This is the line we use (well, I use) with our kids when they ask about why we got divorced. I have always made it clear that it wasn't their fault, that they aren't old enough to discuss the problems with me yet, etc. It's not ideal, but it has worked. The kids get that there are some things adults do/talk about that aren't appropriate to share with children.
Well, DS #1, who likes to talk things out, apparently wanted to talk about the D with STBX (the same man who is rushing headlong into marriage #2). I know what this response was about-- STBX wants DS #1 to move on already. DS #1 is just supposed to accept that his parents are divorced and that Dad is getting remarried and be cool with it all. I'm sure that he was trying to end the conversation, in that impatient way of his, by cutting my son's dialogue off and proclaiming, "There aren't any grown-up problems!" I asked DS #1 how he said it, and DS #1 said he seemed stressed and grumpy.
I then asked DS #1 what he thought-- would we get a D if we didn't have grown-up problems? He agreed that wouldn't be the case, but then he said, "So, Dad lied to me."
Oh, that was fun. I can't believe I'm STBX's PR department. I'm trying to find a way to express that, no, Dad just didn't want to talk about it (without saying that STBX is an impatient, selfish jerk). DS #1 got very hung up on the idea that his dad might be lying to him, and I had to keep reassuring him that no, Dad wasn't lying to you-- he was uncomfortable with the conversation and wanted to end it. He just didn't phrase his feelings in the right way.
DS #1 is putting two and two together. He's always been the most positive of the three kids about this situation, but now that the marriage and stepfamily are coming true and happening soon, he's starting to get scared. Furthermore, STBX has been horrible about communicating-- DS #1 asked ME if he was going to the wedding (yes, and he'll be in it) and if his dad would be adding extra rooms to the house for the stepsiblings (no, they'll be sharing bedrooms with my kids as far as I know). He then said, "It's like we're moving in with strangers." Yep, you hit the nail on the head with that comment, DS #1.
Just venting. I'm looking into counseling for all of us. I can't believe that I am forced legally to let this asshat and his equally selfish AP spend time with my kids. All parents have the right to be with their kids, but it sucks when one of the parents is self-consumed and doesn't really care about how his/her kids feel. Why should my kids have to be forced to spend time with that?
If he is old enough to put 2 and 2 together and come up with 4... I wouldn't be protecting dear old dad, and keeping his lies. I understand telling DS what you did... but he knows he was lied to. Even if X wanted to just end the conversation... why not just say "I want to end this conversation" instead of telling DS that there were no grown up problems.
When I tried to protect X's relationship with the kids... it almost cost me my relationship with them. If they want to discuss what dad said to them... I listen.. and validate their feelings, very rarely do I offer advice... unless they specifically ask. The last time I covered for him... my eldest handed me a clue by four... by telling me that if I was making excuses for him... I was covering for his lies and therefore lying to her.. and she wouldn't be able to trust ME! That stopped me dead in my tracks... She is right. DD was 16-17 at the time.
Passing on the information... with the idea of helping you keep your relationship with the kids intact.
I know you did this with the idea of it not hurting your kids, but having one parent who doesn't deal with the truth is bad, having the other parent make excuses for the parent that lies is much worse... who do they trust to tell them the truth when the truth is tough to hear.
It sucks sometimes... but it builds a much stronger relationship with your kids. I want that for all of us.
My kids have figured out several important moments in the past year+ in which STBX has outright lied as well as led them to believe things which weren't true. I'm very honest but gentle in helping them process these truths.
His relationship with the kids is his problem. I would suggest you work on being as honest as possible with them. Their dad DID lie to them, and they should know that and process it and work it out with him. Pretending it didn't happen does no one any good, especially not the kids..
I wonder why they have to be forced to spend time with them too. Makes me rather angry actually..
I also would not have answered the questions about what is going to happen at dad's house with the new 'happy family'. You have a good idea, but if your explanation differs, you become the 'liar' (not true, but kids...)
I read your original post, before any responses, at work (where I can only read and not post.) I was so angry my entire ride home, thinking about how you covering for your STBXWH might negatively impact your relationship with DS. And also could impact DS's future relationships with women -- potentially making him more likely to be a BS or put up with unacceptable behavior -- because he thinks something isn't deceitful, or it's normal behavior.
I'm glad you're looking into counseling. Before school ends for the summer, can you check with his counselor at school to see if he can talk with someone earlier?
I'm so sorry you and your kids are going through this.
Married: 11 years, no kids
The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark. -Michelangelo
Now think what the kids will go through on their "D-day," when you finally tell them the truth. They will be shocked, and they will feel lied to and betrayed and manipulated, and their world will not be what they thought it was. This is part of the reason I think it's best for the kids to know things in an age-appropriate way. You don't want to shock them terribly later in life, and you certainly don't want them realizing you were lying and manipulating them as well. I think it's best if they know the truth and have plenty of time to process what has happened. The longer you keep them in the dark, the longer you have betrayed them of the truth, the longer they have been living in a lie. It will be heartbreaking for them too, but I think it will be compounded by how much time you keep this secret from them. It's the same with me and my feelings on the situation, the longer his affair, the longer he was lying to me, the longer my life was a lie, the more betrayed I feel..
I would start being honest and keeping them up to speed on what's going on as soon as possible. You obviously shouldn't be bad-mouthing your ex and demonizing him, but you are in NO WAY responsible for keeping his secrets at the cost of your relationship with your children. They can and should hate the actions, but they can still love the person..
DS #1 hasn't asked if his dad had an affair. He hasn't completely put the puzzle together. I will not lie to him about that, ever. I answer any direct questions honestly. Right now though, I mostly listen, and I haven't been more direct about the situation because I don't know if it's the right thing to do. Do I just say, "DS #1, your dad and Mrs. X started dating while your dad was still married to me. He broke the promises he made to me when we got married, and that's why we got a D." Is that too much for a nine year old? It doesn't help that STBX is adamant that the kids never know the truth. Did any of you experience trouble (legal or otherwise) with your XWS when you told the kids the truth?
DS #1 has seen the school counselor outside of his support group, and I'm going to encourage him to see her again. It was lovely dropping them off at his house this evening. I felt like I was sending my lambs to the slaughter.
I think it's important to follow that up with reassurance that you will always love them and that everything is going to be okay.. I hate making promises for my STBX, but I do tell the kids, "Mommy and daddy love both of you, and you should love both mommy and daddy. We will both be here for you." I don't like assuming things about STBX, that he will always love them and be there for them, but I do tell them that.. You don't want to put them in the middle, like "dad did a horrible thing to me, and I hate him for it, and you should hate him too."
A big problem here will be your ex if he is so adamant about not telling them. I know my STBX has told them I'm lying and that OW was just a friend and that we are divorcing because we "just don't get along anymore." Of course, he still tells them she's just a friend, but they see them sleeping together pretty much every night he has them, so not sure why he thinks that line works on them. But this is where the kids need to come to their own conclusions. And that's why its so important that you continue to foster the idea that you will always tell them the truth and not keep secrets from them.. I know my kids have been frustrated as they feel like, "Mom is telling me dad is lying, and dad is telling me mom is lying." It's frustrating, but I would just stick to the truth and love and support them and let them figure it out. Because they will..
Good luck. The kids is one of the biggest areas these assholes don't realize how much damage they are doing. It's like they are off in la-la land thinking everything will be just fine. It's really sad that they don't see it.. But just keep doing your best, and I definitely recommend IC for your children so they have a safe place to process their feelings, especially if they will be needing to decide for themselves what the truth is. Just do your best and be their soft place to land..
Is that too much for a nine year old?
Personally, I'd ask your IC how to handle things if you have any questions since every situation and child is so different, regardless of age.
Luckily my little ones, who are somewhat close in age to yours, haven't come close to asking for more information. I've stuck with the answer of "mom and dad had some adult things that we couldn't work out, and wanted each of you to have a life without mom and dad fighting...but happy."
(((TA74 and kids)))
[This message edited by stronggirl72 at 5:48 PM, May 24th (Friday)]
Mine is unique in that my STBX involved the MOW and her kid with my kids without me knowing during his affair, having them lie to me about it. Since he didn't see the need in protecting them from it, I sure wasn't going to keep his dirty little secret for him. But I don't agree with telling them as punishment for the ex, I agree with telling them to create honesty and trustworthiness and a home where they don't have to keep any secrets..
This has obviously been a big issue for me given my situation..
I agree to talk to your children's therapist about the best way to handle this given their development and curiosity, etc.. And since OW is already in the picture and about to be their new stepmom, IC is a good idea for you and all the children to process their feelings..
As far as I know my kids do not even know about the concept of cheating/infidelity. They do know that we fought a lot. They know their father is a liar because he routinely lied to them back when we were all together as well as has continued to lie during our separation. They ask me a lot about who's to blame for the divorce. Their father has repeatedly told them that I am to blame, that he did not want a divorce, it's all my idea and is against his will, that he'd gladly come back home in an instant if I'd let him. I've told them that there are grown-up, adult issues between their father & me which aren't appropriate to discuss with them. Yes, they know I filed for divorce. However, it was important for them to know that this wasn't a decision I made for no reason. I've talked with them about how I wouldn't make a decision as hard & terrible as getting a divorce if there wasn't something very seriously wrong that made it impossible to stay married.
All I can do is tell the kids about MY thoughts & motivations. I don't tell them about what goes on in their father's head & heart. If they make an observation I correct it or validate it for them. If they ask a question that has an age-appropriate answer, I provide it.
I'm honest with them, but they know I am also shielding them from information that is too much for them at this point in their lives. Because STBX is such a careless asshole, though, I have no doubt that his infidelity and/or perversions come up sooner rather than later. The counselor & I are working with the kids preventatively to help them separate themselves from the impact of their father's ongoing poor choices. Hopefully when he yet again does something hurtful they'll already have a few coping skills so they don't take it personally.
I think telling you're oldest if he asks questions should depends on his level of maturity. Only you can make that call.
And yes, my H was pissed when he found out the boys knew. Maybe he should have thought about that before he walked out on me And them!