What do you do when there is a child from an affair?
My husband’s affair partner just informed us that she just had a baby – presumably my husband’s! We are both a mess. My husband and I are still together, and we are trying to work things out. My husband cut off ties with his affair partner, but now, of course, she’s back in our lives and is looking into child support payments. I am getting advice such as: “get to know the child – it wasn’t the baby’s fault.” The other woman wants her son to get to “know his father”. I don’t think I can keep my sanity with this type of arrangement. Are there resources specifically for when there is a child from an affair?
If ever there were a situation that required maturity, this is it.
This is a hot topic, and I find people understandably emotional, and opinionated about their views on what to do when there is a child from an affair. Just because a certain approach is someone’s strong opinion, doesn’t mean it is the only right way. What’s most important is to get as much perspective as you can, and then make your own decision about what is right for you.
If you are the betrayed wife and you just found out about the affair, and the affair child, you don’t need to solve what is going to happen concerning this child today. The best thing you can do is focus on your own healing first. One step at a time. It can be overwhelming, to try to imagine dealing with a child from an affair, when you just found out.
If you are the husband who had an affair resulting in an affair child, please be thoughtful towards the pain and depth of the betrayal your wife is feeling. Don’t push her towards acceptance of this child, especially not too soon. Focus on healing your marriage, respecting each other, and making decisions together. Become allies, not adversaries.
We have a special page on our website dedicated to resources for when there is a child from an affair.
It is bad enough to be dealing with an affair alone, but when there is a child from an affair, healing is much more difficult and complicated, but not at all impossible. We’ve seen a number of couples successfully heal their marriages even when there is a child from the affair.
A GOOD FIRST STEP IS TO HAVE A PATERNITY TEST done, to be sure the unfaithful husband is in fact the biological father. We’ve seen incidences, when all parties assumed so, only to find out when the results finally came in, that he was not the father, which 6 months later created further devastation, even to the grandparents involved.
When dealing with a child from an affair, it’s important to avoid thinking in terms of absolutes. THERE ARE SO MANY VARIABLES. What is best to do needs to be determined on an individual basis, with all variables considered.
AT WHAT POINT IS THE BETRAYED WIFE MADE AWARE OF THE CHILD
If the other woman is only a couple of months pregnant, there is a lot of time to decide as a couple what would be the best approach for you.
On the other hand, we’ve seen situations where for example the affair child was in the couples life, because the other woman was a friend of the family, and the wife had actually already been babysitting for the affair child (sibling to her own children) for 2 years, before she found out that her husband had an affair with this “friend” and that this child was in fact her husband’s child. While she was understandably devastated by the magnitude of the betrayal, she had also already developed a relationship with the child, and so did her children have a bond to the child who turns out to be their half sibling.
And on the other far side of this time line (when the wife finds out), we worked with another couple where the affair child was ten years old, and the husband had secretly been playing a very active role as the only “father” in this now 10 year olds life. For the father to now reject the child, and refuse to see the child, would certainly be damaging for this child.
THE ATTITUDE OF THE OTHER WOMAN
Some other women remain vindictive. The scenario that played out in the famous movie, “Fatal Attraction” starring Glenn Close, doesn’t seem too far off some of the situations we’ve dealt with. Many times the other woman is determined to lure the husband away from his marriage. On the other end of the spectrum you can have other women, who are good people who did a bad thing, are genuinely remorseful, and also want what is best for the child, so they can make having an arrangement where the biological father, and his family have involvement in the affair child’s life, in the end a positive experience for all, especially the child.
SUPPORTING THE AFFAIR CHILD FINANCIALLY is required by law, so this level of involvement is non negotiable, and most would agree morally correct.
WHO ARE YOU IN THE AFFAIR CHILD STORY??
If you are the betrayed wife, initial involvement from the husband in the child’s life, means involvement with the other woman, the woman who slept with your husband. Initially for some betrayed wives asking this can be asking too much, especially if the other woman is working hard to break up the marriage.
An unfaithful husband can often be blinded to the other woman’s attempts to break up the marriage. She may say, she is supportive of the husband’s marriage but her actions may be otherwise. A wife will easily recognize this. A husband often doesn’t see it.
Since men and women are different, and men as a gender tend to be more up front, where women as a gender can be more subtle and manipulative, men tend to be less in tune with reading inappropriate behavior from their affair partners, then their wives are.
IF YOU ARE THE GRANDPARENT of the affair child, it can be devastating to think of your son (and you), not having involvement in the affair child’s life, because it is your grandchild. You may think of yourself as compassionate towards your son’s wife, but if you are pushing acceptance of the affair child onto her, or accepting of the affair partner, you may be acting more out of your own motives.
IF YOU ARE THE HUSBAND who had an affair and fathered a child, maybe you are genuinely remorseful for your affair, and at the same time, this is your child, and you desire to have a relationship with that child, because he/she is your child.
IF YOU ARE THE OTHER WOMAN, THE CHILD’S MOTHER, you may feel torn, because you want what is best for your child, but you feel rejected and scorned because your affair partner went back to their wife. Maybe you find it incredibly difficult to imagine your child being with this other family, and having the wife involved in raising your child. Maybe you are angry because things didn’t turn out the way you wanted them too.
IF YOU ARE THE WIFE WHO HAD AN AFFAIR, and you are pregnant, the dynamics are different again and this other side warrants it’s own article devoted just to you.
IF YOU ARE A CHILD FROM AN AFFAIR, you will tend to see the situation strictly through this filter. Your input is valuable, but it will also depend on your positive or negative experiences depending on how well the parents in your life did or didn’t cope with the situation.
Some grown up children from an affair wish only that they could’ve had contact with their biological father when they were old enough to desire to do so, and also wish that their mother had told them the truth about how they came to be, from the beginning.
Other grown up children from an affair have no bitterness, and also no desire to know their biological father. “My father is the man who raised me. Period. I’ve never had any desire or need of any other.”
So as you read this article, and consider what to do, keep in mind which perspective you might be coming from, and what your motives might be. Are you really thinking of what is best for everyone involved, or are you thinking only through your filter?
While the welfare of any child is of utmost importance, so is the marriage. And if healing the marriage is important to you, then consideration of the betrayed spouse’s healing is also important, as well as the time lines in all of this.
The general rule for healing a marriage is that the affair must be ended and there is no more contact with the 3rd party. When there is a child from the affair, the couple is faced with a decision, will the biological father continue to play an actual “father” role in the affair child’s life, and if so, at what age would that role begin?
ARE BEING A BIOLOGICAL FATHER, AND BEING A FATHER ALWAYS ONE AND THE SAME?
Many professionals today feel strongly that being a biological father makes one a father in all respects. It’s important to acknowledge this view as valid.
At the same time this view seems to forget that a child can be adopted, and that those adoptive parents, are every bit the child’s parents, even though one or both of them didn’t biologically contribute the egg and/or sperm. And sometimes for the biological parent who gives a child up for adoption, they are in fact doing what is best for the child, often at a huge personal sacrifice, because they do love that child and wish they were in a position to raise the child in the best possible way themselves.
So in the case of a marriage facing a child from an affair another option is for the affair child to be adopted.
Another option is for the biological father to also be a father, and often this will mean he becomes one of two fathers. He will be a part time father at best.
However, if the other woman is married, another option would be for the child to be “adopted” by the other woman’s husband. And if the other woman is unmarried at the moment, she may choose to become married one day, and her new husband could become the child’s adoptive father.
A “FATHER” IS SOMEONE WHO RAISES YOU, WHO COMES TO YOUR SCHOOL EVENTS, COACHES YOU in whatever sports you play, spends Christmas and birthdays and routine day life with you. A father is someone who corrects, guides and teaches you, and loves you unconditionally. And sometimes your “father” is not your biological father.
When people discuss this issue today there seems to be a strong emphasis on WHAT IS BEST FOR THE CHILD … with the implied assumption that what is best for the child is for the biological father to be involved as a father in the child’s life.
BUT IS THIS AN ABSOLUTE? IS IT ALWAYS IN THE CHILD’S BEST INTEREST TO HAVE THE BIOLOGICAL FATHER IN HIS LIFE IN THE CASE OF AN AFFAIR?
I’m not so sure. What about when that affair child is playing on the playground at school? “Well, my dad has another family, and I have other brothers and sisters in my dad’s family. My brothers and sisters get to be with my dad, all the time, but I only get to be with my dad some of the time. My mother doesn’t have a husband, and she wishes my dad would leave his family and be with her. I don’t know why my dad can’t ever spend Christmas with me and my mom. …”
Sometimes the biological father’s continual involvement in the child’s life, leaves the other woman hoping that he will leave his current wife and family and come be with her. The constant contact keeps her hoping, and because of this hope, sometimes she refrains from moving on and dating, so that one day, she may find the right man for her, and that man could not only be her husband, but also the father for the affair child. This could be the best scenario for some affair children.
If the couple is working towards healing their marriage after an affair, ideally husband and wife work together in making decisions about what to do. What’s at stake matters so much, that you are not likely to be feeling neutral about your point of view. If you are not in agreement it has the potential to be a deal breaker for the marriage. Because this is such a big, important issue, with lifelong repercussions, it’s wise to enlist the help of a therapist, counselor, or coach. It’s important for THE FEELINGS of both sides to be heard before decisions are made.
It is also worth considering that the betrayed spouse is devastated, and asking her to embrace the child is asking an awful lot. Early after disclosure of the affair, this may seem impossible. But if proper time and attention are given to healing the marriage, and the broken heart of the betrayed wife, and if the unfaithful husband is successful in proving his faithfulness, then some time down the road, when the betrayed wife is allowed to heal, it may not be so difficult for her to embrace the child.
With grace, I’ve seen it work out well, where the biological father also becomes the “father” to the affair child, while remaining true to his wife and family. In these cases the healing process is honored for the betrayed wife as a priority, and as husband and wife they respectfully make decisions together concerning their involvement with the affair child.
So we've seen healing in marriages where the biological father has no contact with the affair child, and we've seen healing in marriages where they biological father is actively involved in the child's life sharing custody (similar to in the case of a divorce), and the child is included regularly with the biological fathers family, wife and children. We've seen marriages heal where the wife had an affair that resulted in pregnancy, and the child was adopted by the wife's husband and became a member of that family, and never knew a different father. These kids have yet to grow up and tell us their preferences. What remains a constant is the need for grace, respect, maturity, compassion, communication, and honesty.
For more information I recommend listing to this teleseminar: When there is a child from an affair
© Copyright Anne Bercht 2014 All Rights Reserved