The Biggest Myth About the Effect of Divorce on Adult Children

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I’ve seen it happen a number of times now. Clients with adult children come into my office seeking representation in a divorce. No matter the circumstances that led them into divorce, most of them believe the biggest myth about the effect of divorce on adult children:  they assume that since their children are older, they divorce won’t affect them as much.  They assume their adult children will be fine.

Angry older man and woman with their backs to each other getting a grey divorce

The Names May Be Changed, But the Story is The Same

I knew a man once (I’ll call him “Dave”) who wanted a divorce from his wife of 30+ years. They had three adult children. Dave had been the primary breadwinner in the family. His wife (I’ll call her “Sarah”) had raised the children. Dave had been a good father, and he had a good relationship with his kids. But his relationship with his wife had grown cold years ago.

As he found himself facing retirement, Dave just couldn’t picture spending all of his time with Sarah. He also met an attractive younger woman with whom he felt he had a lot more in common than he did with Sarah. Dave fell in love. He had an affair. Then he filed for divorce.

When Sarah got served with the divorce papers, she was devastated. Then she got angry.

Getting a divorce after 50 had never been a part of her life’s plan. Getting a divorce after 50 from a husband who was having an affair with a younger woman was even worse! It was almost too cliché and painful for her to bear.

Speakers mounted on a pole

Sarah immediately called the children and told them everything – not just about the divorce and Dave’s affair, but also about all of the slights Sarah had suffered and endured during their marriage.

Now the children were devastated – and furious with their father for ruining their family.

Dave tried to explain his side of the story – how he and Sarah had grown apart and how he needed someone to be a more compatible companion in his old age. But that only made the children angrier. The oldest two wanted nothing to do with him.  The youngest child was torn: she still loved both of her parents. She also needed her father’s support to finish paying for college.

Underestimating the Effect of Divorce on Your Adult Children

Dave knew that his children wouldn’t be thrilled when he decided to divorce Sarah. But he hadn’t anticipated just how upset they would be.

Dave assumed that his children knew how unhappy he and Sarah had been for years. He thought that, after they got used to the idea that he and Sarah were splitting, they would be fine.

They weren’t.

Dave and Sarah’s divorce wasn’t the most amicable case in the court house, but they were ultimately able to settle it and go their separate ways. Meanwhile, ten years later, Sarah is still bitter and Dave has virtually no relationship with his two oldest kids.

Like Dave, most people assume that the effect of divorce on adult children is not nearly as bad as the effect divorce has on younger children.  Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Upset business man sitting on the floor with his head in his hands

What the Research Says About the Effect of Divorce on Adult Children

Research has shown that most adult children are shocked when they learn their parents are divorcing – even if the children knew their parents’ marriage had been rocky for years. That shock is followed by a lingering disbelief, and a deep and abiding sense of loss.

After their parents’ long term marriages end, adult children often become cynical. They develop trust issues. Many become angry.

They lose their faith in marriage, and they lose their faith in their parents.  They lose their sense of family, and find themselves questioning whether their entire past was a lie.

Many adult children of divorce become insecure when their parents’ marriage ends.  They find themselves preoccupied with death, disease, and loss of all sorts.

They often resent their parents for abandoning a marriage that the children believed they should have been able to fix.  They feel betrayed.

Overall, while the effect of divorce on adult children may be different than the effect of divorce on younger children, it is every bit as devastating.

Portrait of grieving adult child of divorce.

How to Lessen the Impact of Your Divorce on Your Adult Children

So, what do you do if you have adult children and you want to (or your spouse wants to) get a divorce after 50? Here are a few things to remember:

1. Give Your Children Time to Grieve.

It doesn’t matter how old they are, your children are still your children. As a parent, you need to remember that, and to expect that your children may have strong feelings and emotions about your divorce.

What’s more, you may have seen your marriage floundering for years. But your children may have thought everything was fine – especially if they have been out of the house for awhile.

They need time to adjust to the news that their family is changing. They need to let the fact that their parents are divorcing sink into their psyche. In short, they need time to grieve.

If you want to help your kids adjust, ask them how they feel. Then listen to them. Let them air their feelings. You don’t have to defend yourself or your decision to divorce. But you do need to give them the space to mourn the loss of the family they knew their whole life.  Remember, your divorce is a loss to them, too.

2. Be Thoughtful About How You Tell Your Children You Are Getting a Divorce.

You should give as much thought and care to telling your children about your divorce now as you would have if they were only 5 or 6 years old. They will have feelings about your divorce no matter how old they are.

That means that HOW you tell your children about your divorce MATTERS! To the greatest extent possible, you and your spouse should break the news to them together, and in person.

Don’t tell them over the phone, or send them an email or a text. Don’t casually say “Your mother/father and I are getting a divorce,” in the middle of a conversation the same way you would tell them what you had for dinner last night.

Getting a divorce is HUGE! The more you treat it that way, the more your children will feel like you care about them and about their/your family.

Finally, if you can, tell all of your kids about your divorce at the same time. While it may suck to ruin a family gathering with news of divorce, it’s the only way to insure that your kids all learn about your divorce directly from you. If you tell your kids individually, the first kid you tell will probably share the news with all of his/her siblings long before you have a chance to talk to them.

3. Don’t make your children your therapist!

Remember that your children are your CHILDREN! They have no business knowing about the inner workings of your marriage. They don’t need to know your deepest darkest feelings and fears.

It’s also not their job to help you adjust to your divorce. Expecting them to hang out with you every day because you’re lonely is unrealistic. Wanting them to fill the void you feel in your life right now is unfair.

If you are having problems getting through your divorce, or adjusting to your life afterwards, don’t lean on your kids! Get a real therapist, or talk to your friends and siblings.

The Effect of Divorce on Adult Children: Upset older couple with their son mediating their dispute

4. Don’t air your dirty laundry!

Yes, you should be honest with your adult children, but that doesn’t mean they need (or want) to know all of the intimate details of your marriage.

Telling them the dirty details of how your ex had serial affairs or overindulged in alcohol changes nothing. Your kids don’t need to know about the ugly fights you had with their other parent, or about how horrible you felt afterwards.

Knowing all of that only makes them feel more sad, angry and insecure. What’s more, once you tell your kids something, they can’t “un-know” it! Your words may haunt them for decades.

The bottom line is, unless you want your kids to end up in therapy for years, don’t overshare!

5. Keep Your Children OUT of Your Divorce.

Just as any good parent will do his/her best to keep their young children out of the middle during their divorce, so should you do the same.

Don’t ask your children for divorce advice, and don’t make them mediate your conflicts! It’s not your kids’ jobs to deliver things for you to your spouse. And, for heavens sake, don’t bring your kids with you to your divorce lawyer’s office!

Just because your children may be over the age of 18, that does not mean that dragging them into the middle of your divorce won’t hurt them. It will.

They are children of you AND your soon-to-be ex. They love you both. Don’t force them to take sides.

6. Don’t Become a Burden!

When you were raising your kids, your goal was for them to grow up to be happy, healthy and independent. You didn’t want them to be unemployed and still living with you when they were 40. You knew that was no kind of a life for them.

It’s no kind of a life now for you, either.

You need to learn how to meet your own needs on your own, without your kids’ help.

That means that if you haven’t cooked a meal or cleaned the house or paid a bill in years, now you’ve got to figure it out! Sign up for a class, ask friends, or search the web for answers.

When you’re lonely, call a friend. When your technology does funky things and you don’t know what to do, Google it! If, after an hour, you still can’t solve your problem, THEN call your kids. Make them your last resort, not your crutch.

7. Take the High Road. Always.

No matter what happened between you and your spouse, you need to encourage your children to have a relationship with him/her. That means you need to do and say whatever it takes to make that happen, even when you’d rather not.

How can you do that? For starters, don’t make them feel bad when they spend time with your ex. Don’t pepper your kids with questions about what your ex is doing or who your ex is dating. Doing so may satisfy your curiosity, but it will make your kids uncomfortable. Besides, after the divorce, it’s none of your business. (Sorry!)

Do your best to be civil to your ex, if only for your kids’ sake. Don’t make your kids choose between being able to invite you OR your ex to family functions. Swallow your pride and be an adult, even if deep inside your blood is boiling!

Remember, young or old, your children need to have a relationship with both of their parents.

Getting a Divorce With Adult Children

Getting a divorce with adult children may not be as outwardly traumatic as divorcing when your kids are young. But if you think that your divorce won’t affect your kids just because they’re over 18, you’re kidding yourself.

That’s not to say that you have to stay together “for the sake of the kids” until the day you die. But it does mean that, no matter when you divorce, if you care about your kids, you need to be sensitive about the effect that your divorce will have on them.

Remember, husbands and wives can divorce. But parents will be parents forever.


(The story of “Dave and Sarah” is based on a real story, but the names have been changed and the facts have been altered to protect the identities of those involved.)

Head shot of Karen Covy in an Orange jacket smiling at the camera with her hand on her chin.

Karen Covy is a Divorce Coach, Lawyer, Mediator, Author, and Speaker. She coaches high net worth professionals and successful business owners to make hard decisions about their marriage with confidence, and to navigate divorce with dignity.  She speaks and writes about decision-making, divorce, and living life on your terms. To connect with Karen and discover how she can help you, CLICK HERE.


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  • My parents divorced when I was 16. I learned how to live with it. Adult children are just that, ADULTS. They are enjoying their own lives. Why should their parents stay together and be miserable so that they can be happy? If their parents stayed together long enough for them to grow up. That’s what they need to do. Grow up.

    • My parents just divorced recently and I’m 32 with children of my own. It’s pretty messed up. I was put in the middle of it from the get go since I’m the one who told my mom that my dad was having an affair. Everything has been flipped upside down in my life and I often wonder if my whole life was a lie… All these memories I have just feel so useless. Like wth was my whole childhood? How can they stay together for so long.. 36 years… Alot of the time they were miserable it seemed but they stuck it out. Now after I’m grown they decide to split. I know one thing my parents taught me… And that’s that I NEVER want to end up like them! I tell my fiance that all the time. We have to do better. We have to show OUR kids what a loving mom & dad looks like. And actually do it naturally. I want to be honest with my kids and I’ve never been the type to fake the way I feel. So me and him have agreed to always try to be each other’s best friend like we are now. And always put forth effort to making our relationship last the rest of our lives. I know it will be difficult sometimes but I don’t want anyone else. And I want my kids to have what so few kids have these days… Both parents who live/stay together for the rest of their lives.

      • That sounds like a fabulous goal! Your kids will have a rare and amazing gift if they can see you and your fiance model a healthy marriage for them.

        Meanwhile, getting through your parents’ divorce can be traumatic! Just because you’re “an adult” doesn’t matter! Your parents are still your parents! I strongly suggest you book a few counseling sessions for yourself. Having a good therapist by your side can help you work through your feelings about all this a little faster.

        As for your childhood, it wasn’t a lie. It was just … complicated! Human beings are like that. We’re not simple creatures. We love and hate the same person at the same time. Our emotions and our values often conflict. That’s what makes us all so messy AND so beautiful at the same time!

        I don’t know why your parents split. But I’d venture a guess that, no matter what, they still love you. They both want the best for you. If “the best” turns out that you dedicate yourself to having the kind of amazing relationship they never had, so much the better. Learn from their mistakes. I’d be willing to bet that’s what they want!



  • I fully appreciate the loss and hurt my two adult sons will feel. But one lives half way across the country, is beginning his own family, seldom calls, and at most spend time with us twice a year. The other is closer but he too will settle into his own life.

    I’m to stay unhappily married for another 25-30 years so they get to pretend twice a year we’re one big happy family?

    • Not at all. The point is to be sensitive to your kids. Understand that, even though they are adults, they may still be hurt by your divorce. But, just as you wouldn’t ask your kids to sacrifice their lives or their happiness for you, so, too, is it unfair for them to expect you to sacrifice your happiness for the rest of your life, for them.

  • My buddy’s parents got divorced 2 years ago. They did the opposite of most of the things on your list. The poor guy has been ravaged by their divorce. I pray for him every day. The experience even in his late 30s has knocked his world into a tailspin.

      • My mother went one day to see my father to his office and said all of a sudden that he should take a lawyer as she wanted to divorce. She told him that she was unhappy with her life, that she wished a different job, that she wanted to be on her own, that my father was a good person, the perfect father, the perfect house mate… but that she felt “no sparks” anymore, that she will kick him out of the house, get him to pay as much as possible, and requested him to tell me (18 y old then, starting university) and my brother (16 years then) that day, together, saying that they both wanted divorce. My father was shocked. He worked long hours but treated her apparently well (gifts, dinners…), they shared house chores… I do not recall relevant fights… He did not understand. Begged, felt betrayed… Awful months followed. My brother blamed me (I had been misbehaving for a couple of years (got drunk…)). When I asked my mother the reasons why, she got mad, told me not get into “her business” and ended spatting me in the face. She started to sleep nights out (later we knew by third persons that she had a lover, she moved in with him immediately after the divorce). Three years after I still do not want to see her, but she sends messages to my father and his family saying that they should “ force” me to see her and informing that she is considering suing him after “children” alienation (!). I feel she is a manipulative, narcissistic and toxic person, but, still, I feel guilty for not seeing her. My brother, now 19, lives with my father and seldom sees her. Should I see my mother?

        • I’m afraid it’s not my place to answer that question for you. I can tell how conflicted you are. I can totally understand why. But only you can decide what’s right for you.

          If it helps, know that you have to do what you have to do for YOU and not for anyone else. I don’t know the law in the state where you live, but I can say that it would be very unlikely that she would win a lawsuit for alienation of a child due to your refusing to see her. If you’re truly concerned about that, buy a half hour of a lawyer’s time and go for a consultation. Ask the lawyer. It may cost you a bit of money, but if it will make you sleep better knowing that your dad can’t be sued because of you, it will be money well spent.

          As for guilt, I know you feel guilty. I can tell you that guilt is a useless emotion. I can tell you to stop being guilty. But we both know that human beings don’t work that way. You’re not going to be able to magically stop feeling guilty because I say so. But, you can start to work through and manage your guilt and other emotions toward your mother in therapy. That might be the best investment you could make. (It is also likely covered by insurance.)

          Finally, give yourself a break. The truth is that nothing you did caused your parents’ divorce. It’s not your fault.

          Hope this helps.


  • My parents got divorced 7 years ago, after 28 years of marriage. My father had been cheating on my mother for a long time and I’ve found out. When I confronted him, he was denying it and then also threaten me, saying it will be my fault if they split up. After a year of psychological pressure, I finally got the courrage to tell it to my mother. My father moved out, but he didn’t tell me nor my sister where he was living. We were meeting up in caffes and bars around the city. After a year he finally showed us a place. It didn’t took him long to move again, this time with the woman, he was having affair for a few years, while he was married with my mum. By today he has almost completely estranged from me and my sister. We have rare contacts and superficial communication. We don’t trust him. He listens to this woman (they got married), but she clearly wants him and his money for herself and her daughters. The most painful thing actually for me and my sister was not a divorce itself, but the way he is treating us and our mum. Like we are not his family. I got a little bit better durring the years, but I have to admit the ’emotional recovery’ costed me some life opportunities. I’m 33 now and I’m trying to cath up. Luckly I managed to maintain my own relationship, although the whole family situation contributed to splitting with my fiance for a while. My sister on the other side is having a crises now. The whole thing with our father left her with bad confidence, she used to be proud, confident person. She just started a professional carreer, but she is in a relationship which does not make her happy, just becouse she is sure this man won’t cheated on her. Playing safe is one of the outcomes of children of divorce, no matter the age.
    Our father doesn’t understand at all why we are hurt. Most of the time we hear from him “You should get over it by now”. So we became silent. I’m feeling as my parent has died, but still it is very much alive. It’s a strange feeling loosing a father, but seeing him. The image of father “then” and “now” is very different so it’s hard to comprehend.
    What can i and my sister do, to work it trought, so I could live with it?

    Sorry for being so long. 🙂 Looking forward to your reply. Thanks.

    • I am so sorry to hear about what you have been living through! I can only imagine how hard it is to have 2 different images of your father: “then,” and “now.”

      With all of the trauma that you and your sister have both been through, getting help would be a wise decision. You didn’t mention whether either of you have been to therapy. If you haven’t talked about these issues with a good therapist yet, you probably should do so now. Just getting all of the pain off your chest will do you a world of good. A therapist can help get you unstuck from your pain and onto the path of healing.

      It sounds like your father didn’t just divorce your mum. He divorced you and your sister, too. In a very real sense, it seems that you have lost your father. That’s why you feel like he has died, even though he is still very much alive. Because you feel like you have lost your father, both you and your sister are going to go through the grieving process just as you would if your father had died, or if you were actually “divorcing” him. You may want to read up on the emotional stages of divorce, which are very similar to the stages of grief that people go through when a loved one dies.

      It’s sad, too, that your father doesn’t seem to understand your pain. While you may keep silent with him, it is very important that you not keep silent with yourselves. If you deny your own emotions, they will not go away. They will just burrow deep down inside of you and hide there. The problem is, buried emotions never just hang out peacefully inside you. They fester and boil like an infected wound. Eventually, they will affect your relationships with your men. They will affect your confidence, and, if you try to keep them buried for too long, they can eventually make you sick.

      If you want to get past this ugly chapter in your life, you have to let yourself feel your emotions, no matter how much they hurt. I know you probably don’t want to hear this right now, but if you can work through your pain, eventually you will get to a place of peace. You will also be stronger as a result of what you have been through.

      Know that what your father has done has nothing to do with you. He made his choices for his own reasons. Those reasons are his alone. They don’t have anything to do with you or your sister. Don’t own his problems.

      Know, too that you can’t control your father, or his behavior. The only one you can control is you. So, don’t wait for him to apologize, or to change his behavior, before you are willing to start to heal your hurt and move on. Start healing now.

      I wish there was more I could say to help ease your pain. The truth is, the only way out of your pain is to walk through it, deal with it, and move on. If you can find a good therapist, that will help you a lot.



  • My ex sent an email to our 3 adult children and printed it out and made our youngest (who was 15 at the time) read it. He made a list of “Facts”—literally pointing out every bad thing he believed I had done and then threatened the kids to destroy or delete the email and never tell me about it or he would know one of them betrayed him. I got a hold of that email and it was vile and vindictive and disgusting. I was a stay at home mom and didn’t work for 26 years. My ex minimized all he had done and maximized what I had done and now our 28 year old daughter hasn’t spoken to me in 2 1/2 years. She’s pregnant and due with her first child soon and I found out about the pregnancy on Facebook. Now–with a parent who made a choice to smear my name, involve our kids and air all our dirty laundry after YEARS of no yelling, swearing, fighting and keeping our marriage private—he has taken a child away from me and it’s now affecting the next generation. I can’t even begin to tell you the absolute devastation and heartache. The one thing we’re supposed to do is protect our kids and my ex set out for revenge to kill a piece of me. This is nothing but vengeful, hateful, and sick. His true character showed and he has no remorse. There’s NO excuse to involve kids of any age. None.

    • I am so sorry to hear what your ex did. I agree completely: Involving your kids in your divorce, no matter how old they are, hurts them! The sad part is that, while your ex may have been trying to hurt you, his actions will affect your kids and grand kids too. Hopefully, in time, the truth will prevail.

  • I’m 20 and my brother is 17. Last summer, before the 4th of July, our mother sat us down and told us,”Your father is ruining our family. He has been having an affair and is leaving us to be with her.”
    I know my parents were not warmly affectionate to one another. They were civil. Mom was always in control of us and with dad, we had fun. Honestly, I am angry at the both of them.
    She should have never told us in such a way. We all got angry with dad and now it feels like we can’t fix it. He has invited us out many times. Her poisoning words make me feel like I will betray her if I try and regain a relationship with my dad. He was a solid dad growing up. I know he loves and cares for us. Mom continues to use the court to bully him.
    How can I reach out to my dad without hurting my mom?

    • Wow! I’m so sorry that your mom took the approach that she did. Here are a couple of things to think about.

      First of all, I know it might feel like you can’t fix things with your dad, but you absolutely can. As a matter of fact, he is probably living in hope that you do reach out so that he can have a better relationship with you. No matter what has happened in the past, you can rebuild relationships with both of your parents, if you choose to do so. That, by the way, is the key. You have to CHOOSE it. In other words, you have to decide that you want to try to have a relationship with both parents and that you are willing to act on your decision. That’s step one.

      Step 2 is to have an honest conversation with your mom. That’s probably going to be the hardest, scariest part. In that conversation, stay away from blame. I know that you feel your mom never should have told you about your dad’s affair as she did. I’m not saying you’re wrong. But starting a conversation with your mom by telling her she screwed up by telling you the things she did – especially when she is still clearly dealing with her own anger – is not likely to go well. Instead, you might consider being very matter-of-fact. Tell her the facts from your point of view. Don’t accuse her of anything, or blame her for anything. It won’t help.

      Make sure to convey to your mom that you still love her, and that you want a good relationship with her. But she needs to hear that you have decided that you want a good relationship with your dad, too. So, you intend to reach out to him and try to rebuild your relationship with him. Stress to your mom that this is YOUR decision and it has nothing to do with her. You are an adult. You get to choose who you want to have a relationship with. You can empathize with your mom’s feelings of betrayal. You can tell her that you’ve wanted to have a relationship with your father for some time now, but you haven’t done that because you felt like if you did, you would be betraying her. Remind her that you want to have a relationship with her, too. But staying away from your dad is hurting you. Your mom needs to understand how you feel. (It also wouldn’t hurt for you to let her know that you’re mad at both her and your father!)

      Now, this conversation could go well, or it could go badly. But here’s the deal: YOU can’t control the outcome. Period. All you can control yourself. If you do, and you can have this conversation calmly and without getting angry at your mom and starting a battle, you have a better chance of the conversation going well. But, if your mom decides to go off on you, realize that is HER decision.

      Know, too, that it might take your mom awhile to come around. Give her time. Keep the lines of communication with her open. Let her know that you love her and you’ll be there when she’s ready to talk.

      Then, reach out to your dad. Be honest with him, too. Tell him how you feel. My suspicion is that things might be a little awkward at first. But, eventually you will get back on track.

      Finally, do your best to see your parents as human beings. Clearly, they both made mistakes. But I’m sure that they both love you. They are all just doing the best they can with what they have to work with. If you keep loving them and doing your best to accept them as they are, you will have the best chance of having relationships with both of them in the future. Meanwhile, if one of them chooses NOT to have a relationship with you, understand that that is THEIR choice. It’s not your choice, or your responsibility. It’s also not under your control. All you can do is tend to your side of the relationship. Don’t blame yourself if they can’t handle their side.

      Hope that helps.


  • Why is blame inappropriate when “Dave” had an affair and left “Sarah”, and why should children be shielded from that? The whole point of marriage is commitment, and nowhere did I read that they spent a year in couples therapy, trying to understand why their marriage had grown cold, and whether it could be revived. The angry and appropriate reaction of “Sarahs” is about the midlife crisis of Daves (who decide to move on with the “attractive younger woman with whom he felt he had a lot more in common than he did with Sarah.”) and the unwillingness to work on the commitment he made. I’m sure Sarah would have felt better had he tried to work on the marriage, even if they failed.. Addressing the *why* of the divorce with the kids, and showing moral disapprobation for the clearly inappropriate relationship is part of parenting, even if it does put one partner in the doghouse for choices he has made. If a father had been convicted of embezzlement, would we be saying the same thing about “not blaming” him because it makes it harder for the kids to have a good relationship with him? Of course not! But the Sarahs of the world are supposed to suck it up for the good of the kids even though they are getting screwed financially and romantically. I agree that how to tell the kids is important, but telling them the whole story is essential to their understanding of what went wrong in the parental marriage and not emulating that later in life.

    • It’s a question of degree. Like the article says, you need to be honest with adult children, but you don’t need to go into the details of the inappropriate behavior. There’s a huge difference between telling the children that “Dave” had an affair, and going into all the gory details about the affair. It’s enough for your children to know what caused the marriage to break down in broad strokes. They don’t need to know intimate details. That’s just not their business.

      By the way, my answer would be exactly the same if it was “Sarah” who had the affair. It would also be the same if we were talking about embezzlement rather than an affair. Children do NOT need to know all the details about their parent’s poor behavior. Do they need to know the truth? Yes. Do they need a blow-by-blow description of every bad thing that happened? No. Over-sharing that kind of information may make parents (especially the parent who didn’t misbehave) feel better. But it doesn’t help the kids at all.

    • I was astonished when I read Ms. Haggerst’s comment.

      Nobody besides the two who were married knows what was happening inside that marriage.


      How trite so many are as it pertains to marital problems and infidelity. People who don’t feel loved often are the givers. And the takers simply empty the love jar of the givers, so the givers seek love elsewhere. Anyone who thinks that infidelity happens in a vacuum, and that the individual seeking the extramarital relationship is solely to blame, is naive. Beyond that, someone desiring to publicly assign “blame” may want to look in the mirror and assess their desire for vindictiveness. Infidelity can manifest in many non-sexual ways, such as one partner choosing to dismiss the needs of the other in preference to friends and legacy family siblings, work, hobbies, etc.

      Could it be true that the cuckold asks to be cuckolded by their destructive and selfish actions within the marriage?

      • The comment by “Anonymous” on May 18 2019 may be the most impactful one I’ve read.
        It is as though “anonymous” had a private camera into my life. I’m a giver who’s love jar was emptied by a truly troubled, yet amazingly charismatic individual. And Anonymous’ comment about infidelity taking on many, many, many non-sexual manifestations was an exact description of my situation.
        Not that this contextual understanding matters much in the greater scheme of things. The walls and coalitions go up and usually the giver ends up on the short end.

  • Divorce sucks! I can’t stand what the betrayal and divorce did to me and my family ????. It forever changed my future.

  • With all the negative reactions from the kids regarding divorce , is it better to stay married? Our jobs as parents is to protect the kids so when is it the right thing to do , divorce that is , and risk the damage to the kids ( mine are in their 20s). I’m having a very hard time with the idea of our family being broken up.

    • I wish there was an easy answer to your question. Unfortunately, there is not.

      Divorce always affects the kids, regardless of their age. But just because something will affect your kids, that doesn’t necessarily make it the wrong thing to do. Whether getting a divorce is the right or wrong thing for you to do is a question only you can decide.

      The problem, of course, is that staying married is affecting you. If you weren’t unhappily married, you wouldn’t be reading this article. So, what about you? Do you count? At what point is it okay for you to risk damaging your kids if it means you will stop damaging yourself? How do you think your kids would feel if they knew that you were only staying married because of them? Do you think they would want you to be happy?

      At the same time, maybe breaking up the family is too big of a price to pay. I don’t know. Only you can determine that.

      What I do know is that you’re facing a tough decision. There are no easy answers. Every answer involves someone being in pain. Just remember as you’re weighing your options that you matter too.

      Whatever you decide to do, I wish you the best. You deserve it.


  • My boyfriend is in the exact same position as “Dave” in your story. I am the younger woman he had an affair with. He hasn’t had a relationship with his three sons (ages 26,24,21) since their mom told them everything and more and they are angry and sad that their father who was a king in their eyes would do this to their mom. It’s been three years and he now lives with me and my two daughters (ages 18,13) He has reached out many times to try to get the boys to talk to him and they finally did. They met and he said it was like an intervention. They said very clearly if he leaves me they will start communicating with him. If he stays with me they want no contact.
    He loves his boys and I feel like he’ll never get over losing them. We are considering putting our relationship on hold, he’ll move out and try’s to mend the relationship with his sons. He hopes through conversation and therapy maybe they’ll come around to understand that he loves me and wants to be with me.
    Is this crazy? We are madly in love and I would wait forever to be with him, however I don’t know if we could really not see or speak each other. I’m concerned about what effect this will have on my children as well.
    Please give us any insights you may have.

    • You’re definitely in a bind. Having two sets of kids affected by what’s happening doesn’t make things any easier.

      I can understand how much your boyfriend wants to repair his relationship with his kids. It says a lot that he’s willing to put your relationship on hold for them. But, what does that do to you? It’s admirable that you’re willing to wait for as long as it takes, but, trust me, when it starts to take years, waiting gets harder and harder!

      Perhaps the most difficult part of all of this is that no matter what your boyfriend does, there are no guarantees. He could give up his relationship with you and his kids might still be upset.

      I guess it comes down to what your boyfriend wants, and who is living his life.

      I can totally understand that his kids are upset. But does he want to give his kids the power to dictate how he lives his life and who he has a relationship with? I know people who have separated because their kids didn’t approve of their relationship. They never went back. I have also known people who stayed in their romantic relationship and, as a result, didn’t have a relationship with their kids for decades. Either way you go, you lose something.

      I wish I had some amazing advice that I could give you that would instantly make everything happy and perfect for everyone. But, I don’t. The situation you’re in is really hard. There are no easy answers. Ultimately, it comes down to a decision for you and your boyfriend of what you each want, and what’s most important in your life. Unfortunately, a part of that decision is also going to involve what you’re willing to let go of in order to get what you want.

      I wish you the best.


      PS Remember, not only do you need to decide what you want and are willing to do in your relationship with your boyfriend, but you’ve also got to consider how everything is affecting your kids as well. (Sorry. I know you don’t need one more thing to worry about!)

  • Why did you have to add the after 10 years, Sarah is still bitter??? Its almost like you’re the one saying she should be over it by now! Why can men move on and give to the other woman like it’s nothing and people congratulate him, but when a woman can’t and is trying to deal with the loss, being middle aged and trying to get back to dating, still trying to figure out what went wrong, trying to deal with being cheated on and left…we get called bitter! Hell, she was blindsided! It’s like a death, but hey what do I know I’m the bitter one who got cheated on and blindsided in my scenario…now my adult kids think I should just get over it and kumbiyah with their dad because he’s ready to be friends with me and include me in with his new wife just because she’s still friends with her exes…yep, that’s me ole bitter ex…

    • I’m sorry you took offense at the scenario I described. The reason I said that Sarah was still bitter is because, in that particular case, she was! (Sarah is obviously not her real name.)

      While in that particular scenario it was the woman who was bitter, the exact same thing can be true of a man. Anger over divorce is not gender-specific! Neither is cheatin.

      Should Sarah be “over” her divorce after 10 years? I suppose that depends on whether she wants to be happy or not. It’s really hard to be happy and angry at the same time.

      I’m not saying that Sarah should go over to Dave’s house and sing Kumbaya with him. But the truth probably is that Dave doesn’t care whether Sarah is angry or not. It doesn’t hurt him. As a matter of fact, it probably makes him look like a good guy to the kids! They probably think he’s being reasonable while they believe Sarah is not! (Mind you, I’m not saying what they think is right, or fair, or even reasonable! I’m just saying what I’ve seen happen. Most kids – even adult “kids – don’t think of their parents as human beings with feelings. They think of them as “parents.”)

      The bottom line is that Sarah’s anger only hurts Sarah.

      Is dealing with the loss of her marriage easy or fun? No! Absolutely not!

      Is it fair that Sarah has been tossed out by Dave, and has to start all over again after HE cheated on HER? Again, no.

      But life’s not fair.

      The only choice any of us has is how we deal with life when what happens to us isn’t fair.

      In the end, it’s OUR choice how we act and react. That’s the real power we have.

      I wish you the best.


  • After 31 years of marriage my soon to be ex (14 years my senior) went to his 50th HS reunion and started an affair with a classmate. Our marriage was not good and I recognize my responsibility and when I discovered his thousands of texts and confronted him I spent 9 months trying to save our marriage. I knew I had walked around angry at him and his faults and literally flipped a switch, catering to him and his needs while he rebuffed all my attempts. He pretended to want to make it work and until I found his burner phone in a shoe when he was packing to go see his oldest son in the city the other person lived, I told him to leave and 6 months have gone by without me hearing ONE word from him. He has seen our adult sons 2 or 3 times and I believe he calls them. I know they are struggling and have told them to lean on each other (they are men and maybe don’t know how to share their feelings). I let them know I am okay and will be although still raw, I talk about our family and happy times we spent together trying to create a new ‘normal’. I’m just not sure how much to ask them about how they are feeling. Of course the evil side hopes they have no relationship with their father but as their mother I know they need to have a relationship with him. Hard to balance and I hope they come through this with as few wounds as possible. Divorce should be final soon, not even sure how to tell them. I had to email him to finally have a conversation about things at least he was agreeable and the divorce is uncontested. Just need to know what to do next. I love my boys with all my heart, the absolute best thing that came out of our relationship and for that I am greatful. Weddings and births will be coming in the near future and I hope to be able to put on my game face for them.

    • Kudos to you for trying to keep your sons out of the middle and NOT asking them too many questions! While I applaud you for trying not to pressure them, I also understand that you want to make sure they are okay.

      As parents, we don’t want to see our kids hurt. We WANT to help! But because this issue involves you, it may be hard for your sons to open up to you about their true feelings. But, that doesn’t mean that they can’t open up to a therapist or other professional.

      Now I know that a lot of men don’t believe in therapy. They don’t like to admit ANY sign of weakness. But, while you may not be able to have deep conversations with them about your divorce, as a mom, you can still suggest that they work with a therapist just to get through this tough time. (If you’re working with one yourself, too, that will probably help you sell them on the idea!) Or, you might suggest that they find a support group. Believe it or not, there are men’s groups out there! Just having other guys to talk to can help them a lot.

      Finally, make sure you take care of yourself, too. What you’re going through is hard. Just remember, you will be in a much better position to put on your “game face” if you take care of that face, and the rest of yourself, first! You deserve it.



  • I met a childhood sweetheart 9 months ago. She was leaving her husband of 35 years. They had two kids together. Her reason for leaving was the verbal abuse and both her children had offered her to stay with them at times when it got really bad. She had no interest in other men until we met. She told her husband and kids she was leaving, but none thought she dared. Then we met and she filed for divorce 2 months later. The kids went ballistic. I’m a passive guy with 6 grown daughters, and been alone 20 years. My issue with the story has a lot to do with being selfish, and NOT on the part of the parent. When a grown 35 yr old see’s their mother being called horrible names and being controlled by a narcissist there is no reason to lash out at the mother. These kids lived through this abuse themselves and couldn’t wait to get out. Now, they are so angry, they are treating her exactly as their father did. My patience has grown very thin with these upset (adults). The names they are calling her, the abuse and the rumors they are spreading need to stop. Sometimes people need to live their own life and GROW UP, everything is not about them, they are not ENTITLED to run other peoples lives.. My daughters love this lady. Her kids are ripping her heart out. I think they’ve catered to these kids way too much and that is the reason they are having so many issues. Imagine a 37 yr old doctor saying ” My mom is divorcing my dad, I don’t know who I am anymore”. Who is the selfish one??? Good grief.

    • I understand completely. Just remember one thing though: it sounds like these “kids” have lived with an abusive father all their lives. What kind of an example did he set for them? What kind of coping skills do you think they’ve learned?

      I know that your sweetheart is probably devastated right now. I wish I could say, “Oh, don’t worry. Six months from now everything will be fine.” But I can’t tell you that. Those kids sound like they’re angry, upset and, yes, more than a little bit spoiled. But that’s not something your lady can change at this point in her kids’ lives. (Sorry!)

      The only thing she can do is try to remember why she left her husband in the first place. The most important question is not whether her kids think she’s entitled to some happiness before she dies, but whether SHE thinks she deserves that happiness. If leaving her husband has damaged her relationship with her kids, that’s sad. At this point, all she can do is continue to love and accept her kids as best she can and keep the door to a future relationship with them open. Whether they choose to walk through that door is their decision.

      But, just because the door is open, that doesn’t mean she has to lay down in front of the door and be a doormat.

      Hope that helps.


      PS It’s great that you’re so supportive. But, remember, her kids will always be her kids. Be careful how much you push.

      • Thank you for answering, I appreciated the response. It’s almost a year later now, the divorce has been held up by covid and asset requests being mishandled. We still live 300 miles apart and continue to talk daily. The “children” are still not doing well with this. I absolutely do think you were right with them not learning coping skills. Both are decent men but don’t date. I think that their life is very frustrated. I have never met them yet, but they know my name. I just wish I could help them. I just take it day by day. Their mother still struggles with it, but over time I think things are getting better. Sometimes I think distance and time can be the best healers. Ty again for your advice.

  • My ex-wife cheated after 30 years and moved in with the guy. Of course we divorced. Our 26 year old son refuses to have anything to do with her and wont allow her to see her granddaughter. Our 24 year old daughter does talk to her but its strained. Neither kid will have anything to do with the guy she is with because he’s the most vile and hated person in town. I read the article and all I can say is, i’m glad the kids took the stand they did. Their mother is a selfish, weak, Godless person. Why would anybody want to be around such an evil person?

  • Frankly, I think you’re somewhat out of the loop. If you haven’t lived people’s situations or have full training as a therapist, it’s better not to judge or tell them how they must act.

    My ex left me after 37 years of marriage for a woman he had met six weeks earlier. They had been together in person four times, but were emailing and calling each other constantly. Our marriage was just starting to get better after a very difficult time, because he had not worked for most of the past 12 years and refused to look for a job or do chores. I took care of everything and the strain on me had been enormous.

    I was stunned beyond belief. I always thought he was a trustworthy guy. It felt as though I must be asleep, having a nightmare. I could not do some kind of nice, “Let’s tell the kids together.” We were not on the same team. I told the kids, but a minimal amount. I did tell them he had met another woman recently and that they should call him. They did and he basically screwed himself over. He tried to hint that I had done something wrong, then later had to admit he was entirely wrong about that; he told the kids he would be sad if they stopped talking to him but he was prepared to live without them because “I deserve to be happy.” Try being a 22-year-old loving daughter hearing that your dad needs someone he’s known for six weeks in order to be happy, but not you. They cut off all contact. He sends them emails trying to guilt-trip them. “I had to wish myself Happy Father’s Day.” They don’t respond. One blocked him.

    We managed an amicable settlement but I was a wrecked woman. I tried to get him to stay and/or try counseling, but he was in full-on infatuation; he himself called it “puppy love.”

    I saw three therapists and was treated for PTSD. I was told by them that I had been married to a man who had manipulated me so that he could have what he wanted — no responsibilities — while giving me very little appreciation or love. (I also was told that by multiple friends; in fact, a longtime friend of his father told me she saw that right away and that his own father said that about him — that he saw only what he wanted in life and saw people as existing only to give that to him.) He blamed me for our sex life being dead, but he never acted romantic or intimate even though I kept saying that was a problem. Just spent all his time in his garage study. I was advised by the therapists to cut off all contact, or as much as I could. And it was only when I did that, being in contact only about necessary business and only by email, that I began to heal.

    Even my in-laws are disgusted with him and a couple of them have stopped talking to him; the others minimize contact. He and I were named the guardians of his brother’s children if something happened. When he left me, his brother asked if I would mind being named the sole guardian.

    I have not discussed him much with the kids except our eldest who already disliked him long before he left me. I have not urged them to be in touch with him or not to be in touch with him; I tell them that I want them to do what will bring peace and good feeling into their lives, and that if they want to have a relationship with their dad, I fully support them in this. I have at times leaned on the kids for help (not financial!) or support, especially because the pandemic struck a a month after he moved out.

    I am not going to show up at family events where he will be unless it is the wedding of our youngest, who is nowhere near getting married. (The eldest was married before this and he wasn’t invited to the middle one’s wedding.) I don’t have to be civil, forget that. I have been told now by therapists and multiple other people that I did a lousy job of taking care of myself all those years and it is time for me to do that. And I am not going to encourage the kids to have a relationship with him. They are good kids, strong adults, and I put a huge amount into raising them to be good people. They can make their own decisions, knowing they have my support.

    Three and a half years later: It took a little over a year for me to rise up again. My career took off like a rocket. I started dating. I made new friends and got involved in new interests. Two years ago, I met a man who felt so right to me, it seemed as though we must have known each other for decades. We’re moving in together this month and our plan is to marry. Being with someone who shows caring for me, and bestows love and affection, I not only feel happier than I have felt in ages, but my physical life has come alive again in a big way.

    I was in a Facebook group of thousands of women who had the same thing happen, and many were treated worse. Don’t tell us how civil we have to be and that we have to be willing to show up at all the family events. Most women have spent their lives sacrificing and sacrificing for their kids, and if they are taking care of themselves for once — good for them! If my kids want to have relationships with both of us someday, that’s great and I wish them joy. But it would take a lot of evolution of my feelings for them to be able to have a relationship with both of us TOGETHER.

    The ex wrote a few months ago that he lives under a shadow of grief every day, that he regrets many things about what he did, that I never deserved any of it, that he and this woman did a very destructive thing together (they are still together). He said he can’t say whether he made a mistake because it’s done and it is what it is, but he often thinks about what our life would be like if he had stayed.

    Last night I was having dinner out with my youngest. I told her I was dedicating my newest book to her and her siblings. Their support held me up during the darkest times. I am so lucky in all of them … they are accomplished, they are critical and deep thinkers and most of all, they are good people with wonderful, giving values, something that was very important to me in raising them. And my daughter said, “Well, we had to learn it from SOMEone!”

  • Hello, thank you so much for all of your comments here. It has been very comforting to read them all.

    I have two adult children, daughter – 27 & son -24. Their dad and I were married for 21 years. We separated in 2014. We just signed the divorce papers in Sept. 2023.

    We were married only 1.5 years and his mother died. Three months later, his dad died. He was 25 years old, I was 22. We didn’t have children at the time. Two weeks before his dad died, I came home from work early and got the mail. I got a credit card bill but didn’t even have a credit card! The balance was $1,200. It might as well have been a million dollars because we didn’t have much money. This was 1994 before identity theft was a household term. I called the credit card company and discovered that he had applied for this card using all my info without my knowledge! I called his dad who was the kindest human you could ever meet. I talked to him about it all and he said he didn’t understand why his son would do such a thing. I needed to reach out for answers and an explanation which I never got. When he got home from work I confronted him. He said he was in a bad place since his mom died and that he would pay the money back. Two weeks later his dad had an aortic aneurysm at work and passed away. He actually said to me “it’s probably from the stress you caused when you called him about that credit card bill”! At that point I decided we would never again have a joint bank account and from then on we had separate accounts.

    This whole story would be much longer but I will shrink it down to say I stayed with him because I didn’t know what it’s like to lose both parents at a young age and I was young and naive’ and I believed he was stressed. Fast forward to 2014…..we had an 18 year old who just started college and a 15 year old at home. We had drifted and spent no time together and I didn’t even know who he was anymore. I was treated like someone who was no longer needed. He was all about the kids. I filed for divorce (the third time in 21 years). When I filed, my life unfolded like a lifetime movie. I discovered he lived a separate life. He had his own business and even though he said the did, he never filed our taxes for three years. I hurried up and filed mine married filing separately and it prevented me from owing money. He owed over a quarter million dollars in back taxes and penalties and fees. He also had a gambling problem I knew nothing about. He had a girlfriend. He lied and lied and lied. I also found out 11 years earlier, he did my mom’s (a widow) taxes and stole her identity and took out a credit card in her name and ran up $7,000 on it! My family never told me because my mother came from a divorced family and she didn’t want me and the kids to go through that. I can’t believe I was with someone that did this! I was angry at my family too for not telling me (I have 3 siblings who also knew) and felt so alone.

    Now it’s 2024. I read these things people have posted here and I look for how I should be feeling but I can’t find anyone who has been through these same things. My son and I are very close and always have been. He lives in CO now and is very happy. He has a relationship with both me and his dad but can see through his dad and knows he can’t trust him. My daughter and I were close but since the split our relationship is strained. She lives one state over and our relationship seems very shallow at best. Over Christmas she stayed a night with me but the rest of her week in town was at her dad’s. He is still with the girlfriend. They have been engaged for years and live together. I am with my boyfriend of three years and we just bought a house together in September in my hometown and my kids’ hometown.

    In summary, I don’t speak badly of their dad. I don’t feel hate toward him, I feel absolutely nothing….apathy. I am unable to recall any feeling I ever had in that relationship. One thing that never hits the air in my kids’ company is… kids knowing what went on because they were there during the unraveling of it (my daughter started college and financial aid needed tax info and I was trying to get it from my husband and he would not admit he didn’t have it because he never filed ) when they spend time with their dad it makes me feel betrayed. I am not sure how to shake this feeling. I know it’s right that they would see their dad if they choose and they do but I don’t know how he could do all this and come out of it just fine.

    • Oh my! THat’s a lot.

      You asked how your ex could do all the things he did. The answer is: I don’t know. People do unimaginable things all the time. Asking “why” rarely leads to an answer.

      Asking yourself, “what can I do to be at peace with this?” is a much better question.

      Also, it sounds like you’ve taken the high road and not talked badly about your ex to your kids. That’s perfect! As badly (or as nothing!) as you might feel about him, he’s still their father. It may be tough, but taking the high road will always be best for them. Let them have their own relationship with their dad. They’ll figure out the truth in their own way and on their own time. (I know that’s probably hard for you to hear. But it really is what’s best for them!)


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