I Caught My Mom Cheating and She Begged Me to Keep It Secret

I am hoping you can help me with what to do here. I am 17. Last week I caught my mom having sex with someone who is not my dad. My parents have been married for like 20 years and this was a shock to me, to say the least. My dad was at work and I came home from a friend's house unexpectedly. They were in the living room and I saw the guy roll off of my mom and pull some clothes on when he saw me. My mom was embarrassed obviously and tried to explain it away but later that night she told me she made a mistake and to please not tell my dad. I feel like I am closer to my mom than my dad but I love them both and I am really feeling like it's wrong for me not to say something to my dad. I just feel bad for him knowing that he has no idea of what is going on. I feel like my mom should tell him what happened, but if she doesn't, is that my place? My mom has begged me not to and says it will never happen again. I am not sure if I believe her, though. My mom and dad seemed happy and this is all just so shocking to me. I don't know how to move past it. —Cannot Unsee
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Dear Cannot Unsee,

I’m so sorry you find yourself in this position. I imagine you feel like you either have to be disloyal to your mom and tell your dad, or be disloyal to your dad and keep this secret from him. That is a no-win situation.

So, let’s look at it differently.

Relationships between intimate partners are complex, and your mom and dad will have to figure their own stuff out. Your mom’s choices about her relationship with your dad and the consequences of those choices really are between the two of them. I am not here to pass judgment about your mom’s apparent infidelity. I will say that her asking you to hold her secret is a betrayal of her relationship with you. It is part of the unspoken parenting contract that parents don’t put their kids in a position to have to choose which parent to betray or be loyal to. That’s not right or fair. It doesn’t matter if this was a one-time thing or a pattern of behavior—it’s not your role to weigh out the details and possible consequences.

I suggest you have a conversation with your mom but, for now, leave your dad and his feelings out if it. Focus instead on what her request is doing to you and to your relationship with her. Asking you to hold her secret is asking you to carry the responsibility for her choices. That is a breach of trust with you that could have long-lasting implications. It cannot be your responsibility to cover for her, nor should it be your responsibility to inform your dad. This isn’t about you loving her enough to keep her secret; it is about her loving you enough not to ask you to. You cannot force her to own her actions. If, however, when presented with your feelings she still chooses to put you on the middle, you may want to ask yourself what you are protecting.

None of this is easy, so if you find yourself struggling, I suggest finding a therapist near you to work through some of this with. No matter what happens, having some support may be beneficial in helping you move past this.

Best of luck,
Erika

Erika Myers
Erika Myers, MS, MEd, LPC, NCC is a licensed psychotherapist and former educator specializing in working with families in transition (often due to separation or divorce) as well as individuals seeking support with relationship issues, parenting, depression, anxiety, grief/loss/bereavement, and managing major life changes. Although her theoretical orientation is eclectic, she most frequently uses a person-centered, strengths-based approach and cognitive behavioral therapy in her practice.
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  • Millicent

    Millicent

    February 6th, 2015 at 11:40 AM

    Cheating on your dad and you were the one who found her?
    Oh honey that’s just terrible and even more horrible that this is a secret that she now wants you to keep from the other parent. I don’t know what to tell you to do, that has just put you in a position that I don’t think that any of us would wish to be in.

  • Sammy

    Sammy

    May 1st, 2017 at 7:23 PM

    Tell mom she has a week to tell Dad, if she doesn’t I will tell Dad. Cheaters need to get what they deserve, pennyless dumped on the curb.

  • Veronica

    Veronica

    February 6th, 2015 at 12:52 PM

    I was put in the same position at 22. I immediately went to a therapist and had great help in guiding such a difficult problem. My mom and I still haven’t recovered from this, which was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of strange behavior from her, but without my therapist, the transition and ability to find solace and understanding would have been so much harder.

  • Judah

    Judah

    February 6th, 2015 at 1:15 PM

    I wish that there was some way that you could stay out of it but obviously it is too late for that. Have a talk with your mom and see if you can encourage her to talk to your father about her feelings and what has happened between the two of them to break down the marriage. I am never sure that I would feel right about telling him what happened, but I don’t think that you should be the one who is forced to keep her secret for her either.

  • Arrow m.

    Arrow m.

    February 6th, 2015 at 10:08 PM

    My suggestion is that you ask her to go to a short term therapy with you like 2-6 sessions, so you can make sense of this for yourself and of course she pays for it. Not fair of her to put you in this position. My intuition says this is not the first time. I am 60 years old and have 3 adult children. I would have never put them in this position when they were your age or any age. If she wants to keep it a secret then it’s her responsibility to keep it a secret which means this would have never happened at the family home!!!

  • Laken

    Laken

    February 8th, 2015 at 9:43 AM

    How about telling her that you are not going to be her secret keeper and that you won’t tell on her but that you won’t lie for her either if push comes to shove

  • Rod n

    Rod n

    February 9th, 2015 at 10:27 AM

    Man, I don’t envy this position that you are in at all!!
    This is truly the epitome of being stuck between a rock and a hard place.

  • ciji

    ciji

    February 10th, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    I could never keep something like this from either of my parents. I am too close to both of them and I would hope that they would never have to ask me to do that anyway! I am almost 20 but I still would have a very hard time covering up. I think that I am just too transparent and if something like this was going on I could never hide the lie.

  • wow

    wow

    February 11th, 2015 at 1:52 PM

    Kudos for seeking some advice…while probably most of us are not qualified to be your professional therapist, respondents have come up with some very good advice. If you don’t address this with mom and a therapist, it’s going to eat at you. You have much to focus on (school, friends, possible employment, etc….not to mention sleeping well) none of which you will be able to devote 100% effort towards unless you address this ASAP. Please don’t wait…I’ve been in my own nightmare and I waited far too long to address it….take my advice….attack the problem now.

  • Blaine

    Blaine

    February 13th, 2015 at 11:20 AM

    Have you ever thought that maybe in some ways she wanted to get caught so that someone would tell on her? And save her form having to be the one to do it? Just a thought

  • ForTheWin

    ForTheWin

    June 21st, 2016 at 2:46 AM

    You’re in a great position to get whatever you want from her. Don’t push your luck too far of course, but it’s all good until she confesses to him, then all bets are off.

  • manu

    manu

    November 1st, 2016 at 11:02 PM

    I am sorry for this

  • manu

    manu

    November 1st, 2016 at 11:05 PM

    It is very critical position, and you just once council your mom. because your mom is happy with your dad or not. If she is unsatisfied then she has a right to engage with other men. better you support your mom. because woman also have right to enjoy.

  • ForTheWin

    ForTheWin

    November 2nd, 2016 at 9:27 AM

    manu, she broke her promise. She should have sought permission from her husband and son about seeking the comfort of another man. If he says no, she should honor his answer. Cheating and committing sin of omission are not the ethical values her son should be learning from her.

  • KipperthePepper

    KipperthePepper

    November 29th, 2016 at 10:42 PM

    One word: BLACKMAIL!

  • L

    L

    January 17th, 2017 at 10:32 AM

    So, have you told your dad?

  • Nokeeper

    Nokeeper

    March 1st, 2017 at 12:16 PM

    This is a no win senerio for you. No action will produce good results. Your real question is how do I deal with all the crap coming down the line. Tell him with her there and state how you feel about what she is doing and tell him what you think about the situation. You don’t know the situation, you can’t. He may have suspected, she may be doing this for years, they may have had a deal but not at home. Women screwing around is no worse than men doing the same. Yout Mom should really be handleing this and not compromise you. Secrets like this never stay secrets. Your dad will know sooner or later and probally resent you for playing a part in her infidelity. I kept a secret for over 20 years. It seemed to haunt me and then one day when everything became known, I was the bad guy. What if I did this or what if I had done that. Its their marriage and if she is sleeping around, the first time or only one time story is usually bull. She wants you to keep her trust quiet now. What about the next time when Dad walks into the living room.

  • KB

    KB

    March 21st, 2017 at 7:22 PM

    I came across this as I searched the internet for advice. This also happened to me, but I was much younger, 5-6 years old. I was supposed to be outside (in those days you were put outside and expected to stay out until mealtime) I had gotten hurt and went in to find my mom. I opened the closed door to the spare room and saw my mother and the next door neighbor, naked, and to me, “wrestling in the bed”. I have no memory of what happened in the short term after that sight, just my mother having “a talk” with me later. She told me the neighbor had brought a flesh colored bathing suit for his wife as a surprise and that she was trying it on for him to see how it looked, then they had a play fight. She told me if I told anyone, my father wouldn’t understand and would move away. I was a “daddy’s girl” so, of course I didn’t want that, but I was way too good as a reader of people and I saw right through that story. I put it in the back of my brain and never told anyone, not even my husband of 40 years. But now my mother, still married to my dad, is approaching 80 and each year I feel more and more anger at her. As the oldest child, I always felt I was raised stricter and had much more responsibility and less nurturing than the younger kids. I know this is common, but now as an adult with my own children and grandchildren, I find I no longer want any contact with her. I look back at my whole life trying to please her and never getting anything in return but the expectation I will always be the family’s workhorse. This came to a head at christmas when I annouced I wouldn’t host the whole extended family at my house after 40 years of doing so. I had 2 major surgeries recently and have 17 children-spouses-grandkids, which is already too many without finding room for adult siblings who have never hosted any holiday at their homes (I do all the holidays). Of course I was still inviting my parents. Instead of understanding, my mom and siblings are all mad and fighting with me now. All this is hurtful enough, but my mind still wanders back to that moment my mother cheated and lied to me, and put that burden on my shoulders. My question is, how do I explain my feelings, or lack of feelings, for her to my own kids without the horrible truth and inevitable being blamed for ruining everyone’s memory of their grandmother. My kids all think I’m wrong and I worry the example it sets. We are talking 53 years ago, and it haunts me like it was this afternoon.

  • ForTheWin

    ForTheWin

    April 5th, 2017 at 8:36 PM

    KB, it’s possible that you’re carrying more of a burden than you need to. My aunt and uncle both cheated on each other, and stayed married until they died in their 90s. They were neither one unhappy that we knew of. This is not a blessing for unfaithfulness, but sometimes people make mistakes and fix it themselves and realize who they were married to was the best choice. Cheating is usually self punishing anyway. The cheater has to live with guilt, until they don’t anymore. There is no more need for you to be haunted by that story, than there is need for you to intervene in their lives. It is all the more reason to get permission if you decide to have sex with someone else besides you’re husband. This might sound crazy, but I told a married woman that wanted sex with me to get permission from her husband. She did, and he approved. After I turned my head around straight again, and picked my jaw up off the floor, I decided it was still a bad idea.

  • Layla

    Layla

    April 5th, 2017 at 11:57 AM

    Personally, I would tell her to own up to her own garbage. You in no way should be stuck in the middle of it. Either she fess up herself or you tell dad. Not only is she betraying your father’s trust but your’s as well. She also wants YOU to be deceitful to him, which is just wrong.

  • your mom

    your mom

    April 10th, 2017 at 7:42 AM

    Keep it a secret.

  • Dax

    Dax

    June 4th, 2018 at 4:25 PM

    i not know how or what to do if i were in your shoes but i always try and tell my sons that try not to hit they wives or there kids because once they do it will be come a habit

  • Bill

    Bill

    March 4th, 2019 at 4:28 AM

    Petsonally i would conftont sit her down tell her look i saw you cheat on dad now if you dont want me to tell him i now own you to do with anything i ask and want of you you have control over your mother now.

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