What do I do?

I found out that my dad is cheating on my mom. Should I say something to them or stay out of it?

By Cary Tennis
Published July 3, 2003 7:23PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

I know my father is cheating on my mother. How do I know? My dad told my brother during a moment of "male bonding." My brother told me, and sure enough, when I checked I saw my dad's profile on a personals site, where he wrote that he's married with two kids, and that he was looking for someone to "spoil." After putting all the clues together, I figured that he's been seeing other women for the past year or so, ever since he started a new job that requires him to stay three nights a week at a hotel (otherwise it's a three-hour drive home).

What do I do? My natural inclination is to say nothing. I don't want to be the harbinger of this kind of news, and I don't want to take responsibility for what might ensue, because I think my mother might prefer not knowing so she could continue living her comfortable life -- she's 55, and I don't know if she has the energy to basically start all over. I figure it's better not to tell her because my dad might be going through a phase and stop of his own accord or, if he meets someone that he's serious about, then my mom will find this out from him. Also, I really don't want to confront my dad about his cheating -- I would feel entirely awkward and uncomfortable discussing this with him, and I know that even if he told me that he would stop, I wouldn't be able to take his word for it.

What bothers me is that my dad is such an asshole and there's nothing I can do about it. I can't even look at him straight in the face anymore. Perhaps what bothers me most is that my dad had no qualms admitting to my brother that he was cheating, and my brother still lives at home (he's 24) and he's this totally messed-up kid with a long history of depression. Perhaps I'm giving her too much credit, but I figure that even if my mother found out the truth she'd be able to handle it (or she might crumble, I don't know), but I can't believe my dad was so callous, so immoral to admit this to my brother.

At a Loss

Dear At a Loss,

I think your natural inclination to say nothing is correct. The only person you should talk to about this is your brother, with whom you've already talked. If you can support your brother and help him deal with the situation, great. If you can even help him move out, that would probably help him in the long run.

Otherwise, what you need to do is distance yourself from the situation. You're not living at home any longer, and you don't have a responsibility to try to make your parents act right.

It's quite possible that you can't just ignore what you're learned and move on. It's probably very upsetting to you, and you may find it bouncing around in your skull for a while. So if you feel you need to talk, choose someone experienced, someone you trust, someone who doesn't know your parents. The point is, if you need to talk about it, do it for yourself. But stay out of your father's and mother's affairs; don't think you can step in and make things better. You can't. You'll only get hurt, and you might make things worse.

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Cary Tennis

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