Should I Tell My Kids About Ex-Wife’s Affair?

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Dear Robin:

Howdy from Texas!  I found your blog through an old college friend of mine who I have been talking to a lot lately about my divorce, and she suggested I reach out to you with this question.

I have been divorced for almost 3 years but I am still having a lot of trouble moving past my anger.  My wife left me for her boss (he was also married so it was a very classy scene) and they got married two weeks after our divorce was final.

I have my boys who are 8 and 13 half time which is great, I guess, but I hate that they spend half their time with their adulterous mother and the man she broke up our marriage for.  I see them at our kids’ sporting and school events acting like the happy family we used to be and each time I grow very angry.  I would have thought this would be getting easier with time, not worse.

My boys know nothing about the affair and though I thought that was the right approach for a long time, I am now not so sure.  I want them to know what an asshole their mom is married to and how much she hurt me.

What should I do?  Keep my mouth shut or tell my kids the truth?  I promise to abide by your advice!

Jimmy

Dear Jimmy:

Thank you for your letter, because I can answer it quite succinctly and move along to the 400 things on my to-do list today.

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In short: keep your lips zipped.  Your kids are still dealing with the reorganization of their family and from their perspective, things are going pretty OK.  You told me when we texted yesterday they like their stepdad, they love their mom and they love you.

Simply put, there is just nothing good that can come of you sharing the dirty details of your divorce with your kids, especially at such a young age and when they aren’t asking you questions.

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Whenever we are faced with a dilemma like yours, it is wise to examine what we are doing, why we are doing it and the potential ramifications of our actions.

The what is obvious: you want to tell your children that their mom, the woman they love more than they will ever love any other woman during their lifetime (or so I tell myself), is a perfidious slut whore bitch who fucked their stepdad in parked cars and office closets for two years before she finally abandoned the family and left you holding your shattered and broken heart in your tear-stained hands.

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The why is somewhat nebulous.

You told me yesterday you want your side of the story to be known so your kids won’t blame you for the divorce, but I have a couple things you might consider:

1. It seems they are in a good place right now and they don’t blame either of you; and

2. Just because you didn’t cheat doesn’t mean you were blameless.

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I don’t know you and I don’t have time to discuss with you all the details of your marriage and divorce (thus getting only one side of the story anyway), but it is somewhat rare for a marriage to fall apart solely based on the actions of one partner.

The circumstances under which your marriage fell apart are terrible and I feel for you, but if you are very tough and honest with yourself, can you really say that this affair was the only serious problem in your relationship?  Food for thought to add to your banquet of anger, retribution and perseveration.

And here we land at the most important part of the analysis: the potential ramifications.  Have you thought this through?  I mean really, have you looked ahead in time at what will happen once you share this little tidbit with your children?

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This is a BAD IDEA and I urge you to abandon it for so many reasons but mainly because it will serve no purpose but to hurt your children and fuck up the relatively good situation they have going now.

Jimmy, my man, don’t do this.  You love those boys and if you attack their mom, you are by extension attacking them.  You will wreak havoc upon their home life with mom and stepdad and the time you have with them as well.

You will create a flaming wall of tension between all of you when you are forced together at various events, making this time stressful for everyone, but who really cares about the grownups?  You will ruin this time for your kids, and by “this time” I specifically mean events attended by all the parents and generally mean the kids’ childhood overall.

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This is not to say I don’t understand the urge you are feeling and how hard it is to resist.  Have you ever had a really tempting and juicy pimple on your face that you knew you shouldn’t mess with, but you just couldn’t help yourself?

Of course you have.  We all have, and almost everyone spent the better part of their youth standing in front of the bathroom mirror conducting unlicensed and enthusiastic surgery on themselves with decidedly poor results.  Even as adults who know better – who have seen the scars created by such foolish but temporarily satisfying self-mutilation – have difficulty leaving blemishes alone.

But at some point you will go too far, and end up like I did with a really ugly scar that takes 6 ounces of makeup and a trowel to cover up decently.  Only then will you realize that the momentary release provided by the squeeze is inconsequential when compared with the pain, infection and scarring that is to come.

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(Emotional Scars: Some take tears and years of therapy to overcome)

How’s that for a tortured metaphor?  Sorry, I’m in a bit of a rush.  I think you get my point.  Jimmy, your kids are happy and well-adjusted and for that you should be grateful.  You, however, are not.  I agree that the pain over the affair and the divorce should be lessening with time, and I am encouraged that you recognize this fact.

You need to ask yourself why you keep picking this scab and dwelling on the past.  I’m a pretty fabulous advice blogger but I am not a therapist (please see my disclaimer located here).  I think after three years you should be moving on and figuring out how to forgive your ex-wife for the way she ended the marriage.

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Perhaps seeking the help of a licensed and professional counselor will help you begin walking that path to forgiveness and creating a new and wonderful life for yourself.  Remember, forgiveness is a gift we give ourselves, not the naughty person who wronged us.

Thank you for writing to me and please keep in touch.

-Robin

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. jeff

    Obviously, the guy just needs some revenge sex. After the short-lived euphoria (presumptive, I know), he can then identify with the guilt his ex is probably feeling and then realize how badly he hopes no one tells his kids about it.

  2. n8

    Hey man. I get it more than anyone. I am in the exact same situation. Exactly! My ex wife cheated with her boss for three years. I found out after the first three months, but she continued to lie to my face, while supposedly “working on the marriage”, going to counseling and completely bullshiting the counselor, friends, family, and kids. We have been divorced for 2 years and she waited the whole time for him to finally leave his wife. Now I just want to expose her as the dirty lying slut ass bitch whore she is, and him the worlds biggest douche bag. But, and a big but, it will do no good to the kids. Only harm. I have realized that kids view themselves as half of each parent. You insult and demean the other parent, you are essentially insulting and demeaning them. we know you don’t want that. Good news though! there is no such things as secrets, just untold truths. Your kids will find out one day. Maybe their mother will have the courage to tell them when they ask later in life, or you will have a chance to gently tell them when they are at an age where they want to know and can handle it without having it blow their self esteem out of the water. (which I think is fine).
    One other thing to whomever wrote the response to your inquiry. Cheating is never even .000001% the betrayed fault, ever! Not in any way. They own that one all by themselves, alone and till the end of time! So take comfort in that. Yes, every marriage has difficulties that are a shared fault, and you would do yourself right to take a good hard look at those that were yours, mostly so you don’t make them again, but that does not make them handling it like a three year old immature devil spawn lying asshole in any way your fault. Finding the most childish, selfish, mean, dishonest way of coping instead of doing what emotional mature adults do by separating, working on the marriage through communication, or even divorce, lands squarely on their shoulders. It is certainly not anyone else’s decision or fault. Quite simply it is a character flaw that you hold absolutely no responsibility for. Anyone that tells you that you can assure has never been cheated on or is a cheater themselves. Unfortunately that is the notion that today’s glamorized “Hollywood” cultures leads people to believe. those of us that have been on the end know so much better.
    So just remember dude, do it for them! If you can, you are a saintly man of character that will never have to know you stooped to their level. I know it hurts to let your kids love someone that is such ass, but you know you don’t want to make your kids handle adult problems while they are supposed to be enjoying a childhood. Hang in there man. I have faith in you. Karma is real and they may think they have pulled one over on everyone now, but inside they know. They will have to wear a mask for the rest of their life to keep their secret. All the time, you know who they are! 🙂
    Go out and meet someone nice, honest, trustworthy. This time around you can be upfront about your relationship expectations an avoid liars and cheats! Give online dating a chance. You can be blatant and upfront about what your looking for. Cheaters need not apply!
    Remember, living well truly is the best revenge, although also remember to forgive yourself for your moments of revisited pain. It is a journey and you have just been through just about the toughest thing any man will ever face!
    Cheers my man!

  3. Mike

    i have a similar situation too…my current wife is having an affair with a family friend…if i divorce her …she will almost certainly get custody of the kids given their ages…i want to let everyone know what kind of a whore she has been just to cause her pain but i know it will affect the kids ….i have always said to her that whatever we do …the kids well being comes first…

  4. Stephen

    Fuck that! Tell the kids, tell her parents, tell her church – tell everyone!
    The kids will be just fine.

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