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#2779655 01/30/14 03:26 PM
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This issue seems to come up so often on threads that I figured it was time for it's own topic.

I know I have written my own experience (in exposing to my own children and also having an affair exposed to me as a child) over and over again so I will also include that here on this thread for easier reference for new posters. I encourage others to do so as well!

Brainy, please feel free to link any radio clips you've got handy!! smile



Dr. Bill Harley, clinical psychologist and founder of Marriage Builders, on telling the children:

Originally Posted by Dr. Harley
The same can be said about telling children about an affair. My experience with the positive outcomes of hundreds of families where an affair has been exposed to children has led me to encourage a betrayed spouse not to fear such exposure. In fact, to mislead children, giving other false explanations as to why their parents are not getting along, causes children to be very confused. When they finally discover the truth, it sets an example to children that dishonesty is sometimes acceptable, making them the judge of when that might occur.

An affair is an attack on children as well as the betrayed spouse. And it's true that children are deeply affected by this form of irresponsible behavior. But it's the act of infidelity that causes children to suffer, not the exposure of it. Facts point us toward solutions. Illusion leads us astray. That's true for children as well as adults.
here


Originally Posted by Dr. Harley
Q: So, you do suggest telling our 10 year old son? Is this more than he can handle? He never saw any real unhappiness as my husband and I had a very low conflict marriage. I have been protecting our son from this truth. He still has hope that his dad is going to come home.
___________________________________
A: As for your son, the truth will come out eventually, even if you get back together again. And your son won't be emotionally crippled if he hears the truth. It's lies and deception that cripple children. He should know that your husband is choosing his lover over his son's mother. It's a fact. He's willing to ruin a family unit all for what.

When I first started recommending openness about an affair, I wasn't sure what would happen. But I did it because I knew it was the right thing to do. Now I know that for most couples it marks the beginning of recovery.



Originally Posted by Dr. Harley
The reason that children should know about an affair is that exposing it to the light of day (letting everyone know), helps give the unfaithful spouse a dose of reality. An affair thrives on illusion, and whatever a betrayed spouse can do to eliminate the illusion is justifiable. Mold doesn't grow well in sunlight.
here


Originally Posted by Dr. Harley
2. How honest should I be about the A? (they are 7 and under)

Tell your children as much as you can about their father's affair, and how it affects you. There are some counselors and lawyers that strongly disagree with me on this issue, but I have maintained that position for over 35 years without any evidence that children are hurt by it. They're hurt by the affair, not by accurate information regarding the affair. Just make sure that you don't combine accurate information with disrespectful judgments. For example, you can say that the OW has taken their father away from you, but you should not say that she is home-wrecker (or worse).
here


Originally Posted by Dr. Harley
My basic approach to life is that radical honesty is valuable on many different dimensions. It keeps us out of trouble, it helps others understand us, and it helps others avoid the same mistakes we have made. Letting your children know the details of your husband's affair would help them in all three areas.

The more your children know about your husband's affair, the more careful he will be to avoid them in the future.

The more your children know about his affair, the more they will understand what you are going through in your recovery (by the way, you are doing very well -- keep up the good work!).

Being radically honest about your husband's affair with your children would also help them avoid affairs themselves. How it happened and how could it have been prevented is a great object lesson for children. I learned that I was vulnerable for an affair when I learned about my grandfather's affairs. The extraordinary precautions I've taken were directly related to what I learned about him.

It's the approach I've always taken, and while it's difficult, especially for the WS, there's much more upside to it than downside.


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Excellent thread Susie. I hope posters will also post their experiences also.

The Harley's discuss telling the children even as young as 4 about the affair


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Telling the kids about the affair when and how it should be done.
Radio Clip on Telling the Children


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Exposing to my children did NOT damage them at all. It had the opposite effect. It alleviated the anxiety and stress DS (8 at the time) was dealing with because he knew SOMETHING was very wrong...he just did not understand what. I believe he was doing exactly what Dr Harley says children do if they are not told the
truth -----> they blame the marital problems and tension in the home on themselves.

I believe exposing to my children also helped them through the entire separation and divorce process...because they trusted that I would be honest with them about what was going on in their lives.

I can also testify to this from the other side - when I was young, my parents exposed affairs to me from two close family members, one when I was about 9-10 and the other when I was a pre-teen. In both cases, I knew something was very wrong before they told me. It did not damage me in the least. It taught me a lot about honesty and how damaging affairs are.


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From the private forum:

Originally Posted by Dr. Harley
Revealing our faults and vices to our children is a good idea because they will probably face the very same temptations some day, and need perspective in how to face them. I think that your son is old enough to know what your husband did, why it's a considered a sin in your church (it's not only an offense to you, but more importantly, to God), how badly it has affected you, and what he can do to avoid it when he is married. If knowing my faults diminishes me in the eyes of my children, how could they possibly be hurt? The truth guides them to a deeper understanding. Knowing me for who I am and what I've done makes my children stronger, not weaker.

Best wishes,
Willard F. Harley, Jr.


Another from the private forum:

Originally Posted by Dr. Harley
I've always been in favor of letting children know about an affair as soon as possible. Along with knowledge of the affair should be their awareness of your recovery plan as well as your efforts to avoid an affair in the future. With that knowledge, children go into marriage with the understanding that affairs can be avoided if spouses meet each other's important emotional needs and take extraordinary precautions to avoid close friendships with those of the opposite sex.

Besides, the affair almost always comes out into the open eventually. And when it does, the confusion you are experiencing is usually the result if you don't reveal the facts yourselves.

I'd tell your girls everything -- the affair, and what you have done to recover from it. At first, they may not necessarily respond to the information appropriately, but at least you will be able to get the issue out into the open where you can answer their questions accurately.

Best wishes
Willard F. Harley, Jr.


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I discovered my mother's affair on my own. I am glad I found out! My dad was no longer in the house at that point, so there was nobody to expose to me. But I needed to know the truth. I needed to know the real reason why she wasn't willing to work things out with my dad. And I also needed to learn some valuable lessons about human nature, about my mother, about myself, about church singles' groups (where she found her affair partner(s)), etc.

I also learned my grandmother had been wayward. That exposed a lot. The narrative of her life, with multiple marriages, didn't make sense at all until I was told WHY, until I was told what had really happened. Learned some great lessons there, too. (Would you believe she actually disguised one affair as a Bible study?)

Thanks to having this information I was able to make the decision to break the cycle and not live this way myself. I was also able to understand why my mother was so selfish and did not truly care for her children, and take action accordingly to have a happy adult life. Today I have a wonderful marriage, a wonderful family. I am living the happily ever after and able to keep destructive influences away from my life and away from my children.


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Yea, when you speak about "breaking the cycle," Dr Harley sometimes mentions that some families have a "culture of affairs," where the behavior is actually accepted and encouraged....similar how some families have a culture of drinking alcohol.

When I exposed my MIL alcoholism to the children, they were upset but I think it answered a lot of questions in their minds, such as why she's often in the hospital or why the bizarre behavior.

This helps them prepare for adulthood and understand that adultery or use of vices can have terrible consequences in life.

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Throughout my years on MB I have often heard from new members the fear of exposing the affair to their kids.

The little ones--because they are afraid they are too young to understand.

The teen & adult children--because they don't their kids to lose respect for the WW parent.

Both assumptions are wrong. The kids(all ages) KNOW something is wrong and are confused. They can feel the tension, hear bits & pieces of discussions, and usually feel responsible,, as though they have done something to cause the discord.

I told my kids (teen & young adult) as soon as I confirmed there was an affair. Of course they were upset & concerned about me (us) but they were also very relieved. For so long they each thought THEY were are cause of all our problems. They blamed themselves. And it was a huge relief for them to know their dad had his own issues going on.


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Too much hurt and pain on both sides that my brain hurts just thinking about it all.



#2809407 07/01/14 10:20 AM
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Nearly every day on here, someone wants to know, "Should I tell my kids about the A?" Or, "Do I HAVE to tell my kids about the A? Won't that damage them? Can't I just keep it a big secret? What they don't know can't hurt them, right?"

Dr. Harley makes it crystal clear that kids ages 4 and up should be told about the A in age appropriate language, and avoiding disrespect to the WS or OP. "Daddy has a girlfriend, and that's not ok for a married person," vs. "Your evil DNA donor has been boinking one of the local skanks."

Telling kids during the A occasionally gets resistance, but nothing like when the A has already ended. It's like once it's over, if the kids don't already know, it should be swept under the rug. After all, kids don't really know what's going on, and we don't want to traumatize them, right?

Well, just like any BS, whether they know about the A or not, the wound has already been given. Kids HAVE ALREADY been hurt by adultery, whether they know it or not. I didn't tell my kids about the A, and with hindsight, I wish I had. It would have actually saved them additional pain besides what the adultery itself caused.

I'm not sure if telling the kids just wasn't stressed as much back in '05, or if in the fallout of it all I just missed that part. All I remember for sure is I didn't hold back at the time from a lack of courage - it just never occurred to me they should know. By the time I realized it, we were well into R and it seemed pointless. I just figured if we said anything at all, we'd tell them when they were older. (I've seen other posters here who still say the same thing. "We're in R - it's pointless to tell them.")

Fast-forward a few years, and our DD found out on her own. Except she didn't realize it was long over, she thought it was going on right then. She suffered agonies for several weeks before I learned of it and told her it was already over. Finding out did damage the kids' relationship with their dad for a bit - though really it was already damaged during the A, they just didn't know it yet - but seeing him be kind and loving to me and to them helped them past it. And both of the older ones, who were 5 and 7 at the time the A began, kept saying, "Aha!" for weeks afterwards. That's why Dad was mad at me all the time...that's why he yelled so much...now I finally understand why he never spent time with us then suddenly took us out to pizza and bought us a bunch of stuff...no wonder he was always gone until late at night..." It really helped them to know that there was an outside cause, and none of these oddities were their fault.

Not only will telling your kids help them make sense of their past, and put together the strange bits and pieces that have puzzled and bothered them since that time, but it will also impact their future. They're forming their own beliefs about what marriage means from watching you. It's important that they don't view marriage as disposable, even if you R, but more so if you D. Without knowing everything you BS's endured, or you FWS's, what you put the family through,they may take their own relationships more lightly than they would otherwise.

Best of all, you can start them down an A-proofing road so this doesn't happen to them in their own lives. Having experienced adultery, I would do anything to protect my kids from going through it, as any part of the equation.

There's no question that telling the truth about this will be painful, to you and the kids both. It may also benefit them in surprising ways.

Please feel free to add to this story of kids and exposure. I know quite a few of you have gone through having to tell your kids at different stages of the process, and perhaps having these anecdotes collected in one place will be beneficial to others.
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Here's a good thread about this.
Exposing to Children


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Too much hurt and pain on both sides that my brain hurts just thinking about it all.



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Originally Posted by Neak
I'm not sure if telling the kids just wasn't stressed as much back in '05, or if in the fallout of it all I just missed that part.

Bravo good post! Unfortunately, very little of MArriage Builders was stressed at all in 2005 because the forum was a tower of babel where personal "wisdom," Love Languages, etc, etc, etc, reigned supreme. Fortunately for some us, we discovered MB on our own and are still here paying it forward!


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.." Theodore Roosevelt

Exposure 101


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I did not tell our children. At the time of the A, my DD was only 6 months old (now 3) and my son was 4 (now 7). I do think they should be told at some point but wonder when?

My W found out about her dad's A from when she was 7 years old when we exposed my W's A to her mother. My W's only comment on the matter was that she "just knew" he had done that. Although she doesn't seem to feel any differently about him for it. Maybe because she feels it would be hypocritical?

Anyway, we haven't really discussed it and I don't really want to bring it up because I know she will not want to do it.


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What about a lawyers "advice", that you shouldn't say anything to the children because Judges don't take kindly to that. When I countered that it was only sharing the truth without malice, he still advised against it. When I asked, well how should the children's concerns be addressed when they weep because their father is leaving and spending the night away or has been away for several days, he said steer the conversation elsewhere and that's where you would want to consult a counselor on what to say to them.
Something just doesn't sit right with me about his advice. It seems so contrary to maintaining the emotional well-being of the children and it also seems to fall into the archaic notion that what the children don't know won't hurt them. On top of that, it seems to continue the WS's fantasy and cover up of his poor choices in betraying his spouse and family. PS. The A is still ongoing... Thoughts?

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Personally, I'd write out an extremely short letter, and read it to the kids. Then put the letter with the documentation, so you can show the court word for word what was said.

That advice, while it may be legally the best in some situations, is not IMO the best for the kids. Kids blame themselves for everything, and you would never want them thinking Daddy was staying away more because they were too bad. Or Daddy was mad more because of something they did.

If further conversations take place, document those, too, in your Notebook of Destiny. You can also print out quotes from Dr. Harley, a clinical psychologist, and explain that you were following his advice to tell.

As long as you're careful in what you say, and document thoroughly, you should be able to have the best of all worlds - the kids armed with the truth, and yourself protected in court.


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Also, thanks to Brain for linking the other thread. As many times as this comes up, I don't think it's possible to have too much info on the subject. smile


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Originally Posted by WallFlower
What about a lawyers "advice", that you shouldn't say anything to the children because Judges don't take kindly to that. When I countered that it was only sharing the truth without malice, he still advised against it. When I asked, well how should the children's concerns be addressed when they weep because their father is leaving and spending the night away or has been away for several days, he said steer the conversation elsewhere and that's where you would want to consult a counselor on what to say to them.
Something just doesn't sit right with me about his advice. It seems so contrary to maintaining the emotional well-being of the children and it also seems to fall into the archaic notion that what the children don't know won't hurt them. On top of that, it seems to continue the WS's fantasy and cover up of his poor choices in betraying his spouse and family. PS. The A is still ongoing... Thoughts?

Keep in mind that an attorney does not care about your children so he doesn't mind if you poison them with lies if it makes his job easier. His goal is to facilitate an easy, amicable divorce, NOT to look out for your children.

We have even had lazy, uncaring lawyers tell parents they should allow their kids to be dragged into their parent's affair.

HOWEVER, you are the responsible parent for your child and you are obliged to tell your children the truth. Parents need to be reminded that THEY - and they alone - are responsible for the well being of their own children. You will answer for the well being of your child, not some lawyer or some crapwit in the court system.


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.." Theodore Roosevelt

Exposure 101


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What I would suggest in such an instance is informing your attorney that as a caring, MORAL, responsible adult, you will not lie to your children. You have their best interest at heart and will tell them the full truth. And as your paid employee, you fully expect him to defend you if it ever becomes an issue. [and I have never seen it become an issue in the 13 yrs I have been here but I have seen MANY attorneys say this]


"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.." Theodore Roosevelt

Exposure 101


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Originally Posted by WallFlower
What about a lawyers "advice", that you shouldn't say anything to the children because Judges don't take kindly to that. When I countered that it was only sharing the truth without malice, he still advised against it. When I asked, well how should the children's concerns be addressed when they weep because their father is leaving and spending the night away or has been away for several days, he said steer the conversation elsewhere and that's where you would want to consult a counselor on what to say to them.
Something just doesn't sit right with me about his advice. It seems so contrary to maintaining the emotional well-being of the children and it also seems to fall into the archaic notion that what the children don't know won't hurt them. On top of that, it seems to continue the WS's fantasy and cover up of his poor choices in betraying his spouse and family. PS. The A is still ongoing... Thoughts?


Mine are

A) Lawyers have no training in child development, family counselling or psychology. So it's a bit like listening to a cashier's advice about surgery.
B) Is it coincidental that a happy, buddy divorce means less work for the lawyer? Surely not.

But most importantly, and you hit on it with the perfect word:
C) It is archaic. Children don't have any thoughts of their own except what we tell them to think do they? Tell them the truth like they have sense and compassion and reason? Don't be ridiculous. Noses back on your slates, now children. Seen and not heard. Let's keep you in the dark like mushrooms and feed you horsechit. We will have no independent thought processes or learning about the world in here.

Nuh huh. Children are stoo-pid. Children don't notice that their betrayed parent is traumatised, barely holding it together. Or that the wayward parent is snappish and mean and absent. They don't get confused or anxious about the fact no one will tell them why.

Children don't notice that the phone is now the centre of the wayward parents universe. They don't have the resourcefulness to sneak a peek and figure it out. They aren't going to be trapped in the horrible dilemma of feeling they should tell the betrayed parent - but scared they might cause a divorce.

It really makes me mad. It's not only patronising but dangerous to leave children unguided like that.




What would you do if you were not afraid?

"Fear is the little death. Fear is the mind-killer" Frank Herbert.

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Originally Posted by WallFlower
What about a lawyers "advice", that you shouldn't say anything to the children because Judges don't take kindly to that. When I countered that it was only sharing the truth without malice, he still advised against it. When I asked, well how should the children's concerns be addressed when they weep because their father is leaving and spending the night away or has been away for several days, he said steer the conversation elsewhere and that's where you would want to consult a counselor on what to say to them.
Something just doesn't sit right with me about his advice. It seems so contrary to maintaining the emotional well-being of the children and it also seems to fall into the archaic notion that what the children don't know won't hurt them. On top of that, it seems to continue the WS's fantasy and cover up of his poor choices in betraying his spouse and family. PS. The A is still ongoing... Thoughts?
When it comes to taking advice, you should always weigh the advice based on the qualifications of those who give it. When it comes to the emotional well-being of children, do you most trust 1) a lawyer or 2) a clinical psychologist? Sounds like a no-brainer. I'd go with the clinical psychologist. Dr. Harley advises that you tell the children.


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