How marital affairs can lead to divorce, which harms children

Dina tweeted this article from the UK Daily Mail about affairs and the harm they cause.


Jean Duncombe, a sociologist who has conducted extensive research on the subject, says: ‘I’m puritanical when someone tells me they’re having an affair — because of the work we’ve done on the impact of divorce on the children.

‘If people say to me that the children don’t know, I say: “Are you sure?” or “Think about what you’re doing to the children” — and I never would have said that 20 years ago.’

For parents who have affairs are not only lying to their partners, they are often deceiving themselves about the impact their infidelity can have on their offspring.

‘The children are too young to understand what’s happening,’ they reason. ‘In any case, it doesn’t concern them. And children are resilient.’

All of the evidence points to the contrary. People don’t just betray their partners when they shatter family life with a serious affair — the sad truth is that their children grow up believing their parents have been unfaithful to them, too.

There is substantial research on the short and long-term effects of divorce if it isn’t handled well.

For children, these include low self-esteem, a sense of being abandoned, poor performance at school, anti-social behaviour and the heartbreak of simply missing the absent parent.

Separations provoked by an affair tend to be the most acrimonious. Each parent shoves the blame for the split on to the other, sometimes forcing the children to take sides by supporting his or her version of events.

By tearing a child’s loyalty in two, parents can inflict profound damage. To make matters worse, research has shown that around half of all fathers lose contact with their offspring within two years of the separation.

An acrimonious divorce, according to research, doesn’t simply hurt children at the time; it can also store up problems for their future.

So, even if their parents separated when they were small, they won’t necessarily suffer the full effects until they become adults themselves.

It can contribute to their own marital problems — including affairs of their own — or hamper their ability to form lasting relationships.

[…] When an affair is discovered, both parents are so anxious, angry and even traumatised that they have limited resources for dealing with more stress from their children, who are likely to be more demanding than usual.

In some families, sons and daughters are sucked into the emotional vortex. In others, they are given little by way of explanation other than: ‘Mummy and Daddy aren’t getting on very well at the moment.’

Lily says her adult children find it hard to trust and respect their father because he lied to them as children and still denies he had an affair with the woman to whom he’s now married.

‘My son went through a very bad time as a teenager, drinking too much and running away,’ she says.

‘Both children mind to this day that my ex has never come clean about what really happened.

‘My daughter hasn’t settled down with anyone yet — she doesn’t trust that it could last.

‘My son, who’s married, once asked me if I thought infidelity might be in his genes because of the fact his father was serially unfaithful.

‘He seriously considered not getting married at all because he didn’t want to risk hurting his girlfriend in the way that he’d been hurt.’

Very interesting read about what it is like to be a child in an environment like that. I think it’s worth it for us to read articles like this so that we take the problem seriously and make plans to avoid it. If we know how hard it is for children to go through something like this, then not only will we be more careful ourselves, but we’ll be more confident when telling other people who ask for our advice on these things. Sometimes, knowing the details of the harm that can be caused helps us to avoid behaviors that lead up to the harm. We have to know the harm, and we have to know the causes of the harm. Affairs cause divorces, and divorces harm children.

So let’s be careful when we choose who to marry. Has this person shown that they can be faithful? Can they control themselves sexually? Are they good at providing for our needs so that we won’t be tempted to have an affair? Are we good at providing for their needs so that they won’t be tempted to have an affair? How serious are they about religion and morality – do they care about moral obligations when they go against their self-interest? How accustomed are they to limiting their own conduct for the good of others, especially children and animals? Those are the questions we should be asking before getting married.

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