When a spouse is unfaithful, it’s obviously painful to the other person in the marriage. However, infidelity can also be hurtful to the children. In fact one psychologist contends it can be one of the most harmful events that can happen to a family — perhaps second only to the death of a spouse or child.
There are multiple reasons why the actions of a cheating spouse hurt the children. Often, spouses cheat with someone known to the children, such as a neighbor, a parent of a schoolmate or a friend of the family. That means the children will continue to see this person, regardless of what becomes of the relationship.
If the parents divorce and the once-adulterous relationship continues, the children may have to deal with this person as a regular part of their mom or dad’s life, particularly if the parents share custody, before they have learned to process their children’s split.
Another reason why an affair can harm children is that it can make it harder for parents to be united for their children in the wake of their break-up. The spouse who’s been cheated on may feel too much anger and pain to work on co-parenting. It may be particularly hard for that spouse to refrain from criticizing the other parent in front of the children.
So why tell children about the relationship? One woman who has a website to help those who have been cheated on says that it’s healthier to tell the children. However, she says, it needs in a way that’s age-appropriate. She says that if the adultery leads to divorce, it’s important for kids to know the true reason rather than believe that couples can split up for seemingly no good reason.
She further says that as angry as the kids may be at the cheating parent, they may be angrier at both parents for not telling them if they find out later. Further, it’s better to hear about it from their parents than to find out through friends or neighbors.
If you’re having difficulty figuring out how to tell your children about a parent’s infidelity, whether it’s your own or your spouse’s, your family law attorney may be able to recommend some resources or therapists to help you out. A therapist can also help you work through your feelings so that you can focus on your children’s needs.
Source: Press of Atlantic City, “Infidelity likely to cause most damage to kids, family,” Sep. 08, 2015