Children of Infidelity: How a Parent’s Unfaithfulness Affects a Child

A cheater does not openly talk about their affair. They don’t even talk about it with their friends because they know that a moving and speaking mouth can always spill the beans. And most importantly, they make sure their spouse will never know about it.

But no secret remains untold forever. No dark past goes unknown. Time will come, the act of unfaithfulness will be known to the wife or husband. And then there’s pain. But it’s not just the other half that’s cheated on who suffers. In a family, it’s not just your significant other who has to carry the negative effects of lust acted upon—your child suffers too.

Here’s the cruel truth about the long-lasting effects of infidelity on families and children.

Truth About Betrayal: The Effects of Infidelity on Families and Children

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Nothing could hurt a family more than an affair. May it be a one-night stand or a secret relationship that has been going on for months, its effects on the family are unimaginable. It breaks trust and weakens the once strong emotional bond between the members. This may not always lead to separation, as surviving infidelity is possible; but even if the marriage survives, this unfaithfulness will leave a mark you wish was never there.

Everybody suffers. You witness your spouse cry themselves to sleep because of what you’ve done. You hear them talk about the lost future together they have been looking forward to. While most men, even after knowing the marriage is slowly failing, choose not to leave, women walk out. Because it’s mostly the men who end up straying, two-thirds of divorce cases are initiated by women. Either way, the relationship is ruined and vows to be together for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, are all forgotten.

But behind all that visible suffering is a soul that has been hurting in silence—your kid. More than the innocent spouse, the children in the family tested by infidelity will have to suffer from the effects of the deed as they grow up. You will hear people say that when a child finds out their mom or dad is cheating, they’re resilient enough to easily bounce right back. Little do people know, the impact of infidelity on their young minds is worse and can be longterm.

The effects of infidelity on families and children are less physically but rather mentally and emotionally. Author and counselor Mike Tucker shared a story about a boy who asked him for an advice after he found himself caught between proposing to his longtime girlfriend and the fear that he’d end up doing what his father did before: cheat on his wife.

The boy said, “All my life, everyone has told me how I am a clone of my dad. We look alike, talk alike, act, and think alike. And it’s true! I’m an awful lot like my dad. So if I’m that much like him in every other way, how do I know that I won’t be like him when it comes to being able to make and keep a commitment to my wife? Dad broke his commitment, how do I know that I won’t do the same thing?”

Like this young man, when a child finds out that their father has been cheating on their mom, they will stop trusting him, and they will be forced to live asking the question “What if I end up doing the same?” Some might say, cheating is a personal choice with no external factors whatsoever. That can be true, but more often than not, these choices, like the choice to give in to temptation, are influenced by what they went through when they were younger.

Supporting this is a survey conducted by Los Angeles–based clinical psychologist Ana Nogales, PhD. From the answers of 800 children whose parents cheated on their spouse, Dr. Nogales found out that most children of cheaters end up repeating the cycle. Additionally, a majority of them said their view and attitude toward love and relationships changed. They start trusting people less. And they too tend to destroy the trust they’re given.

“I’m not saying that everyone does it, but 55 percent of adult children that came from families where one parent was unfaithful ended up being cheaters themselves,” Nogales quipped.

It’s not just that. The effects of infidelity on families and children go beyond painful memories and a feeling of betrayal. It causes them to develop anxiety, shame, anger, and resentment toward the cheating parent.

A parent is supposed to be a child’s role model. They grow up following everything you do or say. But when you stray, what remains in their box of memories is the impact of the sin you committed. So before you choose to give in to temptations, you might want to think about what that can do to your kid first.

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Amanda Thomas

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