When your partner cheats on you, you may feel a strong need for support from people who love you, and few people love you more than your family. Infidelity expert Ruth Houston cautions you to be careful about telling your family or your partner's because disclosing this information can complicate things if you plan to stay together and work it out. Telling your kids can also create problems, so when and how you tell family is important.
If you have children living at home, explaining that your partner cheated can create a difficult situation for your kids, who may feel compelled to choose one parent over the other, counsels psychotherapist and divorce expert Kate Schraff. If you are asked directly, you could calmly return question for question: “Why do you ask that?” Schraff says the kids may know more than you think or they could just be supplying ideas they’ve seen on television or heard from friends. With teens and adult children, an honest and straightforward answer is probably best, notes Schraff, as long as you don’t make your partner out to be the villain and you the martyred spouse. Remember that your partner is still their parent and they deserve to keep their relationship with your partner as healthy as possible.
When telling your family, realize that they may feel compelled to take and defend your side. If you plan to work things out, this could damage their relationship with your partner for a long time, counsels Houston. It could also affect their attitude and words around your kids, putting more pressure on your kids to take your side and make your partner the bad guy. Your explanation could be that you’re having a rough patch, things are complicated and you’re working it out, omitting details that might strain the relationship further. Leave damaging details out unless the marriage can’t be salvaged, and then only share what you feel they need to know.
Your Partner's Family
Houston says that telling your partner's family may backfire; they might blame you for the affair, if they believe you at all. If you want to maintain a good relationship with your in-laws, grin and bear it with a low-keyed explanation such as, “We couldn’t make it work” or “We’re still working to see if we can put our marriage back together.” Let your partner explain what went wrong and answer only the questions you feel will not put you in an untenable situation with your in-laws.
Extended family may dig for details, but you don’t have to hand them a shovel. Regardless of which side of the aisle they sat on at your wedding, they don’t have carte blanche to all the details of your life. If the relationship is over, just explain to extended family that you had differences you couldn’t reconcile. You don’t want them to see you as the victim or blame you because your partner strayed. Give the relationship a dignified burial and keep as many of the details to yourself as you can, confirming only what you must when you have no other choice.
Rev. Kathryn Rateliff Barr has taught birth, parenting, vaccinations and alternative medicine classes since 1994. She is a pastoral family counselor and has parented birth, step, adopted and foster children. She holds bachelor's degrees in English and history from Centenary College of Louisiana. Studies include midwifery, naturopathy and other alternative therapies.
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