How infidelity between a parent and a family friend devastates the children



In the post How the Ashley Madison scandal will affect children I shared how that scandal might affect children. But is the impact the same, as when a parent has an extramarital affair with someone the child knows? Is it worse when it is someone the child is close to?

Think about it for a moment. It is hard enough when a child finds out their parent has visited an online dating site. It’s embarrassing when you find out your parent has to face public shame because his name has been published for all to see. It is difficult, to say the least, when a child finds out one of their parents is cheating, but the betrayal the child feels when that other person is a family friend (or a parent of the child’s friend), the hurt goes to a much deeper level.

Now the child not only has to deal with the betrayal of trust for their parent but the family friend as well. 

In a recent article, Divorce tougher on kids if a cheating parent is involved the author discusses the difference on children if they know the other person in their parent’s extramarital affair.

The articles states, “That means the third party may become a permanent fixture in the lives of children going forward, forcing an entirely new context on young people as they attempt to sort out villains from victims.” How on earth are children supposed to navigate this perilous situation?

What if that “other” person is the

  • Child’s schoolteacher
  • Coach
  • Sunday school teacher
  • Neighbor
  • Some other person important in the child’s life?

Best friend’s parent

Let’s throw in another kicker. What if the other person is your best friend’s parent? Now suddenly those camping trips and get-togethers disappear. One parent is giddy while the other parent is sad or angry. Your best friend is now standoffish and angry.

As a child you might even blame your best friend for the break up of your parent’s marriage. Plus you no longer have a best friend in which to confide your worries and concerns.


If the “other” person is an aunt, uncle or other family member now there is an even deeper level to the hurt, mistrust and betrayal. Extended family holiday celebrations come to a screaming screeching halt. Family reunions become awkward and uncomfortable. Family traditions go by the wayside. Family heritages or inheritances for the children can be affected.

Complicating matters even more

To complicate matters many times the parent that has been cheated on is so focused on the wrong done to them that they don’t have the presence of mind to consider the children. The hurt and betrayal overwhelms the parent. Many times their goal, if only temporary, becomes to inflict as much pain on their marriage partner as was done to them.

There are no platitudes or simple solutions for the children when a divorce occurs under these circumstances.

What can churches do?

  • Don’t be afraid to talk to the child about what’s happening to their family.
  • If children from two families are affected, such as an affair between church members, be prepared for some messy situations
  • Teach lessons on what the Bible has to say about divorce but also that God forgives all of us when we sin
  • Carrying the heavy load of knowing one parent is being unfaithful is not fair to the child/teen. Help them to pray through any guilt they might encounter.
  • Provide small groups such as DivorceCare for Kids for children and DivorceCare for the newly divorced parent.

In one church where I ran DivorceCare several years ago this happened between two strong best-friend couples that had children the same ages. When one of the fathers moved out and moved in with the mom from the other family, this church went to their knees.

After much prayer with the church leaders, the pastor visited to the newly formed couple. The next time he took another person with him. After that the church was called to prayer on a Sunday morning. No names were given but the situation was presented. The newly formed couple was asked to leave the church.

These actions said to the children and the spouses that were left that the church family cared. The church and God’s people cared enough to go to battle for them. It gave the broken families an opportunity to heal and be loved by their close friends and allies.

Please don’t desert the children who lose an intact family due to infidelity between their parent and someone they know.


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