Adult Child Struggling With Parent’s Affair and New Partner

My parents recently divorced because my mom was having an affair. Since then, she's moved in with this other man and plans to marry him within a few weeks.

My husband and I live out of state, and it’s been really hard to deal with my mom’s affair and divorce and cohabitation. She’s angry with me for not embracing her boyfriend with open arms. She’s threatening to boycott family functions unless he is welcomed to take part. But honestly, I don’t want to welcome him. I’m struggling to work out how I feel before I make up my mind about how to behave. Should I be more accepting of my mom’s decision?



You gave a great summary of the problem you face: “working out how you feel before deciding how to behave.” It sounds like you’re caught between what’s loving and what’s appropriate. In other words, your feelings of love and loyalty for your mother on one hand — and on the other, your instincts for what’s appropriate when responding to her actions.

It’s natural to want to honor your mother in every possible way. We understand the struggle between obligations as a loving child and responsibilities as a wise, autonomous adult. But keep in mind that there’s a difference between honoring and obeying.

Love doesn’t always mean approval

Scripture tells us that marriage means making a clean break with past family connections and building brand-new attachments. It’s a matter of leaving your parents and cleaving to your spouse. As a married woman, your duty is to God first, then to your husband, then your children — and only then to your mother. Yes, you will always love your mom. But that doesn’t mean you have to approve of her choices and actions, especially when they’ve been so hurtful and damaging to the rest of the family.

Your mother is the one who’s created this awkward and difficult situation. She created it by choosing to disregard her marriage vows. It was her decision to go outside the family in search of a new love affair. She needs to understand that her actions and choices have real-life consequences. From our perspective, she’s both insensitive and unfair to demand that the rest of the family embrace her new boyfriend “with open arms.”

That may be what’s expected in a culture that tolerates marital infidelity, facilitates divorce, and sees serial marriage as “normal.” But it’s not consistent with biblical teaching, and it’s not true to the deepest feelings of the human heart. Your mom needs to accept responsibility for what she’s done and realize that her actions have had a profoundly negative impact on the people who love her most.

What should you do about it?

Pray. God cares about your pain and your mom’s brokenness. As you look to Him for wisdom, He’ll help you confront your mom with grace. Tell your mom that you are more than willing to welcome her at family gatherings as long as she’s willing to respect your values and honor them when she’s with your family and in your home.

Let her know that you love her, but that this doesn’t necessarily mean you trust her. Remind her that she has deeply hurt everyone in the family by deciding to become involved with another man. Say something like, I love you and care about you, but I don’t approve of this relationship. (Strong boundaries are healthy; normalizing brokenness is not.)

We’d also encourage you to talk with your husband. Ask him to help you process your feelings and decide the best plan of action. As your mother’s son-in-law rather than her own flesh-and-blood child, he can look at the situation more objectively and offer you solid advice.

Where to find ongoing help

Would you like to talk more? Call us for a free over-the-phone consultation. Our licensed or pastoral counselors would welcome the chance to listen and help you find a way forward. They can also suggest referrals to ongoing support from qualified counselors and Christian therapists in your area.

In addition, you might suggest that your mom and dad check out Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored retreat intensives. These retreats are one of the main ways we minister to those who need guidance to make lasting change in their marriage — and we offer private intensives for divorced couples who want to reconcile. Learn more at, or call the Hope Restored staff at 866-875-2915.

In the meantime, the resources below might be helpful to you and your mom.



If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.


Peacemaking for Families

Forgiving Our Fathers and Mothers

The Emotionally Destructive Relationship

Nothing to Hide: Hope for Marriages Hurt by Pornography and Infidelity


Hope Restored: A Marriage Intensive Experience

Relational Wisdom 360


Tough Love in Adult Relationships

Forgiveness and Restoration

You May Also Like