My Lovely Mother Is Cheating On My Asshole Father. What Should I Do?



The kids sound like assholes.

So what happened after?


So husband is a controlling, abusive jerk. One son is a drama queen and the other violates his mom's privacy just to be an asshole. Sounds like none of them deserve her. I sincerely hope this woman's lover is at least one nice guy in her life.


That's one whole family full of toxic masculinity. I want to bitch slap all of them (except the mom, who's doing the best she can with what she has).


Usually, when you know something you shouldn't know, it's your job to swallow that shit. You've already fucked up by sharing this with your brother. Now, you've given your bad feelings to another person to share. Maybe they spread them too.

Yes, this is confusing for you. Yes, it brings up lots of emotions and makes you re-think things you thought you had a handle on. But guess what? It's your responsibility to deal with your own feelings on this alone. If you spread around your bad feelings to make yourself feel better about something you have no right to know, that makes you the asshole.


@ 1: Wouldn't it be FABULOUS if the LW's mother popped in to tell us she dumped her shitty husband, as was now remarried to her lovely boyfriend? I know it almost certainly didn't happen (sigh, stupid cultural reasons) but a girl can dream.


FFS. How many letters to Dan from folks who have found their parents' secret porno stash, photos of mom/dad/grandma/grandpa in flagrante delicto, or other things that can't be unseen will it take before people take a hint? Seriously, stay the fuck out of your parents' private business. More importantly, how did Dan not ream this guy a new one FOR TELLING HIS BROTHER about what he found? That is way more violating than talking to mom directly about what you saw. That said, shove it down the memory hole, move on, and try not being an asshole.


Here's a news flash that should not really be a news flash for anyone old enough to be writing to Dan Savage - parents are human beings.

You know all that complexity and imperfection you allow yourself? The excuses and rationalizations you make for your complexity and imperfection, some of them good and valid and some of them bullshit? Parents do that, too.

You know that privacy, and respect for your own decisions, and understanding that you're doing your best in a hard ol' world, that you want people to afford you? Parents want that, too.

Your mother is not just someone's mother, and someone's wife, she is also a whole real entire actual person, just like you.


@3 No. Nope. Not a case of toxic masculinity. Wrong. Toxic masculinity is indeed a thing, but in this case, masculinity has nothing to do with it.

Shame on them, though, regardless of gender.


I sure hope Mom has gotten away from her asshole husband and that her sons are being better people about it. Hope springs eternal.


In the future, LW, do yourself a favor. If you find something that could potentially cause a rift for absolutely no good reason, tell your therapist, not your brother.


Mom's an adult, right? She's in her right mind, right?

Then everyone needs to butt out. She can make her own decisions about whether or not she stays with her husband. Maybe she still sees the young guy she fell in love with 30 years ago. Maybe she's one of those people who likes to care for someone and feel needed. Maybe she's just old fashioned enough to believe that a vow is a vow and you keep your word no matter what.

Whatever her reasons, she's entitled to them.

That goes double for LW and his brother.


Sounds to me that Mom should have been a little less nice so that her kids were more.

It is such an invasion of privacy to read your mom’s private email. Your brother is petty if he holds your mom to far higher standards than your dad.


Mirea@2 ~ Exactly! This poor woman sure got the short end of the stick when it comes to the males in her family. Good for her for escaping as best as she can. As for you two idiot sons, shut the fuck up and grow the fuck up.


It's true: We all turn in to her parents. I could hear Dan's Catholic mother scolding MOM from the grave.


Wait, he told his BROTHER? Shame these boys took after Dad, not Mom.


Yeah, I'm not going to condemn a woman who's stuck with an asshole she can't divorce because of cultural reasons. She's doing the best she can in the situation she has.


P.S. If the boys want to take action, they can both tell Mom that they'd support her getting that divorce and help her however she needed to get one. If they're both just sitting her supporting the status quo and "Keeping The Family Together" they really have no right to be judging her for how she copes with that.


Absolute shame neither of these sons ever once stood up to their POS father for calling their beautiful mother a whore! Stood up in a manly way that says never again!. For shame! Clearly, you have all been abused and controlled by this MF. You are now grown men!

You have failed as respectable human beings for that and for horribly invading your mothers privacy. TIme to man up and let your father know if his abuse toward your mother continues you are out of his life. And that you mean the words you're saying!


Was LW's gender confirmed? It's a much more interesting letter the other way around.


This is a repost from 2010. So all the people saying 'Jeez! Another letter still not getting the ethics of cheating thing!' need to note that.
Nowhere in the letter does it say the LW was a male. So check your own gender blindspots before accusing people of toxic masculinity and not just 'a bit thoughtless and in need of exactly the advice they were seeking out and received from Dan'.
Full disclosure ... I read it as the LW was male too. Maybe it was. I suspect it was. But we need to give everybody the opportunity to learn before branding them as fools. It's the refusal to change having been given the opportunity to be better informed that makes someone a toxic jerk.


Venn @19/Hamish @20: Dan referred to the siblings involved as "her boys," which could mean that he had the LW's name or that the e-mail address that revealed a male name, or it could mean that he too made an assumption. Either way, LW is a snooping, snitching asshole. (The LW's age wasn't revealed either, and could also make this a more interesting letter.) And yes, I did note the date. Hope this mother is free of her toxic husband and her two asshole children and happy by now.


Dan forgot to yell at the son for sharing this with the brother. Proper response was to close laptop, back away slowly, and shut the fuck up. He failed at that, and now not only does he have to convince himself that Dan is right (he is) he has to convince his brother to shut the fuck up too. You done screwed the pooch son!

Make it up to her by telling your mom you and your brother would support her (financially too) if she ever decides to divorce Dad, and that you think she should divorce Dad.

Finally, people, as the well-adjusted and happy product of a “broken“ home, please, please just get the divorce. You are doing your kid no favors to raise them in a household full of tension, pain, and resentment.


I wonder what the "physical wreck" part means. Does he mean that the father has physically let himself go or that he has serious injuries, etc? Could add to the stress and misery in this marriage, but also could mean the parents are not in a sexual relationship with one another- if the father is physically incapable somehow. Those words just popped out at me.

I thought the LW was a female until I got to Dan's "boys". Reason being that saying mom is so beautiful and caring and was restricted from opportunities etc sounded to me like something a daughter would say. But that's stereotyping too, who knows.

Sounds like the brother did defend her against the Dad calling her a whore, but now he's struggling with it because he finds out his mom did cheat and that makes her a whore in his mind and thus deserving of this attitude. That's the problem there- you don't defend your mom against accusations of cheating (that's between the married couple and has nothing to do wiht you), you defend your mom against being insulted and treated like shit regardless. Even in situations where the person is a CPOS, they don't deserve to be controlled, called whores- especially in front of their kids, etc. And if the brother is having trouble with this, he might want to examine his own attitude about judging when someone deserves to be abused. He doesn't have to agree with his mom's affair to defend her against abuse and if he's got these things mixed up then yes he's displaying the same behavior as the father.

Shitty to tell the brother at all. Shitty to read the emails- this LW didn't even pretend he wasn't just openly snooping. At least he's honest about how shitty he is. Assuming the brother likewise is going to be so burdened with his feelings that he'll tell someone else in the family, it's probably going to spread. And the father already suspects, so you're going to end up with a situation that several people will pretend not to know what everyone knows. I hope this does not become dangerous for the mother. One thing they don't really tell people when they decide to have a family is that their kids might just turn out to be assholes and they'll be stuck with them.


@ 6 - HEAR HEAR! I guessed my father was gay years ago. When he failed to close a porn site popup proving he watched gay porn, did I run to show my dying mother? UM NO! I closed it and shut the fuck up. My parents are Catholics who born in the 40s, and remember the war ending. They would not have appreciated this as honesty, but instead been distraught. So I kept everyone happy by covering the old man's back.


@2 Yeah, I was half thinking that maybe this other guy might have 2 decent sons of his own so she can just replace the whole lot.

By the way - he didn't snoop out of boredom expecting to find nothing. If his father repeatedly told his kids that he thought their mother was cheating, then it's pretty obvious he was snooping to find evidence of such.

Also, confronting your mother about this would just be you adding yourself to the list of asshole men in her life. Let her believe that her sons didn't turn out like their father.

Oh, and how the hell is this a betrayal of the guys brother? What kind of oedipal insanity is that??


I think if there is anything interesting in the letter at this point it is that even though LW knows his father is a terrible human being and been a horrible spouse, he still feels some mix of anger and disappointment towards his mother for having an extramarital relationship, and is willing to act out as a result. Suggests a very powerful filial need for familial "normalcy," which a parent's extramarital sex up ends.

LW is a bit like Biff Loman who is disillusioned by the knowledge that his father is having an affair, and reacts to it by turning off a path of success and allowing himself to become a mediocrity to spite his father. I've seen the same of other children whose parent's infidelity disrupts the family unit: anger and radical changes.

The disclosure of knowledge is the truth, not of his mother's affair, but that there is no happiness in this family. LW needs to process that revelation, not through this mother, but on his own.


Mom seems to have raised a couple of assholes.


@11 “A vow is a vow” also included not cheating I presume, since we are talking about traditional types. She chose to violate the vow in a way that (1) eliminated her husband’s agency, (2) caused a family rift with her kids and (3) humiliated her spouse. Divorce would have been a cleaner way to terminate this vow.

I know that he was described as an asshole, but I would counter that the “lovely” mom is an asshole in return. This long marriage perhaps makes more sense than the kids realize.


Ms Fan - I'm sure Mr Savage is thoroughly capable of altering LW's gender to make Mumsy look more sympathetic or just avoid detection. It would be useful to have a study of how well letters play depending on the mix of sympathetic/neutral/unsympathetic characters by gender.


Briavael @29: One out of three ain't bad. Mom's cheating did eliminate her husband's agency, but it can be argued that an abuser isn't entitled to agency. The cheating didn't cause a family rift with her kids; LW's snooping did. And it didn't humiliate her spouse, who doesn't even know about it; her spouse humiliated her with his years of verbal abuse. Yes, ideally, she should have divorced him; perhaps if these kids had spent fewer years under this monster's roof, they'd have turned out more like Mom and less like Dad.


@30 “Ignorance is bliss?” Obviously not since the husband has been railing against her infidelity to the older brother for years. Second, disregarding your spouse’s agency is not a good way to create or maintain a healthy partnership, even if your partner has their own issues. Choosing to cheat over therapy, divorce, negotiating something other than monogamy, etc. is telling of mom’s own propensity to abuse the relationship. I don’t see it as a get out of jail free card so much as a toxic couple who choose to hurt each other rather than reconcile their issues.

Also when you’re in an adulterous affair that you want to hide from family, you don’t leave yourself logged into the email account from which you’re communicating with your lovers. Particularly when said computer belongs to your kid.

And while you and others keep calling dad a monster, he doesn’t seem much more than an ordinary jerk. It’s a bad rhetorical device to exaggerate his behavior and minimize her contributions to the toxicity that exists between them.


Excuse me, @31 that is.


From the clues in the letter, I have a feeling this family is Asian-American. Everything about it, including avoiding divorce for "cultural reasons" and the immediate condemnation of "my mom is a CPOS," reeks of traditional patriarchal Asian culture to me.

If that is the case, briavael @32, therapy, divorce, and negotiating something other than monogamy are actually more painful and difficult options than quietly having an affair and successfully hiding it (and she WAS successful in hiding it, until her son snooped). All three of those carry an enormous social stigma, especially for older Asians - and if these parents are indeed Asian, I can practically guarantee you that their social circle is almost 100% older Asians. She would become a social pariah, because wives are almost always to blame for any problems in an Asian marriage (need proof of this? It's in the letter. The sons know their dad was abusive to her for 30 years, but the first time their mother transgressed in some way, they had a total meltdown). So what, one might say, who cares what other people think, but it's not that easy to break the social rules you were raised on, knowing you would lose the respect of your peers. After all, if I told you to take a piss on your country's flag in public, would you do it just because some random stranger on the Internet said to? That's basically what you're saying she should have done.

Also, the reason many people are calling the father a "monster" is because even his own son says "it's kind of an understatement to say he's an antisocial psycho" and "Dad's an abusive asshole and borderline psycho." It's not like people are jumping to that conclusion out of the blue. As for the mother "contributing toxicity," other than having a secret affair, even her son who is upset with her has only positive things to say about her, so there's no evidence of her being toxic in any way.

Honestly, I think Dan's advice was the best possible option. I hope OP took Dan's advice, and that, eight years later, the family is functioning as it did before with dad in blissful ignorance, and the sons are now willfully instead of blissfully ignorant of their mother's activities.


Also briavael@32, "“Ignorance is bliss?” Obviously not since the husband has been railing against her infidelity to the older brother for years."

That doesn't mean his allegations were true, though. Maybe they were, but even if so, the dad was "railing" without proof and only happened to be right by chance. If he'd had any, do you not think he would have thrown it in his son's face when he tried to defend her? I also think it's pretty likely that, if the dad knew his wife was cheating on him, the possibility of divorce would have come up frequently throughout the marriage. The divorce stigma in Asian cultures only applies to women, not men, so it often gets used as a threat - men know that, if the marriage ends, the wife will be hurt far more than the husband.

Also, calling someone a whore is different from railing against their infidelity. Women get called whores all the time without actually being a whore, simply because, in many cultures, a "cheating/lying whore" is the worst thing you can call a woman.


Briavael @32: When you're as computer illiterate as MY mother, you certainly might leave your e-mail logged in by accident. Are you seriously suggesting that this woman wanted to come clean about her affair and chose to do it by hoping her kid would snoop!? Next you'll say she raised a snooping kid on purpose, JUST to lead to this moment. Wow.

And no, calling one's wife a whore and "restricting her from so many things" is not being an "ordinary jerk." It is in fact being a monster. Not to mention, look at the example he set for his sons, one of whom thinks snooping is perfectly okay, and the other sees her affair as a personal betrayal. One does not call one's own father a "borderline psycho" without cause. There was zero chance for her to single-handedly "create or maintain a healthy partnership" here. Did you actually read the letter?

Jina @34 and @35: Great points, thank you. I'm with Dan in suspecting that Dad called Mom a whore so many times without cause, that she decided she may as well go ahead and do what she'd been deemed guilty of. And yes -- Dad's abuse was something they just shrugged off, but Mom's affair is "killing" the brother?? What a toxic environment. I hope Mom got out.


The reason it's killing the brother is in the letter. He was defending his mother's honor- not her right to exist without abuse. So when he finds out that the mother really is cheating, he feels that she has no honor. This is doubly difficult for him- in the first place, it means his mother is not honorable. In the second place, it means he's been foolish to defend honor that doesn't exist so he feels betrayed

Yes it is extremely toxic.

They could be an Asian family, as Jina says, but they could also be any sort of religious traditional community with those same views of women and marriage. But if they are in the US, then I think Jina is correct that they are probably not WASPs as they don't tend to say "cultural" like the LW did.


DS's advice that the brothers continue defending their mother as if nothing had happened misses a key point. Somethings when known can never be unknown. Even if the brothers continue to defend their mother, it will be with the knowledge that the accusations are true. Where before the older brother could vehemently defend his mother's honor, he won't be able to do it with the same before. Righteous indignation can not be feigned by most people. Those who do are generally politicians, lawyers, clergy, or actors. (not intended as a joke)