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Need Advice for Telling Kids

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Scammed posted 7/6/2014 22:52 PM

Long-time lurker now posting.

I am struggling about what to tell my kids, 12 and 8. Several years ago my WW confessed to having a nine-year affair, and the kids overnight saw a laugh-filled, affectionate relationship become a frost-filled relationship. We keep our arguments out of sight, but it's been years since they've seen parents kiss or say "I love you".

There is no question they will find out one day, because I intend to divorce as soon as the kids are gone. (WW has plenty of guilt, but no remorse. TT is still occurring.) Even though they surely know something is amiss, I hesitate to tell them because of the obvious: they can't un-hear that news if it turns out to be too early for them.

However, one of my big fears is that they will be angry that I deceived them for years. I myself struggle with how to view all the years my WW deceived me, because it taints absolutely everything that happened those years. I acknowledge my concerns may be projection on my part.

Any advice on what to tell the kids would be appreciated.

Flourgirl posted 7/7/2014 00:58 AM

So our therapist suggested we tell our kids and at first I left the room mid session just walked out. It took a while from July until October before we told them. We separated ours by age group and told them together. My 14 yo and 11 yo DD's had a lot of questions but we kept the details to a minimum. I waited because I wanted to know how I would proceed with the marriage. They became angry at their dad but still love him and tell him exactly that. I told them they could talk to their friends that it was not their shame to carry. My boys are 9 and 6. The 9 year old just shut down. He didn't want to hear any of it. So we just reassured him that we loved him and loved each other. You know your kids best. You will know how to deal with them. I personally found out my father cheated on my mom on my Dday. That was far from ideal. He had died 5 years before and I was pissed I couldn't confront him.

wishicouldredo posted 7/7/2014 02:13 AM

I struggle with this one as well as my kids also saw a "good" marriage suddenly explode. My IC advised not to tell them (at least not until way older ie 20's) reasoning that children of cheaters often become cheaters, this is how you deal with problems in your marriage you step outside it kind of thing - -along with it's just something they don't need to know. I'm just not sure on this one because then they have no reasoning to base it on and carry it around with them? They know their dad lied a lot and maybe I'm naive and they know more than I think they do (has also been suggested to me as well).
@Flourgirl - I'd be interested in knowing how you approached it or what you said if you don't mind sharing.

MakingMyFuture posted 7/7/2014 03:45 AM

Originally when my kids were 7, 8 1/2, I told them 'Daddy hurt my feelings very badly' and when they got curious about our IC/MC sessions, told them we were going to a person who was helping us learn to to communicate better and be a better husband/wife".

at 8/12 and 10, I recently told them the details below because I know many of their friends have parents that are separating, and frankly because I was sick of my husband skipping around with a few beers in him in a great mood while I looked like some distant/depressed lunatic. So this is what I told them in a nut shell.

1. A few years ago, daddy had an inappropriate relationship with one of our friends
2. They exchanged pictures and words that are only meant to be shared between husband and wife
3. Daddy is very sorry and has been doing everything possible to learn how to be a better husband, he is very sad about what he did which is why he was drinking too much alcohol for a while.
4. I was very sad and that is why I was distracted and not participating in family activities for a while.
5. We have both been focused on getting better and learning how to love and support each other so we can ensure we have the strongest family possible.
5. We both love you and love each other. We are not planning on getting a divorce at all.
6. However, If this ever happens again then we would not be able to stay married because as a strong independent woman I wouldn't be able to tolerate such disrespect.
7. I have forgiven Daddy because he was an amazing husband and father for 13 years before this happened. He has committed it will never ever happen again and I absolutely believe him.

They asked questions and I answered as simply and honestly as possible while ensuring they knew everything is OK. I also let them know they could always ask me or Daddy anything about it, and also guided them to a specific neutral family member they could speak to privately if they wanted to talk about it but not to us.

Too much for little kids? Probably, but what is the other choice? Kids know when something is not right and they are entitled to age-appropriate information as much as BSs-- it is their lives too. If they are going to end up in Therapy in 20 years...I would rather it be based on their difficulty dealing with the truth than their difficulty dealing with lies.

BrokenheartedUK posted 7/7/2014 04:58 AM

This is a really tough aspect about infidelity. In my case I was "lucky" that my 14 year old found the texts about 20 minutes before I did and she told the youngest child immediately and so telling the 16 year old also happened on D Day.

As horrific as that scenario was, it does spare me the long term agonising about how to explain what's going on. Kids are not stupid so I think you should be honest about what they are sensing between the two of you--it should validate their perception. I think "Flourgirl" did a good job and if your WW agrees she should participate in the conversation.

Not easy and not fun by any stretch but it is what it is.

heme posted 7/7/2014 20:19 PM

Mine are all really young so Im keeping things simple. I just told them that Mommy and Daddy are having some difficulties but we both love them dearly and no matter what we will both always be there for them. I had to say something because Ive been so depressed and crying so much they needed to know why.

I don't know what will happen in our marriage but everything I told them was true. No matter what their father and I love them dearly and will always be there for them. That is all they have to know, they don't need to worry about anything else at their age. If we do end up separating Ill tell them why when they are old enough to understand, if they want to know why.

I think each situation is different. You know your children best, do what you feel is best for them.

plainpain posted 7/7/2014 21:46 PM

We told our kids almost immediately after DDay 2. There was an OC involved, OW was looking like a stalker, and I just didn't want my kids growing up thinking they had a "bad mom" because I was simply not able to hide my pain. It was the right choice. Our kids were 16, 12 and 7. My H told our oldest. We told our younger ones together. We were both wanting to R, so we reassured them we were not talking D. I also made it clear to them that I would not forgive it again, if it ever happened again - but that I believed it would not happen again.

We talked about people making bad choices and how it affects everyone we love. We talked about low self-esteem, forgiveness and loving people when they are broken. We talked about personal responsibility, self-respect, how not to be afraid of tears and how important it is to always, always tell the truth. We used the word "adultery".

We are walking through this as a family, and we are modelling for them how to heal from devastation. They will have devastation in their lives, and they need to know that they can survive and be whole. My son is having the hardest time with it - it has been very confusing to him. He sees that his father devalued me, and as a result he alternates between being very protective of me and having contempt for me. It has been very important for my H to re-establish firm boundaries, to visibly show respect for me and affection to me, and to be "on my side" always where they are concerned.

My H always takes full responsibility for the A, and I never speak badly about their father to them. They are forbidden to take sides. They are free to talk about it with whoever they need to.

Both our parents were madhatters. My WH cheated. I did not. Parental infidelity does not have to mean the children will be unfaithful spouses; however, I have had to look at my own choice of spouse, and I am realizing I probably was drawn to a co-dependant relationship because of what my parents modelled. I think it is not too late to undo a lot of the damage we did in modelling an unhealthy marriage to our children. It's not the mistakes you make, it's how you fix them that they remember.

LA44 posted 7/7/2014 22:04 PM

Scrammed, I am very sorry you were deceived. And for so long. Are you in IC? Is your wife?

You say you are staying until the kids are grown. My FIL left the family at that point - just as his kids were about to "fly" they were brought to the ground.

My question....Why expose your kids to more years of a "love-less" marriage? Your kids are still so young and it will be at least a decade before the younger one leaves the nest. They are learning every day by watching you and your wife. Learning how not to be affectionate, loving, communicative.

Perhaps counselling coule help heal these deep wounds. Maybe it won't. But at least you did everything possible.

Should you decide to tell them, I would think it would be a joint decision. I would also speak to an IC about making this an age appropriate convo.

hopefull77 posted 7/7/2014 22:13 PM

We have a friend whose parents divorced after the youngest left home...they both said to their parents we knew all along how unhappy they were....
if you really know you are done why wait?
Why do that to your kids and yourself?

Scammed posted 7/8/2014 00:07 AM

Thank you all for responding. I've got some good data to analyze.

LA44 and Hopefull77, my wife and I have seen several counselors, all but one useless or worse than useless. And that exception is now across the country. It doesn't help that my WW wants nothing more than for me to shut up about what she did.

I haven't left WW because, when I add up the pros and cons in this specific situation, staying has been the least worst choice. However, I have zero doubt that I would be fully justified in divorce, and that she would be 100% responsible for any repercussions.

Among the cons, a huge one is that even under the best case scenario I will lose a lot of control in how my kids are raised. If their mother wants to shack up with an addict boyfriend who just got out of jail, there's not a lot I can do about it. And I will spend a lot less time with them. There are people who disagree with this, but first-hand stories from friends and family tell me the court system is stacked against fathers. ( In one case the mother is a crack-addicted prostitute, and my friend's brother still can't get custody of his child.)

That's where I stand now. Any subsequent breaking of NC or marriage vows, however, would immediately cause a hyper nasty legal battle.

kenny55 posted 7/8/2014 18:11 PM

I am sorry you are in this place. I was seeing a counselor at Church who had a case of a woamn whose Father found out when she was in her late 20's that he was not her Father. He cut off all conatact with her. She was devistated. You say the kids may not be yours.? What are the chances they will find out the truth some day? Not sure if it is best to address this now or later. Maybe soemoen else has a beter idea.

Jomarion posted 7/8/2014 19:15 PM

I think that children need to know that their parents love them and that they are safe no matter what. Next I think they need to know people -even parents! make mistakes, and then to try to model as best as one can the appropriate way to 'repair' the mistake or comfort the hurt spouse/s. I think details are unnecessary unless they get older.

And having the 'perfect' relationship isn't the best for children to experience either, as it cannot teach them how to resolve conflict. I had a boyfriend many years ago who said his parents never fought or disagreed, and it caused him great distress because he never knew how to handle conflict and would just shut down instead.

So when we parents goof up, it can be a teaching and guide to future healing for our kids in how we handle terrible grief and betrayal. What a necessary gift to teach our children.

Jomarion posted 7/8/2014 19:16 PM

I think that children need to know that their parents love them and that they are safe no matter what. Next I think they need to know people -even parents! make mistakes, and then to try to model as best as one can the appropriate way to 'repair' the mistake or comfort the hurt spouse/s. I think details are unnecessary unless they get older.

And having the 'perfect' relationship isn't the best for children to experience either, as it cannot teach them how to resolve conflict. I had a boyfriend many years ago who said his parents never fought or disagreed, and it caused him great distress because he never knew how to handle conflict and would just shut down instead.

So when we parents goof up, it can be a teaching and guide to future healing for our kids in how we handle terrible grief and betrayal. What a necessary gift to teach our children.

Scammed posted 7/8/2014 21:14 PM

Kenny55, the night of D-day I laid awake all night thinking about nothing but whether my kids were mine biologically. We got tested immediately, and thankfully the desired results came back.

Jomarion, you made a remarkable point about lack of open conflict. My wife hates, and I mean hates, to talk about her adultery and betrayal, and just wants to pretend it never happened. You'll be shocked...shocked...to find out avoiding conflict runs in the family.

Jomarion posted 7/9/2014 11:07 AM

I think not wanting to talk about the betrayal is very common, and also it is very common for the betrayed to want to talk talk talk about it, which can make a lot of conflict. That is how it has been for me.

Rugsweeping can be a dangerous game to play.

But so can going over the top, freaking out. That is where I tend to screw up.

It takes so much courage to admit wrong. Unimaginable courage. When I read the WS on this site, I am amazed by their courage, and jealous. I wish my WBF had a fraction of their guts.

Sorry you are on this site. I hope and pray your WS finds the courage needed to heal your marriage.

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