My parents have been married for nearly 46 years…they have the easy-to-remember wedding date of “6/8/68.” Their strong, loving marriage has truly made all the difference in my life; I cannot imagine what I would be like today had I not had such a wonderful example of Christian marriage and a safe and loving home in which to grow. Maybe that’s why I was moved to tears over an anonymous letter that appeared in the Guardian recently. It was written by a 22-year-old woman to her mother. The subject? The girl was confessing that she knew that her mother had cheated on her father when she was just 12 years old. Her mother never thought she knew, but she did, and in the letter she describes the devastating effects her mother’s infidelity had on her young life…and continues to have on her as an adult.
The daughter writes:
I saw how you wore more makeup than usual when he came to our house. I saw the furtive glances across the garden and I remember so clearly the time you brought him to the house when Dad was away. He sat stiffly at our kitchen table with us, and the others were too young to think anything of it, but I knew this was his audition in your mind. Could he replace your husband of 15 years?
She goes on to say that although her mom thought her naive, she was “a bright 12-year-old” and realized what was happening immediately. But her mom never knew that she knew. And, the writer says, she never knew the emotional upheaval her affair caused her child.
You will never understand how damaging it was for a child to hear her father sobbing at night. To find letters from him begging you to stay. My father is, and always will be, my hero. But to see him so broken, to watch him age 10 years in mere months … I can never see him in quite the same light.
This wounded daughter then chillingly goes on to say how she even saw her mother’s “pro/con” list of sorts about whether or not to leave her husband for her cheating partner:
…there were our lives; your three children set out as initials on a scrap of paper, the various directions of our futures drawn in arrows – would you leave us with Dad and start a new family? Would you take us with you and leave him all alone? Nothing, in the 22 years of my life, has hurt me as much as that piece of paper. I saw myself as nothing to you but baggage to be organised around your new life.
She marvels that her parents’ marriage survived, that somehow, 10 years later, they are even happy. And though she’s not ungrateful, you can tell from the letter that she is still deeply scarred, deeply haunted, and even as an adult, terrified that her parents’ marriage could self-destruct at any moment.
But it’s the closing of her letter that is perhaps the most tragic. She describes the effects of her mom’s affair on her own relationships:
I know you, and I know, regretfully, that I am exactly the same…I, too, cannot stand consistency and stability. I crave tragedy, drama, whirlwind romance and deep heartbreak.
I hope I’ll grow out of it.
Mamas, marriage is hard. And sometimes the grass DOES look greener on the other side of the fence. But before you jump that fence to take a closer look, think about what you might be doing to your kids. This heartbreaking letter really says it all—breaking your child’s heart, tearing up your family? There’s no way that can ever be the right choice.