My dad cheated on my mom. A lot. From what I understand, there were a couple confirmed affairs when my sister and I were just an infant and a toddler—so he didn’t wait long to stray from my mom. Later, in my teen years, I would personally overhear a phone call of his that confirmed that he was at it again. And when I told my mom, she was upset not only because of this affair, but because it supported her belief that the affairs may have never stopped—who knows if my dad was ever even faithful for a year? You wonder why he got married in the first place. When the news came out, dark times followed. Today, I’m okay (thanks to plenty of therapy, meditation, and very good friends). But coming from a cheating father affects you forever. Here are things only women with unfaithful fathers understand.
His guilt weighs heavily on you
Your dad never stops feeling guilty. Even long, long after the discussions and fighting surrounding the cheating are over, the guilt still lingers in the air, in every interaction. Your dad figuratively hangs his head low when he sees you. There is a hint of apology in his every word and it makes seeing him emotionally exhausting.
You have to work extra hard to trust a man
You don’t get to just walk out into the world and enjoy dating the way others do. Dating isn’t easy for anyone, but there is an added—large—obstacle in the way for you. You have to do a lot of self-reflection, and even seek therapy, before you can just get to the base level where everyone else starts dating.
You can almost envision any man cheating
If you use your imagination, you can envision any many cheating. You can even see the men who you think are some of the greatest, most honest men in the world doing it. Your imagination twists some of their character traits into negative ones—making them traits they could use to carry out an affair.
You feel you betray your mom by seeing your dad
You always feel a little bad telling your mom that you’re going to see your dad (if they’re divorced). You lower your voice and eyes when you say it. You look at her, as if asking, “Is that okay…?”
Sometimes, he stays with his mistress
As if things aren’t tough enough, sometimes your dad stays with the woman he was having the affair with. Even if your parents get a divorce and that relationship becomes legitimate, it’s never legitimate in your eyes.
You have to have a relationship with the once-mistress
To make matters even worse, sometimes you have to have a relationship with that once-mistress. Look, if your dad moves in with or marries her, it’s almost unavoidable. And it makes you sick.
Then you really feel like you’re betraying your mom
Should your dad leave your mom for the mistress, the guilt that comes with telling your mom you’re going to hang with her ex-husband and the once-mistress is unbearable.
People get weird around you and the topic of cheating
People who know what happened in your family stiffen up when the topic of cheating comes up. They clear their throats, put a comforting hand on your shoulder, and change the subject.
You never really forgive your father
You have to move on and have a relationship with your dad, but you never really forgive him. Things, between you and your father, will never be the way things are between a daughter and her faithful father.
You learn more about your parents’ marriage than you’d like
Your parents both open up about what happened—trying to comfort you, to explain themselves, or simply to vent. You learn more about your parents’ marriage than is natural for a daughter to know.
You’re very protective of your mom
As if stepdads don’t have it rough enough, you are extra tough on them. Should your mom get into a new, serious relationship, you approach him looking for evidence that he could be unfaithful. He has an uphill battle in terms of developing a relationship with you.
Your mom’s new partners have it tough
Your mom’s new partners have it tough in a lot of ways, actually. Her entire circle—from friends to family—is protective of her. They tell him, either directly or indirectly, that he’d better be careful
Your family thinks you’re fragile
Your family can treat you like you’re fragile. In your larger family network—between aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and such—your little portion of the bloodline is tainted.
Sometimes, you wonder if it was your mom’s fault
Though it pains you to say, sometimes you analyze your parents’ marriage and look for ways your mom may have driven your dad to cheat. You don’t want to do this, but the brain goes where it goes.
You often worry you’ll drive a man to cheat
You often worry that you’ll drive a man to cheat. You hate even saying that—there really is no excuse for cheating and it’s always the cheater’s fault. But that won’t comfort you if you’re cheated on.