Dear Amy: About five years ago, I found out through DNA testing that my third child (age 31), is not my biological son.
I learned this after divorcing my wife. My ex will not discuss this issue with me and has not been forthright with him, either.
I love my son as much as my other two children, but doesn’t he deserve to know the truth? He lives on the opposite coast, but we have a good relationship and just enjoyed a great week-long visit together.
One concern to me is that he may eventually need to know his medical history that I cannot provide.
Also, he is becoming more inquisitive regarding family ancestry, and I try to avoid such conversations.
His mother does not want to discuss any of this with me, but I am open to having both of us discuss this with him in the future if she is willing.
I have taken the stance that it is up to her to tell him, but she hasn’t since we uncovered this information almost five years ago.
Is there anything I should do, or should I just wait on her?
She may be planning to take the truth to her grave to avoid embarrassment.
Is any action on my part required? Your suggestion?
— Determined Dad
Dear Dad: You should not avoid discussing family ancestry with your son. He is a member of the family and — DNA aside — your family ancestry is also his.
He also has the right to learn the truth about his DNA. This is important information, for obvious reasons. And — even though learning this news would undoubtedly lead to challenges for everyone in the family — it is the truth. It is his truth, and he has the right to it.
Given the ubiquity of DNA testing, your son is likely to discover this on his own at some point. His mother’s issue notwithstanding, imagine how he would feel knowing that you have been in possession of this knowledge for years and have chosen not to tell him?
You should set a ticking clock and let his mother know that if she doesn’t disclose the truth to your son by a reasonable deadline, you will. Yes, definitely offer to join her in a discussion.
Dear Amy: I recently married my husband “RJ,” and life is great.
While at a get-together with old friends of mine, one of them waited until RJ went to the bathroom to ask me about my ex-husband and his well-being.
She quickly wrapped up as soon as RJ was approaching to join us again, and I’m glad that she did.
Unfortunately, RJ hasn’t always extended the same “kindness” to me.
In the past, he and his friends have relived the good times they’ve all had together, including much, much talk of his ex.
I don’t have jealous tendencies and didn’t mind per se, but I admit that I did feel somewhat disconnected from him after those two or three instances.
What’s your opinion on the better approach? When in company, should we avoid speaking of our past in front of our current partner, or yap on and let them deal?
— Curious in Miami
Dear Curious: If the choices are kindness and consideration versus “yapping” and dealing, I’m voting for what’s behind Door Number One.
However, depending on the context, a certain amount of wandering down memory lane should be expected, especially if the group includes more than one old friend.
Generally, extensive conversations about ancient personal experiences co-starring strangers are both boring and disconnecting. A gracious person will find ways to steer the conversation and not alienate any one person for very long.
Yes, I agree that it is kindest for your husband not to initiate extensive conversations involving “much, much talk” of his ex. However, if the ball gets rolling, you should tolerate it. Nor should you completely avoid talking about your own history in front of your husband.
These anecdotes will help you to fill in one another’s life stories, while you build your own shared history.
Dear Amy: You really blew your response to “Saddened.”
First of all, the 40-year-old daughter should get her own place and get a full-time job. Does she even have friends, or date?
I can go on and on, but something is terribly wrong in this household.
Dear Disappointed: “Saddened” reported that all members of the household were functioning and happy. He was looking for ways to improve his relationship with his stepdaughter, and I offered ideas.
(You can email Amy Dickinson at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.)
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