Regardless of your age, even as a child you know when something is not right in the family; and realising that one of your parents has cheated is no different. They can try and keep the full truth from you but usually you know what was going on all the time. When you realise fully what’s happening within your family it is natural to feel anger, sadness, disappointment, shame, confusion and other intense emotions. It is normal to react.
You might feel pressure to look after the betrayed parent or win back the love of the parent who cheated. But always know that this is NOT your fault and even though the parent who has cheated has mad a big mistake it doesn’t mean that they love you any less. The infidelity has occurred between your parents and both will still love you just the same.
Dr. Ana Nogales conducted a survey in 2009 called Parents Who Cheat and over 800 children of every age who had discovered one or both of their parents had cheated participated. Here are her findings of the feelings and reactions of children when a parent cheats:
Loss of trust
When children (of any age) learn of a parent’s infidelity they usually find it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to trust that someone they love will not lie to them, reject, or abandon them.
A child may feel as if the betraying parent who cheated has brought shame to the family and to them. If the child has been pressured by the cheating parent to “keep the secret” of their infidelity the child is left with an added and unwarranted burden of guilt.
Children often draw the conclusion that marriage is a sham and love is an illusion. When parents stay married even though one or both parent(s) continues having affairs, the effect on children is profound confusion about the meaning of both love and marriage.
Anger toward the betraying parent – A son or daughter often feels torn between feelings of anger and yearning toward the parent who cheated. Some children even felt as if there were two mothers or two fathers – the one who used to be their parent before the affair came to light (who was deserving of their love) and the one revealed to them when the infidelity was revealed (whom they now “hate”).
Resentment toward the betrayed parent
Some children resent the betrayed parent for being preoccupied with the drama of the infidelity and therefore not giving them enough attention, for becoming too reliant on the child or for having been unable to prevent the infidelity in the first place.
You may recognise yourself and your reaction to this situation in some of the above findings. Problems in your parents’ marriage can make you feel insecure and alone. Always remember that Kids Scorned is here to help you.
The Helpline Index shows you places you can contact for specialist help, our aticles and experts will give you support, advice and guidance and your Forum will put you in contact with other children and young adults going through exactly the same emotions and feelings that you’re going through right now and show you that life will improve and make sense and that you will survive this.