I'm unsure if and how to forgive my father for having an affair.
I feel that being unable to get past this, is affecting me as a person and has complicated my relationship with my mother. I'd really like to hear from others who may have come to crossroads with forgiving a loved one, especially anyone who's dealt with a parent's infidelity.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (31 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
As a background, my father had an affair a few years ago, with a woman who lives in our home country. (We're Indian, but I grew up in the US.) I believe the affair continues to this day, with heavy financial support to this woman, who is a widow, and her grown children. Additionally I believe my father continues to speak to this woman on the phone, I assume at least weekly.
A few years ago, my father asked my mother for a divorce. She suspected that there was someone else, and he openly admitted the relationship when we asked him. Although this was shattering news, my mother refused to give him a divorce. Her reasons? For one, she couldn't imagine her life without him. Also, she felt that staying with him and tracking his every move, would be punishment to him. Lastly, culturally, divorce isn't widely accepted in the area of India we're from. Case in point, out of all their friends and relatives, we only know one couple that is divorced.
For as long as I can remember my parents have had an extremely unhealthy marriage, often times verbally abusive, sometimes physically. They were ok as parents, when they managed to get past their intense dislike of each other. In fact, my father and I were very close when I was a little girl, and I thought he could do no wrong. As a teenager, I was more affected by their fights, and withdrew from him a bit. Yet all those years, despite feeling disappointed in the way my parents treated each other, I never imagined my father would have an affair until it happened. And when it did, I had no idea how to communicate with him normally anymore.
At first, I pleaded with him to sort things out with my mother, and not to throw our family away. Eventually, after many tearfilled days, he reluctantly seemed to give in and simply said he wouldn't leave my mother.
My mother, to complicate things, often insists on throwing my sister and I into the middle of things, telling us that no other children would allow their fathers to "get away" with having an affair and "giving away" our money.
So fast-forward to the current state of things: I barely ever talk to my father, though I know he cares for me. He often sends me emails and tells me he's worried about me, but I usually don't reply because I have nothing to say - numb is how I feel. My mother and I are sometimes ok, but recently I don't talk to her much either. It's draining to hear about their problems. I feel guilty for saying this, because I want to be there for my mother. But time has shown me that things go in circles with my parents, and I feel incapable of solving their issues.
In an ideal world, my mother would have allowed the divorce, and she would have moved on slowly but surely, and my sister and I would have been there for her. But this just isn't a possibility, at least not one that I can control. Even in this ideal world, things with my father would still probably be unresolved.
My parents will soon be moving near me, and I feel this could be a chance to resolve issues and start on a new page.
How do I forgive my father (and should I?) if 1) I'm not sure how to communicate him while I hold this enormous grudge and 2) I'm unsure if he is continuing to have this affair? As mentioned above -- I'm PRETTY sure he is, but if I knew for sure, I don't think I could truly forgive him. Perhaps I'm afraid to know for sure.
And with my mother, how can I develop a healthy relationship with her, when most of our conversations end with her complaining about my father?