Sex and The City: To tell or not to tell!

My sister and I know that our Dad is having an affair. We have not told this to our mother who works really hard for the family by running a successful business. She treats our father with great respect for supporting her business ambitions. We are worried about the ramifications on all us once our mother finds out about his affair. I feel that I owe the truth to Mom. Yet, I can’t get myself to say it. I have hinted at my father’s absence from the house for long hours even after work, but she makes light of it by saying that everyone needs ‘me’ time and that he is ‘unwinding’ with his friends. I don’t know what to do. Please help.

Ans: You are in no ways complicit in the situation being what it is and yet you feel this urge to rescue it. There’s nothing wrong in wanting everything to be ok but such expectations bring with them the weight of life’s many uncertainties. In disrupting ‘the normal way of things’ for your dad and mom’s relationship, you may be shaking the branches of a tree that doesn’t have very deep roots.

This information has the potential to wreck external or internal damage to your parents’ relationship. By becoming a whistle-blower on your dad’s affair, you may also become the unwitting villain in the story of a couple that was blissfully siloed in their own perfectly imperfect manner. What if a couple chooses to turn blind eye to each other’s affairs as long as the home environment was stable? The respect your mother shows your father could also be stemming from gratitude to be given space to be herself & that is probably why she respects his space too.

Understand that there is a moral weight that the truth carries for some people but as Buddhist quote goes – Before speaking your mind, first ask yourself – If it true, is it necessary and is it kind? While you may have discovered your father’s affair and that’s the truth, would it be kind and necessary for you to tell it to your mother at this stage?

This is a moral choice you’ll have to make based on how well you know your mother. For Example - Is it moral to tell a cancer patient who is 84 years old - that she has only a few months left to live if you know that she’d get critically depressed in the interim if she found out? What if she would continue to be her usually cheery self despite the medications just because she didn’t know how much time she had left? It’s difficult to choose - isn’t it? It was never supposed to be easy.

In an ideal scenario for you and your sister, perhaps your mother will discover the truth through you’ll and finds the courage to fix her relationship with your dad so he stops cheating on her. As romantic as this possibility is, it may not come true. In the less than ideal scenario, what if this information leads to a court battle and they never want to see each other ever again? What will be the financial and emotional repercussions of that? Time and place determines many things.

You may have played out some of these scenarios in your mind. As you can see, there are no easy answers to whether you should or shouldn’t tell your mother of your dad’s affair. This largely depends on the kind of person your mother is. Does she like to be wistfully optimistic? Is she someone who prefers the hard truth (even when it’s downright disturbing?

A counsellor will not and should not decide for you if revealing the truth is what you should do. This will be a decision that is mutually negotiated between you and your sister. You’ll will have to resolve to face the consequences of that decision together & as a team too. Your hints have clearly not worked so far or perhaps there’s more to Mum’s awareness of the situation that what meets the surface?

Consider the many possibilities before you make the idealistic choice and perhaps talk to an adult who knows your mother as well as or better than you do. They may supply insights that will inform what path you take. A visit to a qualified psychotherapist may help you brainstorm. There is always the possibility that your mother and father may come out of this hurt and vulnerable – once the affair is out in the open.

There will be a combination of shame, guilt, anger and a deep sense of betrayal that is experienced. This may be difficult you to witness and for your parents to navigate through. You may have to resist the temptation to blame yourself for upsetting the tricky equation between them.

Labelling yourself as a snitch after you’ve broken your silence is counterproductive. I understand that whatever you choose, there isn’t a precedent for the same so you may feel like you’re going in blind or making a serious mistake. Trust your judgement. Despite how you feel, this situation is not going to disappear on its own. Wait it out or talk it out. Let clarity ensue.

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