I’m Raising My Daughter’s Child While My Husband Is Out Having Affairs

My husband and I have been married for 10 years. I have two children from a previous marriage; they are 23 and 17. He has one child from a previous marriage who is 15. Our trouble began when my 23-year-old daughter, who was 19 at the time, got pregnant with my granddaughter. She is now 3. The first couple of months, my daughter seemed to be doing OK with being a mom. Then, as all the newness wore off and all the responsibility involved with raising a child really set in, she was not so happy. It started out that I would take care of her more and more. When my granddaughter was around six months old, my daughter said she just couldn't do it anymore. I told her that she would really need to give it more time, but if she was going to want me to take on all the responsibilities, I didn't want to raise her for years and then have her take her away. She decided she wanted me to be the mom; she did not want to. I discussed this with my husband, who said if that is what we need to do then that is what we will do. In retrospect, I do not think at all that he wanted to raise her. He had his first affair when she was eight months old. A year and a half later, he started looking on a dating website. I caught him calling a girl he met in a bar. Nothing happened this time, but the attempt troubled me. A month later, he started talking to another woman, 46 years old, and said they only kissed. I found this one through phone records. Three months later, he started talking to a 30-year-old woman he met while she was picking up a leased vehicle where he works. She came in, signed paperwork, and somehow a married man is having her call his work line so it rolls to his cell phone and his wife cannot see the number. He texts her when he is away from me and has her call him on weekends. He said they have only gone to lunch together. After I confront him on all of these affair things, he always comes back to, “I just thought me and you would have been kid-free at this time in our lives.” It just kills me because he wasn't forced to go to court and get custody. OK, now for my question: Is it ever going to end? He says he loves me and wants to be with me so he will just have to accept the responsibility of our little girl, but he keeps repeating this. He will not go to therapy. We have two nights out of the house every week: Tuesday and Thursday. His parents watch her on some weekends. How can I relieve him of the thought that our lives are over because of what he sees as such an overwhelming responsibility? —Going It Alone
Dear Going It Alone,

Hi, and thanks for writing. Boy, that is a humdinger of a situation. Let me take this in two parts: your granddaughter and your marriage. First, your marriage. The question “is it ever going to end” is probably the wrong question. Instead, you might want to ask, “What do I do if it doesn’t” and/or “How much am I willing to put up with?” At the risk of sounding pessimistic, you say “his first affair.” Your husband sounds like he has a compulsive behavioral problem with serial affairs and should stop before he gets himself into an untenable situation; trust me, these things never end well. Usually someone gets fired, sued, emotionally traumatized, divorced, etc., and the damage he is inflicting to all involved, as with an active drug user, might take years to heal. (Especially if these women have children.)

As for you, I think it would be beneficial to seek therapy to find out what you need right now, what you can and can’t live with, and what support you need to present your husband with a choice: couples therapy or he packs his bags. If you do end up raising your granddaughter, she is going to need a stable father figure in your life, and your husband is clearly unable to be that, let alone a husband. You need a partner now more than ever, so either he stops or you decide you’re OK with an open marriage (probably not stable for a child) or he goes to counseling with you … or the relationship may be beyond saving. (I’m being a little more clear-cut than usual because there’s a young child in the picture.)

By the way, I suggest that if your husband uses the child as an excuse to act so impulsively (which strikes me as stunningly rationalizing, to be honest with you, especially since he agreed to it initially), you might want to determine if he’s ready to act like a husband before you even have a discussion with him. My guess is that you’d rather not be married to someone who goes running to other women when conflict arises. I would love to be wrong, but someone who starts acting like that due to a disagreement—which all marriages face occasionally—needs a lot of psychological assistance. A couples counselor worth her salt will tell him to go to some kind of sexual-compulsive 12-step program or, at the least, individual counseling. That’s if he wants to stop. If not, you have to decide if that’s the kind of partner you want in your life, helping to raise your granddaughter. My guess is, you don’t. But you can’t “get” him to stop. You can only ask him to stop, and enforce consequences and boundaries if he does not. I really hope he comes to his senses and gets help; in the meantime, you can’t go wrong with at least a few therapy sessions to get some feedback and support for what sounds like an overwhelming situation.

Which leads me to the next point: your granddaughter. It sounds like you are a devoted and loving grandma and want to raise the child. But something about this bothers me; are you wanting to be a grandma or are you bailing out your daughter—who, with all due respect, sounds either troubled or irresponsible. Perhaps it’s a bit of both, but keep this in mind: She has, in fact, abandoned her daughter, who is at a very tender and vulnerable age. The child will at some point wonder why this happened, and may even be unconsciously traumatized by it (not a definite, but something to keep in mind). What was her life like with her mother that it came to this?

You are right that it would be harmful to the child to be yanked from you by your daughter, so I would ensure you have legal custody of her if you don’t already; you’d want to arrange it so that you determine visitation rights. I think your daughter is going to have to get help or guidance and demonstrate that she is able to show some responsibility if she wants to be in her child’s life in any consistent way. I’m assuming, too, that you are able to provide for the child what she needs, which must be the priority in this rather chaotic situation. (And where is the child’s father in all this?) Perhaps your husband’s parents can help support you in parenting, even if their son is acting out all over the place.

In a way, both situations come down to the same thing: protecting your well-being, your sanity, and now your granddaughter against people who seem to be struggling with serious challenges and, as a result, cannot act responsibly. There may be a perfectly valid reason setting boundaries is hard, but you have the right not to be treated so neglectfully by your husband, and you must provide proper guardianship and protection of your granddaughter. Thank goodness she has at least one adult in the picture who is willing to do the admirable thing and provide the love and care she so surely needs. Thanks again for writing.


Darren Haber, PsyD, MFT is a psychotherapist specializing in treating alcoholism and drug addiction as well as co-occurring issues such as anxiety, depression, relationship concerns, secondary addictions (especially sex addiction), and trauma (both single-incident and repetitive). He works in a variety of modalities, primarily cognitive behavioral, spiritual/recovery-based, and psychodynamic. He is certified in eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy, and continues to receive psychodynamic training in treating relational trauma, including emotional abuse/neglect and physical and sexual abuse.
  • Leave a Comment
  • jill preean

    March 22nd, 2013 at 1:35 PM

    I am so sorry that your husband is being so selfish.
    It is not as if this was something that you asked for either or that you would have necessarily asked for yourself either, but you are adult enough to realize that it is what it is and there is a child that has to be raised.
    I am stunned that he would take a time like this to act so childishly, I guess that there are just some people who can’t take what being an adult often includes.

  • Jane Ilene Cohen

    March 22nd, 2013 at 8:27 PM

    It appears to me you don’t put yourself, and your needs and desires, into the picture. It appears all of your focus is on him and what will he decide to do or not do. I suggest you reflect on what you are depending on him for, whether it’s emotional or financial, because that is keeping you stuck on living your life at the mercy of what he decides to do. You are putting yourself in a disempowered position.

  • Ren

    March 23rd, 2013 at 6:40 AM

    It’s a real shame that your husband didn’t take his vows for better or for worse quite seriously enough. There are always going to be problems like this that arise in families, maybe not as serious as yours, but still, there are things that have to be done that might not be your choice or the most pleasasnt but you do them for the family. He is not there to hold up his end of the bargain. That’s sad too, because it’s stuff like this that always gives men a bad rap. They are there for the good times, but then if there is somethign bad? Not so much.

  • Rashida

    March 25th, 2013 at 4:04 AM

    Who is this guy? I mean, why is he not there supporting you through this hard time the way that I see you supporting everyone else?

  • Trimama

    April 21st, 2013 at 7:38 PM

    It’s pretty clear that you have both made choices, and that they don’t mesh well together. Yours is to raise your granddaughter. His is to play the field. And, yes, while he is married.
    It would seem that courage is the order of the day: the courage for you each to step away and move forward separately. The paths you’ve each chosen are different.
    And thank you for stepping up for that little girl. You have put her needs ahead of your own, unlike your daughter. And your husband. Someone had to do it. Your sacrifice is appreciated.

  • S. Jones

    October 11th, 2013 at 10:09 AM

    has anyone taken the time to wonder whether the husband wanted to take on raising another baby after all of theirs are almost grown? Maybe he didn’t and this is what caused his infidelity. Now, Im not saying its right for him to be cheating but it also isn’t right to have to raise someone else’s child and lose the freedom that you have waited for, for years. I think he is dead wrong but I cant help but wonder if this may be a factor, if so, this is a problem that can be fixed with work and counseling while letting Ms. I don’t want to be a mom, take care of her own responsibilities as a parent!! If she doesn’t have a drug problem or isn’t incarcerated, then she is able bodied enough to raise her own child!!

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