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Sorry about the lengthy email, but it's a soap opera of a story.

Six weeks ago, my dad moved out of my parents' home without a word to anyone about why. Two weeks ago, I found out via pictures on Facebook that my dad was having an affair. I was a little late to the party — my mom's sister had figured it out a month before I did, and my mom had been told (by her sister) a couple of weeks before I found out. He claimed to my mom it was only an emotional affair (we didn't believe him, but my mom did), and I tried to stay out of it while they worked things out.

This morning, everything blew up. Mistress #1 Facebook messaged me, upset, because my dad broke up with her last night. She called him a pathological liar and said he'd been dating other women while dating her. I wrote her back saying I knew about the affair with her, but was skeptical of her motives at this point. She then provided me with proof: pictures of them, romantic texts/emails, hotel receipts, a screenshot of his online dating profile, the works. Plus contact info for mistress #2. I called Mistress #2 and she confirmed everything. She talked about specific Christmas presents he gave me last year that she picked out, and both mistresses knew intimate details about our lives.

Now I'm at a loss. Until my dad moved out, I thought he was the best husband in the world. My dad and I have had a slightly strained relationship for years, but he always treated my mom like she was gold (and she is gold). Trips, flowers, surprises, romance — throughout my 28 years of life my parents were an example of a ridiculously happy and loving couple. When I found out about the first affair I asked my aunt if my parents were still physically involved (retching as I asked the question). She confirmed that they were; she said my mother's sex drive had gone down due to menopause, but that "it was important to her to make him happy" at least once or twice a week.

I guess my question is, what can I do? I just got off the phone with my dad and warned him the lid was off and he had to come completely clean with my mom, today, before his mistresses blabbed to more people. He blew up at me but eventually agreed to do it.

As a faithful reader/listener I know that this is their business and that monogamy isn't always practiced perfectly, but this seems beyond the pale to me. It's not one hand job on a business trip after 30 years of perfect monogamy. The more I learn the deeper this goes, and I suspect we still don't know everything yet. The couple of times I've tried to (calmly!) talk to my dad about this, he accuses me of attacking him baselessly and tells me to stay out of it, but it's literally showing up at my front doorstep now.

What can I do? I feel like my faith in two people working it out for the long haul has been shattered. I have one 26-year-old brother who's publicly poly, so this is not a case of him not knowing about open relationship models or waiting to initiate divorce until all the kids were out of the house. I feel so lost.

Help Enraged Daughter In Distress With Harrowing Adulterous Troubles

There's not much you can do, HEDIDWHAT — besides being there for your mom and offering her your support, of course, which I'm guessing you've already done and will keep doing.

Your dad was and is a lying, scheming shit, HEDIDWHAT, and the scale of his deception is shattering — but the person most likely to be shattered, the person with the right to really grieve here, is your mom. You're not married to your dad; he betrayed his whole family, yes, but your mother is the one he really tossed in the wood chipper. So you need to be careful to "center" your mom, as the intersectional kids like to say, as you work through this. Your father's behavior has left you feeling disillusioned — your faith in two people working it out over the long haul has been shattered — but your mother pain goes deeper. Her whole adult life, her marriage, may have been a sham.

I say "may have been," HEDIDWHAT, because it's possible your father loved your mother but was too selfish to love her the way she deserved to be loved and the way he may have pretended to love her. I say "may have," HEDIDWHAT, because it's possible your father did love your mother — it's possible the trips, flowers, surprises, and romance were sincere — but he wanted more than one sexual and romantic partner and, unlike your brother, he didn't have the decency or courage to be honest about who he was and what he wanted. (But unlike your brother and his partner(s), polyamory wasn't really on the table as an option, culturally speaking, back when your parents got together.)

The trips, flowers, surprises, and romance could have been insincere AF, a performance designed to fool your mother and you kids, a lie designed draw attention away from your father's complicated, messy, unethical truth.

We can speculate all day, HEDIDWHAT, and you can hear your father out, but there's not much you can do — and that was your question, right? What can you do? You've already talked to two mistresses and confronted your father and insisted he tell your mother. Once your mother is fully aware of the extent of your father's betrayal — romantic, sexual, and financial — you can be there for your mom, you can acknowledge her pain, and you can give her the encouragement, moral support, and whatever practical help you can as she builds a new life for herself. But that's all you can do — you can't fix it, you can't make the pain go away. Sometimes all you can do is watch a fire burn until it burns itself out.

As for your father...

If you're open to having a relationship with him going forward, HEDIDWHAT, you're gonna have to do some fancy compartmentalizing footwork. Your dad was a shitty husband, it's true, but he wasn't your husband. He was your dad. You can hold him accountable for his failures as a husband and confront him with the pain he caused your mother and make a separate, independent judgement of the father he was and is.

Oh, and about this...

I feel like my faith in two people working it out for the long haul has been shattered.

I say this out of love and a desire to be supportive and I know you're reeling right now — this all went down this morning! — but it needs to be said: just because your dad shit the bed doesn't mean all beds get shat. There are lots of loving couples out there that work it out over the long haul; sometimes that work involves getting over and past an affair. I agree with you — this isn't a handjob on a business trip; your dad's betrayal is much deeper and it sounds like your parents' marriage is already over. (Your dad did move out.) But your parents' marriage can't be the only example in your life of a loving, stable relationship where two people — or more, as in your brother's case — are making it work over the long haul. Look around.


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