“Kids are flexible”,”kids are oblivious”, “don’t worry about the kids, they do not even know what has been happening”, “do what makes YOU happy”, “kids love having two families”, ” more brothers and sisters”, and “kids are resilient, they will bounce right back” and that’s just the beginning. Oh, my goodness, it is absolutely CRAZY the way we have tried to minimize the pain and suffering we cause our kids that go thru the tragedy of having front row seats to a once loving Mom and Dad, to the suffering of the catastrophic damage of an affair and possible divorce. And unless you have tiny babies, your kids know SOMETHING! And if you have preteens or teenagers, take off the blinders of arrogance and/or naivete, THEY KNOW!
In a world of social media, TV, movies, communication, we simply do not give our kiddos enough credit! Not to mention if as they say, we are suffering from around 75% of all marriages having at least one affair, then odds are significant that they have watched the destruction happen in the family of someone that they know. It sure happens in music enough. Do not get me started about what the kids see on TV. And Social media is full of absolute garbage. Though they may not get all the lingo, they generally have a pretty good basic idea. Yes, Really! Kids are smarter than you think!
Let me also stress if you are the other woman or the other man, once the betraying spouse wakes from the fog of the affair, your words will haunt them. They will wake up to the devastation and realize just how selfish you were, how selfish they were and how your lies helped encourage the emotional destruction of their children. So often the relationship began by the other person trying to “help” the betraying spouse decide what they should do with their marriage, they act like a marriage counselor though it is all FAKE and of course their advice is one sided! I know that for Bryan this is exactly what happened. I do not know how many times I heard come out of Bryan’s mouth “Kids are resilient. blah, blah, blah”, after hearing that over and over I was ready to scream! Bryan finally confessed at some point after the affair, that the statement was fed constantly to him by the other woman. And the truly sad thing is that her own children had watched an angry bitter divorce and the ensuing battles over the years and guess what? Not only do they suffer from their parent’s actions every single day, they will suffer from the pain of that anger and bitterness for the rest of their lives! Simply put Narcissism at its finest!
During the affair, it was like the kids just knew. Well before we officially had our first knowledge of the affair, Bryan and I were not really even fighting, in fact until maybe just a few months before we found out, I thought our marriage was on solid ground. I believed that we were a united force and nothing could come between us, EVER. But our oldest was acting out at school. He was acting out at home. Somewhere inside, many months before we found out, he knew something was not right. Our youngest was a little less obvious in his knowledge, but we now know that he felt everything. He internalized everything. Like a sponge, he sucked up all the negativity and pain. And if you think just by sneaking around, being quiet, having whispered conversations, making your earnest attempt to shield your kids and yet you still think your kids do not know… you are a fool! You may think your business is your business, but the truth is… you are playing games with your child’s life if you are the betraying spouse. And if you are the betrayed, you have no choice but to helplessly watch the devastation that the narcissistic spouse has created.
Even though Bryan and I have stayed together, the destruction that lasted well over a year has made many marks on our boy’s hearts. You can still see the skepticism and distrust at times in their attitudes towards their Dad. They talk about not wanting to hurt others the way their Dad did. One swears he will never get married, “just in case”! They see and hear things that other kids might not see and hear. It is like a hyper-alertness. And hearing from who knows where that adultery is hereditary has been a burden that they do not need, but will now lurk in the back of their mind forever.
We are now at two years affair free! But you still see tiny bits and pieces of damage if you look closely enough. However, the boys have learned life lessons that help them relate to so many other kids. They have watched a man addicted to his affair fight to overcome and come out a better man, a good man, one that they are proud of. They have watched the struggle of a Mom dedicated to the marriage vows she spoke 26 years ago begin to smile and have joy again. They now see the value of the immensely difficult decisions that our family has made to stay together. Though I would not wish the pain on anyone, much less a child, it has happened. We can not take it back. We can only strive from this point to let our lights shine and show others the possibilities that come with the grace that God gives us.