Last year, my mom came home from work white in the face saying that my dad had called her and confessed that he “may” have kissed someone at his job. Needless to say there were a lot of tears, a lot of screaming, and a lot of pain. In the days to come the plot thickened and we learned that not only did he kiss someone else, he was having a full-blown affair. Still, my mom who is a beautiful, intelligent, and a dignified woman decided to honor the 25 years they had together by giving their marriage one last shot.
Right before Christmas, my dad left the house. He tearfully moved away saying that he needed to, “fix things and get himself together.” After ceasing all communication with his paramour for several months, the phone bill revealed that he had called this woman the night before he left. A few days later he took his phone off the account so my mom couldn’t see whom he was talking to and added the other woman on Facebook!
My dad was someone I could always count on for wisdom and advice. We were kindred spirits who liked the same kind of movies, shows, books, and activities. We had a special bond and now I feel like I don’t even know him anymore. It feels like he has been possessed by aliens.
I can’t talk to him and “hang out” with him like he wants me to because I can’t be a hypocrite and pretend like nothing has changed between us when my world has been rocked due to his own selfishness. I told my dad that I don’t want to see him until he gets rid of this home-wrecker. I’m not asking him to reconcile with my mom, just to stop being “friends” with his fellow adulterer who has ruined our lives. I promised him that if he even considers making her his “official girlfriend” that I will personally call everyone in our huge family (who don’t have a clue as to why my parents are separated) and tell them what he’s done with this sleazy woman.
I feel like my family life has turned into a trashy harlequin novel where my mom, my little sister, and I are just backstory. Over these past seven months, I have learned a lot of disturbing things that a daughter should never have to know about her father and unlike with any other man in my life I can’t just MOA from him because he will always be my dad. What are your thoughts? — A Disappointed Daughter
First of all, I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I’m sure it must be difficult to have “your world rocked” as you say in such a way and to learn the difficult lesson that parents are not perfect and sometimes they do stupid, selfish things that affect their kids in detrimental ways. It isn’t fair, I know. But, unfortunately, life isn’t fair, and these things do happen.
The good news is that your father’s indiscretion does not have to define your parents’ marriage and it certainly does not have to define you, your family, or your dad. He is still the same man he always was — the same caring, loving father whom you thought of as your kindred spirit. He still loves you very, very much, I’m sure. But he has problems, temptations, and limitations that have obviously affected his judgment. Maybe he’s going through some sort of midlife crisis. Maybe there have been cracks in your parents’ marriage for a long time. Maybe there are many things that you are unaware of — things you were hopefully spared the knowledge of because they weren’t your business — that could explain why he’s made some of the painful decisions he has.
But those painful decisions he’s made, as well as the personal limitations he has as a flawed human being, don’t mean he loves you and your sister any less. They don’t even mean that the love and bond he shared with your mother was any less meaningful than you believed it to be. They don’t mean that every man shares those same flaws or will make similar decisions. All that these things you’re learning about your dad mean is that in this moment in time, this man — your father — acted irresponsibly for reasons you don’t understand.
Here’s something else I know: Those reasons, whatever they may be, don’t really matter. You may think they matter. You may be curious. I’m sure you want answers. But the answers won’t give you the kind of closure or satisfaction or relief you’re searching for. They won’t fix things. They won’t restore your family to what it once was. Your reality has shifted through no cause or fault of your own and that sucks.
But this probably wasn’t the first and it definitely won’t be the last time that happens.
Life throws curve balls and this, my dear, is a big one. You have to learn to accept and love your father in spite of the glaring flaws you’re seeing in him now. It isn’t an easy thing to do. Harder still, is trying to remain unjaded and keep a healthy, optimistic perspective on love and relationships (and men!). But I urge you, please try everything in your power to do just that. Speak to your parents about helping you find someone to talk to. These are crucial months for you to unpack some of the baggage you’re beginning to carry. The load gets heavier the more life experiences you gain and if you can find someone to help you sort through it at the young age you are now, you will be a better person for it.
Your father is not a bad person; he’s just made some bad decisions. There’s a big difference. And despite everything you say you’ve learned in the last seven months “that a daughter should never have to know about her father,” rest assured there is much you don’t — and won’t ever — know about him, your mother, and their marriage. No one — not even the kids who are a product of their parents’ union — know what truly goes on in someone else’s relationship. Everyone makes mistakes and your father isn’t the only party in your parents’ marriage who has likely done something he regrets. Please try to keep that in mind.
You compare your current situation to a trashy Harlequin novel, but there is rarely a real-life narrative in which one person is the villain and the other a completely innocent naif. We are all so complicated and multi-layered, capable of hurting those we love and care about with thoughtless words, ill-intentioned acts, and selfish deeds. Let’s all try to be more compassionate with each other, more understanding. You’re only 19, I know. But you’re not too young to learn these lessons. If you can find it in your heart to grant your father even the smallest bit of forgiveness and the tiniest breadcrumbs back into your life when you’re ready, you will be better for it. If you can’t do it for him, do it for yourself. Your future relationships and happiness are depending on it.