FWP: A Cheating Husband
PROBLEM: My husband is cheating, and I have proof of his infidelity. I’ve been thinking about a divorce, but I worry about my children. Not only about how the break-up will affect them, but how other people will react. Any advice?
RT: Do you really want to consider staying together for the kids because of “what other people will think”? Kids share their stories and they will either tell their friends that “Mom and dad drifted apart but co-parent well,” or “Mum and dad don’t even sleep in the bed and always silently scream at each other.” Which tale do you want to be told by your future troublesome teenager? And what message of conflict resolution do you want to relay?
LG: You seem remarkably sanguine about your husband’s infidelity. “Good for you,” doesn’t seem appropriate, but I think you deserve some kind of kudos for staying calm; my reaction would be decidedly more Tarantino-esque. As for what to do next — it’s 2017, and if a girl can’t divorce her cheating husband, what can she do? (Don’t answer that.)
Look, even if divorce was something to side-eye (I don’t think it is), no one in their right mind is going to hold it against the kids. As for what messages your kid sends, I’d add one possibility to RT’s: “Mom and Dad drifted apart and it’s weird because they’re still married but hate each other and sleep with other people.” If you’re concerned about what other people will think, that seems like it has a lot more gossipy judgment potential than divorce (and also a lot more future-in-a-therapist’s-office potential for your kids). I can’t make this decision for you — I can only point you to resources here, here and here that might help ease your mind about your kids. Best of luck.
KB: Oh boy, this is tough. Every person and every marriage is different, and some can weather the storm of an infidelity crisis, while others can’t. I think you have to ask yourself if you can understand the underlying reason for the infidelity. Did it stem of a longstanding problem in the relationship that you have some part in and can control? If so, it may be worth trying to repair that underlying problem.
But if you feel the infidelity was an act totally disconnected from any systemic issues and was a random betrayal, you may not be able to do the work needed to forgive and repair the relationship. If that’s the case, your children will suffer from living in a house with that tension and anger. I think it’s up to you to figure out whether this is a betrayal you can forgive and move on from.
MM: That’s sounds rough. It seems like your conflict over the divorce doesn’t stem from wanting to work things out with your husband; but the impact on the kids. Like KB says, everyone deals with infidelity differently depending on the reasons and circumstances, so there’s no one right answer there. But as far as your kids are concerned, living together for their sake with tension brewing underneath isn’t a healthy environment for anyone. Think of the relationship, whether you want to give it another shot, and let that be the basis of your decision.,
SB: I’ll echo everyone’s sympathies; this is really unfortunate situation without a simple solution. To keep things as clear as possible, focus on your kids and the meaning you make with them of the situation, because that will be the part that stays with them long after thoughtless comments from the community.
If you want to have an honest conversation with your husband in therapy to understand what happened and see if repair is possible do that. If you feel that by leaving you will do right by yourself and set a good example for your kids about the necessity for honesty and mutual respect in a marriage, then do that.
But regardless of what you choose, make sure that you are open with your kids in an age appropriate and blameless way so they can understand what’s happening because they are sure going to feel it no matter what you choose.