Dreading wife’s reaction
Dear Annie: I am in my 70s, have been married for 42 years and have three grown children. I found out two years ago that I had a child with a woman I had dated 10 years before I met my wife. Her daughter tracked me down and contacted me. She said that he had been put up for adoption, but she tracked him down because her mother was ill and wanted to know how he was doing. She said that she had contacted him and that he was interested in finding out about his birth parents but did not want to cause a problem. She then gave me his contact information.
I was shocked and did not know how to proceed. After a couple of months, however, my empathy won out and I contacted him by email. He is 50 years old, successful, with two young daughters and a wife. I sent him information about my grandparents and health, and he never pushed for anything more. Over the last two years, we have emailed back and forth and gotten to know each other. I even had the opportunity to meet him and his wife when we were on business trips in the same town. I must say that I like and respect him.
The problem involves my wife. A few months after I first started communicating with him, I was bothered that I was keeping this important information from her. After all, with the internet and everything, the mother’s daughter was able to track me down after 50 years. And these kinds of secrets always have a way of surfacing. When I finally told my wife, she became very upset and said that she didn’t want to talk about it and asked me never to bring it up again. I have taken her at her word, but I have continued my communications with him.
The advice I need concerns the fact that I would like to tell my other children about this discovery. They are in their 30s and established, and I don’t think that they would be upset. I just don’t want them to find out some other way and know that I kept this secret from them. I would totally leave it up to them if they want to communicate but they would have the information. The only person who knows about this, besides my wife, is my sister. I gave her his contact information in case something should happen to me, and she could let him know.
I want to tell them in the next few months, but I dread how my wife will react. I am thinking about telling them and explaining that their mother knows but doesn’t want to hear anything about it. Is that a good approach? Any advice will be greatly appreciated. — Concerned Father and Husband
Dear Concerned: Telling your grown children about your recent discovery of your 50-year-old son is a brave and honest thing to do. It sounds like despite a rough beginning to life, your son has done very well for himself. With DNA testing companies such as Ancestry and 23andMe, there is a high likelihood that your children will eventually find out on their own. It is much better to hear the truth from their father. Your wife seems to be in denial about this.
While some partners don’t like to think about their partners’ pasts, your past is what makes you unique. And your wife married you — and your past.
Walking on eggshells around your wife about your son will eventually lead to a crack. Try to ask your wife why she feels so uncomfortable talking about him. Reassure her how much you love her and how proud you are of what sounds like a fantastic family you’ve created together.
Editor’s note: “Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie” is out now! Annie Lane’s debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to firstname.lastname@example.org.