Whether they know the truth or not, kids are affected by the weight of what happens in their world—even if it has not been named. Are these 7 side effects of parental infidelity affecting your adult love life?
One of the criticisms of my writing I’ve heard from a small handful of people is—what about your kids? What if they grow up and read what you write?
My boys don’t know the full answer to why mommy and daddy don’t live together or why mommy has been “holding interviews” for a new “team member” (aka dating). They may never know. But they do know age-appropriate tidbits of truth from both me and their dad in response to the inevitable questions they ask as they get older.
Why not sweep it under the rug where we all wish it belonged?
Kids are smart. Whether they know the truth or not, they are affected by the weight of what happened very early in their world. They feel it, even if it has not been named.
I can’t shelter my boys from the side effects of divorce and my time as a single mom anymore than I can shield them from big, scary life facts like mean people and death. But I can at least give them the courtesy of naming their reality and mine. How can they talk and cope if they don’t have the words to name their struggle?
One day they may know the answer to why mommy cried on the way to school and in the middle of story time. They may understand that mommy wasn’t mad at them when she yelled—it was just what happened when their rambunctious noises competed for space in her drama-filled, stress-flooded brain.
I pray one day they will know how busy I was gathering my strength and building an authentic, solid life for us all. I hope they’ll understand the courage it took to keep talking and keep writing—not because I needed to keep talking about it, but because other people needed me to keep talking. And they needed me to talk both through the dark and the light that’s finally dawning.
And let’s be honest, my boys needed me and still do. They need me healthy, whole, and real. Speaking the truth and having it heard and believed is part of what has made me whole.
I’ve had several conversations over just the past week with divorced parents whose older kids accidentally discovered the family secret. They cut. They get depressed. They rage. They feel betrayed when they find out they’ve been lied to or just plain not talked to. Some cut off all ties with whichever parent they feel has betrayed them the most—and it’s not always the parent you’d expect.
So I will continue to write and I will continue to talk—to my boys and to whoever else needs or wants to hear. I hope that my bravery and authenticity will give them a head start on acknowledging and overcoming the very real consequences of what adult children struggle with after betrayal happens between their parents.
If you want to learn more about the ways adult children struggle after infidelity impacts their family of origin, read the 7 side effects I name in my new article on Divorcemag.com.
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