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Things Moms Can’t Say: Your Dad Cheated on Me

[Editor's note: another in our series on "Things Moms Can't Say." Due to the sensitive nature of the content, the writer has asked to remain anonymous. I have sat on this piece for several months, trying to find a good ending to it, a kernel of positivity, but realized it is best left unsettled, for the reader to ponder.]

Divorce is hard. It’s emotional and physical and raw. There is no rule book for getting divorced or maintaining dignity in the relationship between two people who were once married and who share children. I can’t with certainty say there is a best way of ending a marriage. I can say with certainty there is a worst way.

I remember the first time I caught my ex cheating. My kids were still babies and I hadn’t worked since I had them. I was scared to death and he was so sorry. He didn’t want to lose his family and he said and did all of the right things to repair the damage from the cheating. I can still remember the crying. I would just cry and question everything; was it me? Was he still attracted to me? Was I not enough? Was this life that we created together not enough? And then one day the crying stopped and slowly the trust was rebuilt.

I remember the second time I caught my ex cheating on me. And the third. The kids were a little older each time. I was a little less scared and he was a little less sorry. The last time was actually discovered after the divorce. Some friends told me they had seen him with his mistress at one of the kid’s birthday parties speaking a little too close- I knew exactly what had been going on and why it was so easy for him to let go of the marriage.

It is a heavy burden being the keeper of his secret.

My kids never saw us fighting. They had no idea why we were moving out and to this day the only explanation for the divorce has been, “Sometimes married people just decide to not be married anymore.”

Which goes completely against the values they have been taught since birth. So, in order to keep his secret, I compromise their values. I have to lead them to believe people just give up on each other and that marriage is disposable, because the truth that could be told is worse.

Your dad cheated on me.

Would they even know what that means? Would they be able to understand the weight of that crime? They know how babies are made… but could they begin to understand how lethal the cheating is to a marriage? And is it fair to tell them? As mothers we have an instinct to protect our children and that includes their emotional well-being. I can’t imagine how that would effect them to know the truth of why their parents are no longer married. I don’t want my daughter to grow up to choose a partner who cheats on her and I don’t want my son to grow into a man who cheats. But I also don’t want them to grow up thinking marriage is flippant.

When the time is right, I will share the truth. But for now, I will try to model a healthy relationship, and hold their hearts closely.

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