Mother of a problem

I'm writing to you under the influence of a little alcohol (as I'm not sure I'd have the courage to write to you about this sober). I've got an awkward (understatement) situation.

My mother left her e-mail logged in on my computer, and I decided to be an asshole and snoop out of boredom. I honestly wasn't expecting anything, but I found a few intimate e-mails between her and a strange man that pretty much confirmed that she was cheating on my dad.

My parents have been married for almost three decades, and it's kind of an understatement to say he's an antisocial psycho. He restricted her from so many things during their marriage — partly for religious/cultural reasons — and honestly did not appreciate what he had. He's been a physical wreck for most of their marriage and has no personality to compensate. (I could go on about how abusive and fucked-up his personality was during my childhood, but that's a whole other issue.) My mother, on the other hand, is one of the nicest and most caring people you could ever meet. She's also "hot" — a lot of my friends (male and female) have pointed that out to me, as awkward as that is.

Okay: Dad's an abusive asshole and borderline psycho, and Mom's a beautiful woman with a lot of opportunities and social skills. The only reason she didn't leave him was to keep the family together and for those same stupid cultural reasons. But it's hard knowing my mom is a CPOS. It's killing my older brother, who is close to her, and it's making him really depressed. He feels betrayed, because for years he's defended her against my father when he accuses her of cheating and calls her a whore. So what I want advice on is how the hell to confront her about it. I know I snooped in her e-mail, and I know that was wrong. So what the hell to say?

Mother Obliterated Monogamy

Here's what you say to your mother: "Good for you, Mom."

But you're going to say it under your breath, MOM, audible but not quite loud enough for your mother to hear.

Because you're not going to confront her about this affair or any other affair that you might uncover between now and your father's death and you're not going to tell your mom you snooped and you and your brother are going to go right on defending your mother to your father and you're going to show a little respect — a little retroactive respect — for your mother's privacy by pretending that you don't know what you do know.

Is that clear?

Your mom sounds like a lovely woman, MOM, and you and your brother should be happy that she managed to find a little solace, a little love and tenderness, in the arms of a man who isn't an raving asshole. She deserves that, doesn't she? As for the CPOS label, that gets slapped only on people who cheat without cause, MOM, and it sure sounds like your mom had cause. Which means she's not a cheating piece of shit. She's cheating on a piece of shit.

Yes, yes: Maybe your mom should've divorced your father, or had him murdered, but for reasons that will only ever be known to her, MOM, she decided that keeping her family intact — maybe for cultural reasons, maybe for her boys — was more important than remaining faithful to an antisocial psycho. It's easy to say that cheating is always wrong and to call everyone who cheats a POS, but sometimes an affair is the least worst option.

As for your brother's feelings of betrayal: Maybe your dad was right and your mom was cheating on him throughout their marriage and his tirades were justified and your brother was a fool to defend your mother. Or maybe your mom decided, after being accused of cheating again and again, and after being called a whore again and again, that if she was going to be accused, indicted, and tried for that particular crime, she might as well have the pleasure of committing it. Encourage your brother to give your mother the benefit of the doubt. It sounds like she deserves it.

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