There is an expectation that how we live our lives is an example to our children of what is ok and what isn’t… There have been ads on television trying to stop parents asking their children to get them another beer out of the fridge rather than doing it themselves, as the repetitive act of a child doing what we see as a harmless adult activity for an adult can cause that child to believe that ‘binge drinking’ is an acceptable practice, which may lead to early consumptions of alcohol or ‘addictive’ behaviour in the child, because they see it as being ‘ok.’
So if that’s the case, what about in our relationships? If someone hits us in the face and we continue to have a loving relationship with that person, are we telling our children that it’s acceptable that it’s OK to be violent in a relationship? Or do we make excuses that we deserved it, or it was something that happened in a drunken stupor and they really didn’t mean to hurt you so badly? Or do we cover it up, and say that you knocked your face in a door in the middle of the night so no one knows the truth? (it’s actually quite frightening how many people actually do ‘cover it up.’)
But what happens if a husband cheats on his wife? Is the first relationship OK, a mistake, something they need to go to counselling over to work out the conflicts in their marriage? Is it showing your children that forgiveness is the greatest form of commitment, no matter how hurt and broken hearted you are, or that your sense of trust in the relationship has completely disappeared? I was speaking to a lady yesterday who did exactly that… She found out about her husband’s four year affair because he kept saying that they couldn’t afford to do some improvements around the house, but he was actually paying for his mistress’s lifestyle on the side. She forgave him, as a Catholic woman does, and they went to counselling and tried to restore their marriage. She had all confidences that they would ‘make things better.’
But then she heard the voices… ‘go check his email,’ ‘go check the phone records…’ So she did, and saw repetitive text messaging to the one phone number, up to 30 times a day and only on weekdays. She decided to ring the number, and the number was a mother of one of her daughter’s friends. She decided not to approach the woman, but ask a mutual friend if she knew anything. Her friend said she knew nothing but decided to approach the woman in any case. She asked her to go out for a coffee, and she happily obliged, and once she sat down she said ‘how long have you been having an affair with such-in-such?’ The woman said, ‘how do you know?’
For the wife, she said once is enough, but the second time, if she stayed, she would be teaching her daughter that it’s OK for a man to walk all over you and not respect your relationship, and for her son, it would show him that an affair is an acceptable part of any marriage. She didn’t want to show her children that infidelity was allowed… she didn’t want to be treated like her feelings and her life was a lie.
So why do so many wives stay with their serial cheating husbands? What are they saying to their children? That their religious/moral values and or their ability to remain ‘committed’ are more important than their self-esteem, their existence in their own family or their husband’s respect? Or is change too terrifying for too many? Do they believe that what goes on behind closed doors remains behind closed doors just to live the comfortable lifestyle they are accustomed? But once their children find out about the infidelities, and they do, if it’s immediately or over time, their children will constantly question the blurred line between what is right and what is acceptable in all of THEIR OWN relationships.
Do you want to see your own child being hurt by infidelity, an abusive spouse or being completely disrespected by the person they love? Or would you prefer for them to stand up for their rights as a human being and be happy, learn to trust and live an honest life? Most would answer ‘no way.’ So why do women allow these men to walk all over them and not respect the commitment they made to each other? But even for men who have done the cheating (or women for that fact), can you imagine if his precious daughter’s husband cheated on her, how could he live with himself to tell his daughter that her husband’s behaviour is acceptable and she should just ‘live with it’ because he was too gutless to leave a marriage after he broke his vows.
If we can’t teach our children by example how to be an up-standing citizen, then there is no hope in the future generations to be able to speak out and act on what is right and acceptable in how we should ALL be treated.