It hurts to feel betrayed and it damages relationship trust and connection. When your partner has an affair, it can leave you questioning everything you thought you knew about your partner, yourself and your relationship.
When a child is involved, cheating becomes that much more difficult and destructive.
Jason genuinely regrets that he cheated. He and his wife, Sharon, have worked hard to create a loving, caring home for their daughter. Jason didn’t mean to have an affair with a woman he met while on a business trip– it just happened.
A year ago, Jason was repeatedly sent to a town that’s in a neighboring state to help set up a branch office for his company. He felt lonely, especially because Sharon was very focused on their daughter who was having a tough time transitioning to adolescence. To Jason, it seemed like Sharon didn’t really care that he was away so much.
He felt non-essential and unimportant to her. Rachel works at the coffee shop in the town Jason was working in. Her friendly smile and interest in him were welcome and appealing. He didn’t mean to lie to Rachel about having a wife and daughter back home. He didn’t mean to have dinner with her and then, eventually, to spend nights at her house whenever he was in town.
When Rachel became pregnant, this woke Jason up and caused him to seriously re-evaluate his choices. He finally told Rachel the truth and she immediately broke up with him. Jason also admitted his affair to Sharon. She has agreed to give him another chance, for which he is grateful.
The challenge is, everything is so much more complicated and messy now. Jason really wants to rebuild trust and his marriage with Sharon. He wants to be a more engaged father to their daughter too. But, he is unwilling to abandon his child with Rachel.
Infidelity does become that much more difficult to deal with when there is a child involved. This can take different forms…
As with Jason, you and your partner might already have a child and a pregnancy could have resulted from the affair. Now, your partner has financial obligations and potentially a desire to be some form of parent to the other child once he or she is born.
Even if the affair did not bring about a pregnancy, you might be worried about the negative effects on your child. Unless you have a baby or young child, it’s nearly impossible to keep your partner’s infidelity a secret. Even if your child doesn’t specifically know what happened, he or she will undoubtedly sense that something is “off” or “wrong” with you and your partner.
Even though there is a child or children involved, we urge you to be selfish. It’s understandable that your first impulse might be to direct your energy to your child, making sure that he or she is okay in the midst of the tension and conflict going on in your home. If your partner now has a child with another woman (or man), you may believe that it is only “right” for that child to be the priority.
We’re not suggesting that you neglect, ignore or make any child less important. But, we do recommend that you make yourself just as important.
You’ve got needs and it is essential that you get those needs met. You might be feeling vulnerable, hurt or emotionally destroyed by all of this. We’re here to remind you that you can’t possibly “be there” for your child if you aren’t taking the time to heal and make yourself a priority too.
Turn to family, friends and maybe even a professional counselor or coach for support. Identify and ask for the kind of support you most need right now. It might be someone to take your child to the park so that you can have time to write in your journal, get a massage or just to sit and cry. This may be someone to listen and help you sort through your options so that you can make the best decision for you.
Pay attention to the child’s needs.
Yes, by all means, we also encourage you to make sure the child or children involved are being well cared for. It’s probably best to talk with your partner about what and how you will share about the affair. Remember, you can be honest without telling details that would be inappropriate or distressing for the child to hear.
Here are some examples of what you might say…
“Daddy made a mistake and mommy feels very sad about it. Both mommy and daddy love you very much and are here for you.”
“I was feeling lonely and I made a decision that I really regret. I had an affair, but it’s over now. I am working with your father to make things right in our marriage again. We both love you and are available to answer your questions.”
It is sometimes helpful for the one who cheated to tell the child– either alone or with the other parent present. It all depends on what you and your partner decide is best for the situation and for your child.
If a pregnancy is the result of the affair, this can be tricky to communicate to a child. Seek advice from a professional therapist for children and really tune in to your child to know what he or she is ready to hear and when.
Remember, you ALWAYS have choice.
If you feel as if you have “no choice” but to stay in your relationship or to end it because there is a child involved, back up and think again. Children can be resilient regardless of what the adults in their lives choose to do.
If you sacrifice your needs for what you think are the needs of a child, this isn’t going to benefit anyone!
There are all kinds of different family arrangements, so try to keep your mind open and keep asking yourself what is the wisest and best situation for your child, your relationship and for you.