“Ask a Priest: How Can I Cope With My Mom’s Affair?”

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Q: I am an adult daughter and writing during a period of extreme depression over my mother. I discovered that my mom is having an affair with a married man. My father abandoned my mother when I was small. She was alone for years and cared for my elderly grandparents. I never wanted her alone, but I definitely don’t want her with a married guy. When I try to tell her this man is married, she accuses me of wanting her alone and being selfish or she starts to tell me what is wrong with my relationship with my fiancé. When I mention it’s a sin, she tells me that he [the married man] was her classmate and boyfriend when she was 12 and that she knew him before his wife knew him. When I first found out about the affair, I even tried confronting the man. He did not really listen and the affair continued. I am so depressed. I feel like I never knew who my mom really was. It’s like she changed overnight. My aunts and uncles live out of state. My grandmother is old. My father is with another woman. I feel I have nobody to turn to about my disappointment over this situation, and I am sort of ashamed to speak about it with strangers or friends. I know she is an adult, and I can only control myself. I myself am a sinner and not perfect, but I just feel so hurt and betrayed. What else can I do or say to convince her to stop this inappropriate relationship with a married man? What can I do to have peace with this situation for myself? – C.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: I am sorry to hear about your family situation and particularly about your mom.

Perhaps those years of loneliness weakened her and set the stage for this affair.

This is a moment when you will need a lot of patience. We know how hard it is to change ourselves; changing others is even more difficult.

So be realistic. Your mom knows where you stand on her relationship with this married man. It might not be good to beleaguer the point right now, for that might harden her in her position.

For your own peace of mind, a few suggestions might help.

First, you likely won’t be able to change your mom right now, but you can change your own attitude. So focus on the positive things you can do.

Among those things is to intensify your prayer and sacrifices for your mom. My guess is that she loves you very much, and it probably wasn’t easy to raise you without your dad around. Your mom stood by you when you needed her. Now it’s your chance to return the favor. This you can do through the prayer and sacrifices. This is a great way to honor the Fourth Commandment.

Second, try to remind her of your love. Be there to help with her with legitimate needs as much as possible. People who sense our love will be more open to what we say.

Third, give yourself well-defined parameters in relation to her and her friend. In other words, avoid anything that could be construed as your supporting their relationship. You can be charitable to the man, as you should be charitable to anyone. But consider excusing yourself from any events (dinners, picnics etc.) that would send the wrong signal to them.

Fourth, another reason for intensifying your prayer life is for you own good. Prayer is ultimately a form of loving communication with God, with Jesus, with the Holy Spirit.

Our Lord is the one person you can always count on in life. He will always be there for you. He loves you deeply. He died for you on a cross. He is a man who won’t abandon you.

This unity with Christ will be the only lasting source of peace you’ll have in this world. For even the people we most love can let us down.

Put another way, the more you lean on Christ, the less you will rely on others for happiness.

If you find that your depression is severe, you might consider seeing someone — perhaps a priest or spiritual director or a counselor. You want to take care of yourself. You don’t want to let your mom’s problem drain you. You don’t want to put your well-being in her hands.

And stay close to the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is one Mother who will intercede for you and your loved ones with her Son.

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