Question

I have been married for more than 20 years and have four children ages 11 to 25. A few months ago, my husband found out that he has a 32-year-old son who has been looking for him since 2010. My husband said that he had a girlfriend back in 1988 and apparently, she got pregnant and did not inform him because they eventually broke up and she moved to another place while pregnant and he moved away to find work.

The child grew and started asking his mother about his biological father. My husband promised me he wasn’t aware that he had a child from this relationship. I have a few questions:

  1. Will I be wrong by asking the mother of his child what actually happened so I can hear both sides of the story?
  2. How do we tell our children about their new half-brother?
  3. How much does it cost to do DNA test to make sure that he is my husband’s child?  

Please assist, I’m so stressed. It was a shock

Answer

News like this is shocking on so many levels, as it completely rewrites the narrative you’ve both understood about your family. There is a lot to sort through with a revelation like this and it’s important to make sure you stay connected to each other. Something of this magnitude can flip your world upside down and unleash a cascade of conflicting emotions that you’ll both need to process.

Your questions imply that you believe you need to figure this out on your own. I can’t tell how united you are with your husband in addressing this. Regardless of how you both decide to handle this, please make sure you do everything you can to stay united. While your specific questions are understandable, it might be best to slow down to make sure your husband wants these same things. There’s nothing wrong with you having your own questions and your own personal process separate from your husband, but make sure you’re both tuning into each other’s needs and concerns so you can make the best decisions for your family.

First of all, before you make any decisions about this man and his claims, I recommend you work closely with an attorney and a therapist to determine the best way to handle the DNA testing and all of the consequences associated with verifying the validity of this man’s claims on your husband. You don’t want to put yourselves, your children, and your extended family through the rollercoaster of emotions this will involve if he’s not really your husband’s son. Move slowly and keep things confidential until you have the evidence you need.

Assuming this man is truly your husband’s son, let’s talk about how to handle this shocking news in your marriage before you involve his ex-girlfriend and others. Does your husband know you want to speak to his ex-girlfriend? Do you need to hear her side of the story because something about his version doesn’t sit right with you? If you don’t feel comfortable with what your husband is telling you, turn your focus toward him so you can resolve your issues with him before you pull her into your confusion. Talking with her alone won’t resolve any trust issues you have with your husband. Your job isn’t to interview his ex-girlfriend as a detective to figure out the truth. This is shocking to both of you and it’s natural to want information. I recommend that if you both decide it makes sense to connect with his ex-girlfriend, then approach her together as a unified couple wanting to build a bridge of understanding.

When it’s time to tell your children, it’s important that both of you have spent adequate time building your own relationship with his son. It’s also important for you to verify his background and make sure he’s safe and appropriate before you invite him into your home. This may sound harsh but recognize that this man is 32 years old and has lived a life you know nothing about. Your children and grandchildren deserve your best efforts at protecting your family circle.

If his son isn’t someone you’re comfortable having in close proximity to your other family members, remember that he is still your husband’s son and can stay connected to your family in plenty of other ways. This son clearly wants a relationship with your family and it’s important for you both to lead out and acquaint yourselves with him so you can introduce him to your family with genuine love and support. This will be uncomfortable and strange for everyone involved, so make sure you’re both in a secure place with him and with each other before you bring other family members into the picture. You’ll be dealing with a variety of individual reactions, so your time of preparation is critical.

It’s up to both of you how he’ll fit into your family. Even though it’s not his fault that he was cut off from his biological father, it’s important to move slowly and allow the connections to build over time. You are strangers to each other and need to honor the process of building a new relationship. A licensed family therapist can meet with you, your husband, and his son to talk about how to best build a relationship and integrate him into the family. His son may want to learn more about his father, his family history, and other details, so recognize that you’re not the only ones that will have questions.

This news brings a mix of shock, excitement, curiosity, fear, uncertainty, anxiety, and other strong emotions. You and your husband will feel many of these feelings at different times, so practice patience and kindness with each other. You each may have different comfort levels with different stages in this process. The key is to stay united and connected to each other as you work to add this new son and this new chapter to your family story.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at [email protected]

If you’ve broken trust with your spouse and want a structured approach to repairing the damage you’ve created, I’ve created the Trust Building Bootcamp, a 12-week online program designed to help you restore trust and become a trustworthy person. Visit www.trustbuildingacademy.com to learn more and enroll in the course.

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples, pornography/sexual addiction, betrayal trauma, and infidelity. He is the founder of LifeStar of St. George, Utah (www.lifestarstgeorge.com) and Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com). Geoff is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, the host of the Illuminate podcast, and creates online relationship courses available at www.trustbuildingacademy.com. 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.

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