I was 21 when I found out that my father had been unfaithful to my mother. I was already an adult then, ideally able to deal with personal drama better, but nothing prepares you for seeing the two people who have been your relationship models all throughout your life let their own love down.
The whole time I was growing up, my parents rarely fought, at least not in front of me and my siblings. And my dad's a naturally cheerful person, so I can’t really say that there were obvious factors that led to the infidelity. But I do know that my mom was very busy as an executive for a conglomerate then, while my dad was also very much occupied with our family business. I don't think that they were unhappy in their marriage all that time, but maybe they had lost touch with each other over the years.
And then that woman came along.
I found out about the affair when one day at home, I answered a call from a woman I didn’t know. The call left me feeling so unsettled that I told my mom about it. When I did, my mom immediately figured out who it was. She revealed to me that the woman I talked to was, in fact, my dad's former mistress.
By then, my dad had already broken it off with the woman and confessed the affair to my mom. However, the woman—herself married to a husband who was abroad at the time—would not leave the picture that easily. She kept calling my dad at home, threatening to tear our family apart if he ever left her, even threatening to call my mom’s office just to mess with her and humiliate her.
Fed up with all the calls and in an emotional state, one day, my mom made my dad drive us to where the woman lived—me included. When we got there, my dad refused to get out of the car, so it was just me and my mom who ended up going inside.
Yes, I witnessed the confrontation between my mom and my dad’s mistress. To this day, I remember every detail.
The woman let us in her house and offered us seats, to which my mom snapped,"Ikaw ang umupo!" Cowed by my mom’s aggression, the woman relented. Then my mom indignantly said, "Sa iyo na ang asawa ko. Sunduin mo siya doon sa labas. Hindi ko siya kailangan." Her only condition was this: that the woman stop pestering our family with her calls. She continued, "Kapag ginawa mo 'yan, ipapaalam ko sa pamilya at asawa mo na p*ta ka. Idedemanda kita."
To this, the teary-eyed mistress turned to me and said, "Sorry. Mahal ko kasi daddy mo."
My mom was done with her, so she turned to me and said we were leaving. But before storming off, she spat at the woman, "Kunin mo ‘yung asawa ko sa kotse kung gusto mo." The woman could only look on.
At first, I was the only child who knew what was happening between my parents. I saw how hurt my mom was, despite the brave indignation she displayed. But for some reason, I was not completely devastated by the possibility that my parents would split up. Maybe because deep inside, I felt that they were going to get through it.
Sure enough, my dad did everything he could to make it up to my mom and earn her trust again. She tried to kick him out, but he wouldn’t let her; he insisted on staying, even if it meant sleeping in the garage. My dad was sincerely sorry for what he did; even I could see how hard he was trying and how much his wife and family meant to him.
After letting all her anger out of her system, my mom decided to do what I always felt she would: She gave my dad another chance. Getting over the ordeal was a tough journey for her, and sometimes she would still allude to the affair, even a couple of years down the line. But eventually, they both learned from the experience and let the animosity fade away.
It’s much easier to condemn infidelity as a total deal-breaker and to assume that a relationship is a lost cause once the mistake is made; I myself had always thought the same thing before I became witness to my parents’ crisis. But it takes great courage to choose to face the conflict head-on and try to work through it when the temptation to give up and flee taunts you at every corner.
I’m not saying that all unfaithful partners should be given a second chance, but if the perpetrator has expressed his full remorse for the act and hasn’t turned it into a habit, and both parties sincerely want to make it work, it can work.
And my parents didn't just stay together because it was convenient for them or because they had to for their children; they stayed together because their love was stronger than the fault.
Now that I’m also married with children of my own, the lesson I learned from my parents’ struggle with infidelity—that loving someone means not just staying for his strengths, but also accepting him for his weaknesses—continues to stick with me. Isn’t that what “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health” is all about?