Direct Answers – My Hands Are Tied


My oldest son has been married over 25 years. They have two girls, 26 and 24, and a son 13. He and his wife have substantial careers.

My son is wonderful to me and a good father, especially to his young son. Periodically I feel certain he has been unfaithful to his marriage. I suspect others in our family know yet look the other way. Deep down, I thought his wife had to be aware at some level.

Inadvertently, a text meant for my son made it to him and his son’s phone. It was obviously about an affair. His son did not understand it, so he showed it to one of his sisters. She, in turn, sent a long text to the other woman telling her off and telling her to leave her dad alone.

This sister also told her other sister. Now all three children are aware of something.

My son offered to pay for the college tuition of the daughter who responded to the text, if she did not tell her mom. She hasn’t. But the other sister, who works for my husband, recently broke down and told us the whole story.

We haven’t said a word to my son. What should I do? I’m not okay with turning a blind eye. How do I approach my son, or would you advise me to mind my own business?

~ Sondra

Sondra, the world becomes more gray as we age.

Raising children the message is, this is right, that is wrong. Children get other rules, too.

Do your homework, turn down the music, tie your shoes, your hair is too long, you are not going out of the house looking like that. It’s only natural children will turn that same critical eye on their parents. There is nothing gray in a kid’s life. They are not allowed to think, “I can get a little drunk…”

But as people get older, the world becomes gray. With the burdens of work and income, children, insurance, house payments, car payments, college funds, rising prices and retirement accounts, not to mention the inner turmoil we have as we age, a feeling grows.

Where is my life?

So some people do things they shouldn’t to get by. Corners get cut. Lies abound. An adult may think, I work hard. I get to do things my kids should not do.

Perhaps your son felt his wife forced him into the marriage because she got pregnant. Perhaps he thought, “I was paying for the foal, I might as well live with the mare.” Perhaps that’s the way he felt for most or all of the marriage.

There is right and there is wrong, but wrong has a thumb on the scale. Wrong has “but” on its side. But she’s so hot, but I want that job, but I can use the money. As we get older, all our buts get bigger.

You assumed your daughter-in-law knew. Maybe that was self-defense on your part. If she knew, you did not need to act. But you’ve jumped out of that camp because your son’s bribe to a daughter proves his wife does not know. Your excuse has vanished.

It is inherent in cheating that the person you cheat with may expose you to your family. How much worse will it be when your daughter-in-law learns everyone in the family knew the secret but her. She will feel betrayed by everyone.

You don’t get to blame the other woman. She has no ties to the family, and you don’t know what your son might have said to her. Even if she knew he was married he may have found a way to work on her emotions.

Your son has given you no choice. You can’t let him make you an accomplice to his duplicity. Tell your daughter-in-law what you know.

~ Wayne & Tamara

Column for the week of December 1, 2014

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