5 Things Kids Learn When Parents Cheat
In the first years of a child’s life, they look up to their parents. But their perspective can be shaken when one of the parents is cheating. Here are the effects of infidelity on children. You must talk to your child about it when you stop them from cheating. They may start thinking that their family isn’t as safe a place as they thought it was.
I know it feels like having an affair is something between adults and something kids will never know about, but when they do, the things your kids learn when you cheat are quite meaningful and life-changing.
As parents, we work hard to set a good example for our children. We exemplify kindness and honesty because we want our children to be healthy and happy. And then we go cheating, something that mostly goes against everything we’ve taught them. And with the discovery of an affair, our parental role model function collapses.
So if you’re thinking about having an affair, or if you’re having one and wondering if it’s worth it, think about how it might affect your children.
Effects of infidelity on children: parents having an affair
Common effects of infidelity on children. Here are 5 things your kids will learn when you cheat on your spouse.
1. That they don’t have to comfort themselves.
Almost from the moment they are born, we try to teach our children to comfort themselves. We let them “cry themselves” as they drift off to sleep. We teach them how to manage their feelings and get through sadness or disappointment. It’s not easy to convey, especially to adults who struggle with it themselves.
I have a client who was unhappy in her marriage. It had been like this for years and she hadn’t dealt with it because it was difficult for her. Then she found a partner who was in the same situation and they could share their pain. Before they knew it, feelings of love and attraction developed from their intimate conversations. And the affair began.
For the first time in a long time, my client no longer felt unhappy. For the first time in a long time, she felt joy and hope for the future. And that was exhilarating.
When she was with her husband, she felt wonderful, and when not, she was desperate. The pain she had struggled with for years came back as she went about her normal life. It became unbearable not to be with her lover.
When her affair was exposed, she tried to explain to her children that she had been unhappy and that’s why the affair happened. What her kids learned was that when you’re unhappy, it’s okay to reach for other things to calm them down. For example an affair. Or alcohol or drugs. That’s not a good lesson, is it?
2. That marriage can be thrown away.
Both of my parents had affairs when I was a kid. I vividly remember walking into the office with my father and knowing that he was having an affair with a co-worker. A strange man kept calling my mother. She told us he was her attorney.
So I knew from an early age that my parents’ relationship was not important to either of them. They could pretend it was, but my siblings and I knew it wasn’t. And when they got divorced, we were taught a lesson.
My siblings and I were notorious for never being able to stay in a relationship once we started dating. We were always looking for the next sparkly thing. Our parents hadn’t taught us how to respect a relationship or how to keep it healthy. So we were poking around in the dark, trying to break free of a relationship that we could commit to.
My brother, sister and I have all had marriages that ended in divorce. Two of us had affairs. We all swore that our marriages would be different from our parents, and yet we all unknowingly learned from and followed their example.
So don’t kid yourself. Your children are watching and they are learning from you. Don’t teach them that marriage isn’t worth fighting for.
3. That they can’t trust their parents.
My father’s first affair happened when I was 7 years old. I was young, but I knew instinctively that what my father was doing was wrong. By spending time with another woman, he cheated on my mother. And by betraying my mother, he betrayed me too.
A child’s relationship with their parents is one based on absolute trust. We have to trust them to learn how to walk, how to interact with others, and how to drive a car. They are the foundation of our path to adulthood. And when that trust is broken, our path to adulthood can be severely damaged.
After the affair, I could no longer rely on them to tell me the truth. When they tried to correct me, I ignored them because I knew they couldn’t teach me about right and wrong. As a result, as a young adult, I was plagued by depression, alcohol, and toxic relationships.
The fundamental non-trusting relationship of my life, with my parents, was too weak to grow into a healthy adult who could not be in a relationship with anyone, not even myself.
4. That marriages are toxic.
I would say that almost invariably affairs happen when relationships are bad. Affairs happen when the breakup seems insurmountable getting out seems impossible and the only solace is reaching for someone else.
When children learn that their parents cheat, they get a front-row seat to how toxic marriage can be. The aftermath of discovering an affair is BAD. moms cry. The fathers are angry. Nobody talks. Everyone acts like everything is fine, but nothing is fine. This can go on for months or even years.
A child develops his conception of marriage by observing his parents. I know I wanted to believe that I could live happily ever after in my marriage, but in hindsight, I was pretty sure I knew we weren’t going to make it last. And I was right.
I truly believe that if I had lived in a family where marriage was based on mutual respect and the ability to communicate, I would have known what a happy marriage looks like and how I could bring that to my marriage. But that didn’t happen. And now my children have two divorced parents. Just like me.
5. That her family is not safe.
I know I should come back to this, but it’s important to say that the health of a child’s family is the most important predictor of whether they will be a healthy adult. And when an affair is uncovered, that family is sick, often irreparably damaged.
Remember your childhood. Think about family birthdays, vacations, and vacations. Do you remember how much fun that was? Do you remember how safe you felt when your father threw you in the water or your mother placed a cake with ten lit candles? You knew you could rely on these people. That they would always do the right thing for you.
An affair throws all of that upside down and it makes the kids feel unsafe. If their father was willing to love anyone other than their mother, how do they know he won’t free other children to love as well? If their mother turned their back on their father, how can they believe that she will always be there when they need her?
And because they know they have no family to protect them, they feel insecure about their place in the world and their hopes for the future. And with this insecurity, they venture out into the world without knowing where their place in it is.
I know it’s hard to believe there are things you teach your kids when you cheat on your spouse. I mean, they’re supposed to be separate, right? After all, the affair has nothing to do with the children.
Unfortunately, that’s just not true. Children watch, they listen and they learn. You don’t miss anything. If something is wrong, they know it. What they don’t know is what to do when something is wrong. And so they fidget, misbehave, and suffer.
Studies have shown that children of scammers are more likely to cheat than children whose parents did not cheat. And now that you know how painful infidelity can be to someone, wouldn’t you do anything to prevent your child from going through that pain? You wouldn’t put your child’s hand on a hot fireplace on purpose, but you’re setting them on the right path to having an affair and suffering a lot!
So think carefully about the things you are teaching your children about cheating on your spouse while making decisions about what your next steps are. After all, they should be the focus, right?
Cheating parents can distort the concept of marriage and love for a child. The effects of cheating parents can be more damaging than you think. So be careful how you handle the situation.
If you found this article about the impact of infidelity on children interesting, then share your thoughts on how a parent’s cheating affects a child.