Hello, Carolyn: I am happily married, with three wonderful grown daughters. A few weeks ago, my husband was contacted by "Nick," who claims he is my husband's biological child from a sperm donation. Nick had done a DNA search. My husband told me about the sperm donation when we first met, but of course it was confidential, and he never knew whether there was a successful fertilization.
I'm struggling with this stranger coming into our lives so abruptly. My husband has met Nick, who relays a very happy childhood, successful career and happy family. My husband seems to think he has found a long-lost son, and I can tell he wants to grow a relationship with this biological child.
I'm not sure why I am struggling so much. I have no connection whatsoever and feel the meeting should be one-and-done. My daughters are curious but have not verbalized wanting to meet Nick.
If Nick and my husband choose to develop a relationship, what is my role? How do I not feel this situation to be an imposition on my family and life? I have no one to talk to who would understand how I feel.
T.: Please find someone who would — either a therapist or a fellow DNA refugee, through the many support groups these DNA breakthroughs have spawned.
You can read about them here bit.ly/DNAgroups1 and here bit.ly/DNAgroups2. If you’d like an inkling of how Nick might feel, or a primer in case more “successful fertilizations” arrive on your doorstep, since you’re overdue to expect that, then check out this story of 32 half-siblings here: bit.ly/DNAgroups3. Sitting down.
I can think of some reasons you’d struggle. We all get new people in our lives, even abruptly, but they’re typically neighbors or colleagues or classmates, as in, arm’s length unless and until we invite them in. This is a child (note that I dropped the “biological”; I suggest you do the same), where arm’s length feels wrong but anything closer feels premature. It’s emotional dissonance.
It’s okay, by the way, to defy expectations of instant family and proceed at your own pace.
There could be a gender element as well. Are you afraid this new long-lost son will occupy a place in your husband’s heart your daughters never did? A reach, but not irrational.
It could also just be that you’ve been chugging along contentedly and this is a significant disruption to your routine. Good reasons to be out of sorts don’t have to be flashy or complicated.
That concludes the validation portion of our program.
Now, the humanity portion: This is a person, born of a person you love, making himself vulnerable.
I’ll admit: I’ve advised therapy or support-grouping not just so you’ll feel better but also hoping you’ll find your way to a “role” of a welcoming presence and open mind. If your husband ultimately doesn’t form a relationship with Nick, then so be it; if he wants one, though, then I struggle to think of a way you can feel good about telling your husband he’s on his own and his kid isn’t welcome here.
Or, kids. Après Nick, le déluge.
Acceptance might come without intervention, too. Often it’s enough just to let time soften new developments — and in the meantime, let yourself feel messy things.