The Birds, the Bees, and Blended Families

Handling a Sensitive Situation

Dear Dr. Weiss-Wisdom,

My father has been married numerous times and he consistently has terrible taste in women. Most recently, I ran into my current “stepmother” at a restaurant having a romantic dinner with another man. They were all cuddled up and kissing in a dark corner of the place and she didn’t notice me there. I thought long and hard about whether I should mention it to my father. I’ve never liked her and always thought she was a gold-digger. I don’t want to hurt my Dad or cause trouble where there isn’t any. I just don’t want to see him taken advantage of. What do you think I should do?
- Devoted Daughter

Dear Devoted,
This awkward situation that you find yourself is not all that unusual. Statistics indicate that approximately 30-60% of married individuals engage in infidelity at some point during their marriage. In polls, most people want to be told if their spouse is cheating. But not everyone feels this way. A small sampling of people would rather turn the other cheek or they may secretly have an open marriage. If your father is older and had multiple marriages, sadly, his expectations may be very low for his current marriage. Even if your stepmother is cheating and your father finds out, he may chose to stay because he doesn’t want to be alone or start all over again. So, if you decide to tell him, you might keep it on the mild side and let him know that you saw your stepmother out to dinner with a man who you didn’t know. You could add that it was surprising because they seemed very cozy. And leave it at that. After all, it was a dark corner and the person that you saw could have been her long lost cousin Uncle Harry – a member of her family that she hasn’t seen in some time!! The point is you want to be really sure before you make these kinds of accusations which can set off a whole series of consequences. You want to be absolutely sure that the person she was cuddled up to wasn’t a close family member of hers that was visiting from out of town. For example, somebody could have a sister or a brother that they haven’t seen in a long time that they feel very close to. They could sit very close to each other if they haven’t seen each other in a long time. You want to be really carefully before you sound the alarm.

Warning: if you do talk to your father, he may get angry and defensive toward you. It sounds like you feel close enough to your father and are not concerned about your relationship weathering this potential storm. I’d suggest that you tread lightly and keep your expectations low. Remember, it’s up to your father to pursue the situation further if he wants to – in the end, it’s not your affair.

Diana Weiss-Wisdom, Ph.D. is a Licensed Psychologist psy#1247 in private practice in Rancho Santa Fe, on the border of Carmel Valley, in San Diego, California. She can be reached at (85) 259-0146 or