I have received a couple of requests to add material and articles about children affected by infidelity, whether they are the product of an affair or of the primary relationship.
Over the years I have heard many people justify their inaction in the face of their partner’s affair, as being ‘for the kids’. Perhaps it’s more socially acceptable to say, “I am sacrificing my own happiness for the happiness of my children” than it is to say, “I am too scared (or selfish, or comfortable) to leave but admitting it might make me sound like a weak or bad person.”
One thing that I rarely hear (I think I can count once, in fact) is, “I am choosing action because I will not permit my children to be surrounded by this dysfunction” or, “I am choosing action because I want to teach my children how to deal with life’s challenges with dignity and self-respect.”
Yes, striking out on your own as a newly single parent can be daunting - the financial considerations alone can be challenging, without the further concerns about lifestyle changes, custody and access, and your children’s upset. However, these are not sufficient justification to mire yourself in inaction. Moreover they are not even close to being sufficient justification to continue to subject children to the continual upset of witnessing the deterioration of their parent’s relationship. Children are not a ‘socially acceptable’ shield to hide behind as you avoid life’s difficult choices.
If you are going to martyr yourself for your children, do it by sacrificing your own wish to cling, wallow, deny or self-delude. Do it by making a healthy choice for yourself and them, and by being a role model for personal resilience, self-respect and boundaries.
Staying with a cheater for the kids might be nothing more than personal flimflam. If long-term or serial cheating has hit your relationship and you choose inaction, it might be worth considering if you’re choosing it for yourself regardless of how it impacts your children.
The Flip Side of Resilience
by Tracy Schorn
While it’s not okay for cheaters to rely on the resilience of children and chumps — it is okay IMO for chumps to find comfort in resilience.
So many good people feel compelled to stay in atrocious marriages because they don’t want to be the one to pull the plug and leave and hurt the children. There’s no denying that divorce is painful on children. It’s not something I ever want to be flippant about.
But modeling dysfunction is also painful to children. They see more than we think they see, despite our best efforts to protect them. Whether that’s a raging NPD, or a badly lopsided, unreciprocal relationship, or stumbling across the affair(s) before you do — kids sense fuckupedness too.
We model spackle to them. They may begin to see the world in terms of the Powerful and the Chumps. And hey, it’s good to be king! If relationships are about one person appeasing, accommodating, doing more than their share — then a smart kid is going to look at that example and conclude — it’s better to be the Winner who gets stuff, than the Chump who just gives and sucks up. Entitlement can be contagious.
There’s also such a scary view of single parenting, at least here in the States, with much moral opprobrium, which just angers the hell out of me. I know so many terrific single parents, and I’m sure you do too. Hell yes it’s a hard job, but it can also be a rewarding job that turns out some great kids, every bit as much as the Intact Family.
One of the best things about being a single parent is that you get to parent your way, with your values. If you’ve been dealing with a wing nut, it’s so freeing to not have to parent around their nonsense any more.
Chumps who are on the fence to leave — listen, it’s totally okay to think the “kids are resilient” and take the brave step to end a toxic relationship. It’s okay to comfort yourself with the thought that they will be okay and YOU will be okay, better even.
You aren’t leaving a marriage to marry a floozy, or drink yourself to death, or quit your job and become a motivational speaker. You’re leaving your marriage to save yourself and those kids. Yeah, cheaters love to say they are also saving themselves — oh, how could they carry on with the oppressive bonds of monogamy without cake! Bullshit. They’re indulging themselves, chasing rainbows. Chumps, you are actually, truly SAVING yourself. There is nothing selfish or self indulgent about the painful work of divorcing someone when done honestly.
The kids will be okay, because they have you. As I say a lot here, remember, it just takes one sane parent. A lot of kids don’t even get that.