Infidelity: It’s a Family Affair

I was reading an article in a magazine recently about why people cheat on their spouse. It was written by a woman who said she sleeps with married men. I’m not writing now to vilify her, because as we all know, it takes two to tango. And this may surprise all of you reading this, but I’m not writing to vilify the spouses who cheat either.

The reason I am writing is that I have read several of these types of articles over the years, and the thing that stuck with me after reading this latest one was the realization that none of them talked about the effect of cheating on children. I’m not talking the slight references that you read where it glances over the fact that infidelity does affect the kids in some way, I am talking a realistic portrayal of how kids experience a parent’s cheating in their everyday lives.

When we as a society talk about infidelity, we talk about the “in the moment” passion that took over. Or, we talk about how the love in the marriage died and is no longer fulfilling the emotional needs of the husband and/or wife. Or, we talk about how “it just happened” and two people struck up an emotional connection they weren’t expecting and found new happiness together. We talk about the statistics of cheating and how many marriages end in divorce. What is missing from these discussions is the kids.  

Where, for example, is the discussion about how kids – despite how naïve we think they are – always seem to know what is going on? Where is the discussion about how kids overhear conversations that they shouldn’t – conversations that no child should be exposed to? Where are the examples of children walking in on their jilted parent crying alone? Where is the discussion about the heartbreak and betrayal the child feels? Where is all of it?

We as adults tend to overlook children on many fronts. The woman in the article certainly did. After all, they weren’t her kids. She wasn’t responsible for them. But here’s the thing. Shouldn’t we all be responsible for them? Shouldn’t we all care if we are participating in something that shatters a child’s life whether we know them or not? Shouldn’t we all want to do our part as a society to raise children that are happy and healthy and everything in between?

I know that magazines write what sells, and I know that children mixed in with a story that’s supposed to be edgy isn’t really a great fit. But it would be nice sometime if one of these articles didn’t ask about why someone cheated, or how they cheated, or whether or not the cheated-on spouse had somehow allowed it to happen. It would be nice if they didn’t focus on the adults at all. Because at the end of the day, the kids are every bit as much in the middle of an affair as the adults are.

So the next time you read an article detailing the role that adults play in an affair ask yourself this: Why aren’t children part of the discussion? Because they are certainly part of the affair whether we want to admit it or not.

Shannon Hembree is a SAHM for twin toddlers and a kindergartner. She is also the co-founder of You can follow her on Twitter @shannon1hembree and Mamas Against Drama @mamasagnstdrama.


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