Far too often, when one parent is having an affair, they will re-write marital history in an attempt to justify doing what they know is wrong. "I love you but I'm not in love with you" "We're just friends" "It just happened" and "I've been miserable for years!" are all part of a very common script that Disloyal Spouses follow. In an attempt to justify their behavior, a cheating spouse builds a fantasy that includes such fairy tales as: "Affairs are love stories," "My Loyal Spouse will just move out and the Other Person can move right in," "I'll get to keep the house and get child support," and "My kids and family will be glad I found happiness and love the Other Person." But the most outrageous fairy tale of them all has been broadcast on the news, on TV, in magazines, in movies--and that is that the kids are resilient and they will be okay. How many unfaithful spouses have devastated their spouse and absolutely DESTROYED their children with the flimsy excuse, "They'll be okay"? This is just purely false, and I personally believe we need to educate people about the truth!
The TRUTH is found in this study: the kids are NOT okay when their parents divorce, and over the harm is not temporary--they are harmed and the harm done is long-term and extensive. Children whose parents divorce consider suicide, and for boys they are three times as likely to think of killing themselves than counterparts in two-parent families. Would you like to hear some additional studies about the TRUTH of what divorce does to the children? Teenagers in single-parent families and in blended families are three times more likely to need psychological help (Peter Hill “Recent Advances in Selected Aspects of Adolescent Development” Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 1993). A study of children six years after a parental marriage breakup revealed that even after all that time, these children tended to be “lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure." (Wallerstein “The Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children” Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 1991). Compared to children from homes disrupted by death, children from divorced homes have more psychological problems. (Robert E. Emery, "Marriage, Divorce and Children’s Adjustment” Sage Publications, 1988) That means that the DEATH of a parent is LESS devastating to a child than a DIVORCE. (Even I wouldn’t believe this if I didn’t see the statistic myself.) A Child in a female-headed home is ten times more likely to be beaten or murdered. (The Legal Beagle, July 1984, from “The Garbage Generation” Ch. VI The Custody Trap, page 64, the whole paragraph)! Whether you use children's grades, standardized test scores, or dropout rates, children whose parents divorce generally perform poorly in school and these results have been found quite consistently throughout a variety of research studies over the past three decades!
So let's recap. If you're having an affair, and you're thinking about divorcing your children's other parent so you can legitimize your adulterous relationship, you need to know that:
- Your children will be three times as likely to think about killing themselves--it hurts them THAT much! Is that how you want your child to feel so you can feel "happy"?
- Your children will be three times more likely to need psychological help than their friends in school who's mom and dad stayed together.
- For more than SIX YEARS after the divorce your children will feel "lonely, unhappy, anxious and insecure"--is your happiness worth making them feel like that for SIX YEARS?
- Your children will have lower academic scores and a higher likelihood of dropping out of school altogether.
- Your children will have a higher likelihood of having psychological problems and issues requiring counseling, possibly even mental illnesses, even than children whose parents have DIED!!! To rephrase that, the death of a parent is less traumatic than a divorce.
- Your children will be ten times more likely to be beaten or murdered. Yes, you read that right. That would be enough to stop me dead in my tracks right there.
So make no mistake. An affair is not a "love story." It is not "loving" for the Other Person to treat a married person as if they are available. Even if there were troubles in the marriage, a true friend would steer you back to your spouse and help you figure out how to communicate with your husband or wife. It is not "loving" for a Disloyal Spouse to put their own happiness ahead of their commitment to their spouse, their obligation to their marriage, or their responsibility to their children. And it most definitely is not "loving" to do this kind of long-term damage to children who are depending on your for protection and love. So do the loving thing. Yes, it will hurt and yes it will be hard, but do the right thing and love your children enough to work it out with their parent and work hard to make your marriage a place where you can be happy. Don't fool yourself--your children will not be "okay."