*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Seeing someone else while you're married is giving up on the trust your spouse offered you, but when your kids realize what's going on, is that like creating a distance from them too?
Should kids tell the other parent what's happening, or is it better not to interfere and let them find out without making them upset?
My friend Andrea is in her second year of high school. She's living with her parents, Nancy and Liam, and her three brothers in Phoenix, Arizona.
Until recently, she was convinced they were getting along great, and she even looked up to them as an example of what she wanted her marriage to be like once she found the right partner.
"I loved how dad woke mom up on Sundays with flowers and breakfast. They were cute going out to have ice cream and complimenting each other and just doing everything they could to show they cared. Even cooking was fun because they made heart-shaped pancakes and included my brothers and me in plenty of games," Andrea said.
She enjoyed telling her friends that her parents were still in love after 23 years, and they all looked up to them since most of her classmates had single parents. Unfortunately, things didn't stay that way. And now Andrea is confused by what she knows.
Last Tuesday, she finished classes early, so she went shopping at the mall and had some pastries before going home.
As she sat at a table having soda and a slice of cake, she suddenly noticed her dad walking close by. He didn't go into the cake shop, but he was holding someone's hand. It was a woman she hadn't met before.
"She wasn't his colleague because I know them all, and she certainly wasn't my mom's friend. They were walking very close to each other, almost hugging. And I could tell he was smiling and whispering things to her," Andrea said.
She got up quickly, paid for her soda and cake, and walked after her dad and the woman he was with.
"I hurried to catch up, but then I walked to the edge of the walls so they wouldn't notice me. As I stayed in the shade, I could see them better, and I noticed he gave her a little box when they stopped for a bit. She looked inside, and I saw her holding some earrings and thanking him. And he called her honey and added he loved her so much, and she deserved that and more," Andrea said.
After Liam said that, he kissed the woman as his daughter stood watching from the other side of the mall alley.
"I was so surprised. It was like he couldn't be my dad. Not the dad who loved mom so much he couldn't go one day without complimenting her and showing her she was wonderful. Who was he, and what was he doing with this woman so much younger?" Andrea said.
What made it worse was that the woman looked like she was in college, a lot younger than Andrea's mom, who was in her 50s, just like her dad.
"It couldn't be he was one of those men who just wanted someone younger because they got bored with the same partner. Mom and dad were in love; I'd seen that. And yet, here he was, giving presents to someone half his age," Andrea said.
She went back home after she saw her dad and stayed in her room the rest of the evening. She hasn't told her mom anything yet because she isn't sure what to do.
"Dad is going out with someone else; do I tell mom? I know it's not fair for mom not to know. But if I'm the one who ends their marriage, I'm going to feel sad, and I don't want them to stop caring about each other. And what if he decides to leave that woman, and mom is better off never finding out because he still loves only her?" Andrea said.
She talked about it with her friends, and they felt it was best for her to stay out of it. If she kept seeing her dad meeting the woman during the next six months, they advised telling her mom everything.
"It's just so unfair. This used to be my happy family, where only love and fun times counted. And now I feel like I have to keep a secret for dad, and it's something I don't want to know anything about. And he shouldn't have done such a thing. I'm not sure I can feel the same way about him, even if I know he still loves us, kids. Mom matters too, and it's not ok to disregard her feelings if he's having an affair," Andrea said.
What do you think about this situation? Should Andrea tell her mom what she saw and let her decide how she feels about it? Is it better to avoid interfering and hope her dad will leave the other woman and focus on his wife and family again?
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