My husband didn’t ask me to tell our children about my affair. I felt no underlying pressure from him to do so. When he disclosed his sex addiction to our son and daughter, my adultery was not a part of the story. It wasn’t his sin to share.
My husband protected me. He declined to taint the image our children held of me, their mother. He was willing to solely carry the weight of infidelity in the eyes of our children. Be the bad guy while I wore the halo. Even though we both knew my halo was tarnished and dangling and piercing his heart.
But I couldn’t let him do that. That summer, five months after my husband disclosed his sexual sin and addiction to our son, it was my turn. Our son was home for a visit. I sat in the same room with him. Where I could see his face and his body language as the hurtful and confusing words he never expected to hear stumbled from my mouth. I know it was a difficult evening for my son as he processed my confession instead of freely cavorting in the river with his friends. But I will never know the true extent and effect it had on him.
I wrote the following words in an email that night to the leader of my support group:
“I did it. I told my son about my affair tonight. It went as well as could be expected. He asked a lot of deep questions, so I am mentally exhausted now. I am not sure how I am feeling yet. All I know is that I am sitting here with a big bowl of Oreo ice cream even though I am not the least bit hungry. But I did it, and I don’t regret it at all. Phew.”
My daughter was still attending university overseas. I waited. And once she returned, I waited some more.
That winter, as I continued to work diligently through my 12 step program for partners of sex addicts, assembling a personal inventory of my good, bad, and ugly, God’s whisper to my heart grew stronger and louder that I needed to add the names of my children to the list of those to whom I needed to make amends.
I stared at the page with their names on it. The harsh reality of how I had failed them as a mother. The times I allowed my own fears and insecurities to take precedence over their well being. The times I enabled their father’s neglect of us, his family. The times my inaction wounded them. My mind and heart wrestled with what exactly I needed to make amends for. My affair and contribution to the breakdown of our marriage was only a part of it.
My counsellor suggested that as an element of my amends, I ask both my son and daughter if there was any specific situation, behaviour or words that had caused them pain that I needed to acknowledge and apologize for. I liked that idea even though it scared me.
We also discussed whether or not I should confess my affair to my daughter. My counsellor thought yes. I was still unsure. Until God provided me with a beautiful green light affirmation to proceed.
The following weekend, I went to the city for a mother and daughter day. We ate lunch at a new restaurant, wandered through a museum and had a great day together. But ….. I didn’t try to make amends with my daughter at all. I dropped her off at her house, hugged her good bye, waved, and burst into tears sitting in my car. I couldn’t drive away. My heart and feet were heavy as I approached her house and knocked on the door. I managed to do the amends I needed to with my daughter, but also shared more of my story and testimony with her, including the affair. It was an hour of conversation that overflowed with love, forgiveness and acceptance and the evidence that God truly had been preparing both of our hearts for this very moment. My daughter told me that she was proud of me for doing my recovery and admired me still.
And yet, I had very nearly and willfully ignored that still, small voice gently nudging me forward on my path of healing. I regret that God had to increase His volume and prodding to get my attention and trust. I am also grateful that God cared enough to give me a solid push, and then extend His hand to steer me into the center of His plan for us that day.
I called my son that same weekend and completed the amends with him that I had started so many months before. He also said that he was proud of me for my healing. Our conversation ended with him asking if he could pray with me.
I have discovered that it is okay for my children to see my brokenness. And it is more than okay to admit to them that I am messy and struggle and don’t always make the right choices. I hope that my son and daughter learn about resilience, courage, forgiveness, grace and the value of vulnerability through the mistakes of my past and the authenticity of my present. But mostly I pray that my healing journey to wholeness brings my children hope and assurance that God will always provide them a way through their own times of darkness.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28