Psychological Effect of Adultery on Children

Reduce the negative psychological effect of adultery on children with the help of a top professional

Adultery is like a hurricane. When it hits land, you and everyone in its path are blown in many different directions. Similarly, the discovery of an affair affects everyone in your family. Your children are particularly vulnerable to the psychological effects of adultery.

1. The psychological effect of adultery on children can be massive

Having an affair may seem like a private matter, but the truth is that it can cause a ripple effect that touches many lives. It’s not just your partner who will be affected, but also your children, your family, your friends, and even your sense of self-worth. 

Behind every affair lies a trail of destruction, and the worst collateral damage is often the innocent children involved. Caught in the crossfire of their parents’ betrayal, these kids are left grappling with a world turned upside down. 

Every child deserves a world free of chaos and insecurity. But the hard truth is, even with the best intentions, the psychological effect of adultery on children can be severe and can cause major disruptions in their lives. It can leave them feeling confused, angry, and hurt. 

Infidelity hurts each member of the family!

Ways to reduce the psychological effects of adultery:  The key to reducing the pain and risk after an incidence of adultery is to take full responsibility for one’s actions. Acknowledging the negative impact caused to those close to the individual is essential. Through recognition of the truth, everyone involved can take the first step toward healing and progress. This is especially true with older children and teens. The children must be made to understand that what happened to their parents is not their fault. The philanderer has to take full responsibility and be prepared to face and accept the psychological effects adultery has on the children; their fear, confusion, anger, and rejection.

2. Adultery injures children in many ways

When a home burns down, adults and children become homeless. When parents are in crisis, their children are also in crisis. When infidelity tears through a family, children feel and experience turmoil, fear, uncertainty, and anger. The psychological effect of adultery on children can turn their world upside down.

The psychological effect of adultery on children: 

  • Children blame themselves. Because children tend to think that everything that happens in the world is personal to them, it’s natural for them to think that when their parents aren’t happy, they must’ve done something.

  • Children feel they must comfort their parents. Children, especially during a time of crisis, can be very empathetic and take upon themselves the responsibility to comfort a grieving parent. Although this is very noble, it is also very age-inappropriate and puts much emotional pressure on a child, especially when their own self-defined goals are not achieved. For example, as much as a child comforts his or her grieving mother, it doesn’t seem to help. This can lead to feelings of worthlessness, guilt, and insecurity.

  • Children become emotionally torn. When children see their parents fighting and arguing with one another, threatening each other, and publicly accusing and degrading one another, children feel pressured to pick a side. However, doing so feels like a betrayal to the parent they turn their back on. For a vulnerable child, the psychological effects of adultery can lead to guilt and even self-hate.

  • Unwanted. When parents are struggling with the shockwaves of discovered cheating, children are often unintentionally, but nonetheless, neglected. Even though it is far from the truth, they are loved and cherished more than ever, they may feel and conclude that they are not wanted. The father, who always does homework with his son, is no longer available. The mother who cheers up her daughter each morning and sends her off to school with a smile is now sad and depressed and dragging herself through the morning. There should be no surprise that when a child is in a situation like this, and has a limited understanding of what is going on, feels and concludes that he or she is unwanted.

  • Harmful behavior. Because the psychological effects of adultery on children are severe, they often seek extreme ways to comfort themselves. For example, self-injury such as cutting, promiscuous sex, use of drugs or alcohol, or criminal behavior are all ways a child or teen may turn to reduce his or her family stress.

  • Anxiety. When parents are in turmoil, so are their children. A child seeing his parents fearful, angry, and vengeful naturally leads to feelings of insecurity, uncertainty, and fear about the future. A child’s worries can slip into acute and chronic anxiety. Sometimes professional intervention is necessary.

  • Depression. Typically, when anxiety becomes overwhelming, and a child can see no way to solve or get relief from his or her perceived problems, they may give up. Feeling hopeless is the number one feeling a depressed person has. Since a child’s parents are consumed with problems, this can lead to a child feeling despair and depression. Sometimes professional intervention is necessary.

Ways to reduce psychological pain and risk: The psychological effects of adultery on children can be overwhelming. Ignoring a child’s normal and natural feelings during this family crisis and insisting everything is normal only adds to their confusion and pain. Children, depending on their age and what they know, need to be included in the conversations about infidelity and its aftermath, spoken to in an age-appropriate way and permitted to ask questions. This can help ease their fears and give them a sense of control in a situation that might otherwise feel completely out of their hands. Dealing with infidelity necessitates talking honestly and openly with your children.

3. When adultery leads to divorce, everyone takes a hit

The consequences of adultery in a marriage that leads to a divorce can be a devastating experience for everyone involved, especially for children trying to navigate new family dynamics. The adjustment to step-parents and siblings can be incredibly challenging and sometimes impossible. Studies show that children from divorced families face additional struggles, such as dropping out of school earlier, sexual promiscuity, reduced opportunities, and being more prone to drug and alcohol abuse. 

When adultery leads to divorce, everyone takes a hit. Divorce can cause a lot of pain and upheaval, especially for innocent children caught in the middle. Studies have shown that the aftermath of divorce often leads to even greater unhappiness than a broken marriage or committed relationship. Research has also revealed that children of divorced parents are at a higher risk of struggling academically, living in poverty, and facing battles with addiction and developmental issues. Adults need to consider the long-term effects of divorce and work towards solutions that benefit everyone involved.

Ways to reduce the psychological effects of adultery:  When a partner cheats, it’s a devastating blow to any relationship. But if the guilty party is truly sorry and willing to put in the work to make amends, then the couple can heal and rebuild their bond. Doing so is especially important if there are children involved. A divorce puts children at risk in many harmful ways. The psychological effect of adultery on children is now compounded by psychological trauma caused by a divorce. Find out a skilled couples therapist with experience in infidelity recovery. This is key to ensuring that the healing process is thorough and effective and the negative psychological effects of adultery on the children are minimized. With time, patience, and the right support, it’s possible to move forward from even the most painful betrayal. For older children and teens, offering them individual professional therapy to help them recover from the family turmoil and stress caused by infidelity is highly recommended.

4. Ways to minimize the negative consequences of adultery in marriage and relationships

When a family goes through the trauma of infidelity, the impact can be far-reaching and long-lasting.

Unfortunately, many couples don’t take the necessary steps to heal and recover fully, which can lead to ongoing feelings of mistrust and tension. The result is a family in a state of perpetual polarization, struggling to move forward and unable to fully repair the damage caused by the affair, with the children feeling the effects of their parent’s unhealed emotional wounds long after the affair has ended.

With their parents battling over the affair either openly or silently, the children often feel the need to take sides. A child in the family may align themselves with one parent over the other, or they may feel they have to be a therapist and comfort one or both of their parents. Often, siblings choose different sides, and now their sibling relationship deteriorates like a family rooting for two opposing baseball teams.

Over time the infidelity event shapes a child’s personality, and once they have grown into adulthood, their values and character are distinctly different than they would have been had their family never been afflicted by an infidelity event. For example, when the children grow and marry, they may never fully trust their partner, or they may feel that life sucks and to expect anything more is unrealistic.

Ways to reduce the psychological effects of adultery:  Don’t let infidelity become a permanent part of your family’s story — take the necessary steps to heal, recover, and rebuild a stronger, healthier relationship.

You should always seek qualified professional help when recovering from infidelity. The most obvious form of treatment is couple therapy. If there are older children in the family, family therapy is recommended as well. However, even with the best professional help, sometimes it is not possible to fully erase this traumatizing experience that has affected everyone in the family. And, if this is the case, your best approach is to be honest and realistic about this historical trauma that is still felt and remembered by all.

The following are some of the typical consequences of adultery that affects children and what you can do about it:

  • Depression and hopelessness. Acknowledge that things are hard, and don’t dismiss your child’s feelings. Do tell your children that the difficulties are a shared family experience. Tell them that there is nothing wrong with them and that their response it’s natural and normal. If depressed feelings continue and do not abate, it is prudent to seek professional guidance and assistance.

  • Anxiety. Anxiety is an acute and chronic worry. Speak to your child about what is happening in an age-appropriate way, and even more importantly, let them speak to you without you responding in a judgmental way. If anxious feelings continue and do not abate, it is prudent to seek professional guidance and assistance.

  • Anger. Infidelity turns everyone’s life upside down. Your son or daughter has every right to be angry. However, they need to understand other than brief bouts of anger, the expression of anger will hurt them and everyone around them. Do your best to validate your child’s feelings, while at the same time insisting that they be expressed in a non-angry or violent way. If need be, find a caring and skilled parenting coach.

  • Resentment. It is normal we are victimized by someone else’s bad behavior to feel resentful. Allowing your child to be resentful is a reasonable approach. If you follow the guidelines in this article, together with other helpful information that you get from informed professionals, over time your child’s resentment will probably lift.

  • Fear. One of the best ways to reduce fear is to allow your children to share with you what they are concerned about. Your child may be worried that one of their parents will leave the family, they will lose their home, they may have to change schools, and they may lose friends and grandparents, etc. All of these fears and more are completely understandable and given the situation reasonable. Talk to your children, be open with them, and give them honest, age-appropriate information. If they ask you a question about something you don’t know the answer to, tell them that you don’t know. If they catch you misleading them, regardless of your good intentions, you will lose their trust and your ability to help them with their worries and fears in the future. As already mentioned many times, when you follow the advice in this article together with the advice of other informed professionals, you can significantly minimize many of the psychological effects of adultery on children.

  • Don’t seek emotional support from your children. Your children need to have their own lives. And that means if they are eight years old, they need to deal with typical. eight-years-old challenges, if they are 18-years-old, they need to deal with typical 18-year-old challenges. They should not be assigned the responsibility to comfort you or your partner. Their advice should not be sought. They should not be harnessed with guilt feeling their advice was bad.

  • The perpetrator of infidelity needs to be reestablished as a respected member of the family. Often, the consequences of a wife’s adultery or that of a husband is that he or she has been demoted to being a “bad person” in the family and not deserving of respect or consideration. Regardless of who cheated, the mother or the father needs to be re-established as a fully respected and honored parent. Children need to trust their parents, believe in them, and accept their authority. This will only happen if the adulterer clears his or her name and reestablishes their prominence within the family. Both parents need to work hard to achieve this outcome.

Don’t let the devastation of infidelity define your family’s legacy. Embrace the suggestions above to seriously work on overcoming the relationship challenges after the affair has been discovered. Doing so will increase the likelihood that your resilient children will bounce back and have what we can describe as a best-case scenario: “a normal life.”

Additional steps to help you reduce common psychological effect of adultery on children:

  1. Learn more about how adultery impacts families.
  2. Learn more about how to Survive Infidelity.
  3. Professional assistance – Often the assistance of a relationship professional who specializes in infidelity is required to help you survive infidelity. Below are sources where you can find qualified therapists.
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abe kass

Abe has helped thousands of individuals, couples, and families for twenty-five-plus years. When it comes to relationship expertise — Abe is the real deal and can be trusted!

abe kassProfessional Therapist Abe Kass MA RSW RMFT

Abe has helped thousands of individuals, couples, and families for twenty-five-plus years. When it comes to relationship expertise — Abe is the real deal and can be trusted!