To Tell Or Not To Tell—About His Affairs

Submitted by: Erica

I spoke at a divorce support group last night and heard some interesting stories about adult children of divorce. One woman’s ex told her 19-year-old son that he was about to divorce her before he told her. Actually he asked his son whether he thought it was a good idea. I thought I’d heard everything but this was a new twist. The poor kid suffered a breakdown after the divorce. 
Another woman shared with the group that her husband was a serial philanderer but she hadn’t told her 21-year-old son the real reason they split. It seemed he had a variety of mental health problems and she was afraid of his reaction. Her marriage counselor and his therapist agreed. 

However, her son was curious about the reason for the divorce, and what his father had done and kept asking her. Her ex just lied to him, she said. I told her I felt her son deserved the truth. She didn’t have to tell him the details, just that his father had affairs, period, but I feel that family secrets are toxic.

I shared with her that my parents split up when I was ten, and got back together six months later. I had no idea why they split and neither of them told me. After my dad died, when I was 35, I asked my very proper mother why they broke up and she at first said, “we had problems.” I asked, “what kind of problems?” She said, “you know, problems.” I said, “mom, I’m thirty-five, you can tell me.” Finally she said, looking very embarrassed, “well he had affairs.” Strangely, I wasn’t shocked although I had no clue he’d ever had affairs. I never saw my dad flirt with other women or any signs that he’d screwed around. But somehow it made sense, considering who they were and what their relationship was like. 

She was the domineering wife, who controlled the marriage and took care of him, me and everything else. He was the dependent and resentful spouse, who acted like a rebellious teenager, just like my ex who also cheated, but just with the woman he left me for. It made sense that my handsome dad would rebel by having affairs. He was too dependent on my mom to actually leave.
I told the woman at the group that I wished I’d known about my father’s affairs. She asked why. I told her it would have helped me understand their relationship, my adolescence which was hell, and my own life. I thought I had a right to know about them, if only to sort out my own problems and issues. 

I wonder how other older divorced women have handled this issue?  How have you dealt with your adult children when it came to explaining their dad’s cheating, or your own for that matter?