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How Much to Tell Your Children When Your Spouse Commits Adultery
Any person who finds herself the victim of adultery has a number of painful decisions to make. Those decisions become even more numerous, painful and difficult when children are involved. In this situation, the question of whether to stay with the partner who cheated on you is not just about your well-being, but also about your family’s well-being. In addition, it is often necessary to put your own feelings and ego to one side when it comes to deciding how much to tell your kids about their mother’s or father’s infidelity.
In many cases, the fallout from an infidelity creates a divide between what parents want to share and what they should share (or refrain from sharing) for the good of their children. If the fallout results in a separation or divorce, some form of explanation is necessary for children who are old enough to understand what is happening. However, this does not necessarily mean that the kids need all of the gory details, particularly the extent to which one of their parents betrayed the other.
When Your Kids Are Angry
Divorce is generally traumatic for the children involved, and it is normal for children to direct anger and resentment toward both parents. If one parent clearly initiated the separation or divorce, which is often the case for spouses who were cheated on, this parent is often the object of more intense resentment from the kids.
This situation can make it extremely difficult for a parent to refrain from spilling too many of the unsavory details. When your kids are blaming you for breaking up the family, it is very tempting to place the blame squarely where it belongs and direct your kids’ anger toward the party who cheated.
But, ultimately, you have to make the choice that is best for your children. Divorce is disruptive enough without kids having to see one of their parents as the “bad guy.” This can have permanent consequences for their relationship with that parent, in addition to negatively impacting their ideas about relationships. Once the initial anger over the betrayal fades, most parents realize that they do not want their kids to have a permanently estranged relationship with their father or mother, no matter how much pain that person caused by having an affair.
When Parents Blame Each Other, Kids Feel Guilty
Research has found that when parents blame each other for a divorce instead of taking ownership of the decision, children can end up feeling like they are the real cause. Furthermore, children can experience stress and confusion from thinking that they have to take a side. When parents share the responsibility for the decision to get a divorce, it makes the best of a bad situation for the kids.
Many experts also say that being honest and answering children’s questions helps to ease the difficult process of divorce. In the event that you feel you need to reveal the infidelity to your kids, two important things can make all the difference. First, a separating couple can relieve their children of any sense that their parents are attacking and throwing accusations at each other by having the cheating party be the one to reveal the affair. Second, the way in which you tell the story is almost as important as what you say, and revealing the facts without anger or bitterness is key.
If a marital infidelity does not result in divorce, then the decision regarding what to tell your children is usually even more straight-forward. If you have decided that the affair is not enough to break your family apart, you should not jeopardize that decision by fostering anger among your kids. And keep in mind that your children may not have an easy time forgiving their mother or father just because you have forgiven.