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I’m home from college and living with my parents this summer while I work part time in my hometown. Last month I discovered my father coming home disheveled from a late night work meeting. Upon greeting him he seemed uncomfortable and quickly headed upstairs to shower. Over the past month I find reason to think these late-night work meetings may be resulting around a mistress. Another clue that points to this possibility was when my dad said that he had to go out to the garage to grab meat from the deep freeze and I caught him talking secretly on his cell phone. My parents have definitely had marital struggles but seemingly act as though their marriage is functioning well. And truthfully, I believe my mom seems content. I am the youngest of my two siblings and leave to go back to college in a month. My fear is that my mother is oblivious to these “late night” meetings and if I don’t intervene now, this may become destruction for the marriage. I am distressed over this issue. Should I confront my dad? Am I over thinking the situation at hand?
-Hints of Infidelity
Dear Hints of Infidelity,
I can only imagine that walking in on that secret convo was an unsettling feeling. It certainly seems like some shady business is going on. Whether it’s a mistress or not, your gut is leading you to believe something isn’t adding up. If I were in your position, I would find time to have a heart to heart with dad. Rather than confront him, I would first provide a healthy space for discussion. I would be reluctant to accuse him of anything on circumstantial evidence, but I would recommend sharing your concerns. No need to jump to conclusions yet. Check-in questions may include:
• Hey dad, how is work going?
• How are you and mom doing?
If you get surface responses and feel like he isn’t telling the truth, it’s up to you on where you would like to take the discussion. More directed questions may include:
• Hey dad, I saw you taking a secretive call in the garage the other night. Is there something you want to share?
• Dad, you came home pretty frazzled a few nights ago. Is everything okay at work?
You can be there to love and encourage your parents but their relationship is not your responsibility.
Ultimately, you may not get an answer. And if you do, will it be what you want to hear? You can be there to love and encourage your parents but their relationship is not your responsibility.
Your parents are fallible humans. It may feel like it is your responsibility, especially because you are living with them day to day this summer, but you cannot fix their problems. Whether you decide to pursue talking to your dad or ignoring the situation, I highly advise thinking about someone you can find comfort and confidence speaking with. Whether it’s a good friend, sibling or therapist, being an adult can be hard especially when those you love most disappoint you.
Dear Hints of Infidelity,
You have concerns, you have a gut feeling, but you don’t have facts. You sound angry, confused, and anxious about this situation and just aren’t sure if you should be the one to act on your concerns. Research suggests that marital indiscretions are somewhat common (up to 25% of marital relationships) and can be related to a myriad of factors including long standing and unresolved marital conflict, differing sex drives between partners, and previously experienced sexual trauma. While it is within your rights to choose to sit on this information in order to allow your parents to figure things out on their own, I encourage you to think first about the parent who would be harmed the most in this situation, your mother.
Try a mind experiment to consider your options. First, fast forward 5 years and imagine that it comes true that your father had been unfaithful. Second, consider the paths you could take now and how those would feel emotionally 5 years later. If you can’t quite stomach the emotions of one of your choices, that may be the sign you need to figure out which path to take.
…Consider the paths you could take now and how those would feel 5 years later.
If you decide to take a more active role in responding to this situation, I would encourage you to consider reaching out to your siblings first to process your thoughts and emotions. However, don’t be surprised to hear either their support or their defensiveness. Ultimately, you have to be the one to decide for yourself about the way you will respond, but know that your gut feelings and how your siblings weigh in can serve as a guide.