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         Cheating: Impact on Children

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Impact of Cheating on Children

Daddy's Girl

I am in the process of getting divorced from my wife of 30 years, which she requested.  My wife has been an excellent mother to our two children.  Both are grown and married with children of their own.  The entire family is religious.  Marrying out of the religion is absolutely out of the question. 

My wife has been having an affair since 2002, and my children don't know anything about it.  In addition, he is from another religion.  I only learned about it through information, including pictures and love poems, I found on our computer.  Her betrayal of me and our marriage continues to hurt deeply.

Given my wife's ability to keep the affair secret, it's unlikely the children will learn about it on their own.  I am not looking for them to abandon their mother as she has been, and I'm sure will continue to be, a good mother to them.  Primarily, I am looking to make them understand what I am going through today.

Do I tell the kids?  And if so, only in person, or can it be done in a letter.  Also, do I include some of the overwhelming evidence?  By the way, my wife's father had an affair, divorced her mother, and married the woman.

Frederic

Frederic, when we say someone had an affair, it sounds like one event.  Actually, an affair involves thousands of mental acts, and living a double life is a huge psychological burden, a burden most cheaters are unable to bear.  That is why they often accuse their spouse of being unfaithful, even when that spouse is the last person in the world who might cheat.

Add your wife's religious background to this, and she needs to make it your fault, at least in her own mind.  Confession is supposed to be good for the soul, but she will be tempted to prevaricate for two reasons: to alleviate her own sense of wrongdoing, and to avoid appearing as a hypocrite--one who gave a religious teaching to her children which she does not follow herself.

Many people can't lie for a day or two, yet she lied for four years.  She found pleasure in her desire.  Time and energy were stolen from her family.  Many decisions and acts she made during that time affected her family, but they were made because of the way they affected her lover. 

So should you tell the kids?  You can't lie by omission as she did.  Her wrongdoing shouldn't make a liar out of you.  If she was in jail, would you tell the kids she was in Hawaii?  What if they found out later?  Your honesty would be brought into question. 

Perhaps the best way to tell the children is the way they learned of the divorce.  Don't tell them in anger, and keep it simple.  Make what you say perfectly clear.  If they doubt its occurrence, let them know it is not a matter of belief, but a matter of knowledge.  Don't offer evidence unless asked.

If you tell them in person or on the phone, both parties will be left with their own perception of what was said.  If you tell them in a letter, they will have a written record in their hands forever.  It's probably best to tell them sooner rather than later.

One of the problems with good people is they can look at bad behavior in others and not see it.  Why?  Because it is not something they themselves would do, so they don't suspect a loved one would do it. 

The best way to understand the implications of behavior--whether it's infidelity or global warming--is to look it square in the face.  The best way for your children to understand their own lives is to understand the lives of others, including their parents.  The best way for us to live is in accordance with reality.

Wayne & Tamara
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All In The Family

I am 22 and the oldest of four children.  I have a brother, 17, who is the second oldest.  He's been in a "committed relationship" with a girl, also 17, for over two years.  However, he is currently speaking on the phone with other girls and going on dates with them. 

Once a school friend told my brother's girlfriend he was seeing another girl.  My brother's girlfriend came to my house, took my brother to the other girl's house, and confronted them both.  My brother denied everything and totally painted another picture to his girlfriend.  She ate it up.

Needless to say, they are still together, and he is still seeing another girl.  I am bothered by his lack of respect for women.  I've tried to speak with him about treating women the way he would want to be treated, but my words are wasted.

I'm confused about what to do.  His girlfriend has become a member of our family.  She comes over all the time, and I feel guilty not telling her the truth.  Should I tell her?  Should I tell the other girl?  Or should I stay out of it?  I don't want to be like my dad's family who cover up infidelities for years.

I think I have a responsibility to all women, since I am a woman, to tell the truth.  I also feel the need to teach my brother a lesson about women and how he should treat them.  What do you think I should do?

Sheila

Sheila, where did your brother learn this behavior?  Where most people learn their behavior--from his family.  Normally the advice would be to give your brother an option:  either tell your girlfriend, or I will tell her.  In this instance that won't work.  He is willing to lie when confronted, and she is willing to believe a lie.

You want your brother to treat women better, but you are not capable of teaching him that.  As long as he experiences pleasure in what he is doing, he will continue doing it.  Often a man who cheats never learns the lesson, because the pleasure for him is multiple women, and there will always be women who allow him to do this.

If you tell either of his girlfriends, they may resent you, not seek the truth about him.  But the one thing telling does is to let your brother, his girlfriends, and your family know you do not approve of his behavior.  Silence indicates acceptance, and you do not accept this behavior.

Go ahead and tell.  But do not expect your brother to change, his girlfriends to thank you, or your parents to stand behind you.  When people openly flaunt bad behavior, you damage yourself when you keep silent.  Each time you speak up, you express your character.  Speaking up strengthens your sense of self and makes you less vulnerable to abuse by others.

Wayne & Tamara
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A Family Affair

I have a wonderful family, one which is kind, loving and full of laughter.  Our home does not lack for anything, except for one problem between my father and mother.  My father does things like going to nightclubs, drinking up all his money, and having extramarital affairs.

My mother catches him on every occasion, and they quarrel.  She makes him swear he will correct himself, but he never does.  Now he is after his brother's wife and even gives her cash.  Please advise me how to make my father stop.

Wendi

Wendi, you can't make another person do anything, but you can tie yourself in knots over something you have no power to change.  Even your mother cannot change his behavior.

There are two things you can do.  You can let your father know you don't agree with or condone his behavior, and you can learn from this situation.  Most women mirror the wifely role their mother showed them.  Don't allow yourself ever to be in your mother's predicament.  Without fidelity there is no security.

Wayne
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A Bed Of Nails

I'm not sure why I am writing.  I guess I just need to talk.  When I was in my early 20s, I was deeply and utterly in love, and I married a wonderful person. 

After 11 years and two children, I found out my wife had an ongoing relationship with another man.  I would say affair, but I don't think that does it justice.  You see my wife's affair started five months after we married and continued 11 years.  When I found out, I was devastated and wanted to leave her.  Looking back, I should have.

The affair stopped, she apologized, and I changed.  My kids, my wife, and our home were my life.  I learned you don't just stop loving someone when you find out this type of thing.  It takes three or four years, but eventually it happens. 

I told no one but my dad.  I told him I would stay with her for the kids, but it was really for me.  I wanted to prove to her she had made a mistake.  Now, seven years later, my kids are bigger and happy, we never talk about the situation, and I have become a very sad person.  I spend a lot of time wondering if the kids are mine.

The life and relationship I was trying not to lose is gone.  I'm left with a nice person who I care for, but it's not the same.  I want to be in love the way I used to be, the way she must have been with the other man.  I really don't need an answer.  It was nice, almost therapeutic, to be able to express my feelings.

Basil

Basil, your silence is the only thing holding the situation together now.  Writing made you feel better, but in a little while the effect will wear off and you will be left where you were.  When that happens, you will seek to take another step.

Now you are doing nothing productive.  Are you going to wonder for the rest of your life if the children are yours?  What if they are?  Then you will have wondered for nothing, and at least unconsciously, shown you doubt your connection to them.

Children are the emotional barometer of a marriage.  To think they are ever fooled about the state of their parents' marriage is a mistake.  Finding out can allay some of your fears.  If they are not your biological children, you won't abandon your fatherly role, but at least you will know.

Underneath your sadness there must be a great deal of anger because nothing, absolutely nothing, allows for what your wife did to you.  While you remain silent, you must conceal your anger.  Until those feelings come out you won't know what to do with your life.

Ultimately you have to decide how much of your life and its possibilities your wife is allowed to determine.  Step by step you will find your answer.

Tamara
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  "Silence indicates acceptance, and
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