Is it wrong to tell them about their father’s affair?

Dear Amy: My late husband had a major indiscretion about 10 years into our 35 year marriage. We stayed together and, in fact, I was his caregiver for over 10 years until he passed away from ALS.

Amy Dickinson

I never told anyone about his extramarital affair because I thought it would unnecessarily complicate a complicated matter.

After his affair, I think I grew in confidence, even though it became increasingly difficult to communicate with him about day-to-day activities, our children, and issues in our relationship.

I would like my adult children to better understand their father and me. I find it difficult to tell them about the case since their father is not there to explain himself, and I wonder about the costs/benefits of revealing such an old truth.

My children are now married and have children of their own, and they ask questions about their father that would be easier to answer if they knew about his affair. I know they would be very disappointed to learn this about their father.

After many years of debating the pros and cons of telling my kids, I’m tired of being conflicted about it. When I decided to “get over it” and stay in the marriage, I never imagined the consequences would linger for a lifetime.

Any thoughts you have that might change my thinking would be appreciated.

Always in conflict

Dear Conflict: You state that your children “are asking questions about their father that would be easier to answer if they knew about his affair.”

Unless you leave out important details, the outline of your long marriage seems to paint a picture of human frailty, forgiveness, and unwavering care.

In my opinion, every married person should be told a story about a relationship that heals from infidelity – because many do. And any adult child would benefit from understanding that their parents made mistakes, even hurt each other emotionally, but also made positive choices to stay together.

“Family” is not a designation intended only for people whose lives seem to flow in a slow, perfect current. Families are formed – and sometimes strengthened – through trials, tribulations, the recognition of human frailty and, when tested, the choice of love and loyalty.

Describing your very long marriage in these terms might inspire your children to learn from your story, even if they might be shocked or disappointed at first.

Dear Amy: My family and I are currently going through a move.

How can we be less stressed about it?


Dear Anonymous: The pandemic appears to have inspired dozens of people to relocate. Data compiled from “change of address” forms and published by The Wall Street Journal in 2021 shows some sort of exodus from major metropolitan areas to smaller metropolitan areas, suburbs and rural counties.

Maybe you are part of this trend.

I have moved several times – including abroad and back – and my recommendations are:

Recognize that moving is one of the most stressful events in human life. An oft-cited survey by United Van Lines of 1,000 people who had recently moved home said a majority found moving to be more stressful than divorce. (I wonder if the interviewees had actually been through the divorce, because, having been through both, I disagree.)

Be as organized as possible and use the move as a reason to “downsize” your possessions.

Acquire help! Packing always takes longer than expected. Look for quotes from moving companies. Some will wrap and wrap a lot of your stuff, and it might be worth the cost.

Ask a friend who will basically let you order from them for a day or two for help. (Friends who help you move are worth their weight in beer.)

If you have children, have them pack and label some of their own boxes. A parent or family member might want to take the children to the new location a day before the movers arrive, if possible.

At least one night you’ll be sitting at the kitchen table, exhausted, surrounded by boxes and drinking from a jar of mayonnaise because you’ve packed all your glasses. Toast to your own survival and the adventure that awaits you.

Dear Amy: Oh, that infuriating letter from “I miss her,” the woman who was upset because her grieving sister-in-law who had lost a baby couldn’t look forward to other people’s baby showers.

Thank you for this line: “…from where I’m sitting, this sounds less like a shot through the arc and more like an anguished scream in the dark.”


Dear Fan: The angst here was palpable.

You can email Amy Dickinson at [email protected] or send a letter to Ask Amy, PO Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.

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