Two years ago, my family of me (30M), my sister (31F), and my mom (59F) discovered that my father (57M) had a Grindr account. After that initial implosion, the discoveries were these:
- (That I know of) For the last five years, he has been having homosexual hookups with random men
- Not sure what else
About a year ago, after going back and forth, my mother decided to make amends with him and try and salvage their marriage. This has caused me to distance myself from her as well, much to her chagrin, because every time we talk, she seems to ask me when I’m going to forgive my dad.
Since the discovery of all this, I have not contacted him that much despite a handful of attempts from him to make contact with me.
I have not asked any questions regarding his past but I gather from my mom that these issues may have been present since I was a kid. He was always emotionally unavailable and I never knew him (despite our family being religious and him being an associate pastor). I even approached him at 15 to tell him I was struggling with watching porn and he didn’t help me. Told me to talk to one of our family friends.
I have not pursued any sort of relationship with him because I don’t respect who he is and I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much because of how he chose to raise my sister and me (I also have my own family now, two daughters, 4 and 2).
All this to say, my mother just told me yesterday I need to figure out what I’m going to do and how I’m going to move on with all this (my relationship with my parents). I’m at the point where I don’t want a relationship with either of them. They’re so needy and seemingly toxic. I’m trying to focus on my own life instead of repair what they messed up years ago.
What do I owe them?
Kids have D-Days too. That shock and trauma of discovery isn’t just reserved for chumped partners — children of cheaters are also unmoored by the discovery of a double life.
You knew your dad was distant. He didn’t show up for you in important ways. He wasn’t a person you respected. Now you know why he was checked out — he was never checked in. He wasn’t the person he presented himself to be — straight, committed, devout.
Once you know this, you cannot un-know it.
That means every time you’re with him, that double life is the elephant in the room with you.
If he were an honest man (he’s not), he would acknowledge the elephant and make amends. He would live openly as a gay or bisexual man. He wouldn’t choose the closet. He wouldn’t string your mother along with false hope. He’d give her a fair and generous divorce settlement — which would be the very LEAST he could do for wasting 30+ years of her life. He wouldn’t blame anyone for his choices — although yes, we live in a homophobic society. He would acknowledge others’ pain that he inflicted with his double life — and the risks he took with your mother’s health.
But he’s chosen not to do that.
Yet your mother demands “forgiveness.” For what? He hasn’t repented. And from what you write, he hasn’t asked for it.
You’re under no obligation to forgive someone who hasn’t admitted fault. You’re under no obligation to forgive someone who has. The conferring of forgiveness — whatever that means to you — is a PERSONAL matter and cannot be demanded. Forgiveness is not even necessary to move on.
Your mom is completely out of line.
About a year ago, after going back and forth, my mother decided to make amends with him and try and salvage their marriage.
I have sympathy for your mother and some understanding of the power of hopium and the forces that compel people to reconcile for Marriage (however toxic). Thirty years of her life blew up. She’s probably terrified. Her religious community and/or her quack RIC therapists are probably encouraging reconciliation or blaming her for her part in her husband’s cheating.
Yet she too is responsible for her choices. And one of the consequences of reconciling with a closeted cheater is that her son wants distance from the fuckupedness.
It’s your right to have boundaries. She doesn’t have to like it.
All this to say, my mother just told me yesterday I need to figure out what I’m going to do and how I’m going to move on with all this (my relationship with my parents).
“Mom, my relationships are MY business. You don’t get to dictate the terms or the timelines. I don’t respect your decision to reconcile with Dad. This is a difficult time for ME. And I need some distance from the drama.”
This woman is probably so used to mediating everyones’ relationships with him, and throwing herself on the grenades of his impression management, that these demands feel right to her. Not intrusive or wrong. She’s trying to enlist you in her rug-sweeping. “Pay no attention to that elephant! He’s a harmless ficus plant! Tip-toe this way!”
That’s really sad, and controlling. And also hard to be around. One thing you could do for her is share the resource OurPath.org with her — formerly the Straight Spouse Network. She can get a lot of online and in-person help from people who’ve lived this.
I’m at the point where I don’t want a relationship with either of them.
You’re allowed to have boundaries. With time, maybe you’ll have a very light superficial relationship, because that’s about all the authentic intimacy they’re capable of. Or maybe no relationship, although as a parent you can understand how sad that is. But the thing is — these are YOUR CALLS to make.
You had a lot of inauthenticity modeled to you. Your dad’s sinister minister double life. Your mom now keeping up appearances. Be authentic. Honor your feelings.