We recently had someone write with a request (slightly changed for confidentiality):
Can you write about how we should deal with discovering a sibling born out of adultery? In this case the Loyal Spouse was not aware there was a child conceived of adultery, as the child was hidden and never revealed. The Disloyal Spouse introduced their parents and siblings to the hidden child, and they helped the Disloyal hide the child until the marriage was over. How do I deal with this discovery?
We’re going to answer this request from two points of view. First–today–we’ll answer “How a Loyal Spouse, married several decades, would deal with discovering their Disloyal Spouse had a child that they didn’t know even existed from an affair in the past.” Tomorrow we’ll address “How a young adult would deal with discovering their parent had other children by other people.”
In the first instance, the Loyal Spouse and Disloyal Spouse were married for many years. Apparently at some point in the past, the Disloyal Spouse had an affair and created a child with the Affair Partner. The Loyal and Disloyal did not split up or divorce, and they continued with their marriage for many more years, and they had a family together … children. Whether the reconciliation was successful or a rug-sweep we don’t know; whether issues were addressed or avoided we don’t know. But we do know that the Loyal Spouse did not divorce the Disloyal for many years, and we do know that the Loyal Spouse didn’t know there was an affair baby. That child was not part of the Loyal Spouse’s life or part of their family unit.
Therefore, to the Loyal Spouse, discovering that there was a hidden affair child would be equivalent to discovering adultery that is going on right now. The trauma of discovering infidelity is in the present because the discovery is in the present–even though the actual unfaithful activity was many years in the past. From the Loyal Spouse’s point of view, this will be “as if it is happening now” because the shock is occurring now. This is what it feels like: “Finding Out: What It Feels Like to Hear that Your Spouse is Having an Affair”
How would the Loyal Spouse deal with this? Well our whole site is full of ways to cope with discovering your spouse had an affair! You could start with this series: “How to Rebuild After an Affair: Step 1 Forgiveness” (there are links to the other steps) and this series is all about the stages that occur as you deal with discovering adultery (again there are links to the other stages). The Loyal Spouse is going to have to work through this traumatic experience.
But overall I think we would recommend that the Loyal Spouse ask themselves “What does the Bible say about dealing with trials?” and “What does the Bible say about dealing with difficult people?” How did Jesus respond to people who challenged Him and tried to trap Him? How did He respond to those who were rude or sinful? Was He harsh or dismissive or abrasive? Nope–He showed patience, He rebuked when it was necessary, and sometimes He remained silent. Copy Jesus when dealing with both the Disloyal and the Affair Partner.
“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you”
It’s pretty clear in this verse how Jesus wants us to act, even toward those who are our enemy. That’s not to say that we are commanded to be a doormat and allow our enemies to keep hurting us, but we are told to be so profoundly changed by the Holy Spirit with us that we do the exact opposite of what comes naturally. We are supposed to be so different that we are transformed.
Tomorrow, Part Two of this little series. We’ll talk about how a young adult would deal with discovering their parent had other children by other people.