Question

My husband recently found out he had a 47-year-old daughter as the result of one-night stand before he met me. We met one month before she was born and have now been married for almost 45 years. He changed his life and has been a faithful husband to me all these years.

However, I keep feeling like she is taking something away from me. My husband has embraced her, which I thought was going to be easier for me than it is. We have two children of our own. He has been open with me about their communications, whether it’s texts or conversations. I have met her and am trying so hard to be a good person and somehow bring her into our lives since it is what he wants. She never knew who her father was since the mother didn’t know either. I want so badly to be part of this and make it easier on my husband.

Since we found out, our life together has changed for the better. We do not take each other for granted and have been very loving towards each other, something that was slipping away after so many years of being together. We can have a wonderful loving day, and then something that he told me from a text months ago will get into my brain and I blow up at him, causing distress and arguments. How can I put these memories of things he tells me in the back of my mind and stop blurting them out to him?

My blow-ups are pushing us further and further away from each other. I went to a therapist for a few sessions, but I keep telling myself I can be strong and do this on my own. I don’t want my marriage to end. I love my husband so much but need to be able to control my brain and emotions and stop getting upset by stupid things that I know are stupid. Is there any guidance you can give me?

Answer

What a shocking surprise for everyone involved! I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to suddenly have a brand-new chapter inserted right into the middle of my life. I’m sure you’re not the only one disoriented by this sudden revelation. Let’s talk about how you can regain your emotional balance.

I love hearing how this discovery has brought you and your husband closer together. We all need an occasional kick in the pants to wake us up from complacency in long-term marriage. Life has plenty of surprises that invite us to reassess our priorities and hold tightly to what matters most. Granted, this jolt comes with some additional challenges that have left you feeling insecure and unsteady.

Your husband is doing the right thing by including you in her life and in their interactions with each other. I recognize you’re not critical of anything he’s doing, but you still feel threatened by hearing about their interactions and conversations. I have a few thoughts about why this may be particularly difficult for you.

First, recognize that when this discovery occurred, you and your husband weren’t feeling close to each other. I have no idea how long you had been in a marital drift, but if this was enough of a rally cry to bring you back together, then I assume there was some distance. Coming back together so quickly in response to a crisis creates a honeymoon period that eventually wears off. It’s nice to feel close, but the underlying issues that caused the original distance likely haven’t been addressed. It can be difficult to watch your husband invest time and energy into a new relationship when you’ve likely longed for that same effort in your own marriage. Your marriage hasn’t quite regained its balance, so you’re going to be vulnerable to some unexpected triggers.

Second, even though, on paper, this is his daughter, she’s still a complete stranger to you and your husband. Your brain may register that she’s his daughter, but your body and your heart are going to take a minute as they scan her as a potential threat to your marriage. Even though this is a good thing to reconnect a father to his daughter, you will have strange and frustrating reactions you’ll need to reconcile as you assimilate her into your family. Watching your husband become excited about a younger woman will put your brain and your heart at war with each other as you seek to reclaim your primary attachment with him. I’m not implying that he would ever do anything inappropriate, but competing attachments come in all shapes and sizes. We can invite an assortment of attention-grabbing relationships, hobbies, and other interests that draw us away from our partner.

Before you figure out how she will fit into your marriage and family, slow down and get reconnected with your husband. Work on building your friendship, emotional connection, and sexual intimacy. Repair whatever damage or distance kept you from each other prior to this discovery. Ask him if he can hold off on trying to make up for 47 years of distance with this daughter while you get your bearings.

Also, there’s no glory in trying to muscle through these difficult emotions by yourself. One way to build more emotional intimacy with your husband is to let him in to your heart. Tell him how much you’ve missed him. Share your love, fear, sadness, excitement, and all of the other emotions you’re feeling about this situation. And, yes, I even want you to tell him the thoughts you think are too crazy for him to tolerate. You need a safe haven where you can share your most private thoughts. You can help him out by reminding him that you don’t need him to do anything other than to just listen and love you.

After you place your marriage back on a firm foundation, then I believe it will be easier for both of you to integrate this daughter into your lives. You’ll feel freer to embrace her as one of your own as you get to know her and her history. If you’re not battling a competing attachment, you’ll have the security to open your arms and embrace her as one of your own.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com  

Download Geoff’s FREE guide to help you quickly end arguments with your spouse: https://www.geoffsteurer.com/3-steps-to-end-your-marriage-argument

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About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.