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infidelity in family

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When a parent cheats, it shakes the whole family to its core. As a kid—and, let’s admit it, even as an adult—you have certain ideas about your parents. You believe they’d do anything to protect the family and nothing to harm it. A parent who is unfaithful goes against all of those notions. It makes you feel like your parent is quite selfish, after all, and puts his desires before the good of the family. You can feel that parent is a monster. You can feel that the other parent was a completely innocent victim who was just going along, being a model spouse, and was completely betrayed by the evil parent.

 

However, sometimes, we find that it’s not as simple as all of that. You have to remember that your parents, just like you, are just a couple of people who wanted to find love. They were once out there, dating, trying to figure things out, just like you have done—and perhaps are still doing. You’ve probably been involved with the wrong person before, right? Maybe you were involved for a very long time with the wrong person—lived with him, and even got engaged to him. You’ve taken things too far with the wrong person. So, could you conceive of the fact that, perhaps, your parents did the same with each other? That they married the wrong person and had kids with the wrong person?

 

If your parents weren’t wrong for each other, per say, there could be something else at play—something you may not be quite as familiar with, if you’re still young. And that’s this: life is very, very long to spend with just one person and it will throw some sh*t storms your way that make it hard to be perfect all of the time. Your parents have probably experienced that. So, your parent probably isn’t evil or selfish or a monster. He may have just fallen into one of these scenarios I described. Here are reasons you might want to forgive your unfaithful parent.

infidelity in family

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Holding onto the anger won’t help you

I once said I’d never forgive my father for cheating. I couldn’t possibly conceive of it. And then, I went onto be a very angry person for quite some time. I developed a drinking problem and an eating disorder. I dated some terrible men. I was holding onto all of this anger, hoping that it would hurt my parent—but it wound up hurting me the most. You don’t just get to stay angry with someone and expect that it won’t affect you.

infidelity in family

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He’s punishing himself enough

I promise you that that parent is punishing himself enough as it is. I promise you that his indiscretion wasn’t some easy, breezy, uncomplicated joyride. It was probably wrought with fear and guilt and nausea. And he probably still feels all of those things. If you think your parent isn’t already going through enough personal hell without you refusing to speak to him, that simply isn’t true. Don’t worry about him being punished: he is.

infidelity in family

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In many ways, he is a great parent

In spite of the infidelity, if you can possibly look away from that for a moment, you may be able to admit that this parent is, generally, a great parent. Maybe he was at every single soccer game/ballet recital/short story reading—you name it. Maybe he was your tutor and best friend and mentor and chauffeur and driving teacher. Maybe he always made you feel safe and taken care of. Are you really going to turn your back on the parent who did all of that for you?

infidelity in family

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In fact, the sacrifices have probably been tremendous

You may not even know what sacrifices he made. He may have left a job he loved in another city—and the friends he knew—to move closer to your other parent’s family, because that’s what she wanted. He may have worked 16-hour days to pay for your tuition. He may have elected a worse healthcare plan for himself in order to afford the best one for you.

infidelity in family

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Try to separate the parent from the spouse

The point of the last two statements is this: try to separate the parent from the spouse. I know it’s hard. But, in your parent’s mind (and he might be correct), he had his duties to his children, and his duties to his spouse. And he failed in the latter, but not the former. But now he’s being punished as if he failed at both and…he really didn’t.

infidelity in family

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You don’t know their marriage entirely

Nobody knows what goes on in a marriage besides the two people in the marriage. You don’t actually know what the dynamic was between your parents. Look, cheating is never the answer to the problem of a bad marriage, but try to stretch your consciousness to allow for the idea that this wasn’t some perfect marriage that was shocked by the discovery of cheating. There may have been a lot of pain, suffering, and abuse in both directions for a long time. The cheater always looks like the worst one, but there’s a good chance that nobody was innocent in that marriage.

infidelity in family

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Perhaps, divorce has come up

So many times, in the cases of fidelity within my friends and family, it comes out later that the two discussed divorce many times. They either decided to stay together for the kids, or one person would not allow for the divorce to go through, for fear of shame, or because it was against his or her religion. It’s possible this was the case for your parents, which would leave them in a difficult and miserable situation. It could lead to cheating. That’s just one of the reasons couples shouldn’t stay in a loveless marriage for the kids.

infidelity in family

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They grew up with marriage pressure

Your parents grew up in a different time than you. They grew up in a time when women were considered doomed spinsters if they didn’t marry before age 30 (or even 25). They grew up in a time when the idea was, you graduate college, meet someone, and marry that person two years later. This whole getting to know someone for a long time and living with them thing that we do, today—your parents probably didn’t do that. They felt pressured to marry early, and for that reason, to likely marry the wrong person.

infidelity in family

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And baby pressure

Your parents also come from the era of baby-making pressure. Today, we accept that women can and will have babies in their late thirties and into their forties. But that probably wasn’t the case for your parents, who were told that having lots of kids young is just what you do. So, in many ways, they were pressured into further and further committing to someone (each other) they probably didn’t know that well. The focus on compatibility wasn’t high back then.

infidelity in family

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Maybe, in a way, it fixed your family

This can be hard to admit, but look around: is your family perhaps better for the cheating? Did it bring to light serious issues between your parents that they were finally forced to address and fix? And now they’re happier? Or did it make it clear that they should finally split up, so they did, and now, they’re happier apart?

infidelity in family

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You probably want a relationship with your family

Here’s the thing about not forgiving your parent: you may cause a riff in the whole family. Others may forgive him. Your siblings. Even your betrayed parent. Your aunts, uncles, and grandparents. So, if just you won’t let it go, you make things hard on everybody. Everyone has to choose between seeing you or your parent who cheated. Your family feels they can’t even talk about that parent in front of you. Your anger becomes a burden that everyone must carry.

infidelity in family

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You want your kids to know their grandparent

You’ll also find that you want your kids to know their grandparent. It will be hard to hold onto that anger when what you really want is for your children to have that complete family feeling, with all grandparents around for birthday parties and holidays and special occasions. And the guilt of keeping the unfaithful parent from his grandkids will eat you up.

infidelity in family

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One day, you may want to cheat

I’m not saying that you will cheat. I am, however, saying that if you marry someone and spend decades with that person, you may have times when you want to stray. When your spouse is emotionally absent for months at a time during a rough patch, for example, you may find yourself thinking of someone else. Then you’ll realize oh I’m not perfect either.

infidelity in family

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Or you may have a spouse who cheats

You may have a spouse who does cheat. It will be terrible. But, you may decide to forgive him and work through it. That will be a strange time in your family. So you’ll forgive your spouse, but not your parent—the person who gave you life, raised you, and sacrificed for you? Maybe your spouse won’t physically cheat but you’ll feel emotional cheating occurred.

infidelity in family

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Your friends won’t be perfect

It’s easy to hold onto militant and unforgiving policies on infidelity when you’re young and haven’t yet been, say, married for 15 years. But you’ll quickly find that life makes it very hard to remain so militant. You’ll have a best friend who sleeps with a married man because she claims she loves him. Are you cutting out that best friend? Since you, apparently, cut out cheaters. One of your siblings may have an affair. Will you stop speaking to her? You’ll see: staying mad at every single person who has a slight transgression just isn’t sustainable.

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