(Nick Galifianakis/For The Washington Post)

Dear Carolyn: My father had several affairs, left our family and remarried another woman. We have confronted him about his sins, but he acts as though everything is fine and he has done nothing wrong.

I also have a maternal aunt who has a son, but we don’t know his father. Our family believes our father is also his father because our cousin looks like my father when he was young. My father calls him often and even attended his graduation.

We have asked our father and our aunt about our cousin’s paternity, but they both deny it. Our aunt said she will tell the truth at the right time.

I’ve already written an advice columnist about this, and she said, “Let sleeping dogs lie.” We just want the truth. We know it will hurt, but it will set us free.

It’s Complicated

Free to do what — write to multiple advice columnists about something else?

Seems to me you’re already living as if your cousin is your brother. Consider:

●You know your father is a cad. He will remain that in your mind if you learn your cousin is your brother, and if you learn he isn’t.

●You apparently think your aunt is/was capable of getting involved with her sister’s husband. You will have to revise you opinion of her upward if she proves your cousin is just your cousin, but proof he’s your brother would leave the status quo intact.

●Your dad and your cousin are close. Truth would be a wash here, I expect.

See where I’m going? With the circumstances you present, will The Truth have any impact at all?

You’re not imprisoned by a lie so much as your preoccupation with the possibility of one. Yes, crossing the T or dotting the I or asking your cousinbrother if he has ever considered a DNA test (yoo-hoo . . .) would wipe out your motivation to find an answer, but so, too, would just accepting that you already know everything you need to know. It’s not letting the dog lie so much as inviting it to curl up next to you on the couch.

Dear Carolyn: I am 49 and have been separated from my husband for two years. I recently ended a nine-month relationship with a man because I began to think he’s at best a heavy drinker and at worst a functional alcoholic, and suspect he may have cheated on me. Often on weekends he would drink six to 10 drinks in an evening and regularly would go to bars during the week also, easily drinking five beers in an evening. I am sad because I feel like I should’ve ended the relationship months earlier, but also because he has some very attractive qualities, too — he’s a good dancer, could be very warm, and he’s smart, so we had good discussions.  

How do I avoid making the same mistake in the future?  When I raised my concerns about his drinking and possible cheating, he discounted them entirely, but the evidence was there.

Moving on Healthier?

When your biggest problem is that a nine-month relationship should have been a five- or even one-monther, I have trouble sharing your sadness or sense of urgency. You caught your error, such as it was, and so there’s no reason to think you won’t catch it sooner if you find yourself again on a similar path.

I do think, for what it’s worth, that you might flirt with the same problem again, and that’s because you seem unsure of your priorities.

Take Mr. Party (please!). If what you want is a faithful pillar of moderation, then clearly this wasn’t your guy, and, yes, I’m all for figuring that out sooner rather than later. But if you wanted charm, humor, a few cocktails and a twirl on the dance floor, and were willing to see him as a good date vs. a good bet or liver donor, then why not this guy?

There is just no down side to accepting people (or rejecting, of course) as they are vs. as you want them to be.

Starting, of course, with you: When you know what you want and are at peace with it, you can expect to spend precious little of your time feeling torn. Had you been clear with yourself about the pillar of moderation thing, for example, then this guy’s attractive qualities may still have moved you, but probably not pushed you over for as long as they did. Instead you would have had the confidence to boot him after watching the first 10-drink performance.

If you’re not ready yet to have this clear a sense of direction, that’s okay, too; two years out of a marriage isn’t that long. But in that case, I suggest you see this last problem relationship as not a problem at all, but instead just one more step toward finding out what you want.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Get her column delivered to your inbox each morning at http://bit.ly/haxpost.