Effects of Infidelity on Adult Children-Part III

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One of the most visible effects of the infidelity is distance. The distancing may be physical, emotional or spiritual. The child no longer feels the closeness to the parent that may have once existed. Some people may even withdraw from the parent, creating even greater distance.

In terms of dealing with the distance, the degree which the family can discuss the affair is a big factor. In cases where they can not openly discuss the matter, the distance issues are more difficult to work through. The daughter of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, carried on a correspondence with her mom in trying to cope with her father’s affairs.

In some cases the child copes with the affair, by imitating the behavior or attitudes of the parent that betrayed them. This imitating is one of the factors behind family patterns of infidelity. It is not by chance that infidelity often runs within families.

The behavior needs to be understood before it can be dealt with. If the issue can not be discussed, it can not be resolved. It will be important to discuss what has happened and what it means to each member of the family. Disregarding the children because they are too young or too old, or it is a secret they don’t know is a mistake. The line of people who regret what they did is long. Using these assumptions as a reason for not dealing with the issues is a big mistake. I encourage you to begin discussing the effects of the affair. If you need to ask for forgiveness, do so.

Best Regards,

Jeff Murrah

Nothing in this Work is intended to replace common sense, legal, medical or other professional advice. If your situation warrants it, please seek competent professional counsel.


  1. Andi says

    I am thrilled to find these discussions that so clearly understand the dynamics of what I and my children (now 18, 21, 24) have been living through, but in all the readings here I do not see any discussion of the fact that often the injured spouse is also left destitute financially (the adulterer having also decimated their work relationships). My (now) adult children have gone from wealth to bare survival and they see me with no financial means to support myself in a desperate economy at a mature age. No pension left, our home and possessions sold. Their dad has deserted us in guilt to move across the country and has told me to tell them “good-bye” and that he “loves them”. He is almost penniless and being supported by his now-wife/affair partner. My children are not responding to the one card they get on their birthday with a small check. I have always told them that they are free to call/contact him and develop some kind of relationship, but it is forever changed. He wasn’t just sexually unfaithful…they struggle to forgive that they were deserted financially, too, and that he chose this relationship over being there for them…it is a grave injury to feel that your own father doesn’t value providing for you. (His affair was secret for 2 yrs, portrayed to her he was single, and he disappeared on me/us without warning…just left. I took him back a few times with a tremendous support system from counselors, church and loving friends, but he took off again, and again, and again. It was like living with a heroin addict at some points. He feels great pain…would return even now again, but he has many many spiritual and personal issues to resolve and the risk is too great, relationship too damaged) My poor sons who loved him so don’t even know who he is and are trying to figure out who they are, as his sons. What kind of relationship can you have with a man who can say “the perfect words of sorrow” but will act in his own self-interest when life is hard, unconcerned for your own pain? It is unsafe.
    Only our faith is taking us through it.

  2. says


    Thanks for writing. The financial setback is one of the hard realities of an affair. The loss of income often takes years to overcome if it is overcome at all. The loss is often both immediate with the loss of income and long-term with the loss of investments, pensions or retirement. It makes it harder when the cheater leaves a good support system when they bail. The pain is made worse by him wanting you to relay the messages of how he ‘loves them’. When you said that he was like a heroin addict, you are making a good observation. The cheater is often not in the right frame of mind when they are doing such things. It grieves me to think how he has alienated his children as well. The damage done will require tremendous effort to repair assuming that he want to repair it. That kind of rupture in the family relationships can also trigger a sense of spiritual estrangement as well.

    In terms of your question, “What kind of relationship can you have with a man who can say “the perfect words of sorrow”” , the answer is to look at his actions rather than his words. He is telling you of his intentions and present emotional state. There may be a part of you that wants to believe him, especially when he says the right things. DON’T FALL FOR IT! It may be what you want or long to hear, but that is what makes it dangerous. Look at what his actions are, rather than his words. When you see him fully repentant, taking steps to repair the damage and HATING the lover, the affair and all that goes with it, then, you can start to believe him if you want to.

  3. heartbroken says

    My dad had an affair with my mother’s caregiver. Mom had dementia. After my mother passed, they continued to see each other. I told him I didn’t like it and why. He didn’t care. I found out they were getting married via an invitation in the mail. It’s been horrible and I am heartbroken. I have no idea how to even begin to recover and forgive. Help.

  4. says


    My heart aches on hearing about your situation. Dealing with dementia makes any situation even more painful. When affairs are put into the mix, it makes it even more painful. Some spouses treat the ‘in sickness and in health’ part of their vows in a cavalier manner. They put their own desires ahead of their vows and in the process disregard the impact their choices have on the family as a whole. I understand that many relationships begin between the non-afflicted spouse with caregivers. In their own pain, they do not see the consequences of their action, nor do they often want to see. They often do not view what has happened as the betrayal that it is. In terms of recovery, there are few groups that deal with this situation. Dementia support groups do not deal with affairs, and neither do groups such as ‘Adult children of Alcoholics’ although the instruction they offer regarding family dynamics could prove beneficial in your situation. It is as if you need a little piece of the information that each group has to offer.

    I have often considered it cold and impersonal when children find out about their parents marrying via an invitation. Yes, the parent let you know, but HOW they did it comes across as in insult. By using this option, it tells me that your dad likely heard what you said to him and is struggling with it on some level. I understand that life goes on, yet his choices have made the situation more challenging than it needed to have been. Forgiveness may need to occur a little at a time. Since there are several layers of pain/hurt, it will make forgiveness a several step process. Holding onto resentments will make recovery take longer. It will not make it impossible, just longer that it would have been. I will make it a point to cover some aspects of this in some of my upcoming posts. Thank you for taking the step of talking about the situation on the blog.

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