Affairs, Separation, Divorce Part 2: What about the kids?

In Part 1, I discussed why most affairs fail. If you have kids, your risk of failure is even greater. If you do decide to separate, divorce, or continue with an affair, Part 2 contains a list of Dos and Don’ts for parents to follow.

  • Do make sure your kids have someone to talk to: a counselor, clergy, or other trusted adult besides their parents.
  • Don’t think that just because they’re not talking about it, they aren’t struggling.
  • Do answer their questions honestly, but with restraint.
  • Don’t burden children with information they don’t need to know and won’t be able to forget. Remember: They are counting on you to make them feel safe in the world.
  • Do treat your spouse with respect. Your kids need two parents who can disagree, be angry, even fall out of love, but never be disrespectful of one another.
  • Don’t talk negatively about your ex or their affair partner to your kids, or within earshot of them, or in texts. It hurts them and makes you look heartless, cruel, or petty.
  • Always always communicate directly with your ex about changes in plans, requests, complaints.
  • Don’t put your kids in the middle. For example, Don’t pressure them take sides or ask them to “get your mom to say yes.”
  • Don’t pump kids for ‘dish’ on ex’s affair partner
  • It’s okay to share your sadness with children in general terms about what’s happening.
  • Do not over-share. For example, don’t discuss a spouse’s abusive behavior, unless the child has witnessed or overheard it, or you have concerns about the child’s safety with the other parent: chemical use, violence, extreme volatility.
  • Don’t use a child as your confidante. This is damagaing to teenagers as well as children.
  • Don’t expect them or guilt them into taking care of you.
  • Do assure them you are getting outside support (and get it!)
  • Do comply with agreements between you and your ex.
  • Don’t bribe kids with things the other parent can’t or won’t get them.
  • Don’t ever ask them to keep secrets from their mom or dad.

Above all, remember: Nothing you do as a parent is more important than keeping them healthy, mentally and physically during this difficult time for your family.

photo courtesy of Unsplash

Affairs Part 1 — Can they work out? What about the kids?

Do affairs ever work out for people? What you should know before you end your marriage.

In over 30 years as a marriage counselor, I’ve seen hundreds of couples. I’d say half are dealing with infidelity of one kind or another. Most of the men and women having affairs are good people who weren’t looking for trouble. More often than not, they started out as co-workers or Facebook friends, and ended up having an affair that threatens or ends their marriage.

“Most relationships that start as affairs don’t work out long term—unless both partners are young, childless, close in age, and relatively unencumbered.”

The reason they fail isn’t for lack of genuine feeling, but rather because the fall-out caused by infidelity is so horrendous, and so far-reaching.

Before you decide to end your marriage, make sure your new relationship can survive the fall-out.

Prepare yourself:

  • If both of you have kids, get ready for a rocky ride. As happy as the two of you are, it’s unlikely that your kids will be celebrating your good fortune. Unless your kids have witnessed repeated acts of physical or emotional abuse, they will want their parents to stay together.
  • Kids need stability. They shouldn’t have to worry about a devastated, angry mom or dad, or know that one parent is having a great time while their other parent is suffering.
  • You can’t control your spouse. She (or he) may be so angry, so hurt, so destroyed by your betrayal, that she may not be willing or able to hide her pain from your kids.
  • If your kids hear from their mom that their dad is a “liar,” a “cheater,” or a person who “cares more about his girlfriend than he does about us,” your kids will suffer, and your relationship with them may be damaged forever. (This may sound dramatic, but trust me. Unless all the adults involved exercise great care and excellent boundaries, you may never regain your kids’ trust.)
  • Kid Logic makes children—especially young children—see things as either good or bad, black or white. They see themselves at the center of everything. Because of this, it’s easy for them to believe that you must not love them enough if you left them to be with someone else.
  • Older kids may turn their backs on you, either to protect themselves, avoid public shame, or affirm their loyalty to the parent who was betrayed.
  • Your family may not accept or approve of your new partner. This includes: parents, siblings, and extended family as well as your wife’s parents, siblings, and extended family, and your lover’s parents, siblings, and most importantly, their children.

If, after considering all of these possibilities, you decide end your marriage and pursue your new relationship, proceed with caution.

Watch for Part 2: A list of Dos and Don’ts for parents who are separated or divorced