Sex and the City: Mom’s affair & son’s agony

I lost my father and only sibling in a short span, which leaves me and my mother as the only family for each other. I had not even come out of my grief when I realised that my mother had been having a sexual affair with my father’s best friend even when my father was around. Her public persona is of the grieving widow and mother, but the truth is that she is relieved that she has the freedom to do as she pleases without my father or elder sibling around. I feel very alone, as I am neither able to share my grief with my mother, nor am I able to share my angst regarding my mother’s long-standing affair while she publicly professes her undying love for my dead father. I miss my father a lot, and I found myself in a relationship with an uncle who exploited me sexually when I turned to him in my grief. I am so confused and depressed. Please help.

When we lose the people we love, a period of confusion usually accompanies the grief that follows. After all, not only has your world been shaken up but it’s also now unrecognizable since a new ‘normal’ must now be accepted as a result of changed circumstances. Let me answer your question in reverse. To be sexually exploited and not report the perpetrator to the authorities would be letting such a man escape scot free without him being answerable for his crime.

You have nothing to blame yourself for. You were vulnerable at the time. If you continue to be confused and depressed, it will be harder for you to dedicate yourself to a course of action that requires your continued judgement and clarity.

To navigate through our pain, sometimes the only person we can rely on is ourself. It’s a harsh truth. Close friends and counsellors are able to help the situation but even they have their limits. You also need to decide how you’d like to have what may very well be ‘a difficult conversation’ with your mother.

Not everyone can handle honesty. Your observations of the difference between your mother’s public persona and her private affair is going to be awkward thing to spell out to her. To be fair to your mother, she is living her life on her terms even if that means she isn’t ticking all the ‘right boxes’. Do you have any insight into the nature of the relationship that was shared between your mother and your father?

While cheating on a spouse is disingenuous, perhaps your mother was looking for something else in a man that your father’s best friend was able to give her. This may be difficult to accept for you at this stage. There is no such thing as an ideal marriage. Sometimes marriages crumble from within even though they appear as well adjusted and perhaps your mother’s affair was a result of that?

Again, this is not a conclusive deduction. It’s also quite possible that your mother married your father due to certain lifestyle benefits accrued to her as a result of being his wife. Maybe her priorities and dreams changed? The possibilities are endless.

The reason for your mother’s affair needs to be ideally ascertained before you confront her or label her as selfish and immoral. It’s natural for you to feel alone as your mother seems to be ‘doing her thing’ while you pick the pieces after your brother’s and father’s death.

I can understand that this is hard for you to do right now but you’re going to have to prioritise working with information you can use rather than getting carried away with your own emotions.

Perhaps meeting a counsellor will help you process your grief and after that’s been done – time your conversation with your mother in a manner that feels non-judgemental – yet assertive since you have every right to let her know that you’re uncomfortable with the knowledge of her affair and what you see as her pretentious mourning.

The truth is that everyone in this world looks over their shoulder and has a unique plan for how they would like to live. Sometimes not having a plan is also a plan. Perhaps your mother did what she needed to do to stay happy or maybe she truly is someone who’s simply lied to everyone to accomplish a largely self-centred agenda. How will you know? You won’t till you first process your feelings and then subsequently have an agenda based and honest conversation with her.

You will have to initiate this since it’s affecting you the most. We have to be responsible and take full charge of our own recoveries and problems. That’s just how it is. There are no do-overs in life.

No doubt that you miss your father and brother after their departure but I would implore you to hold on to the best parts of their memories and perhaps use your spare time to memorialise them by writing about them or curating and collecting fragments or mementos of their time with you as a way to remember the good days when you really connected and shared things.

Life could be short and regrets are a burden that can tire even the most resilient. Take charge and understand that everyone is ultimately responsible for their own well-being and closure.