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How to co-parent effectively after infidelity

12 Sep

Co-parenting after infidelity is not easy but the repercussions are painful and long-lasting. Learn how to move on effectively here.

Man and woman head in hands, back to back in a choppy sea

Infidelity is not a topic our culture is eager to discuss. Whilst one might expect that today's more fluid relationships would make us more relaxed about affairs, the opposite is true.

What causes infidelity 

Lust may be an obvious reason for cheating, but there are countless others including  issues with intimacy or a need to prove one’s desirability. When children come onto the scene they can rob parents of not only time and sleep, but also their ability to nourish the other parts of who they are. An underacknowledged factor, particularly for women, is the feeling that marriage and parenthood has cost them their identity.

Another common occurrence is when fathers of very young children look for sex outside the home to distract from the fear that they aren’t significant inside the home. It is common for a man to not know how to connect or support his wife once she becomes a mother or even resent the attention she now gives to their child that once went to him.  

The repercussions 

An online survey of 822 adults whose parents had committed infidelity, mostly when the respondents were young, found that 88% of them were angered or hurt by the affair, 76% felt personally betrayed and 73% said their own romantic relationships as adults were impacted. 

Infidelity is a difficult thing to deal with, especially when it ends your marriage and you still have to have a relationship with that person because of children. It can lead to:

  • feelings that the other parent is no longer worthy to parent
  • feelings that the other parent cannot be trusted
  • concern that the other parent may introduce (or has introduced) their child to the other party responsible for the break-up
  • feelings that the other parent doesn’t have the moral capacity to raise children.

Separating your own relationship with your ex and your children's relationship from them is crucial in order for all of you to move on.

How to Co-parent effectively 


Children should never be pushed to take sides, even if you feel like your ex is an arse. Often this leaves children in the position where they feel they must “fix” things which won’t help anyone. Older children, in particular,  feel they need to take on the rage against the parent who cheated, which can lead to real problems.. The trick is to remove the child from the triangle - tell them clearly that the couple in the relationship are going to handle things. 

Even if you tell children they’re not part of the problem, many will wonder whether they did something wrong. It’s therefore important to listen to them and acknowledge their feelings, try to keep conversations focused on how they feel now and what they’re thinking. Being heard and accepted helps children to be compassionate towards themselves and deal with their emotions rather than burying them. This will stand them in good stead for developing healthy relationships in the future.

A new partner

Parents thinking about introducing a new person must be cautious. It is best to wait until you are certain the relationship is stable and long term (perhaps at least half a year post separation). It also pays dividends to working  on healing any rifts in your family before introductions are made to improve your chances of success in your relationship with your new partner and theirs with your children. 



It is important that the parent who had the affair can apologise for their behaviour without pushing any blame or culpability to the other. This is not to say the other parent didn’t have issues. But, regardless of the issues, the defining action was committing infidelity..


Dealing with the aftermath  

As for the parent dealing with the aftermath of the affair, it is important to differentiate between a breach of trust in your relationship and the relationship of your children with their parents. While your relationship may no longer be salvageable, it doesn’t mean that this is the same for your child or children.

This ability to differentiate is as important as the other parent’s ability to take responsibility for their own actions. Please note, if only one parent can step up and do the challenging work of improving matters then that child is at least fifty percent better off. Do not think you can avoid this, if one half of you can’t do the right thing.


Other solutions

The more challenging separations often have adultery as an unresolved issue. The best advice in these instances is to both attend coaching or therapy to take responsibility for the demise of the relationship, understand each person’s role, and resolve to improve matters. Because, regardless of whether you are together or not, you are still a family and will be in each other's lives for the rest of your life.

If you elevate the well-being of the children over any hurt or anger for the other parent, then you will find a way to weather this storm. That is the key to more effective co-parenting. 

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