Not interested in being biological father’s dirty little secret

This is new for both of you, and it’s a little early for “always.”

  • Saturday, October 19, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

By Carolyn Hax / The Washington Post

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

At the ripe old age of 45, I am both excited and happy to have found my biological father through DNA testing. He abandoned my mother and me shortly after I was born so I have no illusions about the past. But I want to get to know him and my half-sister. He has shared his medical history with me, which I really appreciate.

Other than my mother, everyone in my family, even my adoptive father, is extremely supportive of me establishing a relationship with him, and even my mom says she doesn’t want to stand in my way. My bio-father and I email daily and share stories of our lives. He is apologetic about what he did, reassuring that he is happy I found him, etc.

My only concern is that he refuses to tell his wife about my existence. They are both in their mid-60s and in good health and could live many more years — long enough to see my children have children. I don’t expect to be immediately (or ever) invited into the fold of their family. I don’t want or need money from them.

I would like to eventually meet my bio-father and he says he wants that too, but I refuse to be a dirty little secret. The response from him about his wife and daughter is always that he doesn’t want to bother them with “this stuff.” That feels like a dismissal, like I’m not good enough to be shared. Or maybe I just need to be patient? We’ve only been corresponding for a few weeks. Am I pushing for too much too soon?

— Hidden

I balk at the idea that not wanting your entire existence kept secret is “pushing.”

But, you’re right, this is new for both of you, and it’s a little early for “always.”

Stick with the emailing for now, keep getting and giving information. Drop the issue of meeting him or being introduced to anyone.

When you get to the point where you’re no longer interested in a relationship made entirely of email, when you’ve exhausted the utility of written words: State your preference for coming out into the open, one more time. Remind him you are not “stuff.” If he says no again, then don’t be afraid to step away from this correspondence, after telling him why.

You wouldn’t be cutting him off, you’d just be exercising your right not to keep corresponding with him on his terms of keeping you a secret. This way you give him time to get used to the idea of including you in his life, and give yourself room not to go nuts.

You can always change your mind later, or just check in at some interval, say hi, and ask if he’s changed his mind. Repeat as long as you have to — or still want to.

— Washington Post Writers Group

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