I saw my mother’s WhatsApp chats with my father’s friend. It was sexual in nature with plans to meet up when my dad travels out and of town. I feel torn between telling my dad and risking a lot of hurt and showdowns, and staying silent and allowing my dad to be cheated on by my mom. I also don’t know how to raise it with my mom without spoiling things between us. Even the thought of raising it is extremely uncomfortable and embarrassing, and I just don’t know what to do. I am feeling depressed. Please help.

In life, even if you trudge along the path of least resistance or tiptoe along the steep slopes to the path of greater perceived peril, pain will be an unavoidable part of whatever road you choose. The inconvenience of being a referee versus the humiliation that you will feel if you ‘tell your father what’s happening behind his back’.

In life, a lot that happens with us and to us is not in our control. Yet, suffering is a choice that people make based on how they ‘read’ into a situation. To make your peace with pain, ask yourself what pains you more – The knowledge that your father is being played for a fool or the knowledge that you are going to feel like you have upset a delicate relationship balance between your parents. Either ways, pain will be inevitable through this process of discovery and recovery.

You are caught between two equally confounding choices. Option 1: Spill the beans and tell your dad about your mother’s affair and Option 2: Stay silent and depressed about what’s happening at home. Whatever you choose, being a snitch or sitting on the side-lines (while your parents’ relationship gets marred or elevated by their personal choices), it is natural that you will feel responsible (in the moment) as the harbinger of gloom that’s likely to make everyone feel uneasy and cornered.

Unpleasant as it is, you are marked by your choices and your parents have their decisions to make and live with. Any choice that you make is not a reflection of your parents’ true nature, but rather a human reaction to your discomfort with the situation you find yourself in. Don’t judge yourself harshly.

If you wish to tell your father about what’s happening, know that you do it at the risk of breaking his heart temporarily while giving him some much needed perspective about a situation that (sooner or later) he’s going to have to take note of. If you continue to spin a terrible yarn in your head about what is happening and what will potentially occur if you break your silence, know that you will continue down this state of turmoil because you are being indecisive.

In life, either a decision is made for us or a decision is made by us. I would suggest that you take control of the situation as the best plans are ‘pre-emptive’ in nature since that way – we are able to control all the variables that make a problem such a threat and nuisance. Like they say in War – If you can’t avoid a battle with the enemy, make sure it’s at least on your turf so you can anticipate the odds better. Define the course of this situation.

A heartfelt conversation with your mother (depending on the relationship you’ll share) would reveal to you her angsts or needs that she may have hesitated to share with your father. There may be concerns that your father may have failed to address with her or problems that he is incapable of handling. Every human being has limits and yet the opportunity for growth and learning is a tricky thing as not everyone may be prepared to ‘put in the work’ that is required for a relationship or endeavour to succeed.

The fact that your mother has decided to find sexual gratification with a man who is not your father, is a decision she is going to have to live with regardless of how your father ‘takes it’. Talking will help you understand why she thought it was a good idea to cheat on her husband. Good ideas are largely subjective. Regret is always felt in reference to an event from the past and not an event that is occurring in the present — as the emotions and behaviour plays out in real time.

Whatsapp is a convenient proxy for human contact. In our lives, we spend a great deal of time in a shaky truce with the phenomenon of ‘being truly alone’. It’s a fear most people share. A man or woman can feel alone even in the midst of a large gathering.

Does your mother feel alone in her relationship with your father? What are your father’s limitations as a man/husband? What are your mother’s limitations as a wife/woman? Is it possible for you to help them negotiate their differences if you send them to a relationship counsellor? I think it would be better and safer yet — for a third party member with neutrality to be the one to break the news to your father and mother. This will soften the blow.

Ask yourself these questions and commit to a line of action as you prepare your mind and find the courage to stand by your convictions.