There is a great article in Psychology Today about whether children should know if you’ve had an affair and as someone who was told first hand by my mother, I wish that she didn’t share her relationship woes with me… because frankly, I wasn’t able to handle it. Granted, it was Christmas day and she blurted out “Your father is having an affair with that HO HO,” as she pointed to the large woman passing out presents dressed as Santa Clause. I was 10 and quietly questioned why my mother was sharing this with me. That conversation became embedded into my mind, frozen in time. Thirty-eight years later, well after my mother’s passing, I learned that she had 3 affairs prior to my father’s affair.
The problem is that when you involve children, they hear one perspective and there are many layers to the story. It is the couples job to work through the pain, break down the walls of communication, and get to the root of the issue, then rebuild trust and figure out how to establish a truthful and open relationship.
This process begins with being truthful to yourself and breaking down the cycle of secret keeping. If you’ve grown up hiding secrets (like I have) then it starts with identifying when and where the patterns started. Did it start with hiding your parent’s secrets or perhaps hiding your parent’s affair or some other shameful family experience?
As I’m writing this story, and my thought are unfolding, it is clear that because my mother revealed my father’s infidelity to me and asked me to keep her secret, I learned the value of harboring secrets. Secret keeping became a familiar place, emotionally. So when I became an adult, I found a way to get back to this familiar feeling of hiding.
Every one of us have grown up with an emotional footprint… whether it is the feeling of shame, or guilt, or hiding secrets and, for some, this becomes our comfort zone…unconsciously. As adults, our biggest gift is awareness and stepping outside our body and mind patterns and recognizing that we don’t have to be in this familiar space. We can create a new space. A new feeling. One in truth and honesty. Getting to this place takes practice. It takes work. It is about practicing honest communication and sharing concerns with a therapist, a trusted friend or a spouse.
Based on my own experience, I would have preferred to enjoy my innocence and been left out of the conversation. Maybe it would have been more beneficial if my parents actually talked to each other to figure out why they made the choices that they did. When that roller coaster takes a dip, its a great time to review patterns, learn lessons and seek truth in this journey called life.