Writing under a pen name, a young woman shares what it was like to learn that her mother was having an affair, and how her family has gotten past those tough days.
Thinking back on it, so much has happened and so much has changed. I was only 16 when I learned how much pain a loved one can inflict. Basically, I caught my mom having an affair. My mom invited me on a vacation for Christmas to San Francisco under the guise of some “mommy-daughter time”—but that wasn’t really the case. She just wanted to meet her boyfriend.
When I saw them kissing, I felt anger I’d never felt before. And it scared me. I couldn’t do anything but run teary-eyed into the hallway to find some place quiet to scream my lungs out. I couldn’t think of anywhere to go except for the hotel stairwell. I ran up about six floors before I settled in the corner and sobbed quietly. So many thoughts were running through my head, trying to decide whether or not I should tell my dad and my brother, and if so, how. After what seemed like an eternity, I decided to not tell them because, well, I understood. I understood why my mom would break my heart.
My parents’ relationship was never good. For as long as I could remember, they’ve never gotten along. Fight after fight, it never ended. I understood that my mom’s heart had been broken for all my life. I saw how happy she was with him. I wanted her to be happy, even if it meant sacrificing my own. I decided I would keep my mom’s affair a secret, between me, her and her new boyfriend. I went back to the hotel room to find my mom in a panic and her boyfriend sitting around. I don’t know if he even cared. I hated him and I still do. My mom asked me where I went and tried to hug me as I walked into the room, but like a reflex, I pushed her away. I didn’t mean to, but it happened. I saw how hurt she was. The sitution angered me again, but I tried to put it aside. I told them both, “I will pretend this didn’t happen.” They both quietly agreed and we continued on our “vacation” as normally as we could, touring around San Francisco.
In the end she broke up with him. She ended it with him as our trip in San Fran came to a close and we were headed back to Toronto. She told me she would tell my dad when we landed, but I told her not to and I saw relief in her eyes. I knew she was scared of him to begin with; of course she was even more terrified at the thought of what would happen if she revealed her affair. To be honest, I was scared of him too—of what he might do to her. As angry as I was with my mom, I would never want to see her hurt. I also didn’t want my dad and my brother, especially my brother, to feel the way that I felt—empty and sad.
I kept the secret for about a year. Unfortunately, I went into a depression. My dad and brother noticed that I was always alone, quiet in my room, and that I never had any friends over anymore. I didn’t really have friends anymore. I couldn’t relate to any of them any longer. Then one night, as I was eating dinner by myself while home alone, my dad came home looking scared. He sat down and looked me in the eyes and asked, “Is your mom cheating on me?”
I remember shaking as tears welled up in my eyes; I couldn’t even look my dad in the eye. I didn’t have to say anything. He knew. This would of course trigger many fights, one where my dad kicked my mom out of the house. Eventually my parents’ friends had to step in to save my mom and dad’s marriage.
They went through many sessions of marriage counselling together, and they also got me a therapist. In the following months and years, our family began healing together. In times of anger, my parents learned to step back and think before saying something they might regret. After a fight, they did an exercise where they’d tell each other what they are thankful for in each other. This made them more loving and appreciative toward one another. And of course, they’ve learned to forgive each other and accept the consequences of their actions. Fights do still happen, but that’s part of a relationship. The most important thing is to own up to what you did and accept that what happened happened.
As horrible as it was, I’m grateful for what happened that night in San Francisco. Without that night, I wouldn’t have learned my own strength in love and character. Without that night, my parents wouldn’t be how they are now. Without that night, my family wouldn’t have learned the true meaning of love. That night in San Francisco saved my family.
(Photo: Unsplash—Jordan Sanchez)
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