My cousins had very dysfunctional childhoods and have had some problems with substance abuse. Despite this, we remain fairly close and still visit often. Last Thanksgiving, I was surprised to see one cousin (Fred), with his girlfriend at the time (Nancy) and their toddler in tow. His girlfriend is educated, sweet, kind, and an amazing mother who has devoted all her time to a baby born with some developmental difficulties. While Fred and Nancy are no longer together, he is convinced they will reunite someday, and he refers to her as his fiancée. The major problem, his mother revealed to us, is that he fathered a second child with a one-night stand while he and Nancy were together. He is a charmer but no prize and, I sense, abusive. Nancy has asked us for advice on how to handle Fred’s drinking or obnoxious behavior. I feel more of an obligation to Nancy than I do to my own kin, who is a lying cheat, but he is still family.
When I asked Fred how long he plans to run this charade, he replied, “Forever.” To make matters worse, after Nancy left on Thanksgiving, he proceeded to show off photos of the “other” baby. Fast forward to this past Mother’s Day: Fred arrived with his other daughter and was oblivious as to why the family was so disgusted. How can we avoid hurting Nancy and unwillingly supporting him? Should she just receive an anonymous letter one day explaining it all? We felt forced through these surprise visits to go along with this lie and to act as though his second indiscretion does not exist.