DEAR ABBY: I was happily married with three daughters until I found out I had fathered a son two years before I married my wife. The news was a shock to us all. That information was kept from me for 13 years, and my wife is having a hard time dealing with the situation. We were dating at the time it happened.
I have been trying to do the right thing and involve my son in my life. My wife was all for it, but every now and then something triggers her emotions and she goes off. She throws the word “divorce” at me when she’s upset. I don’t want to have to go through this every couple of months. I love my wife and my family dearly and want to reiterate this did not happen during our marriage.
My son is 13, and this is not his fault. The mother said she didn’t tell me at the time because she was afraid, since I was involved with someone else. Later on, when he started asking questions, she told him she had no idea how to get in touch with me.
No one knows what is going on right now except my wife. I haven’t even told my daughters or the rest of my family (siblings, mother, etc.). Any advice would be a blessing. We are a Christian family.
— Coping in the East
DEAR COPING: Instead of keeping this a deep, dark, shameful secret, you and your wife should now sit down with your family (parents, siblings, etc.) and tell them what you have learned. When you do, make clear you intend to treat the boy as a full-fledged family member and expect them to follow suit. Your daughters should be told beforehand about the existence of their half-brother.
Your wife should try to make every effort to welcome the boy into the fold during visitation. If she is having trouble handling her emotions, a licensed marriage and family therapist rather than a divorce lawyer may be able to help her.
DEAR ABBY: I have always been nice and respectful to my in-laws. I see them on every holiday and birthday and in between, and buy them nice gifts. For some reason, they treat my husband’s brother’s family very differently than ours. They give them extravagant gifts that cost hundreds of dollars and hand them extra gift cards in front of us. They also treat our children and their cousins differently. As my children get older, I know they will notice.
My husband is very independent. He acts like it doesn’t bother him, but I know in his heart it does. We both have respected professions, keep an immaculate home and try our best to be great parents and family members. How do I accept this inequity and not let it bother me? I know I can’t change them.
— Ranked lower in Florida
DEAR RANKED LOWER: You and your husband are successful people. You do not have to accept the treatment your family has received from your in-laws. You are absolutely correct that your children will begin to notice the disparity in the way they are treated by their grandparents. Continue to be kind and respectful, but see them far less often, and never on occasions when gifts are exchanged.