Should You Tell Your Children About Infidelity In Your Marriage?

September 12, 2017  |  

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A recent episode of “Insecure,” the recent passing of my parents’ own anniversary, Jay-Z’s 4:44 album and a conversation I recently had with my boyfriend have all left me with a lingering question. When, if ever, is it important or necessary to tell your children about infidelity in your marriage?

So let’s start from the beginning. When Molly ran out of her parents’ anniversary party, the Twitterers chided her for being overly dramatic at the notion that her parents’ marriage wasn’t perfect. Like, girl, Duh! As I’ve written before, I had a bit more sympathy. Sure, Molly shouldn’t have assumed she knew the ins and outs of her parents’ union; but still, being confronted with infidelity when you thought there was none is a shock to the system. And while I don’t think I would have made a theatrical exit, I probably wouldn’t have been able to chill at the party either. It’s not fun anymore. What you believed to be true is just not. Furthermore, she didn’t have the whole story. She was just gobsmacked with her father’s cheating, she didn’t stay to learn about her mother’s forgiveness. And she was too hurt to consider the love that ultimately kept her parents together.

After a couple of weeks of dodging her mother’s phone calls, which I can not excuse, she learned that her father made her mother feel special more than he ever hurt her. That moment was one that made me go “umph.” Because it was something that Molly needed to hear. As she was coming to the realization that Dro’s wife will always be priority for him, perhaps she finally understood that their arrangement would satisfy her for a second but more often than not leave her feeling unwanted and abandoned. She could have stood to hear her mother’s story and her words of advice years ago, honestly. For the past two seasons we’ve watched Molly do the most for men who either unwilling to unable to make her feel special (with the exception of Jared from Enterprise). I couldn’t help but wonder if she would have found herself in those same situations if she and her mother had had that discussion earlier.

Before that episode of “Insecure” aired, there was Jay-Z’s 4:44, in which the rapper takes responsibility for a number of things, including being unfaithful to his wife. But beyond the cheating, he asks himself, “If my kids knew…”

My boyfriend was out of the country when the album came out so we had a bit of a listening session in his car on our way back from the movies. After the title track ended, I asked my boyfriend if he would tell our children if one or both of us stepped out during the course of our marriage. After a bit of reflection, he concluded that generally speaking it wasn’t their business. But if they asked specifically he would be honest. At the time, I said I would want to tell our kids either way, when they were of an age to understand, whether they asked or not because it would teach them a couple of things. One, that their parents aren’t perfect. (A reality every child has to accept sooner or later.) Two, if we’re still together, the importance of forgiveness, the strength of love and the necessity of work even when things seem broken. I reminded him that Jay-Z will likely have to share this info with his children being that he and his wife are public figures and all three of his children are growing up in this age of information. If their peers don’t tell them, the internet will.

Later, in discussing that “Insecure” episode with Brande we were talking about her reaction, the work that goes into relationships and I finally thought about my own parent’s relationship. I remember, years ago, telling a guy I was dating that if I learned one of my parents had cheated on the other, it wouldn’t change anything. Now, I realize how untrue that statement is. It would change my perception of not only the nature of their marriage but also on their character. Still, after I got past all the drama-filled and uncomfortable details, I would hope that I could focus on the fact that they were and are still together. But seriously, ugh. It’s more than a notion to imagine your parents having sex with each other. The thought that they’d be breaking all types of vows and operating in deception is really too much.

So no, I wouldn’t want to know personally. Though I could see why my parents would want to share. Hopefully though, it won’t even be a discussion I have to have with my children.

Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days.” You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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