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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
ShinyGiratina · 15/12/2019 13:52

I was raised in my extended family, one generation out from my real place. Fortunately it was always openly known through the family, although I've always identified relations by their emotional connection to me rather than biological hierachy.

DNA does matter. It is important that I know where I came from, my chances of certain diseases and it was something that always bothered me before I met bio-father, that there was a gap in the knowledge of myself. As it happens, getting to know my paternal family has been helpful in securing diagnoses for DS.

However trust is critical. It is wrong when these issues are a secret, especially when there is a conspiracy of those who know. It is not for a third party to share the secret as it destroys trust in the immediate family.

DM never understood my burning curiosity about my paternal family. I knew the basic truth but she was not encouraging and that eroded our relationship.

There was one moment when a young member of my extended family had never had it brought to her attention that I was technically a cousin rather than an aunt and it dropped naturally in conversation. Being a child and extended family, it's not been a big issue and more of a joke. What is interesting is that when it's emerged in conversation with my GM's age group, how common these "open secrets" were before attitudes towards unmarried mothers mellowed significantly in the last few decades.

It is wrong for this to be an open secret, but the damage from revealing this hearsay is potentially more damaging than the secrecy itself.

tillytrotter1 · 16/12/2019 04:40

Being a father and being a dad are different things.

HoppingPavlova · 16/12/2019 09:01

I'd absolutely 100% want to find that child and connect with them- its my child! I would still view the original baby as my child too, but there is no way I wouldn't want to meet my biological child and this shows that biology is important.

Have you considered that not everyone necessarily thinks like you?

I have one who I strongly suspect may not be mine. Looks absolutely nothing like DH or I, has very distinctive features. We were separated for a period post birth so who knows?

What I do know is that I have raised that child for over 20 years. I don’t give two fucks about biology. They are mine. I am theirs. I don’t care if I have some other bio child out there. They are not my child. I don’t want to meet them, the thought is horrifying. They would have their own parents.

I know all my kids feel the same as I did a hypothetical one day (no biggie, we do them all the time about different things - we pretend we are on Geoffrey Robertson’s Hypotheticals for family funGrin), and they were unanimous. I guess it’s all good unless a meddling DIL comes along and sticks her oar in and stirs the potHmm.

When taking patient histories, diagnosing, treating etc family histories were not considered to be absolutes given the knowledge that roughly 10% of people were probably not biologically related to a parent and wouldn’t know.

Gwenhwyfar · 16/12/2019 09:12

"He ended up with 2 brothers and 7 sisters he never knew of, he's only close with one of the siblings but had he known all along he could have established a strong bond with all them."

Really though? If he wasn't brought up with them as brothers and sisters? When adopted children meet their natural parents they do often become close, but not like parent and child.

Arthritica · 16/12/2019 09:14

Definitely keep quiet.
Blowing up someone’s family is not your job.

adviceneededon · 16/12/2019 09:17

My daughter thinks that someone else is her dad. But she is only 7 and therefore I am waiting for the right time to tell her. The man who has raised her is wonderful and she loves him dearly, but I cannot withhold the truth. I'd be absolutely devastated if someone else told her, and I think in these circumstances you need to keep your mouth shut. A lot of families have secrets. Doesn't mean it's your right to tell.

katewhinesalot · 16/12/2019 09:35

You should have told her when she was tiny so she grew up with the knowledge. There will never be a "right" time. It's always going to be a big shock and maybe devastating now.
I don't understand the big reveal. It's no big deal if you grow up with the knowledge. It's just your normal. I recommend telling her sooner rather than later.

adviceneededon · 16/12/2019 09:40

@katewhinesalot I was raising her singlehanded and she calls my partner by his name and not dad. It has only become apparent recently that she believes he is her dad, it isn't something that I have forced on her. Unless your in this situation yourself, I don't really see how you can judge?

DoesntLeftoverTurkeySoupDragOn · 16/12/2019 09:42

Yes, it's easy to say "oh you should have told her when she was tiny" but not so straightforward in reality.

Is this something you've had to deal with, Katewhinesalot?

adviceneededon · 16/12/2019 09:45

@DoesntLeftoverTurkeySoupDragOn thank you. Obviously I'm in a similar position to the person being mentioned in the OP, so I'm just trying to relate. I agree that truth prevails, but it doesn't give someone else the right to share it. That was the point I was making.

katewhinesalot · 16/12/2019 09:54

All the advice from the adoption agencies and surrogate agencies advocate bringing them up with the knowledge.

It makes absolute sense to me.

katewhinesalot · 16/12/2019 09:56

If she doesn't call him dad, I'd start gently asking her why she thinks this is so. Start planting seeds now. Sooner rather than later. Don't perpetuate the problem.

DoesntLeftoverTurkeySoupDragOn · 16/12/2019 09:59

Is this something you've had experience of, Katewhinesalot?

CarolinaPink · 16/12/2019 10:02

Don't tell! It's absolutely none of your business Confused

katewhinesalot · 16/12/2019 10:04

No, but it's bloody obvious. Its a problem now, but it wouldn't have been years ago.

PowerHooper · 16/12/2019 10:15

it's interesting the way you've set up the poll, OP - almost as if you want to get a whole lot of posters validating your conviction that you weren't being unreasonable...

Bluerussian · 16/12/2019 21:40

I wonder about the op's motives. I get that most of us say we have a right to know where we came from, there could be hereditary illness etc but for someone who isn't one of the parents to divulge the secret seems odd, not their place. It's a pity the op knows, frankly, as it's obviously a secret that's burning her brain. It's also possible that the 'child' knows already.

My suggestion is lots of exercise and sleep, eating well, a new hobby, then there won't be time to ponder over something that is not your business.

bee222 · 16/12/2019 21:47

This is absolutely none of your business.

CBGBs · 16/12/2019 22:37

There’s a fantastic podcast called Family Secrets, it really is food for thought on this particular topic. The stories are very poignant and all of the subjects deeply affected emotionally by the secrets that were kept from them, especially regarding parentage.

You’re between a rock and a hard place OP. On the one hand it’s not your secret to tell but on the other hand when/if your relative finds out that you knew, they may feel betrayed by you.

SourAndSnippy · 17/12/2019 17:14

I wonder if all the posters who think the OP shouldn't tell the person would genuinely want to be kept in the dark if it was them that were in that position.

I can see this from both points of view. I am not sure the OP should say anything but I am pretty sure if I were the person who was being kept in the dark I would want to know the truth. I might not like the truth but I would want to know it. I'd be devastated if I found out other people knew and had decided not to tell me. I don't think this has anything to do with 'real' fathers Vs bio fathers. It's just to do with the facts and the truth.

Bluerussian · 17/12/2019 18:56

SourAndSnippy, I would want to know the truth but I do not feel the op is the right one to be doing the telling.

rosiejaune · 17/12/2019 19:42

I took a DNA test a while ago, and later matched on a website with my uncle who took one since. I noticed we were only half as related as we should be, so his father must not be who he's supposed to be (I knew it was his father rather than mine, because of the ethnicity results).

I mentioned it. He didn't seem to believe me. I don't know if he's investigated further since (his parents are both dead).

Of course in this case he could have worked it out himself anyway, but he hadn't noticed.

Maybe you could take a DNA test and tell them you're doing it, and perhaps they will take one too. And if they decide to, you could prepare the ground before they get the results by talking about how there are lots of non-paternity events (i.e. father is not who people think they are). If you don't want to tell them directly.


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HoppingPavlova · 17/12/2019 20:16

I wonder if all the posters who think the OP shouldn't tell the person would genuinely want to be kept in the dark if it was them that were in that position.

Absolutely, as little to no good would come of it so ....

In the million to one event i needed a bone marrow transfer or similar then I would consider checking bio status but it’s extremely unlikely and unless something like that arose I would definitely prefer to be the mushroom.

Gwenhwyfar · 17/12/2019 20:32

"I wonder if all the posters who think the OP shouldn't tell the person would genuinely want to be kept in the dark if it was them that were in that position.

Absolutely, as little to no good would come of it so ...."

Exactly. And it's not just about the child, it's about the whole family.

Beckkynanny · 17/12/2019 20:33

Not wanting to hijack the thread but just to say that donor egg and sperm outside of the UK is currently anonymous AND if you use specific clinics, limited to one recipient only so no chance of half siblings.

OP: I know of someone who was told on his 40th birthday that he was adopted Sad It did not end well.

If you go ahead with this, you will be remembered for the wrong reasons.

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