I am so sorry you are caught in the middle of this. Not an easy place to be and there are no clear directives on something like this. There are many factors to weigh.
There are two paths that seem the most helpful. Please know the strategies might be very different if you were younger. But at 22 I think these might be the most reasonable ways to move forward.
The first thing is to use this feeling of betrayal (your mom lying to you, and betraying the family) as a catalyst for your own growth and development. While it might seem ubiquitous, cheating on one’s spouse is still a devastation to everyone involved. But this devastation can be fertile ground for your own maturation.
I would seek out a therapist (click the find help tab above) to begin talking about your experience and I would start keeping a journal of your thoughts, feelings, and reactions. One of the issues here is that your mom has become someone you cannot trust sharing your needs with. As a result I would start developing a network of support of your own. A therapist, a journal, and at least one good friend will be the places to put your energy. Don’t confront your mom with this. Just know that she is limited in how she can respond and be there for you. Develop your own support. You need safe places to have your feelings.
The second path is riskier, but may allow you to keep an honest relationship with your mom if she is willing. Do all the things noted on the first path, but in addition talk to your mom. This path involves simply explaining the facts.
- You’ve learned about the affair and are upset by it.
- You feel stuck and uncertain what to do with the information because it puts you in the position of having to keep a secret.
- You are disappointed in her and are uncertain what to do about it.
The advantage of this is that it opens the communication path between you and your mom: There is no longer an elephant in the room that isn’t being talked about. The disadvantage is the elephant has to be dealt with.
As a side note the divorce rate for people who married their lovers is 75 percent. The noted psychiatrist and author Frank Pittman explains this is due to such factors as intervention of reality; guilt; expectations’ a general distrust of marriage; and a distrust of the affairee.
I include this information because whatever direction this goes it isn’t going to be a quick fix, and the best person to invest in during this time is you. Take the time to honor your feelings through a journal and starting therapy. When you are ready, confide in a trusted friend. They can be one of your best resources.
Wishing you patience and peace,
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on July 6, 2010.