One of the most painful experiences a committed couple can go through is betrayal. As a top paternity testing brand, we talk every day with men and women who have been unfaithful to their partners and may have produced a child as a result. They’re scared of the consequences of their actions:
? Will he leave me if he finds out the child isn’t his?
? Will she divorce me and take the other children?
? How can I ever afford to pay support for a child I had with the woman who’s not the mother of my other children?
? What if he never trusts me again?
Infidelity is painful enough to deal with when there are only two of you, but when there are kids in the mix, the decision-making process becomes downright excruciating. Any decision you make as a couple must take into account its effect on the young innocents in your relationship. There really are only two choices: you can stay together for the kids (and/or because you love or are committed to each other), or you can call it quits. There is no right or wrong: just what will be best for everyone’s well-being, in the long-term. No matter which path you choose, here are some tips for making it work.
One Way to Handle Betrayal: Staying Together for the Kids
3 Tips for Making it Work
If you decide to keep your relationship intact either for the kids’ sake, because you are committed, or for any number of other reasons, you’re in good company. Many couples have survived a betrayal, but it takes real work.
TIP #1: Get Help. Should you decide to stay together and work things out, marriage education courses can make a big difference in the quality of your future relationship, as can a good marital therapist. With all the intensive emotions involved, it’s essential to have an impartial mediator who won’t take sides or bring baggage to the conversation (in other words, work things out with the help of a professional and not your mother)!
TIP #2: Pay the Dues. Psychiatrist Mark Goulston suggests that a man who strays should offer his partner 4 Rs to respond to her 4 Hs:
- He should demonstrate Remorse to help heal her Hurt. Instead of getting defensive, the offender should show empathy toward his spouse.
- He should make Restitution to her in whatever way possible to respond to her Hate. This includes taking responsibility instead of blaming the behavior of his partner for his slip-up.
- He needs to Rehabilitate himself to lower her Hesitation to trust.
- He should Request forgiveness to help her stop Holding a grudge. This is seldom a fast process: It takes time to truly forgive and let go of the pain and shock. Be sincere, but also be patient.
TIP #3: Be Careful What You Tell the Kids. This is a tricky one. Psychiatrist Scott Haltzman writes thoughtfully on this subject. The partner who has been wronged may feel the need to explain to the kids why there is tension in the home. As Dr. Haltzman says, think twice. ‘When you turn to tell your children, are you sharing the knowledge with them because they must know, or are you telling them to vent your anger?’ There is no one right answer; you have to consider:
- Do the neighbors know?
- Are kids old enough to handle this information?
When in doubt, ask a professional.
Another Way to Handle Betrayal: Calling it Quits
3 Tips for Helping Kids through It
If you decide the betrayal has dealt a death-blow to your marriage or partnership, be aware that how you both handle the break-up affects your kids’ mental and physical well-being, so tread carefully and thoughtfully.
TIP #1: Create a plan. Before you have that all-important conversation with the kids, be sure both of are on the same page and can show a united front. Have important details already worked out, such as who lives where, when you will actually start the processing of divorcing, and who is mainly responsible for maintaining the kids’ daily routine, activities, and so forth.
TIP #2: Let the kids know it’s not their fault. A child’s natural reaction to an emotional trauma like this is to assume they did something wrong. Assure them that a break-up between adults has nothing to do with anything the child has or has not done, and make it clear that both parents love them very much and that this fact will never change.
TIP #3: Maintain consistent routines and habits. When things are in upheaval, kids feel safer and more secure when there is some kind of normalcy they can depend on. Allow your kids to have a voice in new routines, establish them quickly, and stick to them.
The Bottom Line
Of course, the tips listed above are just a jumping-off point and the process of recovery is much more complex. One thing’s for sure: A betrayal by a partner is one of life’s most painful experiences for everyone involved, including the kids. Whether you choose to stay together for their sake or decide the best option is to split up, help in going through the process is available.
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Goulston, Mark, M.D., F.A.P.A. “Betrayal – The Wound That Will Not Heal for Women.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC., 11 Feb. 2011. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/just-listen/201102/betrayal-the-wound-will-not-heal-women>.
Haltzman, Scott, M.D. “Should the Children Know You’ve Had an Affair?”Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC., 20 May 2013. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/surviving-infidelity/201305/should-the-children-know-youve-had-affair>.
Harrar, Sari. “15 Steps to Surviving an Affair | Reader’s Digest.” Readers Digest. Trusted Media Brands, Inc., 20 Nov. 2010. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://www.rd.com/advice/relationships/15-steps-to-surviving-an-affair/>.
“How to Break up When Children Are Involved.” WikiHow. WikiHow, n.d. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://www.wikihow.com/Break-up-when-Children-Are-Involved>.
Ressler, Jessica. “Would You Stay with a Cheating Spouse for the Sake of Your Children?” Emotional Affair Journey. Emotional Affair Journey, 13 Dec. 2012. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://www.emotionalaffair.org/staying-in-a-marriage-for-the-kids/>.
Weiner-Davis, Michele. “Got Kids? Stay Married … It’s That Simple.” Marriage Advice: If You Have A Family, Don’t Get A Divorce. Tango Media Corporation, 22 Oct. 2015. Web. 14 July 2016. <http://www.yourtango.com/experts/michele-weiner-davis/got-kids-stay-married-its-simple-expert>.