Dear Annie: My husband had an affair for three years. I had no idea this was going on until he told me and filed for divorce.
We have two teenage children, and I haven't talked very much with them about the situation. I've never mentioned his girlfriend. I don't even know whether he is still seeing the woman.
My daughter, who is 18, told me that she's been asked by others whether one of us cheated and that's why we are divorcing. I skirted the question and asked how she replied to this, and she said, "I told them it was none of their business." She never asked me outright whether this is what happened in our case, so I didn't tell her.
I don't know whether or not I should say anything. Should I tell them to ask their father? After all, it's not really my information to share. What happens if it comes up later and Dad decides to bring his girlfriend to a family event? That would devastate me. I think it would be good to have all of the information out in the open before that happens.
My daughter has a great deal of disdain for people who cheat on their spouses, and I don't want to hurt the excellent relationship she now has with her father. The two of them have become very close since we separated, and I'm glad about that. Part of me wants to tell my children now and get it out of the way. I don't want my daughter to think I'm giving her information in order to "get her on my side." But I also don't want her to be angry with me for withholding information that other family members know about. What do you say?
Dear Worrier: If your daughter asks directly whether one of you cheated, you should be honest without sounding bitter. But it seems as though she may not actually want to know. If her fears are confirmed, she may feel forced to distance herself from Dad. Should she find out later from other relatives and blame you for withholding the information, simply tell her that you didn't want to damage the close relationship she had with her father, which is a commendable stance to take. We think she will forgive you.
Dear Annie: I read your column every day and have felt the pain of so many parents whose children are estranged. When my wife and I separated a decade ago, my daughter refused to communicate with me. Birthday cards and gifts were returned unopened.
I finally received a terse reply to an email, saying she does not want anything more to do with me. She will not tell me her reasons. She also won't tell her mother or brother so they could pass the information on to me.
This has been hurtful, but I have accepted her decision. I honestly believe the children who treat their parents or grandparents this way are the losers. I am now happily remarried to a wonderful woman and have two great stepdaughters who love me very much. My life is wonderful.
- A Happy Old Man