Cheating can be devastating to any relationship, but what happens when you have kids together? Even if you and your partner decide to resolve your problems, if your child finds out about the matter, it can make things even more chaotic. If you are wondering about the effects infidelity has on children, you may be surprised (and relieved) to know that it is not all doom and gloom – if handled correctly.
Everyone in a family is involved in an affair in one way or another. Whether it is seeing the parents cheated angrily and upset, or seeing the cheating partner feel guilty, it is important to remember that these are big emotions for everyone, especially young children. And while cheating feels like a death knell to a relationship, whether you stay together or not, you still need to work out some very real (and raw) feelings your child may have about it.
While it may seem like no relationship is recovering from an affair, it’s important to keep in mind that your role, even in such a mess, is that of a parent. After all, your child’s needs come first. So, make sure that your child’s emotional wellbeing is paramount as you move your life forward and understand the implications when infidelity enters a relationship so that you can help your child deal with their own emotions.
You might feel abandoned
Even if both parents still live in the same house, it doesn’t prevent negative feelings from occurring. The most common is quitting. “When a parent is lost, the child often translates the feeling of abandonment,” says Kimberly Friedmutter, author of the bestselling book “Subconscious Power: Use Your Inner Mind to Create the Life You Always Wanted” , Romper in an email. “The feeling of abandonment leads to suspicion and the child withdraws from the value of that parent and places more value on the parent who has stayed.”
You may feel like you have to “win over” the fraudulent parent
Whether on purpose or otherwise, children often internalize what is happening at home and more to the point, your relationship. Even if they have nothing to do with infidelity, your child may feel a sense of responsibility in making things right between you and your partner. “Children are smart and respond to changes in their parents’ behavior. When they see that they are behaving differently, e.g. B. sad, angry or shut down, this has a profound effect on them, ”says Dori Shwirtz, marriage and family mediator at Divorce Harmony. com notifies Romper in an email. “You may feel that you need to help make the ‘sad’ parent happy again or win back the love of the cheating parent.” Make sure your child doesn’t take on these unnecessary responsibilities and focus on helping them through this difficult time.
It can make them question everything
When a parent is unfaithful, your child may wonder what is real – and what is not – in your relationship. “If a parent is unfaithful, it can lead a child to question the stability they felt at home,” says Dr. Cassandra LeClair, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of Being Whole: Healing from Trauma and Reclaiming My Voice to Romper in an email. This is why you need to work extra hard to make sure that your child feels stable (and loved) by both you and your partner. Make sure you answer their questions and give them the time they need to work on what is really a very adult problem.
It is likely that they will be more likely to cheat in the future
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Not only can an affair tear a relationship to the core, but it can also set the stage for your child’s future relationships. “Depending on how it is handled, cheating can have long-term effects on the children,” says Shwirtz. “Studies show that children from fraudulent households are twice as likely to be unfaithful themselves.” And this can definitely be the case: The study “Family background and tendency to infidelity” found that children of parents who have cheated on, also cheat more often as adults.
You may be afraid of being true to both parents
When an affair occurs, it often feels like there’s a good guy (the one who has been cheated on) and a bad one (the one who has cheated on). But things aren’t always that black and white. And for children who love both parents, this is an especially delicate point when trying to control their emotions. As such, they may feel insecure who to trust and, most importantly, who to show their love to. “You may feel cheated and confused about loyalty,” says Dr. LeClair. “If you’ve been taught to be honest and care about other people’s feelings, you may wonder why your role models didn’t have to follow the same rules.”
You could get depressed
Although separating your own feelings about infidelity can be difficult, put yourself in your child’s shoes for a minute. Imagine that you are the child in the scenario and suddenly realize that your parents (whom you love) did not lead an idyllic life. It can make you question everything you thought was real or true about your family, and in some cases, it can cause your child to become quite depressed. “Infidelity can adversely affect children and lead to a dysfunctional family that can disrupt their lives and affect their potential,” Tatyana Dyachenko, a sex and relationship therapist, told Romper in an email. “For example, a child may become less motivated and depressed, underperform in school, or succumb to bullying in order to express their inner anger and resentment.” Be sure to monitor your child for signs of depression or changes in their personality, and give them as much love, kindness, and care as possible to keep them feeling safe and protected.
They might be worried that it will happen to them
Even if your child is too young to handle the severity of the infidelity, they may believe somewhere deep down that it can happen to their parents too, if it can happen to their parents. Therefore, you need to help your child understand that just because an affair has happened doesn’t mean they are automatically doomed to repeat the cycle, advises Friedmother. “They don’t want the child to feel like the same thing happens to them when they mate,” she says. “This false belief can lead the child to believe that they are not lovable and then perpetuate a pattern of inevitable abandonment.” Even if this is more likely to happen, try to teach your child that infidelity is not an inevitability.
It can help them communicate better
If your plan is to stick around (and not just for the sake of the kids) you will have long conversations about the matter and how to move on from it. Lots and lots of conversations. This helps your child by teaching them that through communication, understanding (and yes, love) you and your partner are working together to solve a very real problem, says Shwirtz. “Infidelity can actually be beneficial for the children if it’s a minor incident, and it leads to a settlement in the marriage where therapy begins and better communication between parents is established,” she says. “That said, the scam event can fuel growth and make the family healthier and more connected.”
Discovering an affair is a challenge for everyone, especially your child. Make sure they can express their feelings so that their feelings are heard and validated. You may even want to seek assistance if necessary so that everyone can get the care (and advice) they need during this turbulent time.
Weiser, D., Weigel, D., Lalasz, C. 2015 “Family background and tendency to infidelity”
Kimberly Friedmutter, author of the bestselling book Subconscious Power: Use Your Inner Mind to Create the Life You Have Always Wanted
Dori Shwirtz, a marriage and family mediator at Scheendungharmony.com
Dr. Cassandra LeClair, Ph.D., a relationship expert and author of Being Whole: Healing From Trauma and Regaining My Voice
Tatyana Dyachenko, a sex and relationship therapist