On a day in March, 2018, I found out that my father was having an affair. The identity of the woman at the time was unknown to myself, although I did suspect it was my aunt. It took me several months of fighting myself on what to do with the information, as I did not want to harm my mother emotionally with it. But after much thought I did disclose my findings to her. However, I did not tell her I suspected the woman was her own sister. My mother had her doubts about the whole thing and I know she was in denial in order to protect herself from the hurt.
Today my sister and I after some further investigation found out that the woman is indeed my mother’s own sister. I am in anguish and torment because of the findings and do not know what to do.
This goes against every teaching we were brought up with. I’m disappointed and feel pain and sorrow. Should we keep this secret to ourselves or should we tell my mom? I thought about speaking to my father about it, but he gets aggressive and tells me to stay out of his marriage because he doesn’t involve himself in mine. Please help!
You and your sister are in tremendous pain. The structure on which your lives were built, including values and trust in your parents has been shaken. You are angry, hurt, disappointed, betrayed, confused and if we may say so, probably a little vengeful. That is all natural. But natural is not necessarily right.
Our first suggestion is that you and your sister each find someone who can help you work through your feelings and move forward with your lives. What you have endured is a big deal and you need to regain your equilibrium and make sure that you don’t allow this to poison your own lives.
Having said that, ancient Jewish wisdom is quite adamant on children never interfering in their parents’ marital relationship. Had you asked us earlier, we would have firmly advised you to tell your mother nothing at all. At this point, we urge you to say nothing further. We also strongly discourage you from any more detective work; seek out no more information. Everything about the marital bond between your parents is exactly that – between your parents. The commandment to honor your mother and father is not abrogated by bad behavior by either of them. This means you have to stay completely out of this.
We realize that this isn’t what your heart is telling you to do. You might want to listen to this podcast episode that discusses making significant decisions on the basis of head not heart.
Meanwhile, you need to figure out how to manage practically with family gatherings. There might well be awkward moments but nonetheless the right thing is to remove yourself from the midst of this sad situation. You and your sister cannot be the avenging judges punishing your father and forcing your mother to acknowledge what she may not even want to see.
Once again, we aren’t minimizing your suffering and we encourage you to seek help in dealing with it. It would be wonderful if our parents never severely disappointed us, but sadly some do. We are still their children and the Fifth Commandment still applies.
Wishing you healing,
Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin