How Do I Explain To The Kids Why We’re Sleeping In Separate Rooms After My Spouse’s Affair?

By: Katie Lersch: I often hear from couples who aren’t sure what to tell their children after one of them cheats and has an affair. Intuitively, they know that it’s not the best idea to involve their children in any aspect of their marriage. But, logistically, there are sometimes situations that come up that make the children curious as to why things have obviously changed. And many children will ask direct questions to which they expect an honest answer.

I might hear a comment on my blog like: “my husband cheated on me with a woman in our neighborhood. My children know this woman because they are friends with the woman’s daughter. In fact, my kids have spent time at her house while her daughter has stayed here. I have not kicked my husband out yet, although I have considered it. But it’s because of my children that I am even considering letting him stay and trying to work things out. With that said, I am not letting him in my bed. I don’t want him there and I can’t imagine ever wanting him there. So, he has willingly agreed to sleep in a spare bedroom for as long as it takes. The problem is that my kids like to come in our bedroom to watch TV with us on weekend mornings. So, this past weekend, they came traipsing into my room and of course they noticed that my husband wasn’t there and they asked about it. I thought fast and told them that my husband had a cold and was coughing so he went in the other room to not keep me up. They seemed to buy this just fine. But obviously I can’t use this excuse forever because no one has a cold indefinitely. What am I supposed to tell them about us sleeping in different rooms?”

I’m not a counselor or mental health specialist. But during my own recovery from infidelity, I had a counselor tell me that it’s always a bad idea to involve your children in the affair. She told me to avoid letting them know even the broadest details if I could help it. Because having secure relationships with both sets of parents contribute to a child feeling a sense of safety and well being. A child does not need to know that one of their parents was unfaithful because it would change the way that the child looks at his parent and could potentially change the relationship with that parent, which benefits no one and potentially hurts many.

I know that it’s sometimes tempting to let it slip. I know that it’s very awkward and hurtful to answer these questions. But think about it for a second. So many of us (myself included) are willing to consider saving our marriages pretty much solely because of our children, especially at first. We’re willing to do just about anything for our kids. So it doesn’t make sense that we would then tell our child something that is going to negate all of the care that we have taken to ensure that child’s mental health and well being.

I know that it can be hard to come up with plausible excuses that actually work. Some people will try explanations like: “daddy and I are taking a break right now and it’s nothing for you to worry about.” but this kind of vague explanation can lead a very curious child to ask even more questions because this doesn’t really address their initial concern. Likewise, if you tell your child there’s a medical issue causing your spouse to sleep in another bed, then they will worry about that too.

I think it’s best to try to give off the appearance that there’s really nothing to hide or worry about and then to drop it. If you dwell on it, the child will sense that something is wrong and this will only lead to more questions. You could try getting up earlier than the kids and then watching TV in the living room. Or, just on weekends, you could have your husband get up early and come into the bedroom just before the kids make their appearance. This might delay the questions. But at some point, you’ll likely just have to say “dad’s sleeping in the spare bedroom for a little while until we work some things out. It is nothing for you to worry about.”

The child might have more questions after this because they are likely to be able to sense that something has changed anyway. Try to answer with reassurance. But again, children do not need to know details about (or even the existence of) the affair. I know that this can be difficult when you are so angry. But keep reminding yourself that you’re motivated by your children’s well being. And also remember that your children are learning important lessons from you. One day, they will have their own marriages. And they will have to learn how to navigate conflict. And one day they will remember that although their parents obviously went through something serious in their marriage, they banded together and they were still a family while they worked it out.

My husband did leave the house for a little while after his affair.  We told our children that it was for business.  And frankly, we gave the appearance of sleeping in the same beds, even when my husband went to spare bedroom after they were asleep.  There was obviously some deception in this, but we felt this was better than our kids worrying about our marriage. If it helps, you can read more of the story on my blog at http://surviving-the-affair.com

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