on “Telling Our Children. Part 1.

  1. So hard isn’t it? Mine were a little older , 22 and 28 but it was what needed doing. I even remember feeling guilty over having to tell them. Ha!
    Take care xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a hard choice and hard situation! I believe older kids like yours were, can take the truth whereas younger kids may have hard to process the truth and may need a simplified version… Sorry you had to go through that. 💜

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Goodness, all this time you’ve been talking about kids, I thought you meant kids! Your children will always be your children, but they are adults. Telling is always difficult regardless of age, but they are old enough to process the information and understand its damage. I wish you well, and am curious to read part 2 and see how your children took the news. You have suffered more than most — a (married) lifetime of deceit is unfathomable. Sending you love and strength — you are amazing. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha! They are young adults! In my short journey through this mess, there still seems to be a wide range of thoughts/beliefs on telling or not telling and I fully understand/respect that – thus the disclaimer at the beginning. We, too, believed they were old enough to process & understand the damage…but the damage would not stop with my marriage. Thank you so much for your support, and I hope you know how much I admire you! HUGS.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The doctor was partially correct. Not all children know. When Loser would come home, smelling like beet, or at two o’clock in the morning, they were already in bed. Of course, the interesting part here is that I would be mad the next morning and my children thought (FOR YEARS) that I was just being a bitch to their wonderful daddy.
    Mine are well into their thirties but there’s still this attachment to that sperm donor that I cannot understand. They have ALL called him a “piece of shit” but the one they alienated was me.
    I hope your story ends differently.
    Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But isn’t that the doctor’s point, laurel? Don’t let their poor behaviour be covered up. Own it. Own your shit. I’m big on that. You fuck up. You face up. And why let your kids believe their mother is a nasty nag then? I tell mine. Dad did this wrong/thing that upset me. My reaction is valid. I agree that secrets from kids about marriage is harmful. Better to be honest and help them deal with the sadness/anger so they can strive for better themselves. That includes young kids – appropriately – no name calling, but dad had a girlfriend/s and that is not okay when you’re married. He’s sorry (if he is!) and he is learning to be a better person with help from xyz. You can ask any questions of us if you’re confused. Mine were 16, 12 and 10. We told them gently, together, without editorialising. Some quiet tears. Some open discussion and follow up. It is never off the table. They can ask any questions they feel the need to.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. That’s what I did. I stopped covering up for him. I thought HE “needed to own” what he was and what he did. It backfired. They are on his side because they want their DAD to be happy. I still don’t know how I emerged the “bad guy.” They welcome his tramp with open arms…but not their mama.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I’m so sorry, Laurel. That pain is dreadful. I hope that this year you will find a place of peace with each of your children. I am sure you want to hear them trash them, to see the pain he has wreaked on your life (and their lives too). Any way you could vow (to yourself) not to let his name come up or to respond if they mention him…maybe you can find your own place with them apart from any vestiges of him? I don’t know…just a thought. HUGS.

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        2. I’m going to talk to my shrink today about cutting all ties with my children. I actually had a few conversations with my oldest (via email) and it didn’t end well. I thought they were private conversations but she forwarded them to my other children. It was a betrayal, in my eyes.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. I will. I’ll probably post about it when I get back.
          I remember when I was a little girl, a teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I said “alive.”
          If this is being alive, I think I would have opted for my mama to just go ahead and kill me before I had to spend a whole other lifetime suffering. Oh, well…having my little pity party before I go to my shrink. LOL.

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      2. In the absence of knowing what is going on, we all create our own stories of what we THINK is going on. Sometimes, oftentimes, our “story” of the situation is even worse than reality. I think you were brave to handle things that way, Horses, and I hope you have seen some fruit in the lives of your children. Of COURSE it wasn’t and probably still isn’t easy, but at least it is honest. BRAVO to you.

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  5. I always find it sad that a father thinks a roll in the hay for some strange is more important than the positive legacy they can leave for their children……When a man so callously makes the choice to enter into an adulterous affair the legacy he leaves behind is that of a liar and cheat. They will still love him because he’s their father, but “daddy” will be gone. They will continue to look him in the eye, but the hurt he caused will always be the elephant in the room………. Even though this is his sin alone to carry, you the wife suffers the weight. I’m sorry that through NO FAULT OF YOUR OWN this was put into your hands to juggle. ….Best thoughts for you and your children.

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  6. It was painful to tell my husband that he forever changed the way our daughters will have relationships with men.
    When my husband asked for a divorce my girls already felt something was going on. That day we sat with them and and it was ridiculous how he couldn’t even tell them. He was so cowardly. I told them. It was equally hard when we decided to work on our marriage. It was hard and still is on our oldest. But we keep moving forward together as a family.

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    1. As a child of divorce, I explained to my partner the legacy he had created by his choice to be selfish and cheat rather than honestly discuss what his issues were. He was originally dismissive. He still thinks, “the kids are fine.” Yep. They are. But they are permanently affected. Ask me how I know!

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      1. We both are children of divorce. My husband’s parents both had affairs that I have found out since his. I remember him saying to me one day ” the girls will be fine, I’ll still be around and in their lives, nothing is really changing”. I shot back at him that no they wouldn’t be fine because we weren’t fine because of both our parent’s divorces. This was actually before I even found out about the actual affair. That definitely changed the dynamics of how our girls will handle relationships in the future. Especially our oldest. She is actually from my first marriage that was short lived ( I left when I was 9 months pregnant with her). My husband and I met when she was a baby and her bio dad has never really been in the picture. He comes and goes. If he doesn’t have a woman in his life he wants to spend time with her. If he’s with someone she’s invisible. ( he’s on marriage #3 and he’s 39) She has always felt abandoned by him even though my husband has been her dad for 17 years of her life. In her mind he is her dad and even has our last name, but that feeling of abandonment from her bio dad still hurts. So when my husband wanted a divorce she was devastated and felt doubly abandoned. She is having a tougher time forgiving him then our youngest daughter. I have asked him twice to sit down with them both and apologize and just talk to them about their feelings, etc. He has yet to take the time and it breaks my heart. It’s not enough for him to just apologize to me.

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        1. Years. Then she found out he was cheating with men for about q8 months. A year later she asked him to leave. Both were sad. Both moved on. I felt fine. But when the “love of my life” (yeah, right) cheated on me with a friend a d I found out after 21 glorious years together, I realised that I was affected. I had gone to uni by the time my parents divorced. But I internalised those lies, ad my mother’s strength in leaving. I never married – partly because of their divorce. I was 100% open and honest. And thought he was being so, also. I don’t trust easily. I’m cynical. I love love. But I’m cynical about that too. I know that lies cause kids to question relationships. I recall wondering how Mum didn’t know (blame the victim, that’s right!) Truth is, he was exceptionally careful and did everything WAAAAY out of town
          She couldn’t possibly have known. So when I hear him say, “well, heaps of kids deal with cheating parents. It’s shitty. Really shitty. But you did” I just wanna wring his neck!

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        2. Yea…just because we keep waking up every day…walking out the requirements of the day and somehow falling into a fitful sleep at night does NOT MEAN WE ARE DEALING WITH IT. You know that phrase…we are all living quiet lives of desperation…the unveiling of the reality of my hidden life has helped me see how true that is. How fucking true. And from my perspective, it begins with LIES. They destroy, they taunt, they tear at every part of our being. And we are so adept at covering up because we have to. That is what I just did not want my children to have to live out. At least if they had the truth, I felt like they could look at it, grieve it and have a chance of moving on. Damn it is complicated.

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        3. My dad was gay as well. Adopted and raised in a strict Catholic home. My mother knew when I was a baby that he was gay. She stayed with him through losing 3 stillborn babies and a miscarriage. They divorced when I was 10 and my brother was 3. I never found out about his infidelity or that he was gay until after he died of AIDS. They remained friends and co-parented very well. She was by his side when he died. I still wonder if I knew about his affairs if I would’ve handled my husband’s different.

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        4. Wow, forever! What a secret to keep. Mum and Dad told us together. He lived and lives as an openly gay man. No secrets anymore. My greatest fear for the first two or three years at uni (mid 80s) was that Mum would call me to say she was HIV positive. She got tested a couple of times. Dad is horrified he put her at risk (vasectomised and no knowledge about AIDS until the end of their marriage.) They remained very good friends and he attended most family events etc at her invitation. He was there with us all, including her husband, when she very suddenly became seriously ill and died. Mum never knew he was gay for 17 years. He now tells me all these years later that he identifies as bisexual. I questioned that. He hasn’t been with a woman before or since my mother. But his self identity has changed in recent years. And that’s okay.

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        5. Glad your parents didn’t keep that from you. It upsets me to this day that my Dad didn’t tell me. I understand that he did it to protect us but I never got to know him, REALLY know him. I can say that I remember him being happier in those years after the divorce, but I never knew why. Glad he was because I was miserable. He died 8 years later when I was 18. When my mom told me she had known for a long time she also said she was angry at God for taking her babies from her. In my 23 year old “wisdom” I said that God took her babies because he knew that if she had 6 kids with my Dad she would’ve never divorced him and we more than likely would’ve buried both our parents. My mother then understood that those things happened for a reason. I’m grateful that I never knew that “dark side” of my father, that I never knew that he cheated on my mom, but I also believe that the secrets, lies and rose-colored glasses that my parents put on my brother and I put us in a horrible place. That’s why I wanted my kids to know the truth when things came to light in my marriage. They need to know that things aren’t perfect and people that we love will hurt and disappoint us. But forgiveness sets us free. Hugs to you…

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        6. Oh FC, this must be so difficult. I don’t know what to say, or have words to offer, other than my heart breaks as I think about your girls. Why can’t they see? Why can’t they see the pain their actions cause? I’m so sorry. HUGS.

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    2. There are such enormous ripple repercussions from this whole situation. But what HUSBAND and I see is that there were impacts and effects on them WITH OR WITHOUT the knowledge of what was really going on. At least by sharing the truth, they could begin to put things together in honesty. It has been a hard process, and I’ll share later how each of the kids responded.

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    1. Oh Kaye…I lost it too. That’s part of the reason we felt it was important to tell. Even thought we only had one child still living full-time at home (senior in high school), he was hearing me sobbing…no, SOBBING, on a regular basis. He observed me getting up, picking up my keys, and leaving for hours on end. He saw his dad follow me around like he was glued to me, sad puppy-dog eyes looking after me. He thought I was dying of an illness prior to our admission. He came in to my room a couple times when I was crying, and just held me. Of course, he was communicating with his brothers and sister…and none of them asked us anything. They were coming to their own conclusions and assumptions. You hang in there. You are doing your journey just right for YOU. HUGS.

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  7. Savingshards,
    Thank you. Very well written and so open and honest. I agree with the psychologist you spoke to (yes, it is hard, but how do you otherwise teach people rather than enable them?).
    I also agree with telling the kids. Yes, they know anyway and by talking to them, you are NOT lying and you are NOT pretending. This is healthy for them. The harm has been done and it does affects kids of all ages. To minimize the harm, it is very good to talk to the kids. They do not need dirty details, but I suggest if they have questions you answer all of them.

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    1. My kids had no idea. They knew we were going “through something” due to my grief. But no idea it was an affair. Never suspected. Despite them fucking whilst the kids were in the house at least once! It took me nine months to tell them. I realised I was doing them a disservice. Small town and all!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m so sorry we have similar stories. I had no idea that I had this story…and that there were so many of us out here. Let’s change it. Let’s change it for our children and those beyond. I am not sure how, but I just want the madness to stop.

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