Before I get started, I should tell you I do not live with my parents and haven't for a long time. My parents no longer live together as my mum moved away a couple of years ago to care for her elderly parent. My parents see each other several times a year, mainly at holidays. They don't hold hands, they don't kiss, they hardly interact, they don't even act like friends, more like strangers. I have suggested they have couples therapy or separate, they weren't interested in either. Anyway, earlier this year my mum found some condoms in my dad’s belongings. As they don't have sex anymore, she asked him why he had them. He told her he had found the condoms in the street and hadn't got round to throwing them away yet. Dad is unaware she has told me about this but safe to say, neither of us believes him.
I have always suspected my dad of cheating. As a teenager, I caught him masturbating in front of women through live webcams, found gay porn in his office but never brought it up as I was too embarrassed. I forgot about this until recently, when I saw gay hook-up sites on his tablet and sexual messages from men on his phone. He probably knows I saw them, but neither of us said anything. I have never told my mum about this.
My parents are both in their 60s and I think they would be happier apart to explore and lead new lives. Should I tell mum what I’ve seen? Should I talk to dad about his sexuality? If he's gay, bisexual, queer or curious, he has a right to be whatever he wants to be. However, he doesn't have a right to cheat. What should I do? I want to do what's right for both of them.
Don't Announce Dad's Discrete Yearnings
Leave them alone. Butt the fuck out. Mind your own business.
Stop snooping through your dad's tablet. Your dad is an adult, he lives alone, and you have no right to invade his privacy. Your parents' marriage ended in all but name years ago, DADDY; they've effectively separated already and are no longer intimate in any meaningful sense of the word. However they have both chosen, for whatever reason, to remain legally married. You think they would be happier apart, DADDY, but, again, they've already parted and they're already leading separate lives. Your mum is doubtless aware divorce is an option, just as your dad is doubtless aware divorce is an option. If one or the other or both wished to divorce, one or the other would initiate divorce proceedings.
Perhaps they're at peace with things as they are—not thrilled, but at peace, reconciled to an unsatisfactory status quo. Or maybe they're staying together for tax reasons. Maybe there are things about your dad that your mum would rather not know. Maybe your mum knows everything about your dad but would be humiliated to know that you know. Maybe they can't be bothered with the expense and hassle of divorce just as they can't be bothered with each other anymore. Maybe your mum agrees with the late Duchess of Devonshire...
Her marriage lasted 62 years, surviving Andrew’s long bout with alcoholism, as well as his discreet dalliances. “It was absolutely fixed that we shouldn’t divorce or get rid of each other in any way,” the duchess said. “It’s completely different to Americans, who all divorce each other the whole time. Such a bore for everyone, having to say who’s going to have the dogs, who’s going to have the photograph books.”
That's a long list of shoulds you've got there for your parents. Dad should be out. Mum should divorce him. No one should cheat. Dad shouldn't be having sex with anyone other than mum and if mum doesn't want to have sex with dad then dad shouldn't have sex with anyone and if dad doesn't want to have sex with mum than mum shouldn't have sex with anyone and if they're not fucking each other or living together then mum should divorce dad or dad should divorce mum because their marriage doesn't look like marriage should. Should, should, should. Life is long and complicated, DADDY, and the longer we live, the more "shoulds" we tend to shed. But blundering into someone else's marriage—even your parents' marriage—with a bucket full of "shoulds" definitely isn't something anyone should do.
If you feel compelled to say something, DADDY, you could tell your mum you hope they aren't "staying together" for your sake. But I doubt they're sticking with this marriage to protect an adult child who hasn't lived at home for a long time. Still, go ahead check in with mum but don't "should" all over her. Instead tell your mum you're concerned for her. You could open by asking what she plans to do after her ailing parent dies—does she plan to live with dad again? does she want to live with dad again?—and let her lead the conversation. Go ahead and check in with your dad too, DADDY, but leave his sexual interests out of it. If you determine that your parents have made peace with their marriage, DADDY, such as it is, you should do the same.
P.S. Stay the fuck off your dad's tablet.