"... and I thought I'd never find a guy as great as my dad."
December 30, 2008 2:07 PM   Subscribe

I found out that my dad cheated on my mom, and that my parents are dealing with his infidelity. They don't know I know. I don't want to tell them. In fact, I'd love to forget it. But I can't stop thinking about it and am having trouble sleeping. I need some tools to deal.

While using my mom's computer, I went into her Internet history to delete the MetaFilter stuff that showed up, thinking my life would be easier if she didn't have easy access to my username on this site. I see pages upon pages of a Surviving Infidelity site she visits. I don't stop myself and continue to scroll through the history of sites, topic pages, and Google searches until I conclude that at some point my father had an affair, my mother knows, and they are weathering this together. (I manage to not actually open any URLs.)

My parents have been happily married and very in love my whole life. I understand marriages are complicated and that this isn't any of my business. I'm 27, and although my parents are a really big part of my life, I understand that it would be better if I can just forget having seen it. I'm trying. I haven't shared this with my sibling or with any friends. It feels gossipy and I feel protective of my folks. I most certainly don't plan on asking my parents about it.

It's just that I think about it a lot and am having trouble sleeping. For the last year and a half or so, I've been reeling from the revelation that my long-term partner had cheated on me throughout our crappy 4-year relationship. I didn't find out until many months after we broke up and the knowledge really shook me to my core. Now, just as I was starting to feel less broken about that, I learn this. I've always idealized my parent's union. And I can't tell you how much I adore my father. I'm so angry to see this side of him; and that's all wrapped up, of course, with the anger I felt towards my ex. I've found it very difficult to see Dad or spend time with him, and I don't think my shortness goes unnoticed. Every time he hugs me, I want to cry.

Can I let it go? Do I let it go? How? I live nearby and we see each other often, sometimes weekly. I just want to be able to move forward and keep loving my dad. Having my faith restored in the possibility of long-term monogamy would be nice, but I'm also very open to suggestions that maybe that really isn't possible and I need to start re-defining what I think I want from my relationships.

I'm sorry for the length. Basically, it feels like I am going to stew in this for awhile, so it'd be nice to have some on-topic books or articles to read so I can understand all of the feelings I'm experiencing better. Any other insights and perspective any of you have to offer will also be much appreciated.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (40 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you sure she wasn't looking this stuff up because one of her good friends is going thru stuff?

If you looked at MY computer history you could assume quite a lot about me that would not be true in the least.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:16 PM on December 30, 2008 [14 favorites]

I found out that my dad cheated on my mom

No, you didn't. You jumped to that conclusion based on someone's browser history. You have no idea if she was just looking for amusement, or maybe trying to find help for you.

Snooping is often its own punishment. Let this go.
posted by sageleaf at 2:20 PM on December 30, 2008 [4 favorites]

I don't stop myself

Learn from that.

Get out and about, redouble your interests elsewhere. Up your exercise routine, find a new hobby. It is none of your business and for now it isn't your problem, so it's a simple case of taking your mind off it until there are further developments.
posted by fire&wings at 2:21 PM on December 30, 2008

It's really for your parent's to work out. It sucks that you suspect this, but the private lives of adults is theirs to deal with.

And no, not saying you're not an adult.

And it could be that your mother was looking up stuff about infidelity because of your experiences. Who knows.

I'd advise against confronting either (doesn't sound like you planned to). Life is complex. In the event this did happen they will have to work it out how best they see fit.
posted by cjorgensen at 2:24 PM on December 30, 2008

You came to this conclusion. If it is correct, it is none of your business anyway, and you should take this information/conclusion (that there was infidelity in your parents' marriage) to the grave.

Don't mention it, ever. It'll be worse, if you do, and won't help. If they wanted you to know, they would tell you.
posted by Danf at 2:25 PM on December 30, 2008

Wow, that's rough, especially since you can't speak to your Mom or Dad about it.

A few tips:

- Take some solace in the fact that your parents are apparently trying to work it out together.

- Be emotionally available to both parents, even though you are probably doubting much about your relationship with your father. Keep the lines of communication open.

- Accept that you don't know all the facts, and try not to make snap judgments. On the face of it, it may seem like your father is totally responsible (and he may be), but in most cases it's very complicated.

- Find someone to talk to, either a therapist or a close and trusted friend. Don't talk about it to anyone else within the family.
posted by BobbyVan at 2:27 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Assuming that your father actually was unfaithful, how do your parents seem to be handling it? After all, they're the people most affected by it. If they are still happy together, what exactly is hurting you? I don't mean to sound callous, but if the people directly affected by what's happened (if it has happened, and those above have raised very plausible explanations to the contrary) seem okay with it, that should tell you something. Even the best of us make mistakes; if your parents are still happy, take heart in knowing that it's possible for people who love each other to overcome such mistakes.
posted by sinfony at 2:33 PM on December 30, 2008

I have a close family, too, and this is the sort of thing that would shake me up. And I'd have a hard time talking to people about it. It sounds like you know you have reaped what you sow for entering into the world of someone else's internet history --- so don't do that again --- and I think you made clear that you aren't considering talking to them about it.

Is it possible to ask some leading questions of friends to see if they've experienced similar issues in their families? I understand the protectiveness you're feeling, but maybe you can have a more general conversation and uncover some tools/insights that way. Or maybe someone here who has been through something similar can offer what helped them...?
posted by juliplease at 2:34 PM on December 30, 2008

This isn't about your parents. Who knows what happened? It might not be your dad. Your mom might be looking up resources to help repair a problem she created. You don't know and you shouldn't jump to conclusions.

This is about you and your feelings of being hurt by a former partner.

I'd go to therapy to find out what is going on with you and to find a way to come to terms with what happened to you.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:36 PM on December 30, 2008

I am going to make a confession -- I am a reformed snoop. Ten years ago, I used to sneek peeks at friends' browsers and such, to the point that one friend caught me and had strong words with me about how I really had to cut it out. I am not going to tell you that you should have known better than to look at the browser history and yadda yadda yadda, because I know that you know that, and you know that you know that.

But the realization I came to which finally stopped me is the same realization that may help you cope with what you read -- I figured out that, ultimately, my snooping was all about me. The only reason I cared about what was going on in their lives was because my own life was out of whack, and I was projecting that onto them. If I found anything out, the knowing didn't help me.

So instead I took a good hard look at myself and at why I was compelled to poke through their things, and when I came up with a reason I asked myself what may be behind that, and when I came up with another explanation I asked myself what was behind that, and so on and so on and...and ultimately that line of questioning both lead to some soul-searching in my own self that shook me out of that habit, and also distracted me from some of the stuff I'd found out, and that has kept me from doing this kind of crap ever since.

In your case: you say that your ex cheated on you, which may be why that site jumped out at you. But what other people say is true, that it IS possible your mother was looking at those sites for other reasons. Even if it is true, they have made their choice about how to deal with it, and that is a choice between them. Consider: if it is true that your father cheated, they didn't immediately split up, they are trying to move on. And that is something that only they can do. I know it's an emotional wedgie for you, but -- you don't have all the details, and you don't even know for certain that that's why those sites turned up on your mother's browser.

Stick to the only thing you can deal with -- yourself. Examine how your reaction may be influenced by what happened to you, and what other issues about that may also be tied to that. Ultimately you don't know for certain what's happening with your parents, after all.

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:38 PM on December 30, 2008 [3 favorites]

Well, no, you don't know for sure, but I can't help but feel like the people who are saying it's none of your business are wrong. They're your parents. You've idolized their marriage, and as their child, the product of their union, you have a certain right to know what's going on.

That said, I think it would be best to be absolutely certain that he did, in fact, cheat on your mother before saying things like, "I just want to be able to move forward and keep loving my dad." It might suck to have to confront your mom about something you stumbled upon while snooping through her Internet history, but knowing for sure would at least let you know what sort of questions you should be asking.

I'm going through something very similar at the moment. Feel free to MeFiMail me if you want to hash over anything.
posted by coppermoss at 2:46 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

Long-terms relationships are complicated, and most people don't like complicated. When confronted with complication, most of us simplify. That's often fine and natural, but in this case it's leading you in the wrong direction. You're simplifying in two ways:

1) My dad had an affair and that means he's a bad guy. (I'm ignoring the very real possibility that your dad didn't have an affair. Others have already suggested that, above.)

2) My dad's act was similar to the act(s) of my ex-boyfriend. Or, my parents' relationship is similar to mine with my ex.

No relationship is similar to any other relationship. We SO want to learn from the past, but in this case you can't. Your dad and your ex have no effect on your next boyfriend. Some men cheat; some men cheat once and then never do it again; some men cheat repeatedly; some never cheat at all.

You know your dad is not a bad guy, even if he did a bad thing. Guess what? Over the course of a long life, very few of us never do bad things. Are all people who aren't saints bad people?

You've also given affairs a special status. That's normal, because (a) our culture trains us to do that, and (b) you've been burned by a cheater. Now, I'm not one of those people who is going to tell you that you're a tool of Western Culture and you need to give up your mundane ideas about fidelity. I'm with you in that I don't like being cheated on.

However, being cheated on is just one of many ways that our partners can hurt us. They can also hurt us by ignoring us, patronizing us, controlling us, refusing to take care of themselves, etc. Over the course of a long marriage, some sort of hurt is likely to happen. People are imperfect. People screw up. People give in to temptation. You've idealized your parents' marriage. Sorry: there are no ideal marriages. But there are good ones. There are even good ones that have included infidelity or some other problem. Problems aren't necessarily catastrophes.

It sucks that your ex REPEATEDLY cheated on you. He sounds like bad news. But it's not true that "once a cheater, always a cheater." That's yet another way people try to simplify a complex reality. What's true is that SOME cheaters are repeat offenders. Some aren't.

What's true is that many, many marriages involve bouts of infidelity. For all the couples that you hear about splitting over affairs, there are many you don't hear about where the couples weather the storm and grow stronger as a result.

Your biggest problem -- which you pointed out yourself -- is that you've idealized your parents' marriage. It sounds like they are a loving HUMAN couple. When trying to relate to your dad, think about your own "sins." Maybe you've never been unfaithful. But have you been perfect?
posted by grumblebee at 2:54 PM on December 30, 2008 [7 favorites]

Other people have addressed the snooping issue here much better than I could. But I wanted to talk about this:

I've always idealized my parent's union. And I can't tell you how much I adore my father. I'm so angry to see this side of him; and that's all wrapped up, of course, with the anger I felt towards my ex. I've found it very difficult to see Dad or spend time with him, and I don't think my shortness goes unnoticed. Every time he hugs me, I want to cry.

Your parents are people. The standards you're holding them up to are unfair to them, and unfair to you. And isolating yourself from your friends and other family about this issue because you feel ashamed that your parents might just be normal people is absurd--this is clearly eating you up inside, and you need to talk to someone about it. Please, go speak to a counsellor, if you can't talk to those closest to you about it. You have no reason to be ashamed at not coming from a perfect family. The truth is, no one does.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:54 PM on December 30, 2008

You have no idea if she was just looking for amusement, or maybe trying to find help for you.

Very good point!
posted by ericb at 2:55 PM on December 30, 2008

Your biggest problem -- which you pointed out yourself -- is that you've idealized your parents' marriage. It sounds like they are a loving HUMAN couple. When trying to relate to your dad, think about your own "sins." Maybe you've never been unfaithful. But have you been perfect?

Grumblebee speaks the truth!
posted by scody at 3:02 PM on December 30, 2008

Does your mom know how upset you've been over your breakup? I agree that she could have been looking for help for you. Don't jump to conclusions, unless her searches are literally along the lines of "my husband cheated on me now what do I do?"
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:07 PM on December 30, 2008

I conclude that at some point my father had an affair, my mother knows, and they are weathering this together.

Are you absolutely sure? Like St. Alia and many others, my browser history would make you think, uh, strange things about me.

There's been stretches where I look up all kinds of weird and incongruent things. Based on my recent browser history a couple of weeks ago, you could have concluded I or someone I know has Down Syndrome (I don't), or want to brainwash someone (I don't), or how to hide my drinking problem (I don't drink at all.)

If I had a friend who was going through a tough time because her husband was cheating, I might look that up on the internet.

So, once again, are you SURE about this? If you're not sure, you are using up a lot of energy on an assumption.
posted by uxo at 3:08 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

You are projecting your anger and hurt from your past relationship on to your dad. If anything, I think you need to spend some time coming to grips with that betrayal, as it's going to colour your perception of this one.

Does your mom know about your ex and the cheating? Do you think you might be able to talk to her about it? "hey, mom, I don't know why, but I'm finding that I'm thinking a lot about my ex and the cheating and how much it hurt me? Any advice for me, woman to woman?" I don't know if you could do that, or if you have that kind of relationship with her, but it might help. You get perspective and she has an opportunity to tell you about a) her concern for a friend who's had an unfaithful partner b) her concern for you and those nifty websites she found to help you or... c) about her situation with her dad.

Really, though, if she doesn't say anything to her, she doesn't owe you an explanation. But it might help to have her listen to you and offer her wisdom.
posted by Grrlscout at 3:08 PM on December 30, 2008

Soz, I meant YOUR dad. Mongo have long day, Mongo log off now
posted by Grrlscout at 3:10 PM on December 30, 2008

I've actually looked at that "surviving infideltiy" website, though I am not and have never been married, and have never been concerned that my partner is cheating on me. I read about them on some website or news source somewhere (maybe even here!), and purely out of curiosity had a nose through them one afternoon.

Maybe your parents are dealing with infidelity, maybe they're not. One thing I do know is that you can't judge the ACTIONS of people through what they look at on the internet.
posted by modernnomad at 3:21 PM on December 30, 2008

Mod note: This is a followup from anonymous.

Thank you all for your time. I am reading the responses closely and taking them all to heart. Just to be clear, the items I saw included searches for "ailment father suffers + medication father takes + infidelity + affair" and the like. My parents don't socialize outside of each other (well, current possible issue notwithstanding, har har) and my parents don't know about my ex cheating on me. I know that if you look at my internet history, you would think many odd things about me. What I saw in the history stuck out to me, and as much as I rationalized to myself all of the things you said when I stayed up that night (it's for some friend, it's just curiosity, maybe she cheated on him, etc.), my gut feeling had it pegged. Thus, my conclusive phrasing.

However, I agree that it's entirely possible that I am projecting my issues and jumping to absurd conclusions. I should have used a lot more "suspects" and "think perhapses" rather than "concluded" and "knows". I see that the way I phrased my question says a lot about my mindset here and I need to let that certainty go. I will definitely look closer at my motives and, moving forward, will not think of this as a foregone conclusion. We all agree there is room for doubt.

I also think it would help to continue to understand more about being the child in this situation, because regardless of my issues, this may be happening to my family and I am struggling. In addition to the reality checks, I'm very interested in hearing anything that can help me work through that.

Thank you all again. Every answer has been helpful.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:40 PM on December 30, 2008

Is it possible your parent was doing the searching on behalf of another person, a friend whose partner cheated on them? I've done some extended browsing on the Interweb that, if you judged by my cached history, would lead you to believe I'd been in some unpleasant situations myself. But in reality, many of those things never happened to me at all- I was researching on behalf of friends, or reading out of curiosity, or sometimes simple voyeurism. Heck, maybe one of your parents is writing some short stories they haven't told you about.

I'd gently suggest that you may have jumped to conclusions here, and that reframing your discovery as a time your imagination ran away with you might be the best way to put this "discovery" out of your mind.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:51 PM on December 30, 2008

Oops, I missed cortex' answer on preview above as being from the OP. Sorry to be redundant.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:53 PM on December 30, 2008

I found out that my Dad was cheating on my Mom, when I picked up the phone and heard him having a conversation with his girlfriend. I was 16 years old (I'm 38 now) and it was awful.

I didn't idealize my parents marriage, I knew they had problems, but it was like a punch to my chest when I realized what I was hearing. I worshipped my Dad, and I was so disapointed and hurt.

After some time went by, I realized that my Dad's actions had more to do with him being a man and a husband, not a father. He wasn't cheating on ME, he was cheating on my Mom. Still crappy, but it didn't have anything to do with my relationship with him as my father.

This is really basic, but it's something that a lot of grown up children have a hard time with. Our parents are human. They screw up, they had lives before we were born, and they do things that have nothing to do with us. That's really difficult to accept, but it's true.

When you have interactions with your Dad, don't look at him and think "cheater", just concentrate on your relationship with him as his daughter or son.
posted by lootie777 at 4:00 PM on December 30, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I can imagine what a hard situation this could be for you. My parents are getting divorced. Thinking about what each one is going through has been hard. Then I realized I'm largely imagining or projecting what it must be like. When I ask them how it is, they have very different experiences and thoughts than those I'd be having. I'm not sure you want to talk to them about it or not (that might dispel some fictions) but if not, you might want to read some fiction books that include infidelity to see how differently different characters think about it.
posted by salvia at 4:37 PM on December 30, 2008

There was no infidelity in my parents' marriage that I'm aware of, so I can't shed any light on the child's role in your situation, but my ex's cheating led to our divorce, and I can provide you some perspective from that angle.

My daughter was about 7 when my ex and I separated. While she didn't know the details of why the marriage broke down, my mother knew some of them and she was understandably protective of me and angry with my ex. My daughter is 19 now, and it has taken almost this long for my mother to understand why I've maintained a good relationship with the former son-in-law that she hates. He is my daughter's father. She wasn't a party to his infidelity and I've done everything I can to keep her from being hurt by it.

If your father did cheat on your mother, it isn't a betrayal of her for you to retain a healthy relationship with him. I hope your mother would want that for you the way I've wanted it for my daughter. Your relationships with your parents are separate, and unless you're called in to referee somehow, you might be best off trying to relate to them as individuals who both love you regardless of what's going on between them.

If what you suspect is true, it doesn't void your relationship with either parent. And without knowing any facts, please err on the side of giving all the benefit of the doubt. Making yourself sick over the situation can't be good for any of you.

Wishing you peace.
posted by contrariwise at 4:58 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

It's never a pleasant feeling to learn that your parents are real people with the same failings that everyone else has. Some learn it far too early, some far too late. But it's always a punch in the gut of the ego.

Well, no, you don't know for sure, but I can't help but feel like the people who are saying it's none of your business are wrong. They're your parents. You've idolized their marriage, and as their child, the product of their union, you have a certain right to know what's going on.

No, you don't. You have a right to know a lot of things, but the workings of their marriage isn't one of them. Your desire to know doesn't trump their right to privacy- if they wanted your advice, they'd ask for it.

How to make peace with it? Hard to answer. But remember that it's their issue to deal with, not yours. If Dad did cheat on Mom, it does no harm to you.
posted by gjc at 5:25 PM on December 30, 2008 [1 favorite]

There was just another thread posted yesterday regarding a couple with a curious girlfriend. This is absolutely ridiculous and is proving itself true in two distinct situations now.

stop snooping. Snooping is allowing you to formulate assumptions. Assumptions are bad (just in case you haven't figured this out yet).
posted by FusiveResonance at 6:05 PM on December 30, 2008

You idealized your parents' relationship. If what you suspect is true then you are learning something about how real marriages manage to last. Couples have problems and, if they love each other, they find a way to work through it. (There are exceptions - love is not always enough but that is a different question.) Obviously, the problem is not always infidelity - it could be extended unemployment, an serious illness (of the couple or a child), relations with in-laws or death of a child. Life is full of problems. But there are people who do actually manage to say married "for better or for worse" - it sounds like parents are one of those couples.

You don't know what is really going on but it looks like whatever is happening (or not happening) you can respect your parents for having a depth of commitment that can survive life's problems.
posted by metahawk at 6:20 PM on December 30, 2008

lootie777 said:
After some time went by, I realized that my Dad's actions had more to do with him being a man and a husband, not a father. He wasn't cheating on ME, he was cheating on my Mom. Still crappy, but it didn't have anything to do with my relationship with him as my father.
To that I will add that this is 1) none of your business; and 2) an opportunity to practice patience and equanimity.

Good luck.
posted by notyou at 6:31 PM on December 30, 2008

1. Talk to your doctor. My sister and I both self-medicated to get ourselves to fall asleep. It would have better to talk to a doc about sleeping pills or natural sleep aids rather than just using certain other things.
2. At some point you need to talk to your parents. Or at least your mom about what you know, think you know. It will be hard. I do not believe this must be done in person. Send an email or a letter if you need to.
3. Talk to a confidant. I am lucky to have a friend who is completely outside of my family circle who I was able to talk to. If you need, see a therapist who you can say what you really think to without having to wonder if there feelings are being hurt.
4. Realize that it might be good for your mom to finally be able to discuss this with you when she has had to hide it for so long.
5. Start thinking about the good things your dad has done. Funny childhood memories and the like. Doing this helped me remember all is not lost.

I am about 3 months out from finding out about my dad's affair. If you'd like to shoot me a memail feel free.
posted by silkygreenbelly at 6:49 PM on December 30, 2008

A couple of things worth maybe thinking about.

First of all, "I've always idealized my parent's union" is pretty common but almost always a setup for disaster. Part of maturing into an adult relationship with your parents is, IMHO, a recognition that they are people exactly like you are. They are complex individuals who simply do the best they can at any given time. Given the universality of human failings, they are every bit as likely to make poor decisions and fuck up as you yourself are.

Two, infidelity is incredibly common. It could have happened to either of your parents, and in fact may have previously occurred with either one of them in the past.

This leads to three, which is that your parents relationship with each other is every bit as private as your relationships with your partners have been. I don't mean this in terms of them deserving as privacy as much as I mean that you really do not know as much about it as you think you do. There are probably all kinds of landmines, traumas, hurts, kinks, triumphs and tragedies inside that marriage that you know nothing about.

In other words, they are not just parents; they are human peers. They are as deserving of slack and forgiveness as you yourself are. I have no idea what your childhood was like, but I'm willing to bet your folks have forgiven you for and supported you through all kinds of catastrophic decisions or consequences in your life. While it's fine to be angry and need to process the affair, I think the best thing you can take out of this is forgiving your father for being not an idol, but a human, subject to human failings just like the rest of us.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:31 PM on December 30, 2008

Quoting the OP:

the items I saw included searches for "ailment father suffers + medication father takes + infidelity + affair" and the like

Not sure exactly the context here, whether these were all part of a single search, or different searches, etc... but since you mentioned it, I'm assuming it's part of your assumtive process. My response is, why would she be searching on 'father' instead of 'husband'? Maybe I'm mis-interpreting this, these could be completely unrelated searches she was doing to help care for her father that you simply included to present the scope of what you found.

All that aside... speaking from someone who went through a nearly identical situation, except for the fact that the affair was revealed to my family by my father (albeit after 10 years of repeated incidents):

1) At the risk of beating a mefi cliche to death: Consider counseling. Learning that the 'perfect family / loving relationship / everything is beautiful' concept I thought existed, but was complete crap, was a huge emotional blow. Just talking to someone helped, knowing I could get my feelings out to someone who would listen and had empathy, but wasn't otherwise emotionally attached to the situation in any way. In the absence of concrete proof like I had, they might have additional suggestions.

2) For both your parents' sake, don't reveal your findings. If your assumptions are incorrect, it could get pretty awkward and embarrassing all around. And even if they were to tell you your assumptions are incorrect, would you really believe that 100%? Would there still be this nagging in the back of your head that your mom told you that it was 'for a friend' or something just to avoid having to come clean?

If your assumptions ARE correct, it will be even more embarrassing and awkward all around. That entire dynamic will change... that pink elephant will still be in the room every time you are with your mom or dad, but will be even bigger because both of you know the other knows, and this changes the dynamic entirely. If they feel it is the right time to bring it up, they will. If not, they won't... you need to respect that and not put them in a position they're not yet ready to be in.

Also, consider the snoop factor. If you happen to be right, your mom is probably pretty messed up emotionally, she's going to think the entire world is against her, however irrationally. (For a time after it was revealed to me, my mom swore up and down that I had sabotaged her computer so she couldn't use it. Turned out to be a corrupt AOL update.) If you reveal you know, you'll reveal your source, and in her state may easily be interpreted as another "You're all against me!" action, because you were, by your own admission, snooping around. In my experience, it took a lot of painful effort to get past that and convince them otherwise. And I even had concrete evidence that I hadn't performed said sabotage.

3) I'm having a hard time coming up with advice regarding your dad if you choose to believe (or confirm) this happened. Other posters - and my counselor - said it's not your life or business, he didn't cheat on you, this is their relationship issue, not yours, etc. And I do see the value in that and respect and somewhat agree with that argument. However I still can't get past the fact that there was that lack, on dad's part, of considering what his actions would do to the rest of his family - not just mom. Yes, the fact that you're an adult makes a BIG difference... you've moved on, you have your own life, your own relationships, etc. But I have to disagree with the poster who was 16 - your dad didn't 'cheat' on you in that sense... but in your shoes I would still have lost a lot of respect for him because he put himself ahead of any consideration for his HOME and the people in it - not just his wife. (yes, making some assumptions on the situation, may be more the story, blah blah. I'm generalizing here.) I still love my dad, but even though I was 35 and long out of the house when I found out, I still lost a lot of respect for him as a father because of what was, in his case, pure selfishness. I don't think that's wrong, nor can it be avoided... but its effects will slowly ebb over time.

Bottom line... Yes, it sucks if its true. I've been there. You don't have confirmation that it actually did happen, but I get the impression that if you do avoid seeking such confirmation, you won't be able to shake that underlying belief. Whether you believe it or know it to be true, it does get better, but you need to learn to deal with the feelings because they don't go away completely. Mail me if you want me to ramble more.
posted by SquidLips at 9:49 PM on December 30, 2008

On Postview, DarlingBri's first paragraph up there speaks volumes, and is something I hadn't touched on. My own reply was tough, having to hash through all this again... but that one thought after the fact really puts things in perspective and helped pull me out of the little funk I was in from my overly detailed reply. Thanks for that moment of clarity.
posted by SquidLips at 9:55 PM on December 30, 2008

SquidLips: I interpreted the OP's phrasing of "ailment father suffers + medication father takes + infidelity + affair" where "ailment father suffers" aren't literal search terms but referents for the actual ailment that his/her father suffers from, etc. This would make sense if the actual search terms were something like "depression + Zoloft + infidelity + affair".

For the OP: I would try to recognize that this is a process and you are going to have to spend time (as you have already done much of, yay!) looking at all the ways this information and possible scenario affect you and change your perception on things.

For me, my late 20s was really harsh, but eye-opening. I had survived a few relationships and gained a good 10 year distance from being under parental supervision. I was also in a space where I was drawing connections between the model I had for relationships (my parents) and the paths I had taken in making what I thought were completely independent decisions. Basically, I was realizing how much influence my parents had in my life, even without them active in my life. So I can imagine that finding out information that can possibly add 50 million extra layers of nuance to unpeel and analyze can really throw a wrench in things. So, I will go for the tried and true AskMetafilter stock answer gem: therapy can really help in sorting this out and gaining some perspective that is useful to you in your specific situation.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:16 PM on December 30, 2008

Oh wow, if he did cheat I am very sorry! I totally understand that you must feel awful.

It sucks...as we get older we realize that our parents aren't perfect and neither are their relationships. I still live in this fantasy world that my parents are perfect and so is their marraige ;)

I think you just need to let it go and realize that it has NOTHING to do with you. I bet you felt it was kind of personal, right? Even though it was only between your parents. Given that you went through a similiar situation, it's gotta sting. It crushed your faith in men, and now you've discovered that maybe dear old dad isn't the man you thought he was. It sucks. It really does...I'm sorry you're going through this.

If this still really bothers you in a few months, I'd maybe see a counselor. It might be nice just to talk it out.
posted by pdx87 at 11:11 PM on December 30, 2008

I would assume she was looking for help for you. Failing that, she might just worry that he cheated but he didn't actually. I think you're really jumping to conclusions.
posted by Nattie at 3:26 AM on December 31, 2008

I also think it would help to continue to understand more about being the child in this situation, because regardless of my issues, this may be happening to my family and I am struggling.

But what we're trying to say is that the very reason you're struggling may have been entirely fabricated by your own brain in the first place.

I would propose that, since you say she used the term "father" in the search engine searches instead of "husband", she may not have been searching for anything about your father at all.

Also - an important question. Are you saying that you started typing a search into Google search and those terms started popping up in the search bar as you typed? If that's the case, then that's not even something your mother put there -- that's something GOOGLE put there.

Believe me, I feel for you, but...this is like you are trying to ask us to prepare you for Yeti attacks and we're all saying, "But...there's no proof the Yeti is real in the first place."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:01 AM on December 31, 2008

Squidlips, you said:

But I have to disagree with the poster who was 16 - your dad didn't 'cheat' on you in that sense... but in your shoes I would still have lost a lot of respect for him because he put himself ahead of any consideration for his HOME and the people in it - not just his wife. (yes, making some assumptions on the situation, may be more the story, blah blah. I'm generalizing here.)

And you are correct in both cases. I did lose a lot of respect for my Dad, at that point in my life, and there was a lot more going on than I knew about (and still don't know).

But the betrayal I felt was much more personal and self-centered. I'm sure some of that had to do with my age, and the fact that my Dad moved out and I lived with Mom full time, but I would think that self-centeredness is a universal reaction. I didn't really think of the aspect of his selfishness knocking out our family, because frankly he wasn't the only one who contributed to that.

The OP is still in the shock stage of "Holy Crap, my Dad is doing this awful thing" (if that's even true, we don't know the whole story), and what to do next. My suggestions:

1. Talk to someone. Therapist, impartial friend, AskMeta, just get it out of you. Don't let this stew, you really need to verbalize what you're feeling.

2. All the emotions you are feeling are valid, don't shut them off or think you shouldn't feel them - BUT - don't let them drive you to do something you'll regret, like confront your parents, or let your Mom know that you have suspicions

3. When you are in your Dad's company, just concentrate on your relationship with him as his kid. Don't let all this other stuff get in the way of that. Your Dad is not your spouse, he didn't cheat on you.

Finally, I'll repeat what everyone else has said. You don't have the whole story, you actually don't know if he cheated on your Mom. I think this has a heck of a lot more to do with you being cheated on by your long-term partner, and you should concentrate on getting past that, than worrying about the state of your parents marriage.

I have so much sympathy, I am sorry you going though this. I wish you the best.
posted by lootie777 at 8:13 AM on December 31, 2008

Seconding lootie777's advice above. In particular the "don't shut off your emotions" bit, because I'm afraid that a lot of what we are saying could be misinterpreted as a suggestion to not talk about this or as an admonishment to not feel something. And that's actually not what we're saying - at least, it's not what I'm saying. It's more trying to point out that the reason you are upset may not be the reason that you THINK you are upset.

It's like -- okay, one time I got really, really wigged out when a new boyfriend awkwardly introduced himself as my "friend" at a party. We'd only been dating for a month, but I read him the riot act later over "what the hell is this 'friend' shit?" and it turned into a big fight. However, I only later realized that it wasn't him calling me 'friend' that really was what threw me -- what threw me was that a completely other guy stopped calling me his girlfriend about a week before he finally sucked it up and broke up with me. So my new boyfriend saying that just triggered this flashback to some lingering hurt from that old boyfriend. And rather than taking a deep breath when I was first getting upset and asking myself what I was really upset about, I attacked the new boyfriend, who hadn't really done anything all that bad.

What you feel is what you feel, and is valid, and should be processed because you're troubled. But there could be subtext to why you feel what you feel, which is what I -- and I suspect others here -- are asking you to investigate. What you're doing now is kind of like my turning to that boyfriend and saying "how DARE you just call me friend!", and I'm just asking you to do the equivalent of taking a deep breath and thinking whether, "oh, wait, what's REALLY bothering me is the fact that Mike called me 'friend' and I still am mad about that. Okay, that's my problem, not Tim's, so I should deal with that differently."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:41 AM on December 31, 2008 [2 favorites]

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