Healing After a Parent’s Infidelity
By: Dr. Sanchez, PsyD
Discovering a parent’s infidelity can be devastating. In recent years, the incident of young adults who have discovered a parent’s infidelity has become more common. To better help individuals heal, it is important to understand the impact it has on adult offspring and their overall development.
Most young adults between the ages of 18-25 are working on ways to become independent, self-sustaining, and autonomous from their parents. However, after a parent’s affair, adults may begin to question themselves, roles they have in society, within their family, and what it looks like to be in a romantic relationship. Thus, priorities are re-evaluated. In addition, the reality of losing special moments, traditions, and other sacred family gatherings can feel daunting.
What happens when young adults find out about a parent’s affair? After an individual discovers that their parent(s) had an affair, the most common emotional reactions are shock, devastation, anger, disappointment, deception, and sometimes, disgust. Emotional reactions are like that of a partner who has been betrayed and are mostly dependent on the type of attachment have with their parent(s).
What impact does this have on adult offspring’s development?Most young adults report experiencing changes in their ability to function daily. For example, individuals report difficulty concentrating, isolating from family, sadness, anxiety, and neglecting their own personal goals. Priorities related to college and/or work are re-evaluated, and questioning current, or future romantic relationships becomes more apparent. In addition, some individuals report that they feel an added obligation and responsibility to take on specific roles such as caretaker, financial contributor, or confidant, to reduce ongoing stress within the family.
How does a loved one heal from this experience?The healing process is quite unique for each individual. Most individuals will ask questions such as, “Why?”, “What?”, “When?”, “How?”, and “Who?”. It is important for parent(s) to answer these questions to allow the healing process to take place. Feelings that come up during the process may seem overwhelming, but it’s essential to allow a loved one to experience these feelings to support their healing. Reaching out for support from a mental health professional can be beneficial as it promotes a safe place to process the new reality and offer guidance to provide some clarity.
It is important for young adults to be able to heal and refocus on their future to move forward in their life. If you, or a loved one is struggling, it would be an honor for you to allow me the chance to sit with you/them on this journey.
Sanchez, C. (2017). Exploring the Impact of a Mother’s Affair on Her Adult Offspring: A Qualitative
Phenomenological Study. (Doctoral dissertation, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology).
ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
Written By: DR. CRYSTAL SANCHEZ, PSYD., LICENSED MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPIST #105555