My Teenager Told Me About My Husband's Affair, Help! | Parenting
Dear Dr. G.,
I am pretty broken up about the state of my life. I was under the false impression that my husband of 20 years and I had a good and honest marriage. Apparently,not.
Here is what happened:
My 17-year-old daughter has been acting very quiet and somewhat anxious over the past six months. I tried to ask her if anything was wrong but she said no. I assumed that she was just acting like a moody teenager and decided not to keep bugging her with questions. Well, two nights ago she lied about something and I got pretty upset with her. She turned around and said "Well, if you weren't so clueless then you'd realize that I'm not the only liar in this house."
After I caught my breath and my daughter and I calmed down- I asked her what she meant. She told me that she had seen some of her father's text messages addressed to another woman that were sexual. She then questioned her father about this as they are very close. She said that he started to cry, admitted to her that he was in love with another woman, and pleaded with her not to tell me because he didn't want her to upset me. My daughter said that she was so nervous keeping this secret and that she had been having stomach pains for months. I told my daughter that I was glad that she told me and that I am so sorry that she had to keep this secret. Then,of course, I went to my room and cried my eyes out. I have made an appointment to see a therapist and will figure out what to do about my life and relationship. My worry is about what to do for and say to my daughter. She has been very upset since she revealed this secret. Please point me in the right direction. I have certainly messed up before.
A Clueless Mother,
First, let me say that I am so sorry that your family is in such turmoil. Sadly, despite the best of intentions marriages get off track and can become sources of great pain. And, in your case, your daughter was right smack in the middle of the issue. This is certainly not a desirable place for any child to be in.
I wish you luck in your own therapy and in couples therapy if you decide to pursue that course.
Regarding your daughter, both you and your husband need to talk to her and let her know that she is in no way responsible for causing a rift in the marriage. She could and should not have been expected to hold on to such an emotionally charged secret. Your husband needs to apologize to her for putting her in that position and you need to let her know that she is not responsible for your current anguish. You would have eventually found out anyway. My assumption is that your husband was becoming careless and you would have discovered the truth on your own.
You should reassure your daughter that you and your husband will work on your issues without using her as a confidante. Remember that she is a child not a friend.
If she continues to be distresssed both emotionally and physically then you would do well by her to offer her the option of talking to a therapist.
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