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Sins of the fathers (and mothers)

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dbellanon posted 6/21/2013 10:43 AM

I want to talk a little bit about family backgrounds, which was brought up in a previous thread that I started.

One part of my story that continues to bother me is that when my WW was busy justifying her behavior to me, she brought up the fact that (and I believe she only learned of this very recently) her parents' relationship had begun while her mother was still married to her first husband. The way I understand it is that she had been married for six months, it had been an abusive relationship, and had no money of her own and couldn't afford a divorce. While this situation was very different from ours, my wife's takeaway from it was this. "I know that we're supposed to think that people who have affairs are terrible people," she said. "But do you think my father is a terrible person? Do you think my mother is?" Her mother's spin on the situation was that my WW's father had saved her from a loveless marriage. "I'm not saying that that's exactly what's happening here," my wife explained, "But it's not as black and white as you think it is."

This background is, I am sure, one of the reasons that my mother-in-law did not upbraid my wife as severely as she should have when she learned she was having an affair. She saw our situation through the lens of hers, and the fact that her affair concluded with a 31 year-long largely-successful marriage to another man.

I have many problems with this, starting, of course, with the very substantial ways in which our situation differs from theirs. In addition, I tried to explain to my wife that the issue was not whether she was a terrible person, but that she had done a terrible thing and had made no effort to make it right. My evaluation of her character, from that point on, would have to be based on her response to what she had done. Did she recognize how badly she had hurt me. Would she show remorse, repent, try to make things better? She did none of these things.

But most of all, the thing that bothers me is that her parents did what they did and thought they had gotten away scot free. What was there to regret? The person my mother in law had cheated on was an abusive asshole, and she had 31 years of marriage and two children to look back on as fruits of this decision.

But they are ignoring the biggest consequence in my opinion, that 31 years later, their daughter would use their story to help justify her own infidelity and the unneccesary and cruel demolition of her family, abandoning her husband and breaking up her daughter's home.

And this is what I am worried about going forward. I am worried that what is happening now is going to adversely affect my daughter's attitudes towards divorce on the one hand, and infidelity on the other: that a seed is being planted that might not bear its noxious fruit for decades.

I know that I will do my best to teach my daughter as she grows older to hold higher ideals when it comes to family. But I don't know what the hell my wife is going to teach her. And it's not as if my in-laws actively taught my wife that divorce or infidelity were okay. They didn't have to. They taught it by example. And if my wife and I do manage to live relatively happy and fulfilling lives after this, I worry that, only seeing the end result, she won't understand the horror and pain of what is happening now, nor will she have perspective on how much better it could have been if we had worked things out.

Basically, I am horrified at the prospect that history may repeat itself. What can I do to make this less likely?

[This message edited by dbellanon at 10:44 AM, June 21st (Friday)]

Rebreather posted 6/21/2013 10:55 AM

We can only control so much of the future.

My husband was raised in a divorced family. On his first visit to his dad and his dad's new live in girlfriend, the girlfriend sat him down and showed him 10 years of photo of she and his dad. His entire world crumbled. His whole life was a lie. He was 12 years old.

And yet he cheated on me. He did the one thing that he hated the most and had caused him the greatest pain in his life. In my earlier moments of pain, I would occasionally refer to his AP by the name of his stepmonster. Talk about your uncomfortable silences.

There are an assortment of psychological drivers present in his decisions. As there will be in all of our children. The one thing we have is knowledge and education in this subject. I've already addressed some things with my kids about fidelity, and addressing issues and conflicts. I fully intend to continue these types of conversations throughout their lives. Teach them ways to deal with conflict, how to manage their relationships, how not to accept poor treatment, etc. In the end, their lives are theirs to lead. All you can do is lay the strongest foundation possible.

PrincessPeach06 posted 6/21/2013 11:06 AM

My husbands dad cheated then married the woman and they have been together forever. My husband has struggled for years wanting his dad in his life more. Then the night of the ONS he said his first thought was "I don't want to become my dad".

I worry about my boys but hope finally my husband can break the cycle. My own dad did in his life and my husband is leaning a lot on him.

The funny thing is that MY dad would have every right to hate WS but is very supportive while his own dad won't even talk to him. :(

Faithful w/Love posted 6/21/2013 13:13 PM

I have been reading a wonderful book and in it she states that we all end up being like the person we can stand the most in our family even if we have never met the person mainly a mother or father. It is called emotional DNA. It goes on and on through the generations of families to leave it at the foot of the children to correct (if they correct it). I am living proof that you can correct it. It is very important that we teach our children and not keep the dirty little secrets and explain to them why it is wrong and not correct. We teach them about what could happen if we make wrong choices in life and if we do how to correct them so we don't do them again. And not to blame or excuse it on what others did in the past.

My wh never really knew if father, and could not stand him and insisted that he would never be like his father.. And guess what happend? Yup, same thing.

It takes a very strong willing person to change the chain of FOO. I am doing it and I am making sure that I teach my children. I don't do everything correctly but I am trying my hardest and owning up to my mistakes as a co-dependant spouse. I am making changes.

Nature_Girl posted 6/21/2013 13:41 PM

I call these generational curses. I am working hard to break many of them in my FOO. Incest, uncontrolled wrath, child abuse via spankings, dysfunctional theology.

I've managed to get a good handle on those four curses, both for me and my kids. I'm giving them tools to deal with and healthy ways of thinking. Now I have to add to it the warped mindsets that go with cheating & addictions.

I talk about these issues with my kids. Talk, talk, talk. Listen, listen, listen. Skeletons crumble in the light of honesty.

[This message edited by Nature_Girl at 1:42 PM, June 21st (Friday)]

gotmylifeback posted 6/21/2013 14:16 PM

Faithful w/Love, what book are you referring to? It sounds like an interesting read.

RockyMtn posted 6/21/2013 16:13 PM

All I can say is, yes, it is scary.

My WH's father and grandfather are both alcoholics, as is WH. And my family has extensive substance abuse history (although not my parents and most of the others have been 10, 20 years clean). I am scared for my kids.

But as NG said, you can break down some of them. Alcoholism may be a physical disease that I can't control if it manifests itself in my children. But it is also a mental and emotional disease. With their father being sober, we hope in the years to come to be open and honest about his choices and his path. Also as NG said, talk, talk, talk - listen, listen, listen.

IN terms of dirty secrets, my kids are too young to know what their dad did in terms of the A. We haven't told a soul about it other than therapists and sponsors. My choice. WH's father was also a philanderer. Does this mean that we should eventually tell our kids about the cheating? With the alcoholism, it seems like a no brainer because, really, the kiddos need to know this is lurking in their history on both sides, physically. It is hereditary. But do we need to be telling them about the history of affairs? Yikes.

dbellanon posted 6/21/2013 22:23 PM

My daughter is 3, so obviously we won't be talking about this for a very long time. But I would love to have insight from anyone who has talked with their children about these issues about how to go about it, especially in age-appropriate ways at different stages of their lives.

gonnabe2016 posted 6/21/2013 23:07 PM

All that you can do is model the 'right' behaviors and talk to her about why the 'wrong' behaviors are wrong.

I recently remembered a conversation that occurred years and years ago between me, Sultan and my MIL. Can't remember the circumstance but the issue was "what do you do if you 'find' money on the floor in a fast-food restaurant?"

MIL and Sultan were firmly in the 'finders keepers, losers weepers' camp. I said that you turn it into the manager because it isn't *yours* and 'so what?' if the manager decides to be an ass and keep it for him/herself (that was their *reason* for keeping it--that the manager would just stick it into his/her pocket).

My lesson: 2 wrongs don't make a right.
*Their* lesson: People suck and will steal your shit.

I have spent the last 20 years having to 'explain' that "dad was just *kidding*, kids...that's NOT what you should do" about a multitude of issues. It's been exhausting.

Since your DD is little, maybe you could start faithfully reading her Aesop's fables....

[This message edited by gonnabe2016 at 11:08 PM, June 21st (Friday)]

LivinginLimbo posted 6/22/2013 07:52 AM

If it's any consolation, I was the one with the cheating mom. My H's parents were Ozzie and Harriett.

I learned a different lesson. Much as I was told "this is between me and your father and it has nothing to do with you", believe me, it impacts the children. I knew I could never inflict this pain on my kids. It's the reason that I chose to keep the A between the two of us. It doesn't mean that he can do whatever he wants, it just means that while we're working on reconciling, I will not draw our children into it. One slip-up on his part and the secret is out.

You're a great Dad. You're thinking of your child, something that WS's do not do. I'm sure that you'll do your best to see that this awful history is not repeated.

[This message edited by LivinginLimbo at 7:53 AM, June 22nd (Saturday)]

Tripletrouble posted 6/23/2013 21:25 PM

My father left my mother for the other woman who he had been with on the side for around 15 years+. WH 's Dad is as honest as the day is long. So, interesting reversal.
With regard to the kids, this has been terribly difficult. I'm very concerned about polluting their minds with knowing their dad is a cheater, and how that may influence their character later. I am worried that if I choose R my daughter will see a doormat role model. Since they are teens, they are certainly old enough to know something is wrong. At the advice of our marriage counselor we explained that we are having some difficulty and are going to marriage counseling for help. DS16 wanted to drill down a bit, so I was honest and used the MC's word choice that dad had made some bad decisions. God love him, my aloof teenager who is too cool for mom opened his arms and brought me in for a hug. I think at some point they may want to know more, but I hope not. All the best to you dbellanon.

dbellanon posted 6/25/2013 20:33 PM

I started using the word "honor" with my daughter today. I told her that I was going to teach her how to be an honorable person, and that the first rule of honor is that you always do what you say you are going to do.

It went completely over her head of course, but I think I that this idea, the idea of honor, has to be an important concept in her upbringing, and I'm going to start talking about it. I have to start somewhere.

purplejacket4 posted 6/25/2013 22:50 PM

I'm with livinginlimbo. I'm the daughter of a WW and BH. FWS was the child of a "perfect" intact family. Yet I am not the one that cheated. For me growing up with a distant philandering mother made me hyper vigilant to not go down the slippery slope. FWS had no background in that at all and underestimated said slope. I think if you raise your children in not only values but strong boundaries that can make a world of difference.

stronger08 posted 6/26/2013 05:28 AM

I have a DS who is about to turn 13. While my XWW infidelity started many years ago. I have not spoken to him about it as I felt he was too young at the time. Also while she has pretty much lambasted me to anyone and everyone including this child. I did not want to go there and felt it wrong to badmouth his mother to him. Recently he has been making comments about his mother that are based about her behaviors and attitude. I sat him down this week and we had a very long conversation about how and why our M ended. He pretty much had an idea of what transpired. And I did not use any words like affairs, cheating etc. But I made my point in the most delicate way possible. I don't feel its right to lie to the kids as they are smarter than we think. Prior to this conversation I was able to reinforce the importance of honesty, loyalty and love without having to come out and say what actually happened. Positive reinforcement and teaching morals is key while they are young. But when they get to that age where they want to know the truth its best to give it to them.

In my case I told him that his mother had issues with being honest with me. That a person should not allow another to constantly lie to them and expect you to believe what they say. I also told him that his mother enjoyed the attention of other men while she was M to me. That when people choose to be in a committed relationship its their responsibility to protect their partner. And that means you can not keep secrets from your mate and certainly cant go off and see other people. That if you feel like you need to do these things its best not to commit to another. I told him that sometimes people make mistakes or hurt someone they love. But if that happens he needs to be very honest about what he did and how he feels about it. I then explained to him that if he finds himself in a relationship and it is not working out he must let his GF know how he feels. That its important to end one relationship before starting another. My kid is pretty mature for his age and understood my drift. I do however feel its very important to have these conversations when they are old enough to understand. When they are younger its best just to keep instilling morals and the value of honesty until that time comes. After that you just have to hope and pray for the best.

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