Infidelity in marriage is one big cause for marriage breakups. It is not easy to estimate the extent of infidelity in marriage, but according to a study it could be anywhere between 30-70%. It is also known that women seek divorce much more than men and 80% of the time they win the custody battles.
There are close to 1 million kids who face parental divorce every year. Since infidelity is a major contributing factor, the children are left with a low sense of respect and trust in a relationship. According to clinical psychologist Ana Nogales, 55% of adults who grew up in homes where one or both parents were unfaithful, became unfaithful themselves. Almost 80% of them admitted that their situation emotionally impacted them and affected their relationships. The extent of the impact depends on various factors like the age of the child, the seriousness of the situation, the length of time and the way it is exposed.
According to psychiatrist Scott Haltzman, the impact of marital infidelity starts much before the fallout. When a partner seeks love and bonding outside of the family, the family is most often denied their due of the same from the cheating partner. This starts to create negative impacts on the children and the family as a whole.
Direct Effect on Children
Studies have confirmed that children who cross the age of 4 years are able to differentiate between emotions. Children who grow up watching their parents fight will react in the same way to much smaller situations they face as they do not know how to control their emotions.
Parents need to show better restraint while having arguments by being good listeners and by being constructive in their criticisms. Destructive criticisms and unclarified, negative statements are symptoms of lack of mutual respect and these impact the children in a very bad way. This would leave the kids emotionally volatile, needing help to get over their negative feelings like anger, worry and insecurity.
It is not possible for kids to grow up in a family where there are no arguments or misunderstandings as these are very natural in any relationship. What they need to see is the effective and positive handling of a tense situation. They need to know that it is natural to have a healthy and constructive argument but it is unhealthy for it to lead to a fight. They need to see how anger can be controlled in a way the atmosphere at home is not disturbed and the love, that binds all, is not broken.
To apologise and to forgive so that the situation returns to a normal, happy one requires only a small self-motivation. But it will have a long term, positive effect that will ensure that the children grow up in an emotionally strong atmosphere.
After the Storm is Passed
There are a few steps that can be taken immediately after an episode of heated argument which the children would have seen or heard. These would give them that much needed emotional balance.
- The partners can reduce the intensity of the argument and then lovingly hug each other for their children to see so that they would know that an argument is not the end of a relationship.
- If the kids have heard the argument then it would be wise to explain the situation to them and make them understand why it was necessary to argue over it.
- Try and get the kids to join in a common activity where both the fighting partners come together in a fun atmosphere so that the negative impact that the fight would have created is immediately de-scaled.
- It would also be good to explain to them any financial or professional stress because of which an otherwise normal discussion had to turn to a heated argument. This would allow them to make some sense of the situation and not leave them confused.
- Avoid taking the revenge of silence route as that would leave the children in an emotionally awkward situation, having to unnecessarily bear mental strain at their age. Children do try and do their part to defuse the situation but most often that is done to cover up the hurt they feel.
A healthy family is where partners create a consistent atmosphere which is conducive for an open discussion that would lead to a creative and positive change so that the children are least affected in their growing years.