Question

My husband recently found out he has a 45-year-old daughter he had no idea about. She was placed for adoption as a newborn. Years later, she decided to find her birth parents. She found out her birth mother had medical issues so then decided she needed to find out about her birth father’s medical history. Well, out of the blue, my husband received a letter stating that she was sure he was her father by what little information her birth mother gave her. She got on an ancestry site and found she had a close match to his brothers and a couple other relatives. They have exchanged phone calls and now my husband wants to meet her. He wants to meet her one on one. My question is, why do I feel threatened by this and why are my emotions so up and down? I told him I will support him in his decision of what to do. As his wife, that he met 10 years after the child was apparently born, I wonder what do I do? Where do I fit in? The daughter also sent me a friend request on Facebook. What do I do?

Answer

I can only imagine the shock your family experienced when learning about his daughter. It’s a lot to process, for sure, so I hope you can be gentle on yourself and everyone else involved as you move forward, integrating her into your lives. Let’s talk about how you can move through this in a healthy way.

Please know that it’s normal to have a range of emotions when something significant like this appears in your life. You might be feeling a mixture of curiosity, fear, jealousy, insecurity, excitement, and other emotions. In fact, you might experience one emotion more often than the others. Just remember that experiencing one strong emotion doesn’t mean it needs to define the entire experience. Do your best to honor the full range of emotions, instead of only listening to fear and insecurity.

As humans, we are sensitive to competing attachments that threaten our bond to those we care about. This can be anything or anyone that draws the attention and focus of our loved one away from us. It’s a biological survival imperative that creates a strong reaction in us when we are little, but doesn’t entirely go away as we age. Of course, as adults, we have to share space with lots of potential competing attachments and recognize that we can’t always be the center of our partners universe. Even if the logical part of you knows his daughter won’t steal him away from you, it’s still normal to wonder what will change in your relationship with him.

Like the faithful brother in the story of the Prodigal Son, you might wonder what you mean to your husband now that all of his energy is focused on making sense of this new relationship in his life.[i] Of course, his daughter is not a Prodigal, as she never chose to be in this situation, but it’s understandable that you might question what you mean to your husband, even if for this moment.

The fastest way to regain your emotional balance is to reach out to your husband and ask how you can best support him as you guys approach this situation together. Working together as a team will help both of you feel supported and connected as you lean on the security of your relationship. Recognize that your interest and support in his experience will also be a great source of strength to him. There is no need for each of you to isolate yourselves in this new and unfamiliar territory.

As you consider how to respond to his daughter, remember that “Charity never faileth.”[ii] You might struggle to know how to respond, but we are promised that as we plead for this gift, we can be filled with a love that we simply can’t generate on our own.[iii] If you only make this about your experience, and fixate on the perceived threat, you will miss out on a sweet opportunity to support your husband and integrate his daughter into your family.

It’s important to give this time and allow everyone to adjust to this new family reality. Your feelings of affection and connection will naturally increase as you learn more about her, spend time with her, and watch his relationship grow with her. It might seem imbalanced right now as his attention prioritizes making sense of this discovery. However, as you work together with him, you can both lean on the strength of your marriage as you welcome her into your family.

 

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

If broken trust is an issue in your relationship, download Geoff’s FREE video series “The First Steps to Rebuilding Trust” to help you begin healing: https://www.geoffsteurer.com/freebie

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 

You can connect with Geoff Steurer at:

Website: www.geoffsteurer.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT
Instagram: @geoffsteurer
Twitter: @geoffsteurer

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.

The advice offered through Geoff Steurer’s column is educational and informational in nature and is provided only as general information. It is not meant to establish a therapist-patient relationship or offer therapeutic advice, opinion, diagnosis treatment or to establish a standard of care. Although Geoff Steurer is a trained psychotherapist, he is not functioning in the role of a licensed therapist by writing this column, but rather using his training to inform these responses. Thus, the content is not intended to replace independent professional judgment. The content is not intended to solicit clients and should not be relied upon as medical or psychological advice of any kind or nature whatsoever. The information provided through this content should not be used for diagnosing or treating a mental health problem or disease. The information contained in these communications is not comprehensive and does not include all the potential information regarding the subject matter, but is merely intended to serve as one resource for general and educational purposes.

[i] Luke 15:28-32

[ii] 1 Corinthians 13:4

[iii] Moroni 7:48