Infidelity impacts marriages, relationships, and the people directly involved. All too often, that also means that children. Without children, a couple can keep it between them. Whether they decide to work together or separate, they don’t have to worry about hurting their child. What happens, then, when children are in the mix? How does infidelity affect them? And do kids from homes with infidelity go on to be unfaithful?
How Infidelity Impacts Children
The circumstances of infidelity will impact your children. There is no getting around that. Even if you have younger children, there will be tension between you and your spouse that they will pick up on. Those feelings of grief, confusion, resentment, and anger towards what happened could be reflected upon your children, and they may lash out because they are upset and don’t understand why.
In the event that you’re working out the infidelity amicably, such as through infidelity or marriage counseling, the impact on your kids is minimal. Since you are going about recovery in a positive way, your kids learn the ideal form of conflict resolution. As you and your spouse work together to overcome this obstacle, your children will see the strength it takes to do so.
It also helps when you provide support for your children as well. Sometimes, marriages fall apart after infidelity. No matter what happens, children should have someone to speak with during these times.
Another way infidelity impacts children is when a parent (or both) treats them as a confidant. You should never discuss your feelings or overshare details about the affair with your children. You could inadvertently turn them against your partner; that hurt will impact them throughout their whole life.
The Long-Term Effects Of Affairs On Children
Do kids from homes with infidelity go on to be unfaithful? It’s possible. There have been many studies conducted that aimed to answer that very question. What these studies found was unsettling.
First, let’s preface this with one known fact: Any kind of childhood trauma increases the chances of committing adultery. Keep that in mind.
The Journal of Family Issues posted the results of research that found children from homes with unfaithful parents were more likely to cheat in the future. Compound those findings with ones from Ana Nogales, a clinical psychologist and author of Parents Who Cheat: How Children and Adults are Affected When Their Parents Are Unfaithful. Nogales states that “55% of adult children that came from families where one parent was unfaithful ended up being cheaters themselves.”
Further research from Nogales also found that 75% of children feel betrayed by the cheated parent. Additionally, 80% of the study participants said that infidelity shaped their perceptions of relationships and romance. 70% disclosed that infidelity affected their trust in other people.
These statistics are no doubt sobering. That is why you shouldn’t overlook the hurt and sadness that infidelity inflicts upon others, especially children.
Helping Your Child Heal After Infidelity
Dealing with infidelity is never easy. When you’re in the middle of handling the chaos of an affair, your emotions are going to be everywhere. Even if you and your partner are determined to stay together, there are going to be times when you’re unsure if the marriage will pull through.
As you start sorting out what must be done, whether you are staying together or getting divorced, or if you’re taking time to mend, don’t lose sight of your kids. Even if you decide not to tell them about the infidelity because they are too young or it’s not the right time, don’t neglect their ability to observe and sense what’s happening.
Don’t Give Too Many Details
Depending on the age of your children and where you are within this infidelity conundrum, it’s best to disclose just enough. Younger children probably won’t understand what’s happening. They only know that Mom and Dad are upset. Older children may have an inkling. It’s up to you how much you wish to tell them, but if you do it, make sure both of you are there to talk.
Don’t pull the kids into your drama. Just let them know that you’re going through a difficult time, that you’re not getting along right now because of something Mommy or Daddy did. But let them know that you’re working on it.
Love Shouldn’t Vertically Shift
A lot of times, because of the hurt, it is common for a parent to withdraw their love from their partner and funnel it into their children. Don’t do that. Your kids are going to know that they are loved—that’s true—but they will sense that something is wrong. Kids are far more observant and empathetic than adults like to give them credit for, but try to remember when you were a child. Whenever your parents fought about something, it was probably more obvious than they wished.
This means that you shouldn’t vertically shift your love. Don’t remove your spouse from your life and let the love cascade downward. The best thing you can do for your children while recovering from infidelity is to show them that you and your spouse still love one another.
Look For Signs Of Upset
Some kids, especially older ones, are going to be upset and confused—just like you. Others may be angry at the parent who had the affair, especially if it seems like you are headed towards divorce. In this case, a therapist may be the best salve. A child therapist can be a pillar of support when the home doesn’t feel like home anymore; they can listen to the child’s worries, help them accept what happened, and work through their emotions.
This may even prevent children from growing up and having affairs themselves.
You don’t wish to hurt your children, but there are instances where it can happen. Infidelity is one of those instances. By acknowledging that an affair impacts children, you can begin working to soften the blow. It will be difficult working around kids while recovering from infidelity, but you must keep their faith in love alive. Be compassionate towards yourself and your child.
Couples Academy has been giving couples the tools to overcome these kinds of challenges and can do the same for you. Whether you want to rebuild trust, prevent infidelity, or merely want a more passionate marriage, Couples Academy has something for you. Give us a call today to learn more about the services and programs we offer.