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Is there any chance this isn't screwing up our kids?

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JstCantBelieveIt posted 2/13/2014 14:58 PM

Last night I laid into my 14yo son for no good reason. I didn't yell or name call or anything like that, but I basically brought up everything I thought he was doing wrong in life (recently caught drinking, grades have slipped drastically in the last 6 months, generally ignores everything me an WW tell him to do). By the end of it he was on the verge of tears. I know that he didn't deserve it and honestly have no idea what to tell him. Looking back over the last two years at what he has seen and heard, I just have no idea how he won't be screwed up for the rest of his life.

During my wife's A there was one night he asked if we were getting a divorce. I said no and asked why he would ask and he said that he knows that him being born caused our life to be much harder. I know he heard a lot of our fights during and after the A (before I knew). The others are younger, but I can tell they know something is wrong since Dday. I'm honestly in limbo and not sure what to do, but I feel like my kids are now screwed either way. It's hard enough for them to have good relationships, now they have to witness our disaster of a relationship up close.

NikkiD posted 2/13/2014 15:07 PM

No. There is no chance....ETA: Let me rephrase...there is not chance they arent affected, but that doesnt mean it has to screw up their lives. Honesty will be the best policy on that. They know so much more than what we tell them.

I was 7 when I called my dad out. As much as I would like to think I avoided that same I am on the same path.

It became normal. My dad wasnt the best spouse, but he was good dad. I always say that being a parent and being a spouse are two differnt skill sets....My WS is a great dad, but he isnt a good least not at the moment.

I internalized so much of my dad's mess I didnt even notice it was happening again. Although, I had the same gut feelings about my dad's lies, as my husband's. I didnt need proof...I just had this way of asking a question where they would spill the beans....

They notice.....

[This message edited by NikkiD at 3:10 PM, February 13th (Thursday)]

steadfast1973 posted 2/13/2014 15:09 PM

I don't think there is a chance of not getting screwed up in any household. I know people who grew up in idyllic homes, who are pretty screwed up.

64fleet posted 2/13/2014 15:11 PM

I don't think there is a chance of not getting screwed up in any household. I know people who grew up in idyllic homes, who are pretty screwed up.

this^ is so true...

Ascendant posted 2/13/2014 15:18 PM

We all have scar tissue from the wounds of our upbringing, the only difference is the location and severity.

Your son needs to know unequivocally that nothing about this is his fault. Over, and over, and over. He's making his own mistakes that need to be dealt with...but from what you've told us, it sounds as though he's taken a lot of the emotional burden on his young shoulders...maybe he's acting out?

Nature_Girl posted 2/13/2014 16:04 PM

No. No, there is no chance that this isn't screwing up our kids. Therefore, it is on us to make sure we give our kids healthy coping skills and outlets so they can process this trauma and eventually recover to have healthy, safe relationships of their own.

JstCantBelieveIt posted 2/13/2014 16:27 PM


I'm not sure exactly how much honesty will help. I've tried to reassure him that it has nothing to do with him. I'm sure telling him his mother cheated on me won't help anything. I've been saying we are going through a "rough patch" for the last 2 years through the A and now again that I know about the A.

StillStanding1 posted 2/13/2014 16:47 PM

This is the question that really tears me apart.

My oldest 2 found out about the A 6 months before me. Eldest confronted Dad 2 months later and he still didn't stop or confess. Left her with that burden. It's really hard for me to wrap my head around that.

No doubt she will have lifelong issues. We had her see a shrink for a while. Anger did not ease up at all.

We are now with a new MC/IC/FC and our kids so far attend together. We all are hopeful about it.

Have you considered some type of therapy for or with the kids? I know our "discussions" at home were not always *productive* to say the least.

Please, just keep reminding your son that this is NOT his fault. Kids will always assume it is. That is too big a burden to bear.

Advice from fellow SIer, YOP25, who is an adult BC is to keep talking, allowing them to open up and vent. Good advice, sometimes hard to implement when you are already feeling emotionally fragile. Just keep trying. Reassure them that your love for them never changes.

Best to you. Really.

cancuncrushed posted 2/13/2014 17:14 PM

i really worry about this. DD was soph in college, son was soph in high school....It upset them really bad. We had a few fights they were aware of.. I feel so guilty... So guilty in fact I went into therapy..Now I realize this is H...He chose this. Its not my fault. I cannot blame myself. I am doing my best, but I am human...I have limits. I suffer pain when it is inflicted..I am making the best of a bad situation H created with EA or A. HE does not do any work to fix this . FOr them or me.. I just keep doing all I can for them... DD has married a man exactly like her father.. Not uncommon in families. Just happens her dad is a wreck. Son is in a rocky relationship.. Again not uncommon, but I feel guilty. I have been the best mom I can be. I have been an excellent patient wife. I am trying to not carry this guilt,

yearsofpain25 posted 2/13/2014 20:05 PM

JstCantBelieveIt, I apologize in advance if I write a novel here but I do have a lot to say on this very subject. I want you to know that I write to you as a 16 year old teenager who grew up in a toxic household that stemmed from my mother's affair, but also as a 40 year old father of 3. I have a DS10, DD8, and DD3. Take everything I say with a grain of salt. My toxic situation growing up is probably more extreme than what is going on in your household. Also as a father, I don't always appreciate people who tell me how to parent my kids.

I can relate to chewing your son out. I just did the same back in early Dec with my then 9yo son and I felt horrible for it. Way more angry than a 9yo could handle. I got scary angry with him above and beyond normal yelling over being disrespectful to his mother and nana. I would NEVER hit or strike any of my kids, but I probably looked like I was going to. I felt really horrible afterwards and I addressed it with him right away and then I had to leave the house for a few hours. I have anger issues that stem from my family of origin (FOO). Upon returning to the house my wife immediately confronted me and said that I have to get help and this anger thing is not the usual me. I agreed and my first baby steps were to come here to SI and now as of this week, I have my first IC session under my belt.

Why SI? I had already been lurking her for months searching for answers about my mother's infidelity that lead to the destruction of my family and I felt comfortable here. I ended up posting 80% of my issues in 4 threads in the JFO forum called Dealing with an affair 25 years later. Don't feel you have to read them. Especially because they are rather lengthy. They are also in my story in my profile. First one is about DDay and some generalized fallout. Then part 2 is trust/sex issues, part 3 anger, part 4 suicide (not related to the affair). PLEASE DON'T FEEL YOU HAVE TO READ THEM. I'm probably an example of some of the worst that can happen and I don't want to imply that my issues would ever be part of your children's issues. I posted them for myself in an effort to try and heal. I had to be brutally honest with myself in them.

From posting those threads, I have had some concerned parents reach out to me on this very topic. Do I tell the kids? Do I not tell the kids? What details do I give if I tell them? My greatest fear is that their lives are ruined, are they? I'm searching for a book on this topic, do you know of any? (no btw). I have had people ask me if they could give my story to their WS as a "if we don't smarten up this is what could happen" type thing. Anyone is free to do that, but I don't recommend it. I have only heard back from 1 person where it helped. I have not heard back from the others. I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers, because I don't. But you are not alone in your questions. The most I can do is provide some insight as to how wrong things can go. I just posted to a similar thread yesterday in the New Beginnings forum. I've seen similar questions all over SI. It's certainly a hot topic. Maybe worthy of it's own forum? Everyone's situation is unique and most are not like mine. Your children's environment is forever changed whether they know it or not. It's how you help them navigate that environment that matters.

All of that said... Your kids, especially your 14yo, probably know more than you think they do. Doesn't matter if you are arguing out in the open or hushed behind closed doors. Doesn't matter if you think you have hidden it from everyone. It is almost impossible to live in a house with someone (your parents) and not know what's going on. Sure younger kids can remain oblivious but teenagers are more curious and aware of their surroundings. Case in Teenagers have a way of figuring this stuff out and even snooping without you knowing about it. Nobody said a word to my 13yo brother about it. He figured it out on his own in a few months. As a 16yo old I checked out and detached from my family post DDay. My parents were too wrapped up in their own shit to notice. I acted out at home. I swore at my mother. I skipped school. I dyed my hair blue and then shaved my head. I went looking for fights. The list goes on and on.

Looking back, as a teenager, I wish that my parents would have talked to me about it. I wished they asked for my opinion. Thing is, I had detached and even if they had come to me there is no way in hell I would have spoken to them about it. I was too pissed off. But there is still a way to reach them even if they don't talk. One of those concerned parents that I mentioned had a pissed off child and they sent me a letter that they had sent to their child with their thoughts and feelings on the aftermath of the affair. They explained what their thoughts were. I cried hard after reading that letter. My wife said it was the letter/message that one of my parents should have had the sense to send me when I was 16.

As a father, I would engage your kids. Especially that 14yo. I'm not saying that you have to, but yes, if it were my son I would tell him about the affair. He may already know more than he's letting on or he may find out from other sources anyway. I'm pretty sure my brother found out by listening to my mother in the other room talk about her shit on the phone. Nowadays there are so many ways to find out. Don't tell your son in an effort to embarrass or belittle your wife in any way. NOT to be disrespectful to her, but to acknowledge it from a family aspect. This really is all about the family right? I would not give any gory details. Trust me, I have the gory details and I don't want them. I would state it as a matter of fact and say, this is what's going on between me and your mother. We are working with each other and will continue to work with each other. Then I would ask him what his thought's are. I would ask him how he feels. I would acknowledge that he is part of the family and that as a family, his opinion and thoughts matter. I would let him know that he can help you and your wife heal. I would make him part of the healing process for the family. There are a lot of strong life lessons in there for him.

You don't have to do exactly that. The point is to engage them!! Don't talk to them or at them. Talk with them. The kids are part of the family so let them be part of the family. If they won't verbally communicate, try another way to reach them. Write them. Let them know how much they matter. Let them know that you feel their hurt too. Let them know that you hurt. Do it consistently. Don't hit them over the head with it every day. Check in with them once in a while. Talk with them. Don't go to them in a distraught state of mind though. You must be the example of calm and peaceful as much as possible. Easier said than done in these situations I know.

And the biggest key to this whole mess... Your wife. Not only does she need to show remorse with you to help your healing, she needs to do it with the kids and the family as a whole. Her remorse with them (age appropriate level of course) will help open wounds turn to scars. To this day my mother is still not remorseful. I wish she had shown any sort of remorse. 25 years later and I'm still dealing with her bullshit. After my brother died we pretty much all went our separate ways as a family. Lost.

Your wife may be the biggest key but she's certainly not the only key if she can't engage and be honest for whatever reason. You want your son to stop acting up and for him to have a better life? You start by letting him know his importance in this whole mess. You let him know his importance in the family. You let him express himself however he needs to with you and your wife to let him get all that shit out. Let him express that anger and hurt with your wife just as you probably did with her. This is bigger than you and your wife. This is about healing your family. I would also strongly urge to get him into IC if he's not already and if possible.

Like I said, take all that with a grain of salt. I'm no expert and I would never claim to be one. Not even on tv. But if it was my family and knowing what I know, I would engage my kids.

I'm pulling for you and your family JstCantBelieveIt. There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Just choices. I wish you and your family all the strength in the world to heal together no matter what the outcome is. Much like some marriages can come out of infidelity stronger, I also believe families can come out stronger and closer.


JstCantBelieveIt posted 2/14/2014 10:14 AM

Thank you for the novel.

I tend to agree that we need to discuss it more with 14yo especially, I just have no idea how to broach the subject. During the A (before I knew for sure), he expressed anger toward my WW because "all she ever does is go out and drink with her friends. You (me) are doing everything and all she does is yell at all of us". Although he felt exactly like I did, I chastised him for being disrespectful to her.

I guess I worry that telling him anything about the A would make him hate her and lose respect for me for taking it and still being here.

Dreamboat posted 2/14/2014 10:47 AM

I know my DD has been affected by this. She trusts no one, she will not let any one get close to her. She has friends, but she holds all of them at arms length.

yearsofpain25 posted 2/14/2014 11:47 AM

I concur that your situation is fragile JCBI. Unfortunately, you are not the only one in this predicament and I have gotten similar type questions. There's no road map. No magic bullet. But you can start by breaking down the situation.

First, how do I approach my son? Honestly I think this is the hardest of the three issues. It's nerve wracking and your probably filled with fear. Last year I had serious communication issues in my marriage and approaching my wife to say I'm not happy is the hardest thing I've had to do in my marriage. I kept thinking for two weeks how can I approach this with her. We have zero relationship communication skills. I didn't want to put her on the spot with "I need to talk to you" because I felt that would have risen the anxiety level before I even had the chance to open my mouth. Sometimes the best conversations and most meaningful are spontaneous because the pressure is not there at the beginning. Try to "fix it" so that you have a "spontaneous" conversation. Maybe something like...Hey your mother and I were talking the other day and we would really like your opinion...or something to that effect for an ice breaker.

Second, once the conversation has started there is that fear that he is going to lose even more respect for your wife than he already has. You know what, he probably will lose more respect at first. He will probably have some of the same first reactions you did. She didn't just cheat on you, she cheated on him too. And she cheated on the family environment. There is no magic cure for this and it won't be over in the course of one conversation. Not by a long shot. It's going to take many conversations. It's going to take your wife showing him remorse. Proving to him for a very long time how sorry she is for her betrayal. He will have a hard time trusting her, as I'm sure you do. He's not going to be fine with it. He's going to be hurt and lose respect. She needs to earn that back and she can earn that back.

HOWEVER!!! That does not mean that he gets to be disrespectful. I started doing that with my mother. I told her to "Fuck off!" and from DDay forward, I never listened to her again. As a parent she was dead to me. She could have fixed it with me but never has. My father laid ground rules for me. That he was not going to play referee between the two of us for the rest of his life. He demanded that I respect her. He demanded that I be a better person and to be above it as much as I could. I was not allowed to swear at her and be disrespectful or there were consequences that I had to deal with. So I was respectful. Had my mother shown some remorse and talked with me, I probably in time could have reconciled with her. But she never did. So I now have 25 years of her shit I'm dealing with.

On the flip side, if you don't talk to him about it and let it lie as everything is right now, chances are he's going to find out and things will be that much harder later on. He has already lost respect for your wife. Much like when a WS comes clean towards the beginning and is remorseful, it makes the healing go faster. When the WS doesn't come clean and tries to hide everything or displays TT, then everything with your son is going to be that much harder and worse for him.

Thirdly, losing respect for you. This is where your communication with him is so important. You need to let him know what you are thinking and your thought process. I may not have agreed with my father's decision to R, and to this day I wish I hadn't, but I respect him and his decision. Now that I'm older and have a family of my own I can see why he made those decisions. At the time I had no idea why. You need to give him the why you are thinking the way you are and why you are handing things the way you are. Ask for his opinion. I guarantee you will probably hear a bunch of shit you don't want to. But you don't have to take it. Gently let him know that you respect his opinion and his thoughts, but this is how you are going to handle it and here's WHY. And this is how the family is going to handle it and here's WHY. Show him respect and hopefully he will eventually return that same respect back. Make him part of the family and discuss decisions with him, not at him. But gently remind him that ultimately you are the parent and you make the decisions. But if he feels he is part of that decision making process and his opinions are respected, he will hopefully want to be involved with the family more. Trust me. They may have this hard exterior that's impossible to deal with, but deep down they do want to be loved and be a part of things. So show him love, be engaged with him, and keep him involved in family a point.

The same rules that apply between you and your wife's relationship, also apply to the relationship with your son (minus the gory details, age appropriate, etc.). The healing that needs to happen can follow those same higher level rules between you and your wife. I'm not saying that she has to check in with him every times she goes out or something of that nature, but why not ask him what sort of conditions he would like for his mother to meet with him? He can create his own list. This list should help your wife too.

You are trying to heal the relationship with your son. It's never to late to start the process. It's a long hard road. But think that you can come out with a stronger relationship with him and with your family as a whole. Many people have done it. You and your wife can too. Which leads me to, where does your wife stand in all of this? Does she show remorse with him and the family? Or does she want to rug sweep?

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