My dad's having an affair and I don't know what to do

My dad's having an affair and I don't know what to do
PHOTO: The New Paper

"Dear Thelma" is a relationship advice column that appears in The Star, a publication that is part of the Asia News Network.

Dear Thelma,

I'm a teenager and I come from a family that's happy with little problems in our lives. My parents are loving and they seldom fight. However, I recently found out that my dad is cheating on my mum.

He's having an affair with a divorcee with kids. I was so shocked when I stumbled on his messages with this woman.

My father has been such a responsible man, whether at work or at home. He's a good father, husband, son, son-in-law and brother. Everyone in the office praises him for his hard work. I thought I was mistaken, but I realised that this has been happening since last year.

I'm the eldest in my family and I don't have anyone to talk to about this. I'm afraid of telling my mum as she is currently going through a difficult time because she is caring for my grandmother who is suffering from cancer.

I feel so lonely and am suffocating with this problem and I really need help. I love my father very much and I know he loves us, too. I don't know why he is doing this to us. Please tell me what I should do.

Shocked

Dear Shocked,

It sounds like your whole family is currently in turmoil and this is causing all kinds of emotional upheaval. You believe your usually loving family is falling apart and that you should be doing something to stop it.

First, I think you should take a step back and look at what is happening. Your parents are good people. They are kind, loving and giving. You adore them both and admire their qualities. However, I think you're not seeing the pressure they are under.

Your mum is nursing your grandmother who is suffering from an extremely serious disease. When people are faced with these problems, they become very stressed. Your mum has to see someone she loves very dearly suffer from fear and possibly pain.

Also, they will be talking about life and death. Your grandmother will likely be thinking about the things she loves and regrets in her life, and your mum will be doing the same thing.

Your father who loves them both, is standing by and watching this. He will probably be feeling exactly the same stress. However, there is also an extra problem: men are taught from a young age to protect and be responsible for the women they love. This means his head will be telling him he can't do anything about cancer but his heart will be heavy.

In other words, your parents are temporarily not themselves. You cannot hold them responsible for anything they might do.

Now, as to what is truly going on, I have to say that it's not as clear-cut as you think. You are assuming that your dad is having a full-on affair and that your mum doesn't know. It is possible you are right.

However, you may be quite wrong. Marriage is a very private relationship. There is the public face that is happy, harmonious and proper. However, in private, many couples deal with issues in their own way.

Relationships are rarely trouble free. Many couples face problems like flirtations, cheating, secret debts, and more. They may fight about these things, and never tell a soul. They may talk and negotiate, again in private. Or they may pretend that everything is perfect and close one eye to the things they don't want to confront.

What does this mean for your family? It is entirely possible that your dad may be having an affair to distract himself from the horrors at home he is helpless to resolve. It doesn't mean he doesn't love you and your mum, and it doesn't mean he's planning to leave you.

Also, your mum may know about it or at least suspect something is up. She may have already spoken to your dad or she may have decided she'd rather pretend not to know.

You don't know the exact truth of what is going on. If you were older, I would suggest you leave things well alone. However, you are very young and I can see you are frightened. Therefore, I think you should talk to someone trustworthy. This could be a school counsellor or perhaps you can call an NGO like Awam that offers free support.

During these confidential sessions you should focus on your own feelings and look for ways to help ease your personal stress and fears. You might also look at what might happen if you eventually decide to talk (very quietly and privately) to your dad about this.

Meanwhile, please do take care of yourself. And I really hope your grandmother recovers quickly.

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