I found your blog shortly after D-day and it saved my sanity. Backstory, married for over 30 years. Marriage with ups and downs, and finding out over time that he had issues with porn. Did the wreckconcilation complex for a while. Finally, 3 years ago, find out about an affair with the howorker who was a few years older than my daughter. Based on what I found here and a good therapist, kicked his butt to the curve and have worked for 3 years on healing.
Yesterday, on my birthday no less, my niece, on his side of the family, contacted me to wish me a happy birthday, but then drops a bombshell. She has had a man in his late 30s contact her that he took a DNA test and they show a close relation. With investigation, guess what? He is my ex’s child. Apparently, about a year before he met me, he had an affair with a married woman and she became pregnant and pretended that it was her husband’s child.
The son is dealing with finding out that his dad is not his biological dad. My ex knew and according to the birth mother came to see the son once after birth and then moved to Atlanta and ghosted her. Based on the information my niece gave me, it is true. Right location and the timing is right and of course, the DNA match.
I was never told by him. The issue is my daughter. She is 29 and she has a right to know and of course, being the responsible one, I need to tell her. How do I do this? How do I deal with the fallout of first the divorce because of his cheating and the asshat lying by omission to her that she has a half brother?
Daughter is 29 and just started her career. This woman is professional, ethical, and compassionate. She has a cross-country move coming up and I am struggling with the how and when to tell her. Any advice you can offer would be appreciated. Also, the daughter loves snark so you humor will help me to ease her pain.
I don’t know if I have any snark for “Hey, you have a brother!” But I do think ancestry DNA surprises are a subject for new forms of etiquette and empathy.
Everyone should have the right to their identity. Which seems like such a basic thing to write, but I spent over a year researching a story on the Baby Scoop era and, no, in 2023 adopted people still don’t have a right to their birth certificates in most states. Many, many people either through deception (that man’s mother and your ex), or deceptive laws (sealed records) don’t know the basics of their ancestry.
I started this whole deep dive when someone on Ancestry.com reached out to me, like they did your niece, with “Hi, you’re my nearest genetic relative, can you tell me how we’re related?” (I told her. She eventually met her birth mother.)
The whole situation is an injustice — having to awkwardly approach strangers to find out the details of your existence.
So, my advice to you is to proceed with compassion. My heart goes out to that guy. It’s not his fault he was spawned by a couple of fuckwits. He’s the victim of deception, just like his chumped father. But don’t treat the news of him like he is shameful.
He probably doesn’t know how to navigate this either. I imagine he just wants basic medical information and perhaps to meet, and maybe to build a relationship with his sibling that in time that could be a blessing to both of them. Or not. Perhaps he’ll be like your loosely affiliated cousin on Facebook.
But what I wouldn’t do is put the sins of the bio-father on the son. And I don’t think your daughter should either. I don’t know what her relationship is with her dad, but she’s probably aware he’s a serial cheater and perhaps the thought has occurred to her that he’s fathered children elsewhere. She’s an adult.
She’s not a reflection of her father’s bad choices. And her half-brother isn’t either. He’s a person, not a dirty secret. If you go into this with an air of OMG THIS KNOWLEDGE IS GOING TO ROCK YOUR WORLD! Scandal! Shame! it’s more likely to knock her for a loop, than if you simply approach her with “Hey, your cousin made a surprising discovery on 23andMe…”
If there are any villains in this story, it’s the woman who duped her chump husband about the paternity of his child. And, of course, your ex. They are the ones who have forced secrecy and lies on everyone. So, in my opinion, the best thing you can do is NOT follow their example. Be honest and transparent.
Your ex rejected this kid. At some level that has to hurt. I wouldn’t pile on more rejection. Tell your daughter. You say she’s a compassionate person? Then you can trust her to be kind and absorb this new information.
Her half-brother might really welcome the acquaintance of some sane family members. Good luck! And report back!
In addition to the wise (and compassionate) suggestions by Chump Lady, there is Melinda French Gates healthy boundaries example ” You’ll have to ask him”.
This actually just happened to my cousin. And it was JUST a few month after my uncle had passed. The news was much much more difficult for my aunt. After a few days of uncomfortable feelings she eventually made plans to meet her half brother. For her it was an incredibly joyous discovery. She had lost her (full) brother year ago to a motorcycle accident. For her it was the beginning of a sort of family re-build after losing her brother and dad. For her mom, not so much. It was the beginning to ‘he’s not the man I thought he was’.
Dr. D. The same thing happened to my cousin. She thought she was an only child and then found out about her 1/2 brother a few years ago and it has been joyous for both of them. I am hoping the same for my daughter.
If she hasn’t already told you, I’d ask the niece on husband’s side what she told him. He may already have the contact info for your daughter. It’s possible she already heard from him and hasn’t shared that to avoid upsetting you.
We talked the other night and yes, she does have information, but the son is still processing all of this and she said he is introverted. Her parents didn’t want her to tell me, but she and I have a strong relationship and she thought I could handle it. I also think that she didn’t want to be the one to tell my daughter.
In addition, I told my niece since she has been the one communicating with him, that if he wasn’t ready to speak to his biological dad and had questions, I would be glad to speak with him and answer what I could. My heart goes out to this young man.
It sounds like you are handling the situation with sensitivity, Beawolf. CL’s advice was perfect and I’d say you’ve got this.
What a shock that must have been to find out the FW’s deception ran that deep, and that he’d abandoned his child. You are well rid of him.
“told him” Refers to the half-brother.
I was adopted as an infant. When I was 21, I searched for – and found – my birth mother.
Despite noises throughout my life of “we will support you,” my adoptive mother did not deal very well with me having contact with bio mom.
In a nutshell, she made it about her, and criticized me, blamed me, and made me feel guilty.
In Beawolf’s position, I would try to just be a supportive, non-judgmental mother, and allow my daughter to drive the train of whether, when, and how much contact to have with her half brother.
A close friend of mine discovered a half brother, the result of her father’s cheating, when she was in her 40s. The siblings met once, but their contact fizzled out pretty quickly. No drama, no resentment, just “we’re adults with busy lives, and despite being genetically connected, we’re strangers.”
Like CL points out, this isn’t an uncommon thing to have happen, and it doesn’t have to rock Beawolf’s daughter’s world in a bad way.
I am SO SORRY that has been your experience. My son is 11 now and adopted. I intentionally kept the adoption open and regularly communicate with the birth mom so that if he ever wants answers he can find them. It certainly has had its complications, but I just want the option open and easy for him if he chooses that path.
Thank you, Dr. D. My parents did a lot of things right: they told me about being adopted as soon as I was old enough to understand (age 3?) and always made me feel loved, chosen, and special.
Back then (late 60s and 70s) there wasn’t much discourse around adoption, particularly the problematic aspects of it.
You sound like you’re centering your son’s experience and needs, and that makes all the difference. Kudos!
Feelings about who one considers family are subjective, and based on more than genetic connection.
I have a half-sister, the product of my father’s first marriage. (He was also a cheater, so who knows, I may have another half-sibling out there somewhere.) I did not grow up with her, and had very limited contact with her over the years. Despite my having sympathy for the fact that my father was an awful father to her (he was one of those who resented child support), I feel that “despite being genetically connected, we’re strangers.” I actually feel the same way about my full brother, with whom I grew up. But I have the exact opposite feeling about my cousin, who was adopted by my aunt, my mother’s sister and her husband, as well as my niece and nephew (my sister’s children), who are both adopted!
My cousin has never wanted to seek out her biological mother, and is quite adamant that my aunt and uncle were her parents. But my niece feels the opposite–that her biological mother is her “real mother.”
Beawolf, to my mind, you are taking the high road, despite your own legitimate hurt.
There’s a thing in my family that has pretty different specifics but a similar core. Every so often tell that person “That asshat did a lot of very bad things, but he helped to make you, and you’re the best. I’m glad he got that one thing right, but he’s no longer needed, so, buh-bye, Dude.”
(In our case, the he in the story hurt the good person in the story very deeply then disappeared, meaning there’s no barrier to shit-talking him. YMMV.)
These are such wise words. I’m going to use them and share them. Thanks for sharing them here.
At around age 50, my next-door neighbor found out he has a half-sister. His mother got pregnant at her high school prom and secretly had a child which she put up for adoption. No one had mentioned this for 50 years – it was a complete secret.
Half-sister is now on good terms with my neighbor’s side of the family; they often spend holidays together. It was tense for a while while they were figuring out what kind of relationship they would have, but seems pretty god now.
Obviously no cheating involved here, though the teenage father did drop his mother like a hot potato as soon as he found out she was pregnant; he was sent off of Europe to get him out of shotgun wedding range so it’s not like everyone was behaving honorably.
I was the only person in my family with dark eyes. My mother told me it was some sort of genetic throwback thing. Then after my Dad passed it was mentioned again and she finally admitted that I was the daughter of a boss she had an affair with. It hit me hard. I looked him up online and he had been dead for 18 years, but fathered 9 children with his wife – all older than me. Because of unusual health issues I have been so tempted, so many times, to reach out to them. I haven’t had the nerve to do it. My Mom also forbade me from telling either of my (10 years and 8 years older) brothers. I’ve had this information for 17 years now, she’s been gone almost that long, and it’s a corrosive knowledge to carry around – especially since I was my Dad’s obvious favorite even though he knew or strongly suspected that I wasn’t his.
You could consider joining 23andme and leaving it to chance. If any of your half siblings are members, they might come to you.
Linny, you don’t have to carry this secret around. Your mother had no right to demand that you protect her from the natural consequences of her selfish behavior – and you are in no way bound by the demands of a long-dead cheater. Your Dad (who WAS your dad and saw you as his daughter, regardless of where the sperm came from) is beyond being harmed by this knowledge.
Also, guys like Boss tend not to have one fling and then stop forever. I would bet you would not be the first ‘new relative’ to reach out to his family.
If you are struggling to find the right words or the nerve to talk about what you know, a therapist may be helpful if you’re not seeing one already.
The other integer here might be Linny’s two older brothers–who may or may not keep seeing Linny as their sister or take their anger at their father out on her. I agree with your perspective on secrets, but I also understand her reluctance to tell her brothers.
Oh, absolutely. Linny is the one who gets to decide whether and what to tell. But that’s what the therapist is for – to give a safe and private space to talk about this corrosive secret.
Adelaide that’s exactly why I haven’t told them. I’ve wanted to because they always looked down on my Dad and thought Mom could do no wrong. To them she was the long-suffering wife of a jealous fool. What good could possibly come of them knowing now that they’re both gone?
Sorry! I typed Adelante, but spell check disagreed.
Your mother had no right to forbid you to begin with. She has an affair baby, lies to you about your parentage and later demands you not tell your brothers you are their half sister? Talk about entitled. I think it’s time they knew the truth. I suggest you don’t carry the burden of your mother’s choices anymore.
Beawolf, I am so sorry about this. This situation is a black cloud over my own head.
I would tell your daughter in the context that CL used in her advice: a) who is at fault in this mess (the FWs) and who is not (the half-brother and his chump father) and b) it is not our right to withhold this kind of information from interested parties. You love and admire your daughter so it must be relatively easy to tell her.
I think the thorny part is whether to tell her before or after her big move. If it were me, I would like to know before I moved because there will be a lot of adaptation in the new place and I would prefer to ruminate on this story on the way over.
I can also share my experience in this situation with you: I have known for decades that my middle sister is not my chump father’s daughter. My mother knew that I knew and did her best to “kill the messenger” without making her mistake surface. I feel so sorry for her, but at the same time, she was cruel to me and to my children and terrible to my father in his old age. I find it hard to forgive her.
Anyway, the point is: these things always trickle out (your niece knows… the sibling knows!) and my sister is now furious with me for withholding this information. But she is also furious with me for answering the questions that she bombarded me with when the shit hit the fan. She makes things look like *I* did all the cheating and that I supposedly made this story up so that she can’t inherit anything from my father. Crazy! (the law in my country would not even permit this to happen). Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. People need a scapegoat for their frustrations.
Your smart daughter will surely see how much this is also painful for you (a chump seeing her daughter suffer in double: a cheating dad and a surprise sibling) and that you are just trying to protect her from hurtful surprises with the wrong timing. Don’t say anything that could make the telling sound vengeful.
CN stands with you!
ClearWaters thank you for your perspective. It was very insightful.
This just happened to my cousin. She was contacted by another cousin & told “surprise, you have a brother”! totally bypassing any sane parent to deliver the news. It’s been a mess. Beawolf, your daughter is it at least lucky to have you there for that. I remember asking FW in the beginning if he had any children, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when the reply is “not that I know of”. I occasionally wondered if one would pop up pre-marriage, but now I wonder if there’s any out there created DURING our marriage. Oh well, if one does, just another reason to add to the list of why I’m glad to be rid of the FW!
My husband found out his bio-father wasn’t actually his bio-father through ancestry. Although I thought that well before anyway. I know genetics can be strange but this was….a stretch to say the least.
So he reached out to his bio father who completely denied it and freaked right out.
This is a blessing. As we get older, it is so hard to make new friends. It is a crisis! I have reached out to people in my 50s and I come across as too needy or eager. Or maybe people have too much shit going on to make time to be friends. As your daughter gets older, having a brother is going to be a treasure. (If he is not a freak – you never know).
Either way, a new family member is an amazing gift. Yes, the origins are shit, but who cares?
I would frame this as a zany bananas surprise from the Universe and roll with it with hope and optimism.
This response gets my back up tbh. Maybe I find it too “pollyannish”? Family to me isn’t all about genetics, it’s how we’ve been together & cared for each other. Having a surprise genetic relationship thrust upon you isn’t always “a blessing or a gift”. It can also been painful to find out that your parent isn’t who you thought they were.
When the xFW was steeped in his affair with Schmoopie (who was a geneticist), he got our family to do cheek swabs for the AP to do some testing on – in theory to see if there was a genetic component to my daughter’s rare birth defect – but in reality to prove his paternity. That’s right, the man who was busy f*cking around was suspicious of ME. Projection much?
I never heard anything about the results, so guessing he got the proof he is the father after all. Duh. In the meantime, I try not to worry about the possibility of a half-sibling showing up at some point in the future, given the number of messed-up women willing to do the deed with a married man.
Yikes, eugenics much? I saw similar “eugenic irony” in my situation. My son developed a cellular disorder as a toddler that can involve behaviors similar to autism like social withdrawal, especially in the beginning stages. In my son’s situation, the condition is acquired and treatable to some degree though there are issues involving epigenetics and genetic “susceptibility” to causal factors. When acquired, the condition has been repeatedly associated with pesticide exposure. Since I learned natural alternatives to pesticides from my eco-conscious parents and grandparents and always ate and cooked organic, any potential causal-level exposure would have to have come from elsewhere. But FW’s narcy mother rejected the idea of environmental cause and started telling anyone who would listen that I didn’t “know how to get along with people.”
Er, der, was that maybe a hint that my son’s condition was due to my tainted genes?? Then in the “full disclosure” part of the RIC debacle, FW admitted he told his Schmoopie why I didn’t get along with his toxic mommy and Schmoops– who’d never met me– apparently embraced ex-MIL’s eugenic tagline and thereafter harped that I… “didn’t know how to get along with people” as part of her campaign to get FW to dump his family. Eugenicists are so subtle! This was while Schmoops was secretly flushing her birth control pills and trying to get accidentally–on-purpose pregnant so it seems pretty obvious she was trying to reassure herself that any spawn she had with FW wouldn’t be afflicted. Also she just seemed to find hating me delicious. She called me names like “devil woman” (thus my alias). I guess that made my kids “demon spawn.”
Anyway, it turns out that genetic susceptibility for this condition is paternally inherited. Good thing Schmoopie didn’t manage to get pregnant. More irony– aside from being a true believer in the wonders of modern chemistry, Schmoops has PCOS and the fact she was a long term alcoholic increased the risk of having a child with any number of very serious congenital disorders. Furthermore, “epigenetic” factors related to toxic exposures of past generations were probably from dad as well. Two friends he grew up with had children who developed the same relatively rare condition. One glaring potential factor was that ex-MIL– like a lot of people in their mosquito-ridden region at that time– didn’t stop her son from running behind pesticide trucks as a kid as a kind of game. Because ex-MIL believed the goofy soothsayer who told her that her son was like the Second Coming, was favored by God and only glorious things would ever happen to him, the story almost suggests that MIL’s narcissism at least partly contributed to my son’s condition, though the bulk of the onus goes to the chemical industry and regulatory corruption.
People bought the bull this stuff was safe and didn’t know of course. But I still find it curious that people like my ex-MIL– probably to the degree that they know in their guts they might have made mistakes that contributed to disaster– have this need to point fingers. In externalizing the “cause” for disability, they reject the disabled. No surprise my ex-MIL couldn’t stand spending any time with her ailing grandson. Now that he’s significantly recovered, it’s sort of the definition of “her loss” but tragic either way.
Just to qualify, I think “eugenics” applies any time the issue of genetics is weaponized to exclude, disavow, negate or exploit people affected by conditions related in any way to genetics or to invent genetic cause for acquired conditions as a way of quarantining “blame” for illness on those affected or their immediate families. It’s N*zi shit.
p.s., My kids look so much like FW and me combined that it was never suggested that they weren’t FW’s children. But as part of the disability parent community and from working for advocacy attorneys for the disabled, I’ve learned that Schmoopies who bang married people with disabled kids will commonly look for any way they can to cut down on the often enormous costs of caring for disabled children. Schmoopies and FWs never like child support but it seems disability support cranks up incentives to fight it. One blood curdling method of doing away with child support that I heard from an attorney is for Schmoopies to rally FWs to gain full custody of disabled chilren and then campaign to stick the kids in institutional care on a waiver. From your story, it seems another tactic to this end is to try to dispute paternity. Horrifying.
Gosh, these things are complicated. I’ve heard similar stories among my local folk.
I would tell your daughter and pour on all of the compassion you can muster. It’s not your fault (of course), but you can be a sane port in the storm. Maybe the half-brother will want a relationship with your daughter, maybe not. Maybe he’s a wonderful person, maybe not.
My divorce attorney often commented that what you know is often just the tip of the iceberg with these types. There’s a snowball effect once someone begins compromising.
I’m thankful everyday that my ex chose to flee to another state and that we settled without a trial. I know more than I wish I did, but thankfully not the full extent. Nothing would surprise me though.
such a humane and well-intentioned response, CL! Reading it reminded me why I love CN. I came for the snark, I stay because of the compassion
I hate to be a buzz kill on the subject of potentially happy extended surprise DNA events, but sometimes apples don’t fall far from the tree and I’ve seen more wills contested after “ who’s my daddy” discovery days. Difficult times will always reveal (not build) character.
I’m going to out myself here……but in the early days after D-Day but finally finding chumplady, the fact settled in my brain that he did not suddenly wake up one morning and decide to be a cheater. And once you open that door and allow yourself to look in….well, 40 years of blind trust in my marriage means likely anything could be true. All those strange things over the years – some of them were slips of his double life leaking in. But, which ones?
So, as I am opening my mind to sift through the stories of women who came and went in our family life, I wonder about this one and that one. And then – suddenly – I jerk myself back to reality because, “are there kids out there I don’t know about? what if my kids are not my kids? He was out f*** ing around, how will I ever know about his full spread of children? How will this be for my now adult children to learn all these things in the future? How can I be 100% sure about my own two?”
If you’re confused by now….. that’s the crux of the story. I slipped momentarily into the rabbit hole of wondering if the two children I conceived and then carried nine months and birthed all natural on a horrible hospital bed alone.. I had to calm myself by going through these facts piece by piece. Yes, they are my children. Yes, I know who fathered them. Yes, I watched them emerge from my body. Those are solid facts.
Cognitive dissonance I think is how this is referred to. Everything I knew to be true for 40 years was suddenly suspect. Even to the point where I doubted my own pregnancies. This is why the road back to sanity takes so long and is such hard work. The sifting and verifying. I know it is called untangling the skein (and the traipsing through my married life of various women and possibly men is not worth my brain cells)- but there are certain facts that the brain has to untangle before it can begin to feel safe again.
I’m curious if anyone else fell into this rabbit hole? It sounds crazy but it was very real for a few seconds.
I never doubted my daughter, who I gave birth to, was mine. But I do look back over our 20+ years and question how far back the cheating goes and how much I didn’t notice because I blindly trusted him. I will NEVER know for sure bc he does that all too common thing where he will only admit to what he knows I know without a doubt. He presents itas this AP is the only one, and they are soul mates and destined to be together so it’s “ok” he cheated. Sometimes the not knowing makes me absolutely insane, and sometimes I realize that the bit I do know is enough to end things, and not knowing every damn detail is probably for the best. (I think as Chumps, we sometimes want to uncover every slimy detail in a “you haven’t completely fooled me!” kind of way. But the details hurt, and as log as you know at least one thing for a fact that proves to you it’s beyond turning back, that is probably for the best.
Tallgrass- I totally get that. I thought when we met that it was a wonderful romance. Until this latest bomb, I thought his cheating started at a later date. Now, knowing he cheated with a married woman, had a child, and kept all a secret from me, his so called true love, makes me question every woman he was friends with. I am glad he is gone, but realizing that what had been my reality, was not reality at all.
I spent quite a bit of time in that particular rabbit hole — after I learned of my husband’s secret gay life, I started to be haunted by memories of things that hadn’t made sense at the time. It took me probably around 18 months just to get past that phase of obsessive flashbacks, some dating back twenty years.
I have a buzzard twist of a story.
My ex was a sperm donor back in the early 80s. The Wild West of sperm donors. No names; no tracking. I KNOW my kids have multiple siblings out there!!!
I told both my kids that their dad was a sperm donor so it wouldn’t come as a shock if they are ever contacted by genetic half-siblings.
There are some genetic diseases that run through the ex’s family. I used to tell him he needs to put his information out there to let his “children” or spermicide-recipients know about their medical history but he always refused.
Bizarre not buzzard!
Luckily I know his only AP and she has no children but I do wonder how many abortions she had.
Wow! Reading through the posts it’s sad how many FW’s roam the planet. My maternal grandfather was one and last year my cousin met our half aunt and one of our other half cousins. My FW grandfather was an alcoholic and most likely, serial cheater, but got one of his paramours pregnant between my mom (’44) and my uncle (’52).
There had been whispers for years as apparently my maternal grandmother knew and he supported the child.
My cousin sent me a picture of my half aunt and she is my mothers twin.
This was all verified through 23 & Me
A friend of mine found out about her hub’s teen pregnancy, a child that was given up for adoption. The child, now an adult, reached out to him forty some years later. He wouldn’t respond but contacted the birth mom’s fam. That family decided the birth mom was too emotionally fragile to deal. The hub didn’t want to deal either. Their birth daughter then started contacting my friend and it opened a huge can of worms and she was furious with her hub – even though this happened well before they dated. So she didn’t respond and the birth daughter contacted their daughters (who were not aware) and it quite hit the fan. Hub finally met with her reluctantly, told her he wasn’t interested in a relationship but facilitated her meet up with her bio mom. Everyone was so angry with the bio kid’s refusal to accept the no contact. For the bio daughter, it was just another crushing blow. Turns out her childhood was a hellish life with alcoholics. I didn’t say much but privately, I was disturbed by how cruel all the rejection she received. I get that her persistence was annoying and generated anger but I just didn’t get the cruelty of it all. The hub was a bestie of my ex. The funny thing is, I wouldn’t have been surprised if a bio kid came knocking on my door. So I was prepared to accept a half sibling to mine, if that happened. I wouldn’t have added to the chaos in that child’s life, ya know? Even though I would be involved, I would try not to make it about me. For my friend, she was probably just as sad her hub refused to step up and deal instead of dragging her through this. But she made it about his keeping a secret. So many mistakes can be made in situation. I can only recommend a position of open arms towards the child and caution with their extended family. Another friend’s adopted son reunited with his bio mom and bio brothers and they ended up wanting financial support rather than a relationship. It turned distasteful rather quickly. For another cousin, her reuniting with her bio mom has been a huge blessing and joyful for all. I guess it’s a crapshoot sometimes. I hope this goes well.
This is so sad. The yearning that a child has to find out who they are was ignored. There didn’t have to be old home week lovey dovey reactions but there might have been extended family who wouldn’t reject her. Stories like this break my heart. All she needed was her history. Instead she felt rejected again.
Most people raised by abusers don’t grow up to be abusive. This newly discovered relative in Beawolf’s story, though obviously raised by a deceptive mother, might be a thoroughly amazing person or just a touchingly normal person. I hope the latter are true. But, at risk of throwing a dark note into a discussion about leading with compassion when it comes to “scoop children,” I wanted to add one caveat in case he’s neither amazing or normal: In the case the long-lost scoop relative didn’t fall too far from his mother’s tree and turns out to be a user, personality disordered, etc., it’s okay to let throw him back in the water. I’m more concerned for the OPs daughter in this situation since the daughter is the “blood” relative and her step-sibling comes with a rather sad story to start with. As we all know, disordered people tend to use “fear/obligation/guilt” (FOG) as a lever of control. Beawolf’s daughter may still be working through the loss of who she once thought her father was and may be particularly vulnerable to being emotionally exploited. As human beings, it’s hard to resist the desire to fill in the gaps left by the loss of certain people. Even people who never knew their families will miss what they never knew. And most importantly– in the case of loss by betrayal, we have to make sure those human “replacements” are better, not equivalent or worse than the originals.
Personally I’ve seen a lot of loss by betrayal. Even if the situations I’ve experienced aren’t close parallels to Beawolf’s circumstances, I’ll illustrate them so it’s clear I’m not someone who takes these things lightly and I don’t make decision to cut contact with family on mere whims. I would never accept feedback from someone who didn’t share my values so I’ll describe the stakes I dealt with. For instance, my dad had to let go of dysfunctional, alcoholic extended family before I was born and, from what I know, I’m glad he did and would guess that his ability to break ties relates to his ability to break destructive family behavior patterns. He never drank, wasn’t a domestic abuser, didn’t cheat. My dad’s example made me waffle less when some of FW’s extended family reacted terribly when my middle child developed a chronic illness and learning disability as a toddler, actually distancing themselves from my son out of squeamishness for disability, embarrassment for what this might say about their “sparkly genetic lineage” and probably fears they’d be saddled with a disabled “dead weight” when his parents were no longer around. Without my dad’s “map” on how to handle things like this and evidence that letting go brings its own rewards, the decision to break ties might have been much more difficult.
The behavior of some on FW’s side of the family in response to my son’s illness was so grotesque that even FW could not pretend there was anything to salvage. It was partly FW’s fault it went that far because he didn’t draw boundaries and call people to the carpet when the first signs that my son was being excluded and rejected appeared. It was actually his best friend from childhood who was outraged to learn that FW’s mother and her clan were leaving my son (and, by extension, my other two kids) out and being avoidant and, when this friend directly confronted ex-MIL, she exploded in self defense and exposed her bigotry in technicolor. This led to people from that family taking sides, several more angry confrontations, bizarre lies that ex-MIL had not said what she’d said and a hard rift.
Speaking of the difference between replacing human gaps left by betrayal with better or equivalent people, I think FW’s affair– which came in the wake of the family fracas– was really a matter of him “replacing” his toxic family with an equally psychopathic, child-betraying Schmoopie (who had no problem gobbling up kids’ college funds and campaigned to get FW to abandon his kids exactly like his crappy family had) but it’s beside the point. In the end, FW’s extended family bailers were shits and it’s no loss so I’m grateful to FW’s trouble-stirring friend and glad that the whole thing blew up definitively and spectacularly instead of continuing fuzzily and indefinably because now there’s no room for misinterpretation and therefore no room for regret. I’m glad I’m not stuck in a brittle detente with hypocrites who are toeing a certain line while giving off reluctant vibes and I’m glad my kids didn’t have to swim in those horrible, unspoken vibes either.
All the same, it was especially difficult when it came to breaking ties with the younger generation of FW’s relatives, some of whom were kids when the whole drama started. I held out hope for and remained welcoming to the younger set at first. It wasn’t their fault their parents are assholes. But when at 13, 16, 18, 20, these kids still showed no sign of rolling away from the bigoted family “tree” and continued the pattern of bailing on and excluding their “defective” relative (and again, by association, all my kids) while still having their hands out hoping for family largesse, I withdrew any possibility of an olive branch. It was a tortured decision and I consulted the wisest and most compassionate people I knew for guidance but the general attitude was “The next generation deliberately continued to leave your kids out of family events and still expect checks on their birthdays and help with tuition so fuck ’em.”
Not surprisingly, the little clot of younger “bailers” are not turning out that well as adults. The very idea that they thought they could keep up normal ties with “non-defective” members of my family and expect generosity while turning their backs on my son still galls me. I still burst into tears remembering those horrible “penny drop” moments of learning about birthday bashes and family fetes after the fact. Playing their game would have meant betraying my own child. My kids and I would never have done what the others did if roles had been reversed. I would not have attended a family event where the disabled were left out and would have raised my kids to know that, if they didn’t invite their disabled kin, there would be no damn parties or fetes.
Those were the stakes. Not light decisions. Meanwhile my kids don’t miss the people who disappeared when they were too young to form real attachments and they were shielded from the direct brunt of rejection. Another example of the rewards of cutting toxic ties is that, after this explosive rift when FW did his FWitty thing and betrayed the kids and I, all the people from his side who would have played Swiss were long gone. Ha ha. I didn’t have to endure that nasty, protracted process of post-cheating extended family fallout where some use the route of “keeping in touch with the kids” to deliver their parting shots, creepy vibes and blame-shifting.
Now that my son has significantly recovered, the kids and I are a bit like the Little Red Hen, enjoying the lives we built and the “improved replacement family” we created with no help from those folks. My own extended family isn’t as big as FW’s and has always been geographically and generationally scattered so I really worried about how the gaps would effect my kids but I’m less worried now. That’s why I wanted to share my experience– as a reminder that, if the worst comes to pass and people turn out to be toxic, ditching negativity can open our lives to much better things. There’s a saying in Taoism that goes, “If you want the universe to fill your rice bowl, clean it out.” We’ve even experienced this eerie, magical realism thing where *literally* every time I make the difficult choice to break ties with someone toxic and unreliable, their positive, constructive, loving replacement shows up with bells on. And I get the strong feeling that these “improved replacements” would have been scared away if we’d kept a few sharks hanging around in our tank.
Again, sorry of the saga above doesn’t have direct bearing on the Beawolf’s quandary but, because I’m someone who used to be held hostage by my own empathy and my desire to give people the benefit of the doubt, it’s taken a long time and some harsh experiences to learn that letting go– even in the case of blood ties– is sometimes the best decision. And I’ll repeat my wish that none of the above is even relevant in Beawolf’s situation. I hope this newly revealed relative turns out to be an ally to Beawolf and her daughter and positively fills a gap left by a FW.
Hell of a Chump- Your comments make sense. The one thing I didn’t mention in the original post was that my daughter was cheated on by her fiance. She broke it off with him and started therapy. When she found out about her dad’s cheating, she challenged him with “How could you do that, you saw what fiance did to me and now you have done that to my mother?? He couldn’t answer her. With more therapy for both her and I, we have had several discussions. We both know toxic people do not belong in our lives. I will tell her to proceed with caution and cite what the pitfalls could be. Hopefully, her and her 1/2 sibling will have a good relationship.
It would be wonderful if the encounter with this individual turned out to be healing and a kind of kismet. Your daughter must be reeling and vulnerable on so many levels after multiple blows so one would hope there isn’t another disappointment lying in wait. But I think how we communicate with our children can turn those negative experiences into wisdom over time.
I was worried that my young daughter might have been programmed to get eventually involved with someone inauthentic because it would seem “familiar” to her due to her dad being inauthentic. I’ve been worried my sons might have picked up on the negative role modeling. But I’d always been so open with the kids in talking about human foibles, politics and relationship dynamics that I’m hoping it provides a bit of protection or, if they do ever have relationship issues, it gives them a bit of philosophical armature to process events and keep their lives on track. When I think about it now, it makes me laugh how FW must have been grinding his teeth through all those dinner table conversations about ethics in relationships and my sons’ impassioned moral rants against pervy politicos, rapey celebs and all their acerbic cracks about Epstein island. My daughter aspires to be an animator and illustrator and she makes a lot of comments about “porny” trends and sexism in anime. It must have driven FW slowly bonkers to see them growing up to condemn people like him and everything related. While he was otherwise occupied, I was the hand that rocked the cradle.
It sounds like you did the same and your closeness to your daughter may make her strong in the long run.
Beawolf, I’m only adding one observation to CL’s excellent advice.
In this day and age, secrets aren’t going to stay secret without people actively lying and covering up. There’s no such thing as “what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her”. Look at us all here. We all found out, and we all got hurt.
The question isn’t whether your daughter is likely to discover this half-brother. She may just join 23andme for curiosity’s sake. There are a million ways she could stumble across the truth.
So the real issue is this: assume she’s going to find out sooner or later. Would you rather control the time, place and message, or are you okay just leaving it up to chance? Personally, I’d rather make sure she found out in a calm and supportive way.
Plus if you tell her yourself, you don’t have to come up with an excuse for why you knew all along and didn’t tell her. Because that’s going to be the thing that traumatizes her, more than finding out she had a half-brother.
I agree with walkbymyself. Especially if your Niece and other family know, it is only a matter of time until someone spills the beans. It also may be theoretically possible that she already does know from another family member, but isn’t sure how or when to broach the topic with you and inflict more pain.
It sounds like she has a lot of stressful things going on, but unfortunately that is part of adult life. I would say the sooner you tell her the better, especially if the move is coming up. Once she moves she may be without a local friend to go process with for a little while. Maybe telling her sooner so she has the option to reach out and have coffee in person with someone she knows to vent is kinder. But either way, let the news come from you if you can, so you can let her process it with you there to love and support her.
Walkbymyself- I was planning on telling her today because her fiance flew in last night to join and help her with the move. I felt she could discuss all with him and she does not work today. Then I realized that today is Valentine’s day and didn’t want her to deal with it today, so I am planning to call her on her next day off. As soon as I was told, I knew I had to tell her because she would find out and I didn’t want her to think I kept it from her. My life is an open book. My friends and family know almost everything about me. I share my tragedies to let people know that everyone goes through trials and if my experience can help them if they ever experience the same. thing. Although the cheating, I would never wish on any of them.
That’s a very wise decision. My D-day was during my daughter’s senior year, and I waited until after her graduation, and after all the parties and celebrations, because I didn’t want it to forever taint her memories. I had helped her move out of her senior apartment and we had a four-hour drive ahead of us, and that’s when I brought it up.
This happened to me, I had to tell my 9 year old only child that the close family friend she has grown up with was actually her half brother. He was 16. Devastating for us both.
I found a photo in an old car. Looked a lot like my ex. Now I think I know where our money went. The baby looked a lot like him but I never asked him. Glad he’s gone and got a vasectomy . thank goodness. Now he sticks it all over the place.
First of all this person is a total stranger. He just shares some DNA. The biodad was merely a sperm donor. The son already has a dad. Hopefully, his dad was a kind, loving and supportive father. Mitigating his crappy mom’s influence. The grown son was not raised with his sister. He is a STRANGER. I guess the mom should tell her daughter. The reason being, that daughter may get mad at mom if someone else tells her. I would just state the facts and truths. A stranger reached out to say he shares DNA with you. Your father was a sperm donor for this married woman. If you want to speak to him, thats your choice. But just because you share DNA that doesnt make him family. He already has a mom, dad and family. I respect whatever you want to do. Daughter isnt going to think less of her mom for what FW dad did. Im sure daughter knows her dad sucks. But to cover my butt as a mom I would tell asap.
Just tell your daughter, and keep it simple. I wish my parents had told me and my sister sooner that we had a half-brother from my dad’s high school relationship. We didn’t find out for 55 years, and by then the half-brother was so obsessed with being “unwanted from birth” that he was seriously messed up. Poor guy fantasized that his birth parents were something more special than two dumb, horny, small-town teens. All he wanted to do was hate on dad, and wasn’t interested in us half-sisters. No room for a relationship at all. What a waste.
I have come to believe your “family” is not just about blood relation. Sometimes close friends have been better to me than any family I have.
My father always accused my mother of having affairs. He picked different men in her life (a professor, a couple of bosses, a coworker, and a gym coach, maybe more, those are just the ones we heard about). The odd thing with my siblings is we all wished it were true. Casper the Friendly Ghost had more kindness and parenting skills than my dad. He also accused my mother and all 3 daughters of being prostitutes to support ourselves. He married my mother when they were 19, they were unhappily married 40 years. I don’t know how he couldn’t claim even one of the 5 children. Neither of the sons could ever do anything well enough to please him either, so it wasn’t just misogyny.
If any of his speculation was true, and I seriously doubt it, we will never know unless some dna test from the outside finds us. Dad is dead, and Mom has dementia. She would never have told us, anyway. I don’t think either of them ever cheated, all I ever saw them do was work, but it really doesn’t matter anymore. We all have some links to genetic health problems and resemble each other and our parents. One had brown eyes, one had blue, both grandmothers had blue eyes. Dad and mother studied genetics in college. Dad was so crazy, however, that he once wrote me a letter telling me when my baby sister was conceived and named a time and location for this occasion about 10 years after her actual birth. So, he never let the facts deter him from his theories of my mother’s bad behavior.
My brother fathered a baby during his first marriage, and his wife took off and hid the baby from him. None of the family has seen her since she was a toddler. We have no idea where she is. We are sure she told the baby lies about my brother. She tried to tell lies about him to the Army, to get him kicked out. Unfortunately for her she offered no evidence, and the Army did not discharge him. That’s what made her angry enough to take off and hide, to punish him because he was never successful enough for her.
Anyway, I say all this because there are many reasons people do not know their blood relations. Sometimes I feel adopted kids would be very sad to learn some things about their blood relatives. For instance, any child related by blood to my father. We wonder about the psychological damage done to my brother’s long-lost daughter by her crazy mother. My brother has been nothing but kind to my sons, and to the children of his next wife. His actual daughter may believe he is a monster?
If mystery dad never interacted with this child, he may be very sad to learn his biological father was a cheater. He may be happy to have a half sibling though. I feel they have a right to know, and make up their own minds, if they feel the need to know. I will note that some genetic information about illnesses in families may never be known regardless. I was unable to answer many questions about my grandparents, and my mother didn’t know either. I never asked my dad. For some reason, I considered him to be an untrustworthy source. Go figure!
Tracy: Thank you for these posts. By reading what you – and the Citizens of Trump Nation – have shared, I have been able to identify a H-U-G-E $h!t-load of abuse from my FoO. (Especially from my narcissistic FW father.) And not to just identify the DARVO, the gaslighting and more. But, by reading how the CN-ers have been able to get to “meh”, I have also been able to process and release an enormous amount of pain and scarring. (Anguish and rage that I had no idea I had been carrying within me for a long, long, time.)
I was a regular walking/talking poster-child for PTSD. My family and close friends have noticed how much stronger and at peace I have become. (Wow. So these improvements have not been a figment of my imagination!)
Thank you, CL. And thank you, CN-ers. For those of you out there who are still working on “meh”, may you get to Tuesday soon. May you find a great parking space when you really could use one. May you find a bargain that absolutely makes you believe that, yes, the Universe does want to see you smile. (Yes, I pray for world peace. But I’ll be grateful for whatever glimmer of Light and Hope comes my way. Even when it comes in the form of a blouse that (1) absolutely matches my favorite skirt, and (2) is also 60% off.)
Even though the FW ex H was the AP in this situation, because it happened before the Chump and he were together, I dont think this needs to be drama filled – and CL gives us a lovely explanation of how and why compassion is due the young adult dude who got such shocking news.
I will admit that I am an oddball on this whole topic: my now-husband is a giving and generous man who would have been a great dad to a brood of kids but his exW took off for greener grass taking their only child with her. When he and I were first dating (past childbearing age) I kept hoping that some young adult unknown-progeny from a one night stand or short relationship would she up on his doorstep showing genetic clues of kinship. But alas, none have shown. I have never grilled him about how many hook-ups he had in that era, but I dont think there were many.
I have heard of really happy found-sibling stories in my orbit but I admit it would be weird at first.