Ask Rene: Should I Tell Mom About My Father’s Love Child?

 Infidelity

Dear Rene,

My parents, John and Josie have been married for almost 45 years. They met as teenagers and fell for each other in high school.

I am 40 years old and their only child, or so I thought. I recently found out that I have a secret half sister, Lynn, the result of an affair my dad had years ago.

Of course, I’m shocked and disappointed to find out that my father cheated on my mom, but to find out I have a sibling has been a double whammy. An old family friend told me about Lynn because he thought I should know. And no, Lynn and I haven’t met yet since I’m still unsure about how I feel.

I’ve been watching the coverage of Maria and Arnold’s marital problems and am constantly reminded of my father’s own betrayal towards my mom. We all see how upsetting this news can be to a family.

Rene, My mom and dad are happily married now and I don’t think my mom knows. Should I say anything or leave it alone?

Allison, Oklahoma

 

Dear Allison:

No. No, no, nononononononono! AGH! I know you’re shocked and disappointed. I know you’re hurt. I know you feel the need to share that with someone and I would absolutely encourage you to do that, with anyone BUT your mother! Here’s why.

THIS IS BETWEEN YOUR FATHER AND HIS WIFE: Repeat after me: this is not about you. I know you think it is because he’s YOUR father and whether you admit it or not, you claim some ownership of him (not in a literal way but you know what I am saying). How dare this interloper come in and take a piece of YOUR daddy?! So there’s a bit of possessiveness going. What you need to realize is that this was a mistake made many years ago by a man who is human. His relationship with the other woman (and child, if he has one) does not take away anything from the relationship he has with you. He is the same great guy you knew before finding out this information; he’s the same guy now.

QUESTION THE MOTIVE OF THE “FAMILY FRIEND”: Ewwww this is stinky. Who the hell is this “family friend” who, after years of knowing this, felt it necessary to burden you with it? Because that’s exactly what it is. This person could have gone to their grave with this and no one would be the wiser. Now you’re struggling to deal with a matter over which you have no control. I would explain to this “family friend” in no uncertain terms, how much you did NOT appreciate him “sharing” this information. I’d also ask him put a sock in it if he ever felt compelled to say this to anyone else. Then I’d go ahead and remove him from my Rolodex. You know why? Because this nugget of information wasn’t shared with you from a place of love. You don’t need people like that in your life. Buh-Bye.

TALK TO YOUR FATHER: This is not going to be a fireside chat with marshmallows and warm, fuzzy feelings. This is going to be a conversation about accountability. You need to give your dad a chance to explain his actions, understanding that he may choose not to; after all you’re his daughter not his priest. After he’s said his piece (if he chooses to do so) you can explain how you feel about the whole thing. Once you’ve got that off your chest, I’d seriously seek out someone to talk to and I don’t mean a best friend over a bottle of wine. Your world was shaken and you may need help processing it all. There is one other thing that needs to be included in this conversation with your father and it’s about money, specifically inheritance issues. You need to be in the loop on what sort of provisions he has in place to make sure these things don’t get extremely complicated after he’s gone.

Allison, I’m sorry you have to deal with this but this is life and life is messy. People make mistakes, unfortunately many times, without thinking of those they care most about. I hope you are able to work through these issues with your dad, but honestly I can’t see how dropping this bomb in the middle of your parent’s 45-year marriage is going to help.

Good luck!

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Rene Syler is a wife, mother, breast cancer advocate and television personality whose burning desire to tell the truth about modern motherhood led her to create GoodEnoughMother.com. When not spending time with her family or burning something for dinner, Rene travels the country as host of Sweet Retreats on The Live Well Network and Exhale on Aspire.

14 Comments

  1. Will Jones

    July 27, 2011 at 1:02 pm

    Allison,

    Rene is absolutely right.

    …And there’s a really good chance that if this “family friend”
    knows, so does your mother. If she’s dealt with it and moved on, finding out that you know will open old wounds and it will only hurt her more knowing that you know.

    You’re dad screwed up… bad. He can’t go back and fix it. You can’t go back and change it, and your mother can’t go back and leave him for it.

    I found out a few years ago that a good frined of mine’s wife had been unfaithful. It wasn’t the first time it had happened, although she’d promised never to do it again after the first time. If I had told, they probably would have split again, they probably would have gotten together again, and I would have probably lost him as a friend because I had gotten in the middle of something that really wasn’t my business. My little secret would have hurt him, his relationship, his children, and our friendship, and not really helped anyone. I picked the lesser of the two evils. :-/

    Oh, and your “family friend” isn’t. Watch for snakes.

  2. juli

    July 27, 2011 at 1:05 pm

    Good advice. My old boyfriend’s father had a child (not from a cheating relationship) he kept secret from his wife. After 32 years, the secret came out and it nearly destroyed the relationship. Sometimes after so much time, a secret should just stay that way. Poor lady, what crummy situation to be put in.

  3. Kimi Griffith Lewis

    July 27, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Rene, I have one thing to say to you, my sister. OUTSTANDING!!! [HUGE THUNDEROUS APPLAUSE & A STANDING OVATION!!!] WOW! I LOVE the way you handled this- my prayer is that Allison follows your advice to the letter and that this will all work out for the best.

  4. Cody Williams

    July 27, 2011 at 3:17 pm

    Aiight, guess I’m the odd man out on this one. As usual. And I’m even gonna get evangelical at that.

    The Good Book says, “what’s done in the dark shall come to light.”

    Because of technology I have gotten in touch with family members I never knew existed. I am surprised at the number of them who never knew their father or their father’s people. (Good thing we didn’t meet under romantic circumstances). They want any information they can get on their kinsmen. Everybody has the desire to know who their folks are.

    When you cheat with someone you cheat on not just your spouse but your family and friends that now have to carry with them the burden of hiding your infidelity. The guilt of not knowing the right way to handle ‘the secret’ is a lot for everyone to bare.

    Loose them and set them free.

    I’m sure family friend busy body felt they were doing the right thing. (Think Ophra’s recently new found sister).

    I say tell the truth, tell everyone the truth and let the chips fall where they may.

    Moms may just have a secret or two she want to get off her heart as well.

    Why wait for all the shyt to hit the fan at the man’s funeral? Talk about drama. Manage it in the moment when emotions aren’t as frayed.

  5. Peppercorn16

    July 27, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    I agree chances are your mom already knows. And maybe she and your dad are trying to think of a way of telling you becuz your dad might think you will be mad at him and your mom may think the same that maybe you’d be mad at her for 1. not telling you sooner 2. staying with your dad after he not only had an affair but a child was conceived

    May I ask how is it that your friend know about something this personal about your dad?

    I hope thing turns out great for you and your family

  6. Tanisha

    July 27, 2011 at 7:28 pm

    I’m sorry guys, but I agree with Cody. I think Allison should confront her Dad about it and they can figure out together what the next course of action should be. The mom probably does know, but think about Allison’s kids and her half sister’s kids. They have to know one another so they won’t become romantically involved. It seems to me, this world is already full of enough family secrets. It’s time to bring things to the table and talk about them.

  7. Will Jones

    July 28, 2011 at 6:44 am

    I understand the “everybody wants to know their people” argument, but you have to weigh what will probably be lost against what could possibly be gained.
    This is a 45 year marriage that could potentially be ruined. Yes, it‘s the husband’s fault for this whole mess, but we have no idea what was going on in the marriage at the time this happened. All we know is that they made it through. Now whether or not the mother knows, dragging all of this out and parading it in front of her is going to hurt her, and it will hurt the marriage; possibly even destroy it.
    I know a bunch of men and women who grew up not knowing their people. Most, when they finally meet them, become casual acquaintances at best. And almost every guy I know who didn’t know their fathers until later in life (and off hand, I can count 9, with 5 of them being family members), had the same type of conversation: “Why did you leave? I grew up fine without you. F*** you. I don’t ever really need to talk to you again.”
    I just don’t think she should risk her parent’s marriage over what MIGHT be. There’s a reason folks used to take some secrets to the grave.

  8. Elizabeth Betrand

    July 28, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Oh, Lord! No, Allison should not tell her mother anything. And, who to say the mother doesn’ t already know. Women know more than what men think we do. Allison’s mother may have already confronted the father about this situation or maybe not. This is between her mother and father. Let them two work it out, if they haven’ t already . But it wouldn’ t surprise me if the mother already knows.

    9 out 10 women know when their husband’s or significant others are stepping out on them. And, the mother knew what kind of man she was marrying. Is this a bad situation? It all depends on how it’ s handled and approached. They’ve been married for 45 years, and I am sure that they’ ve been through the mill and rolled in soil together. Let them handled it themselves. As far as the daugther approaching her father, it could cause a greater strain on their relationship. Hmm. I would leave it alone. The daughter is 40 years old; she should be able to manage this shocking and disappointing news with class. Welcome to the real world, Allison. Events like these do happen. Hence, I am certainly not condoling the affair and the love child by a long shot. But, events like these do occur. It’s called life. Unfortuately, it’s a common human/relationship mishap in which we are all prone to committing.

    However, secrets like these can escalate into a greater problem like relatives dating their cousin’s, sister’s, brother’s and so on. So, to avoid that from happening, maybe the secret should be revealed to the family to avoid confusion and forbidding relationships. But I believe the secret should only be disclosed by her mother and father, not by the daugther. Good luck, Allison! Be strong, girl!

  9. *Shasha

    July 30, 2011 at 10:34 am

    I’m surprised at my own feelings about this.I’m just wondering if we may have been a little too hasty to insist the “family friend” had bad motives for telling her.I’m picturing myself as Allison, and if one of my genuine friends who cared about me, knew this and decided to keep it from me.I’d be mad.I believe information/knowledge is power and those who have it have the power.Why should someone have the power over YOUR life?I say give that power back to that person, if it comes from a genuine place.

  10. Faun Reese

    August 10, 2011 at 2:33 am

    Nope, not my place to do. I would deal with my father on that issue, though and try to convince him to come clean.

  11. Lynda V

    August 30, 2011 at 10:07 pm

    Sorry, I have to disagree on this one. I don’t think the issue is about someone coming in to take away daddy, the issue is lying to mommy. How can this woman expect to interact with her mother, tell her she loves her, share with her, let her mother do things with and for her, all the time knowing that she is aware of this lie? What happens if/when the Mother finds out that her daughter has known all this time? Won’t she be angry that her daughter was complicit in the lie?
    She should talk to her father and let him know that HE WILL be telling her mother. He created this problem and put his daughter in an impossible situation.
    I also disagree that it was wrong for the other person to share the information. This woman now has a sister – someone she might want to get to know and share a bond with, particularly after her parents are dead. She has family “out there”, and there is a possibility that a relationship could be an amazing thing for both of them.
    Bottom line: Dad made a mess, Dad needs to clean it up. Not for himself, but for Wife/Mom, Daugher, and other Child.

  12. Rene Syler

    August 30, 2011 at 10:10 pm

    @Lynda: Well we like difference of opinion around here so don’t ever apologize for that. I see your point, but stand behind mine. And the other person who told her made a HUGE assumption in thinking that she might want to get to know her sister. There’s a chance she might NOT want to either, then what. It’s a mess plain and simple but I still say it’s up to her father to straighten out, not her.

  13. Jennifer

    September 30, 2011 at 11:50 am

    Coming from a woman who knows how it feels to be cheated on repeatedly, but never (to my knowledge) having found out about a love child as evidence of the indescretions, I have to say that I would bet that Allison’s mom might already have knowledge of this. I agree that 9 out of 10 women KNOW that their husband is stepping out but it’s what they choose to do with that information that’s the issue here … at least that’s my opinion anyway. Either you live with the information and turn your cheek, or you do something about it … whether that means confronting the husband and getting divorced or confronting and working things out and forgiving. We don’t know the full story so how can we say anything anyway?

    I don’t think she should say anything to her mom. I do think she should talk to her dad about it but not in a confrontational way. First ask if it’s even true. Did anyone ever think about that? A confrontational conversation is bound to fail.

    I also have to wonder about this close friend who told Allison in the first place. How is it that this person knows and Allison and her mom supposedly don’t? While I don’t think this person is trying to be mean, but what’s the motivation to tell Allison now? After all these years?

    45 years is a long time to be married to someone. Nobody but the two people in this marriage have any clue what the marriage is like behind closed doors and it’s nobody else’s business what has ever happened in this marriage but the people in it. I was married for 12 years and the ups and downs, ebb and flow, peaks and valleys were plentiful, and then when we had kids? No two marriages are EVER the same … especially across even two generations, nevermind just one … again, just my opinion.

  14. JOYCE

    May 5, 2012 at 9:14 am

    If I was a betting woman, I would bet that the mom already knows about the affair and the child. That is not a secret that can remain uncovered for that many years.
    My parents had a similar situation…my dad had a relationship outside the marriage that resulted in the birth of a daughter. I am sure that when my mother found out about it she was angry, hurt, confused and totally indifferent. But she forgave him for it and their marriage lasted for many years after the affair. I would guess that it was not only because of her feelings for him, but also because of her own children and the fact that my mom was also a child of similar circumstances…being that she was the result of her mother having an affair with a married man and had half brothers who accepted her whole heartedly when they found out about her. When I was an adult, my mom told me that I had another sister and while I was very curious about her, I didn’t pursue the conversation with my mother nor did I try to contact this sister…mostly because I thought it would hurt my mom. Sixteen years after my mom’s passing, I decided to reach out to my sister. I had fears that she wouldn’t want to have anything to do with me…after all, I was the older sister and knew about her for over 25 years and I had never reached out to her before now. I also worried about it being a betrayal to my moms memory. My relationship with my dad had gone through some serious adjustments (not because of his indiscretion) and he was now seriously ill. I thought that the last thing I wanted to do was to meet this sister at our dad’s funeral, so I reached out to her.
    I wrote my sister a letter explaining who I was and my purpose for writing to her. She was shocked to hear from me…not because she didn’t know about me, but because she never expected to ever have any contact with me. We certainly had misconceptions about one another and about similar thoughts about our father. To my surprise and joy, she was very open to having a relationship with me. Fast forward to a little over a year now and we are doing great. She has met with all the other siblings and has connected with them all in some way, but her and I are doing extremely well and have an incredible relationship.
    I have lots of regrets that I didn’t reach out sooner. I have also reconciled my feelings about my father, who passed away shortly after my sister and I met. My sister is also coming to terms with her feeling in regards to him…but in the grand scheme of things, I’ve gained an incredible and wonderful sister and an amazing friend.

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