Marcy’s husband was at a “friends” house when he was supposed to be at home with the kids after they got off of school.
Ellen’s husband was “working late” too many times for the kids (ages 8 & 11) to not ask the basic question: “When will dad be home?”
Eventually, Marcy and Ellen both moved on and the children were devastated. How could the family break up? Who would be able to help Matt with his woodshop projects? This seems to have come out of nowhere. Maddie was really close with her father; she loved him tucking her in.
At this point in the movie called “Life,” the legal separations are still very fresh and the questions aplenty. One stands out for me, however. Should Marcy and Ellen eventually tell their kids that their father had an affair? As a self-proclaimed cheater hater, my first inclination would be yes. After all, why shouldn’t the children know what ruined the marriage and subsequently, the family unit? Besides, Marcy and Ellen have already been through enough, so why should they be left holding the explanatory bag?
On the other hand, a few (hundred) words of caution:
1. Always Begin With the End in Mind:
If the desired end-state is a strong relationship between the children and their father, disclosing the affair is a certain detour to said end-state. It is hard to resist the urge to tell the children, especially if they begin suspecting that an affair occurred. But ultimately, you are protecting them by not disclosing the affair.
2. Don’t Shoot the Messenger:
If and when the children find out about the infidelity, they will be sour, and so they should be. The question is, who, if anyone, should they be sour towards? Certainly not the victim of the infidelity. There may come a time when Maddie begins recollecting the oddity of their dad’s constant nights working late and begin asking questions. I never condone lying to a child, but I do condone directing the conversation to the person that owns the behavior. Thus, the father should be man enough to have that discussion with them, and if the sour comes his way as a result, so be it.
3. Remember Their Naivety and Developing Sense of Self-Worth:
For children, cheating can be a very confusing affair, no pun intended. They do not fully understand what it is until they hit age twelve and even then they have a really hard time understanding why it occurred. Telling them that their father had an affair may do a number of things to them and their psyche.
Will they question what they did wrong? It’s possible. Children already blame themselves when a divorce occurs, and if there is infidelity, they might feel even more blame.
Will they blame mommy? What did mommy do that made daddy cheat? This is less likely, unless of course they talk to their father, and he is less than mature in his words.
Might they even wonder if cheating is a normal part of relationships?
A child’s response, both internal and external, is hard to predict. Not disclosing the affair may be hard as well. But again, if we begin with the end in mind and think about some basic realities of kids and communication, we will end up resisting the temptation and being the adult.
Marcy ended up telling her children about the affair, though the circumstances essentially demanded it. You see, her daughter Paige walked in on her dad having sex with a friend; Paige’s best friend’s mom. And so it goes, Marcy started the conversation, and her (ex) husband Allan refused to finish it. To this day, Paige will not talk to her father. It has been three and a half years.
What’s more, Allan thinks that Marcy has poisoned Paige and holds it over her head as often as he can. I think it’s fair to say that Allan has consistently resisted the temptation of being the adult.
By the time I got divorced, my kids were in their 20’s; they’e still furious with their father though. They became especially angry when they realized the many times their father had to leave Sunday mornings for week long business trips was because he was spending 1/2 the time with another woman across town. Then, while on the road, even more women. Kids they went to school with, family members, everyone chimed in to tell my adult sons their father was a skirt-chasing player who’d been fired from every job he’d ever had not because of “circumstances” but due to his chronic infidelity with female employees. I apologize to them for being such a co-dependent and lacking the self-respect to take the twom minutes it would have taken to find out who this man really was and divorced him years before I did.
S Zielenski says
From the other side of the scenario I can personally attest to the stupidity of telling kids their Dad had a girlfriend, especially when the Dad married the girlfriend. My husband’s ex poisoned his children about him and me. We no longer spend time with the kids because they are so disrespectful to me. Since they can’t be nice to me, they don’t get to see their Dad. Their father and I are for life and everyone needs to get on board with that.
Why can’t the kids still see there dad ? He should see them away from you if that’s the case and you as a women should be encouraging that , your statement they can’t see their dad as they are not nice to you is a true reflection on who you are ( narcissistic tendencies ) How do you expect them to treat you with respect when in their eyes you was the reason their family got torn apart ? And as for blaming the mother , NO he is the one to blame and you for going along with it . Regardless to any issue you may have in your relationships cheating is never ok , it destroys lives , the pain and trauma caused to both the victim and children is irreversible, we get sons who think this behaviour is acceptable and daughters aquire a distrust in men from an early age . As a women who was affected by her fathers infidelity and a women who then went on to be in a relationship were infidelity occurred I don’t need research to tell me the effects this has . After months of wondering whether to be honest with my daughter to why me and her father split up , I have decided to tell her instead of carrying on the lies & decit , obviously in an appropriate way
As the last thing I want is for my daughter to a) find out & feel iv betrayed her
B) end up in the same toxic relationships
C) think that the relationship she experienced of me& her dad was ok