How am I to deal with my dad’s infidelity?
My parents have been married for 31 years going on 32 this year. However, my mom found out that he has another woman in his life. Now, this is not new information to me because before my mother found out about his infidelity, I have long suspected my father. I have been suspecting for a long time now because I have accidentally read the correspondence between my father and this woman (whom we don’t know). I wanted to confront him a long time ago, but I just did not know how and I did not know what to say. I didn’t tell my mom as well because I didn’t know how to, nor did I want her to get hurt. So, I shrugged it off and in a way, just hoped and prayed that he will come to his senses and stop what he was doing.
So here we are today and my dad has finally told my mom about his philandering ways. However, the dilemma does not end here. While my father has confessed about his doings, he does not see anything wrong with it. He absolutely feels like everyone (and I mean his siblings and us, his immediate family) is blowing everything out of proportion. Because of what he has done, he has gone to great lengths to insinuate that my mom is cheating on him too, even when she is not. He has severely accused my mom, and my mom has been an emotional wreck. The saddest thing about this is we are Christians. And what I cannot understand is how my dad, who has taught us about God and the Bible since we were young, just pretends that his actions are not wrong.
Whenever my mom asks him about what their vows meant to him, or if he is even afraid of God’s discipline, he shrugs it off as trivial and not “factual,” whatever that means. I feel that he is intellectualizing this whole thing.
Now, I don’t want my parents divorced, but I cannot stand to see my mom emotionally and physically drained. What my dad is doing is dragging our family down. Not only has he used my mom emotionally, but he is also using our family’s and my mom’s financial resources to support his infidelity. I am so angry at my dad right now, and my respect and trust in him as a father and as a man has been lost.
However, I feel guilty for being angry because he is my dad, and it feels that I am dishonoring him with my anger. I feel that I have made a mistake by thinking that divorce might be an option. And I am afraid that if my dad will not stop what he is doing, God’s discipline will not only be on him but also toward us. How do I tread this extremely delicate situation without drowning, and how can I be supportive of my parents, whatever the outcome is?
Was I wrong in turning the other way when I suspected him before? Will God protect and deliver my family while we are going through this? How can I still love my father through all of this? Will God’s discipline go down to us because of what my father is doing? How can I comfort my mom? There are so many questions, but so little answers … please help me understand. I just want all this to end, and my family back.
One of the most difficult things in life is to watch a personal tragedy unfolding before your eyes (and heart) and feeling so powerless to do anything to stop it.
That it was brought on by someone’s (your dad’s) personal choices makes it that much more frustrating. That it is happening at point-blank range to you, to those whom you love most deeply, is one of the worst of injuries. My heart goes out to you, but more importantly, the heart of God goes out to you, and He has every intention of healing your heart, sustaining you, and walking with you through every step and every breath of this. You need not doubt that for a moment.
Here are some things you need to know: First, you are in no way responsible for your dad’s choices. He’s an adult and makes his own choices and is solely responsible for the repercussions of those choices. Neither you nor your mom is at fault for his decisions. The question is not what you could have done to prevent this. The only person who could have prevented your dad from having an affair is your dad. Period.
Second, as painful and sinful as is your dad’s current moral failure and lack of repentance, it doesn’t discount that it sounds like that at least while you were growing up, you were in a good home that encouraged you toward faith in Christ, and that is a blessing from God for which you can be, and should be, very thankful.
And finally, be assured that not one single moment of this has missed the attention and deep interest of God, who loves perfectly and acts justly in His every thought, motive and action. His interest is both for personal healing and His own glory.
If you will allow this to be an opportunity in your own life to lean into Him more deeply and personally than you ever have, you’ll discover at least in part what Scripture means when it says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Our ears have grown so accustomed to that promise we’ve almost lost the ability to be stunned by it, but it is, in fact, a stunning, shocking, and very real truth, that all means all, including a father’s infidelity.
So what do you do? You can’t change him. Your mom can’t change him. God is the only Person who knows the combination to the lock on your dad’s heart. And that’s where you come in. If you want to help in some way, you start going to battle on behalf of your dad’s heart.
Ephesians says that our battle is not against flesh and blood (your dad or this other woman), but against the spiritual forces of evil. Again, this is another passage so common that we don’t hear Paul’s table-pounding, passionate plea to fight through prayer. Don’t let your familiarity with that passage keep you from realizing what God is saying to you right now. It is a call to arms for you to fight the Evil One on behalf of your dad (and mom).
Through prayer, God will lift you above the visible circumstances of the carnage, and give you a broader view of how He sees what has happened, which will allow you to still love your father and love justice and love hope, all simultaneously.
Pray that the pride that blinds your dad will be broken. Pray that God will give you the grace to not let this heart-wrenching trial go to waste, that as painful as this is for you and your mom, that God will work through the pain for your eternal good and for His own glory. Pray that despite what you’ve now been exposed to in your own parents’ marriage, that the experience won’t cause you to distrust the institution, but rather will serve to only deepen your resolve for a Christ-centered, cross-centered marriage of your own.
On a practical level, be sure to guard your own heart and don’t allow yourself to be consumed with figuring all of this out. You need to “be there” for your mom (and your dad, when he’s ready), share their burden, listen, offer encouragement, but keep a little distance emotionally.
This is, at its core, an issue between your mom and dad, and their covenant they made with one another before (I assume) you were ever born. They are adults and they need to work through it themselves, hopefully taking advantage of some professional, biblical counseling. Parents sometimes rely on children for emotional support too heavily in a crisis situation like this. Only you can know when that reliance has become unhealthy.
Your parent’s marriage needs a miracle, and God will deliver to willing hearts. That is up to them. You, however, can only determine what your heart will do. God will work the miraculous in your heart as well, if you are willing and open to it.
Copyright 2007 John Thomas. All rights reserved.