Adultery/Telling my teenage son reason for divorce
QUESTION: My husband (ex now)had some affairs early on in our marriage, but he never told me about them. About a year after our son was born, my ex started having anxiety attacks and dealing with depression. That is when he came to me and told me about the affairs. Over the next two years we tried to put our marriage back together, but most of time it was spent him trying to find the right medication because he was stuggling with his depression and anxiety. And anytime we tried to talk about the affairs, he would usually say something like,"I already said I'm sorry. What more do you want?" I separated from him twice,and eventually chose to divorce him, not just because of affairs, but also because of alot of verbal and mental abuse during the separation(that continued through the finalization of the divorce). Fast forward 12 years - my ex and I are now on good terms, and we do our best to keep it that way for our son. My ex does not remember alot from those few years because of his medication, and my son (who is now 15) doesn't remember anything (that I know of) because he was too young and I did my best to shield him from the turmoil. My son has been wanting to know why we divorced. My ex usually tells him that we had some problems and we couldn't work them out. I usually say something like, "I know you have questions, but give me time to think about what I need to tell you." I know I'm avoiding the issue because I really don't know what to tell him. He doesn't need to know everything that led to the divorce, and I don't feel that I should be the one to tell him about the affairs. That's his dad's responsibilty; but I don't think that will ever happen. What do I do?!
ANSWER: Hi Myla,
Why not have a chat with your ex and see what the two of you agree on? Then the two of you can have a conversation with your son together. It's important to tell the truth, yet not lay blame. It seems that your son is looking for understanding. It's easier to give him that if the emotion/blame is removed from it. After all, you don't want him taking sides or feeling responsible for defending either one of you. You want it to be an opportunity for growth and understanding, right?
I'd keep it "need to know" and age appropriate. If you can do that, I think he will be satisfied and no harm will be done. You don't want to undo the work that you did by shielding him in the first place.
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QUESTION: I will talk with my ex and see what he says, but I really think he is going to stay with the same answer because that has been his answer for years. For example, this past weekend my son wanted to talk about our divorce again. He told me that every time he asks his dad, he always tells him the same thing (we couldn't work out our problems). My son wants to know more. He even asked me if anything really bad happened in our marriage, or were there any affairs. If my ex does not want to tell my son anything different, do you have any advice on what I should tell him without giving too much information.
Yes, I'd find out why is he asking. What is the emotional need that underlies the question. Address that and the specifics won't be as important. This is true whenever there is any type of conflict. It's never about the surface issue, but our feelings.