It was almost 9 years ago when my ex-husband told me about his affair with a co-worker.
My kids were 4, 5, and 7. I looked at them the next morning after not sleeping a wink and throwing up a few times, knowing full well they were the reason I’d stay with him and try to make our marriage work. There was no way in hell I’d give up time with them; they were my life and I’d do anything to keep their world the same and not cause them any distress.
As hard as we tried, we ended up divorcing eventually. There were good times, but we both agreed the kids were the reason we stuck it out another six years. We just couldn’t make it work any longer. Our discontent started spilling into their lives, and it quickly became evident we were doing more damage to them by staying together than we would if we decided to separate.
I won’t lie, it was tempting to throw his affair in his face around them. Sometimes, it still is. It’s been so difficult to not tell them the truth during the times when they like their dad more than me, when they side with him, when they ask why I was so mean to him, when they blame me for our divorce.
There have been times his infidelity has stung me so bad, I’ve wanted relief. I’ve wanted to say to them, “You don’t know. You don’t know that it’s all his fault. He did this to us. It was him.”
But, my kids don’t need to know.
They don’t need to know about the hours I was at home taking care of all three of them alone when I thought he was at work.
They don’t need to know about the time I wanted their father to come on a family picnic with us on a Friday afternoon and he declined because he was going to see her.
They don’t need to know he screwed her in our family car and the reason for his short-temper that year was because he was being unfaithful to their mother, and according to him, “that was stressful as hell.”
They don’t need to know after his confession, he fell asleep on the sofa and I was up all night wondering what I was going to do with my life.
I was never directly approached by another man when I was married. But I always thought if I were, I’d never be able to do anything like that. It wouldn’t just be stepping out on my husband, it would be stepping out on my three children. Our family.
A part of me believes he cheated on his kids too. But, even still, I would protect him if they ever found out or asked about it. I would lie for him. I will go to my grave denying their father ever had an affair if they found out. For their sake, not his.
My kids adore their dad. He is a good father, he is a good man, and he’s already paid for his mistake by losing his marriage and only seeing his kids half the time.
They miss him when they aren’t with them. He’s taught them how to ride bikes and ski. He’d do anything for them. They know it, and I know it. And because of his love and devotion to them, they have a confidence about themselves I never had as a kid because of a strained relationship with my dad. I would never dare risk that.
This is how I want my kids to view their father. Now and always.
They don’t need to see him as someone who was unfaithful to their mother no matter how badly I want them to know why I struggle to get along with him sometimes.
This would be a situation they wouldn’t be able to un-see. And no amount of them favoring me over their fun dad, or not speaking to him, or holding a grudge against him, would be worth it.
The affair that happened is between me and my ex-husband. The problems we had in our marriage are between me and my ex-husband.
His infidelity seemed huge at the time because it was. But I’ve moved on — we’ve moved on — and we both deserve happiness.
In order to get that, I’ve had to let this go. I know if my kids ever found out, it would bring it back up to the surface. It would turn a healed scar into a throbbing, bleeding wound, and I’d never be able to inflict that onto my kids. It would be heartbreaking for them.
So yes, I’d lie until I was blue in the face and tell them nothing like that ever happened. I don’t care if his mistress came knocking on my door and let them in on it herself.
My kids don’t need to know everything their father has done. All they need to know is he loves them, he is a decent person, and is the best dad he can be. That’s it.
It never was, and never will be, their burden to carry.