I'm an adult who doesn't live with my parents. I've been suspecting something shady going on for the past 6 months and it's taking a toll on my stress levels. How do I deal with this situation?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I suspect that many people will suggest that I butt out of my parents' relationship, but I'll explain anyway.
When I was a teenager, my parents dealt with an infidelity issue concerning my father. It rocked our family life for a while, but ultimately, my parents stayed together and I don't know how it was resolved. I don't know whether my father eventually admitted it and they worked through it, or if he kept denying it and my mother just accepted the denial.
15 years later, this issue is rearing it's head again. My preference is to not have to think about it or get dragged into it, however, my father and I work in the same place and I see him everyday and am exposed to some shady behaviour. Before I begin, changing jobs, while likely ideal, is absolutely not an option for me right now so please don't suggest it.
My family is very close. I get along fantastically with both of my parents, and superficially, my parents get along really well with each other. My father takes care of my mother very well.
Here are the things that make me suspect that he's doing something wrong:
1) Last year, I started noticing that he was texting all the time at work. My father doesn't text. He doesn't even respond to my text messages and claims he "doesn't know how to text". Every time I approached him while he was texting, he stopped abruptly and put his phone away.
2) Not long after that, I noticed that he constantly emailing at work, using a personal email address. My father isn't the email type, and often times, emails I've sent him to his personal email address go unanswered because he never really checked his email too often before.
3) A few months ago, I approached his desk while he was logged into his email account, and he didn't manage to close it fast enough when I got there. I saw the main inbox page and saw that there were many many emails there, all from the same sender. But I didn't see the name.
4) Not long after that, I was helping him with a computer problem he was having at work and his gmail account was minimized on the toolbar. It was an email address I've never seen before and not the email address he uses with us (my mother and I).
5) A female coworker that I had at a another company, who also knows my father, started contacting him often last year, looking for a job after returning to the workforce after a long medical leave. He told me about this often, since this person is sort of a mutual friend (and I use the term "friend" loosely, on my part), and I thought nothing of it.
6) He told me that he visited her in the hospital while she was ill, and I thought, sincerely, "oh that's really nice of you!".
7) A couple of former coworkers that I hold in high esteem told me some bizarre issues and interpersonal relationship problems that this woman was having with them, and in passing, in casual conversation with my father one day, I mentioned this and said how I didn't like her. The purpose of the conversation wasn't to bash her, but we were just shooting the shit and it came up. Since that conversation, my father stopped mentioning her completely.
7) After that, I caught a glimpse of the sender's name in his email inbox while he was scrambling to close it as I approached his desk. It was that woman.
8) He receives phone calls at work from someone who is obviously female (I can hear it in the way he speaks to her), the tone is oddly familiar.
9) I had a chat with my mom yesterday and she mentioned that my father recently went to a funeral of a family member of someone he "used to work with", and then not long after that, he went to a cultural celebration that matches the ethnicity of the woman I suspect he's having relations with. The name of the person involved in these two events that he told my mother, was not her name. It was a name of someone she'd never heard of, and my father is usually pretty open with who his friends are. He didn't invite my mother to attend either of these events with him.
10) My father used to take the train to work and used to come home at the same time every day. Recently, he's started driving to work, and she told me that he leaves at 7:30am and comes home around 7:00pm every night. He usually leaves the office at 5pm, and with traffic, the maximum amount of time it takes him to get home should be half an hour. He claims that he hangs around downtown until rush hour is over so that he can avoid traffic.
11) He recently got a new phone and he has a password on it. Why would he need a password on his phone?! I know lots of people have passwords on their phone, but it's out of character for him.
I don't think that any of these points alone indicate foul play, but all of these combined with what happened years ago, seem to point to a disappointing reality. They're also out of character for my father, who is generally an open person.
I WANT to ignore this. I don't want to be unwittingly dragged into this. I don't want to hear anything about it. I know that my parents' relationship is not my responsibility. But I'm exposed to this every single freaking day and it makes me really angry and makes me want to get to the bottom of it. I've been doing a good job at trying to ignore it to the best of my abilities for almost a year now, but after having spoken to my mother and learning about her own observations has made me feel like I am at a boiling point.
I vented about it to my SO a couple of times over the past year. He is sympathetic and supportive. He suggests that maybe everything just looks sketchy, but isn't. He suggests that maybe he is just providing emotional support to a friend, but isn't actually having any kind of affair with her, and is hiding it because he thinks it won't be acceptable to my mom. I would like to believe this, but I just wish that if that were the case, he would just be honest about it with her.
This is what I tell myself to try to not let myself get affected so much: your parents relationship isn't any of your business. They're adults. Everybody makes mistakes. Maybe you're paranoid because your trust in your father was broken many years ago, and you're jumping to illogical conclusions.
In the meantime, I'm in a state, whether it's right or wrong, where I feel like something needs to be done. My mother doesn't seem overly suspicious, but she makes comments sometimes that lead me to believe that she doesn't trust him 100%. Things like "... that's what he said he did", or "... if that's where he really went" after telling me about something that he said he did. It makes me intensely sad, because my mom is an awesome person and has always been a good partner for him. He keeps her at arm's length about certain things, and I can tell it bothers her, even though she doesn't openly talk about it.
I haven't shared any of my thoughts about this with her because I don't want her to be sad, or to be racked with suspicion and insecurity. But by not telling her, I feel like I'm protecting my father and his shady behaviour. It also makes me feel angry because I feel like he's taking me to be an idiot by exposing me to these things and expecting that I won't wonder what the hell is going on. I wish I could make him know, if he is indeed cheating, that the only reason that he hasn't been caught is because I've been actively avoiding trying this situation. That he hasn't been caught because I haven't tried to catch him.
I'm feeling really emotional right now. I'm an only child and don't have any other family members I can discuss this with. My entire family is my parents and I just want so badly for them to be respectful to each other and to our family dynamic. I feel caught in the middle, and even though they're not intentionally dragging me into it, I can't shake it off. This is stressing me the fuck out.
How the hell do I deal with this? One on hand, I want to turn a blind eye to this. On the other hand, I want to try to find out WTF is happening so that I could tell him to knock it off. If I were to have concrete evidence, I would not tell my mother. But I would tell him that I know, and that he needs to put an end to it. Sometimes I think I want to try to catch him in hopes of finding out that he's not actually doing anything at all so that I can go back to thinking that my father is the awesome person that he's always portrayed himself to be. Should I try to catch him? Should I butt out? How do I butt out when it's always in my face?
Btw, I'm in the process of trying to find a therapist to speak to about this.