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professional_Alison
professional_Alison, Child Care
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 71
Experience:  Degree in early years,16 years experience in childcare
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My wife Susan’s adultery became clear to me three years ago.

Customer Question

My wife Susan’s adultery became clear to me three years ago. Despite her complete lack of remorse or recognition that she’d done anything wrong, I decided to try to keep things together because we have three kids (10, 12 and 17). I tried to get Susan to go to marriage counselling but she didn’t really take it seriously. The guy Susan was involved with didn’t hang around long but she has now decided that she wants out, as soon as possible. We are all still living together right now and, while it has not been comfortable for me, I wanted to keep things stable for as long as I could. It seems the time has now come for that to change. My concern now is over the best way to manage telling the children about the fact that their mother doesn’t want us all to live together any more. Obviousy, I need to reassure them that it’s not their fault, that it’s just something their mother has decided to do (I really cannot tell them it’s something we’ve decided: it isn’t) and that I still love them just as much as ever. But when should I tell them? When is an important question: they will need to know in the fairly near future so I’m not sure I think it’s good to put it off any more. On one hand, it would be great for them to live in blissful ignorance for as long as possible. On the other, might it help for them to have time to prepare before things start falling apart around them? I would love to get a meaningful answer as to how I can minimise the mental trauma that the children will suffer. I do hope there’s somebody there with some real, empirical experience of this sort of stuff – can you help?
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Dr. G. replied 1 month ago.

Hello sir. I hear your concern and it is one that is unfortunately common. There are two things that stand out in your question. First is how and when to tell the children. They will not live in ignorant bliss as long as there is tension between the parents. No matter how hard the two of you hide your feelings, the children will pick up on the underlying problems. I would put the responsibility on your wife to tell them, if she could handle it. She is bringing this upon the family, so let her deal with the children's reactions. That would be my first way of approaching it. If she refused, then it would be time for a family meeting with you and the children and let them know about the changes that are coming. I would not get into specifics about what the mother is doing, but do be honest that their mother no longer wants to be in the relationship. Second, the long-term effect. There is no definitive research to say how things will turn out. However, there are protective factors that can help in the long run. These would include: providing stability for the children, honest communication, one parent who has the children's best interest in mind, social support, and most importantly keeping the children out of the middle of quarrels between the parents. I hope this helps you and good luck sir.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
Thank you. I think that, if it were left to Susan, she would like to present this as, "Mummy and Daddy have decided that they would be happier living their lives separately...", whereas the truth is that she has unilaterally decided to split up the family. While I think it's important to use language that's as dispassionate as possible, I don't think I can leave it to her to tell the kids -- and I am inclined to tell them myself. What do you think?On the matter of when to talk to the kids, you are quite right that they know not all is well between Susan and me. They don't, however, know what her plans are or the consequences that will affect them so dramatically. Susan will make me sell the house (I can't afford to keep it after the divorce, when our assets will be split), which the children love, and, of course, the children will end up spending some time with her and some with me, at different locations. There could be consequences for the kids' schooling etc...So my question on timing is about when it is best (for the kids) to be told about what's going to happen. I don't think it would be good for it to be done the way Susan's mother did it -- telling her kids she and her husband weren't going to live together any more and then promptly leaving. I had hoped that Susan's experience of her parents breaking up (when she was about 11) would help her to be compassionate in keeping things stable until our kids were a bit older but that is not going to happen. So, the question is when (and, possibly, how) to tell the kids what's going to happen.What do you think about these issues?Best regards,J
Expert:  Dr. G. replied 1 month ago.

I think you are right that she will probably use the word "we" instead of "I" want to leave the family. By you having the discussion, you have more control over the direction it goes. So, when you tell the kids that mom wants to leave, don't fill in the blanks. Let them go and ask her why. You need to put some responsibility on her for this. I am assuming the children are in school now, so ideally if things needed to happen, it should be done over the summer. Can you and Susan start planning for this? You can tell the children at any time, but the plan may not go into effect until they are out of school. If you and Susan can have reasonable conversations, it would be best for the two of you to start looking at housing situation, custody, visitation, etc. The more you two can agree upon now the less likely lawyers need to be involved. If you guys have a game plan, then when you talk to the children, you would already have a plan to present them with. Unfortunately with so many couples, it is a spur of the moment decision and the family is left picking up the pieces as they go along. What are your thoughts.

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