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to keep a family secret when it doesn't feel right

181 replies

MilleniumForce · 15/12/2019 01:18

I have good reason to believe a close family member doesn't have the Dad they think they do. They have a sibling that they think is their full sibling.

It is an open secret between their Mum and the Mum's siblings, although it isn't spoken about.

The man who brought this person up as their own doesn't think he is the Dad and took the split with the Mum very badly. He was planning on doing a DNA test surreptitiously but decided against it.

This family has a lot of secrets that just about everyone seems to know anyway but no one talks about.

I am torn about somehow telling this person that their father isn't who they think it is but, for purely selfish reasons, I am reluctant to do so because it would tear the family apart and I would be made out to the bad one.

AIBU to keep schtum?

OP posts:

Am I being unreasonable?

539 votes. Final results.

You are being unreasonable
You are NOT being unreasonable
MrsAJ27 · 15/12/2019 09:56

Mind your own business, this has nothing to do with you.

Lowbrow · 15/12/2019 09:56

The person who has done the wrong thing is the mother who would have more idea than anyone who the father was. She should have been honest from the very beginning.

A friend of mine found out she was adopted when she was in her forties and her elderly mother who was in her eighties blurted it out one day.

Everyone has the right to know who their father is and should be told when very young. There is no guarantee that the person who the secret is about won’t find out at some time.

I would be furious if my family kept a secret from me like this.

iklboodolphrednosedreindeer · 15/12/2019 09:57

I would send him an anonymous message, if you don't want to do it openly. But your relative deserves to know. They're living a lie.

That would be a shitty, cowardly thing to do. This is real life with real people. Not an episode of EastEnders.

HoppingPavlova · 15/12/2019 10:00

I would keep your beak right out of this situation.

Sammy867 · 15/12/2019 10:01

My grandmother found out that who she thought were her parents were actually her grandparents and who she thought was her sister was actually her mum. Her sister and mum shared a name so her birth certificate never really raised many questions. Her sister had her aged 16 during the war and her husband was killed in service. Apparently being young and widowed would have been detrimental to her future so her parents asked her to cover up the birth and they’d look after the child so she could go on and get remarried. My gran didn’t find out until she was 65 and her sister (actually mums) will was read.
It was difficult finding out- she had a whole family she knew nothing about as well as genetic family issues that cropped up a few generations later. She also never got to speak to her sister about it it she did gain a brother and a sister (who she thought were her niece and nephew!)

CaptainMyCaptain · 15/12/2019 10:01

The person who has done the wrong thing is the mother who would have more idea than anyone who the father was. She should have been honest from the very beginning.
Or she might have been abandoned by the bio father and done her best to give her child a stable family. You don't know

BlueSwathesChoose · 15/12/2019 10:05

It is not your secret to tell.

That's it really.

LarkDescending · 15/12/2019 10:05

The beautifully-written book Inheritance by Dani Shapiro gives a remarkable and moving account of what it was like for her to discover this news after taking a genealogical DNA test.

Newkitchen123 · 15/12/2019 10:07

Nothing to do with you

queenrollo · 15/12/2019 10:08

@Dollymixture22 because my biological father left us and his family were toxic. Actually my nan ran up a load of debts and then did a moonlight flit 200 miles away. They didn't try to keep in touch and my mother (rightly) decided I was better off without them around so she didn't pursue it.

My biological father completely disappeared, no-one had any contact with him after 1982. He contacted me in 2008 and as it happens we have built a relationship and get on well. But he was and is very open about how flawed he is as a person.

My (step) father is my dad as far as I am concerned. He did all the things a real parent does.
But I just really wish there had been no secrecy around it. They changed my surname but couldn't do it legally and as an adult it caused me lots of problems with mortgage/banking/benefits etc.
A simple secret to them - had many consequences for me.

IdiotInDisguise · 15/12/2019 10:11

Oh for fucks sake, who do you think you are to throw such a bomb in the life of other person. Keep your mouth shut, if people closer to this person, who love them more than you are keeping quiet about it, know better why it is not a good idea to tell the person.

HoppingPavlova · 15/12/2019 10:13

You do know that it’s been established that approximately 10% (on average) of people don’t know that their father is not their bio father. Generally the father is not aware he is not the bio dad. Maybe in many instances the mum is not even aware but has misjudged/miscalculated?

This is nothing new and in fact the percentage is probably a hell of a lot lower now than back in ‘the old days’ when there was no contraception etc.

So, given people have happily coped for centuries, not sure why it’s a big deal now?

My kids are all bio with myself and DH so no ulterior motive here, but it all seems really hysterical when we probably have the lowest rates of this occurring now and people in history had no ill-effect from being non the wiser that their dads were not their bio dads (dads included).

wellthatwasthat · 15/12/2019 10:13

Perhaps they should know, but it isn't your responsibility to tell them. If you feel you have to say something, then the only thing you can do is to speak to the people who do know and say that you think the family member should be told.

katewhinesalot · 15/12/2019 10:15

I'd feel the same as you op. I can't believe the hostility you are getting.
They should have been bought up with the knowledge.

I agree that it you probably need to keep quiet, but I understand why that feels hard.

saraclara · 15/12/2019 10:15

It is an open secret between their Mum and the Mum's siblings, although it isn't spoken about.

So how do you know about it? Are you one of the mum's siblings then? Or is it a more leaky secret?

Pumpkinspicewhatever · 15/12/2019 10:18

I have a similar situation in my wider family however the dad thinks he is the bio dad of all his kids when in fact the eldest isn’t his. The whole rest of the family including the eldest child himself know he isn’t the bio dad though. The secret is kept because I think they feel that it would break the dad if he found out. The eldest has distanced himself from his siblings and particularly his “dad” since he found out but he is very cynical about getting the quite well off dad to pay large sums of money for his life choices. The mum isn’t remotely ashamed of this secret. They’re not very nice people. I often wonder about telling the dad the truth as I feel he gets exploited but it’s not my place and I know I won’t.

WindyRose · 15/12/2019 10:20

Sorry for all the horrible replies OP, I'm sure if those people were personally affected they might think differently, so I will just ignore all that vitriol, hope you can too?

Firstly, good on you if you decide to speak up, I just wish someone had done this for me as I'm in the same situation and MY secret has been taken to their graves because everybody kept the secret. It is MY history and I'm the only person who doesn't know the full story. Where's the fairness in that?

Maybe you could get the person interested in tracing family history and suggest you both get a DNA test done.

And to those who say the parents who raise you are your 'mother and father' then why did mine abuse me? any parent who loves their children (adopted or bio) would not abuse them. Fortunately, I had some contact with my bio Mother as she was my 'Aunt' ...a very common scenario, not that I blame her for one minute it was how things were in past times. She showed me lots of love and I still cherish time spent with her.

A couple of years ago I approached a cousin of my adoptive mother's who would know my history, naturally I asked if she could keep my visit confidential to which she agreed. I visited my adoptive parents the next day (both since deceased) and she had already phoned to inform much for her promise of confidentiality! She's still alive but I've never spoken to her since her betrayal, but did send her a 'thank you' card.

Feel free to PM if you think I could help.....I am not a professional by any means, but have lived with it for many years and there's barely a week goes by that I don't 'remember' some little thing.

All the best as I'm sure the family member will truly thank you, even if the others don't. I know I would...

DistanceCall · 15/12/2019 10:21

This is not your secret to tell.

But it's your lie to keep. Right. There's no neutral here.

DistanceCall · 15/12/2019 10:23

And I really understand not wanting to be involved.

But I wouldn't be involved at all, to be honest. That is, I would have any contact with these people at all. It's the only way I would find the situation bearable - out of sight, out of mind.

OldEvilOwl · 15/12/2019 10:24

But you don't know if it's true do you? There has been no DNA test so keep out of it

CameraTime · 15/12/2019 10:26

We are a very close family (on the surface only obviously)

Any time I've encountered a family who describe themselves as "very close", it has turned out that there are multiple secrets when you dig deeper. A couple of friends of mine have been in situations like yours, and when the initial secret has been revealed it has led to multiple revelations and big family fall-outs. Both of them came to realise that they had been wrapped up in "family" and had developed very unhealthy ways to cope with things - they actually found it really hard to have normal healthy open relationships, because all they'd seen was this fake thing where unhappiness was covered up at all costs.

Ultimately, the "closeness" has been used to cover up extremely toxic situations, and when that's gone there's a lot of hurt and anger and it's got really nasty.

Honestly, in your shoes (I'm assuming you were brought up in this family rather than marrying in) I'd be saying nothing, and withdrawing a bit physically and emotionally - just making sure you have other support mechanisms, work on identifying any unhelpful patterns of behaviour in yourself (eg always needing to be involved in family business, needing approval from them, whatever it is) and work on those. Basically make sure you're emotionally healthy and not carrying the baggage from your past that will weigh you down in the future.

fedup21 · 15/12/2019 10:31

Who are you in this situation?

Why does the whole family (and you) seemingly know about this open secret by the person doesn’t?

Have you only just found out?


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PlasticPatty · 15/12/2019 10:33

Please keep quiet.
It isn't your place to possibly destroy lives.
Don't do it.

ElfAndSafeKey · 15/12/2019 10:38

Stay out of it.
Their dad is their dad in every way that matters, I assume.
It's not your guilt to carry.

Lou898 · 15/12/2019 10:39

How do you know she doesn’t already know herself but chooses not to announce it. She may feel the person who brought her up is her dad in her eyes and may have no desire to look for or know her biological dad. I would keep out of it is up to her mother to tell her.

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