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Long Term Effects of Infidelity on Children

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Long Term Effects of Infidelity on Children

On February 10, 2012, Posted by , In Adultery,All Posts, With Comments Off on Long Term Effects of Infidelity on Children

Long Term Effects of Infidelity on Children

“Kids are resilient.  They’ll bounce right back.”

Have you heard people speak this way about children when their parents are getting a divorce?  I certainly have.  But research demonstrates that children suffer long term damage as a result of divorce, and I personally believe that infidelity has a lasting impact on children.

It’s not just divorce that causes children such deep and lasting scars.  Children also suffer long term damage when they learn of a parent’s infidelity even if a divorce does not take place. Let me explain.

When a parent cheats on his or her spouse, children feel as though they were “cheated on” as well.  They often feel as betrayed as does the offended spouse; infidelity affects them deeply. “Weren’t we good enough for daddy?” or, “Why would mommy do that to us?” are  typical expressions of pain from children when a parent has cheated.

Infidelity can be a trigger that causes these children to experience regressive behavior or act out in school or with siblings.

By regressive behavior we mean that a child might take a step back in their emotional, intellectual, or physical development. For example, if a child has learned to tie his or her own shoe, upon learning of the affair they may regress and need to re-learn this skill.

And when we say that a child might act out with siblings or at school, it usually means that they may develop behavioral problems, get into arguments or physical fights, or that their grades may take a dip.

But the negative effects infidelity are not always so immediate.  Longer term negative effects may occur as well.  Allow me to illustrate by a quick story.

A young man came to me for counseling.  He was facing a big decision in his life.  He had been dating the same young woman for nearly 3 years.  His girlfriend was becoming impatient, believing that their relationship should either be taken to the next level or broken off.  She was looking for a commitment.  It was time for her young man to propose to her.

While this man admitted that he truly loved his girlfriend, he was having a terrible time making such a big commitment.  It wasn’t that he doubted her or his love for her, and it wasn’t that he was unconvinced that she was the right girl for him.  The issue was with him!

As we talked he eventually shared with me that when he was a little boy he learned of his father’s infidelity.  While the marriage eventually survived, infidelity had left its mark.

“All my life,” he shared, “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?” Fear of infidelity was paralyzing him from marrying the woman he loved.

So are kids really all that resilient, or does infidelity leave scars that last a lifetime?  While it is possible to overcome the negative, I think the overwhelming evidence is that infidelity has severe, long-term effects on children.

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