Wedding Woes

Keep the secret or drop the bomb?

Dear Prudence,

Recently my sister underwent genetic testing. While learning more about her heritage, she noticed a woman who was listed under “possible genetic relations.” She reached out to this woman, “Jane,” who confirmed that yes, she is our first cousin once removed, the product of a brief affair of my great-uncle’s more than 40 years ago. Jane knows enough about the circumstances of her conception to know who her biological father is, and that he is unaware of her existence. Jane has two loving parents and isn’t looking for a replacement family; rather, she wants to learn more about her history and connect with her biological brother. My great-uncle, his wife of 60 years, and their children are all still living. My sister and I are less close with that side of the family, largely due to distance, but we now find ourselves in possession of a huge family secret.

My sister brought me into the conversation after realizing that she couldn’t navigate this secret alone. Jane and I happen to live in the same small city! I live 800 miles away from the nearest family member, and the prospect of having a new cousin just down the road is tantalizing. Regardless of my desire to build a relationship with Jane, I am taking some time to consider the potential fallout. Jane is very levelheaded about the whole thing and said that we should take as long as we need. Right now I am considering calling my great-uncle and being direct with only him, but I’m still not sure whether that’s the right approach. Am I asking myself the right questions? Am I being considerate enough of all parties involved? What would you do in this situation?
—Twenty-Three and Me, and Me

Re: Keep the secret or drop the bomb?

  • Do people really understand all the ramifications of these DNA tests when they do them? It just seems like such a can of worms none of these LW seem at all prepared for. 

    That said, before you tell your family I think you should talk with Jane; it doesn't seem like she wants to connect with her biological parents, just the siblings? Then why would you say anything to the great-uncle? Why would he need to know that LW knows? 
    ernursej
  • How old is this great uncle and is he of sound mind where he can be available for a conversation? 

    I'd consider talking to Jane and would also consider talking quietly to the uncle one on one.   What I would NOT do is let this secret out without his permission.  Should the Uncle be available and want to discuss this then you can help him arrange something but if not, keep the conversations to just those with Jane.  
    short+sassyOliveOilsMom
  • banana468 said:
    How old is this great uncle and is he of sound mind where he can be available for a conversation? 

    I'd consider talking to Jane and would also consider talking quietly to the uncle one on one.   What I would NOT do is let this secret out without his permission.  Should the Uncle be available and want to discuss this then you can help him arrange something but if not, keep the conversations to just those with Jane.  
    This. I really don't get why people think just because they know a family secret that they think everyone else in the family has a right to that information, too. 
    mrsconn23ShesSoCold
  • Do people really understand all the ramifications of these DNA tests having affairs when they do them? It just seems like such a can of worms none of these LW seem at all prepared for. 

    That said, before you tell your family I think you should talk with Jane; it doesn't seem like she wants to connect with her biological parents, just the siblings? Then why would you say anything to the great-uncle? Why would he need to know that LW knows? 
    The bolded is more the camp I'm in. Honestly, I think LW handles this however she wants. If she wants a relationship with Jane, she has a relationship with Jane. If she wants to talk to her uncle about it, she talks to her uncle about it. 

    The uncle did what he did and if there's fall out, well that's facing the consequences of your choices. Maybe I'm just stabby today.
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    charlotte989875mrsconn23sparklepants41
  • Do people really understand all the ramifications of these DNA tests having affairs when they do them? It just seems like such a can of worms none of these LW seem at all prepared for. 

    That said, before you tell your family I think you should talk with Jane; it doesn't seem like she wants to connect with her biological parents, just the siblings? Then why would you say anything to the great-uncle? Why would he need to know that LW knows? 
    The bolded is more the camp I'm in. Honestly, I think LW handles this however she wants. If she wants a relationship with Jane, she has a relationship with Jane. If she wants to talk to her uncle about it, she talks to her uncle about it. 

    The uncle did what he did and if there's fall out, well that's facing the consequences of your choices. Maybe I'm just stabby today.
    Fair enough, but the great-Uncle is likely elderly. Not excusing anything, but when he had an affair 40 years ago it's not like genetic testing was really a thing. And sure the information could come out from the woman he had an affair with, or from Jane. 

    But that's not who is writing the letter here; it's the brother of a family member who did a DNA test and found a "potential genetic relation". I guess I feel there is a lot of hand-wringing in this letter from someone who is not directly involved or related to the affair. 
    mrsconn23short+sassyOliveOilsMomernursej
  • Do people really understand all the ramifications of these DNA tests having affairs when they do them? It just seems like such a can of worms none of these LW seem at all prepared for. 

    That said, before you tell your family I think you should talk with Jane; it doesn't seem like she wants to connect with her biological parents, just the siblings? Then why would you say anything to the great-uncle? Why would he need to know that LW knows? 
    The bolded is more the camp I'm in. Honestly, I think LW handles this however she wants. If she wants a relationship with Jane, she has a relationship with Jane. If she wants to talk to her uncle about it, she talks to her uncle about it. 

    The uncle did what he did and if there's fall out, well that's facing the consequences of your choices. Maybe I'm just stabby today.
    Fair enough, but the great-Uncle is likely elderly. Not excusing anything, but when he had an affair 40 years ago it's not like genetic testing was really a thing. And sure the information could come out from the woman he had an affair with, or from Jane. 

    But that's not who is writing the letter here; it's the brother of a family member who did a DNA test and found a "potential genetic relation". I guess I feel there is a lot of hand-wringing in this letter from someone who is not directly involved or related to the affair. 
    Also fair. But it doesn't really matter. Whether he found out from genetic testing, word of mouth, discovery of a time capsule with steamy letters to a mistress...whatever. Bottom line is that uncle was boning someone who wasn't his wife and had a kid. A known consequence of sex = offspring (especially back in the day), so if he didn't want that, he shouldn't have been cheating on his wife. 

    It sounds cold, but at the end of the day, uncle's transgressions are causing LW stress. If LW wants a relationship with Jane, have one. If shit hits the fan, it's uncle's problem, not LW's. 
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    charlotte989875
  • Do people really understand all the ramifications of these DNA tests having affairs when they do them? It just seems like such a can of worms none of these LW seem at all prepared for. 

    That said, before you tell your family I think you should talk with Jane; it doesn't seem like she wants to connect with her biological parents, just the siblings? Then why would you say anything to the great-uncle? Why would he need to know that LW knows? 
    The bolded is more the camp I'm in. Honestly, I think LW handles this however she wants. If she wants a relationship with Jane, she has a relationship with Jane. If she wants to talk to her uncle about it, she talks to her uncle about it. 

    The uncle did what he did and if there's fall out, well that's facing the consequences of your choices. Maybe I'm just stabby today.
    Fair enough, but the great-Uncle is likely elderly. Not excusing anything, but when he had an affair 40 years ago it's not like genetic testing was really a thing. And sure the information could come out from the woman he had an affair with, or from Jane. 

    But that's not who is writing the letter here; it's the brother of a family member who did a DNA test and found a "potential genetic relation". I guess I feel there is a lot of hand-wringing in this letter from someone who is not directly involved or related to the affair. 
    This.  And also, just because Jane was told her biological father knows nothing about her...it doesn't mean it's exactly true.  He could have been informed of the pregnancy, but lost contact with Jane's mother before Jane was born and didn't know the result? Or he could have turned Jane's mother away, but Jane's mother didn't want to tell Jane she wasn't wanted by her father?  OR uncle could have offered to leave his wife and married Jane's mother and Jane's mother turned him down/away and disappeared?  Also, uncle could have fessed up about the affair to his wife and they handled it privately?  There's so many things that could have happened that LW, their sister, and Jane don't know about.   

    I don't like it that LW positioned it as a "Huge Family Secret", because that feels weird and icky to me.  Like they're suddenly now invested because they know something few other people do.  These are people's lives and while Jane is an innocent party in this situation, she may not be treated that way.  The *only* thing I think LW should do, is try to talk to his uncle.  If uncle reacts poorly, it's still not LW's news to share with anyone else, IMO. 
    charlotte989875short+sassyOliveOilsMom
  • Do people really understand all the ramifications of these DNA tests having affairs when they do them? It just seems like such a can of worms none of these LW seem at all prepared for. 

    That said, before you tell your family I think you should talk with Jane; it doesn't seem like she wants to connect with her biological parents, just the siblings? Then why would you say anything to the great-uncle? Why would he need to know that LW knows? 
    The bolded is more the camp I'm in. Honestly, I think LW handles this however she wants. If she wants a relationship with Jane, she has a relationship with Jane. If she wants to talk to her uncle about it, she talks to her uncle about it. 

    The uncle did what he did and if there's fall out, well that's facing the consequences of your choices. Maybe I'm just stabby today.
    Fair enough, but the great-Uncle is likely elderly. Not excusing anything, but when he had an affair 40 years ago it's not like genetic testing was really a thing. And sure the information could come out from the woman he had an affair with, or from Jane. 

    But that's not who is writing the letter here; it's the brother of a family member who did a DNA test and found a "potential genetic relation". I guess I feel there is a lot of hand-wringing in this letter from someone who is not directly involved or related to the affair. 
    Also fair. But it doesn't really matter. Whether he found out from genetic testing, word of mouth, discovery of a time capsule with steamy letters to a mistress...whatever. Bottom line is that uncle was boning someone who wasn't his wife and had a kid. A known consequence of sex = offspring (especially back in the day), so if he didn't want that, he shouldn't have been cheating on his wife. 

    It sounds cold, but at the end of the day, uncle's transgressions are causing LW stress. If LW wants a relationship with Jane, have one. If shit hits the fan, it's uncle's problem, not LW's. 
    Oh I agree with this; if he wants a relationship with Jane absolutely have one. If people find out, they find out and that's not LW's burden. 

    But I guess I don't see why LW would then call the great-Uncle? (Unless they're really close or something?)
  • A big factor for me is that I'm not even close with that side of the family.  I mean, how weird would that be to call up some 80+ year old great uncle...who I was probably never close to and maybe haven't spoken to in over a decade...and say, "Hey Uncle Joe, it's your great niece Jenny...yeah, yeah Sarah's daughter.  I know its unusual I'm calling, but I wanted to let you know that my sister Laura did one of those DNA tests and we found your illegitimate daughter.  She doesn't seem to think you knew about her.  Would you like her contact info?"

    For me, I'd have no interest in being involved.  I'd probably be open to staying in touch with Jane.  I'd even probably be willing to give my great-uncle's info to her and SHE can have an awkward conversation with a stranger who is her bio-dad.  If she wants to.

    I do feel differently about her bio-sibling.  Though it was long ago, the father knows he cheated.  So I think she needs to start there and not blindside the bio-sibling.  I wouldn't give her that person's info, though she could probably find it on her own.

    Wedding Countdown Ticker
    ei34charlotte989875ShesSoCold
  • Honestly, I think LW should keep the secret. It's not LW's secret/information to tell.
    LW didn't go looking for information, and if they did it'd be different.
    Casadena
  • If Jane knows who her dad is, then I don't think it is LW's secret to tell. If Jane wants to reach out she can, she can probably even track down additional family members if she tries hard enough (there's so much info out there, not even looking at the DNA side). LW can choose to get to know Jane if she wants, I don't see a problem with that but she shouldn't be the one to decide if Great Uncle, or any other family members, are told
    mrsconn23charlotte989875short+sassy
  • ShesSoColdShesSoCold bend over and I'll show ya mod
    Moderator 5000 Comments Fifth Anniversary 500 Love Its
    kvruns said:
    If Jane knows who her dad is, then I don't think it is LW's secret to tell. If Jane wants to reach out she can, she can probably even track down additional family members if she tries hard enough (there's so much info out there, not even looking at the DNA side). LW can choose to get to know Jane if she wants, I don't see a problem with that but she shouldn't be the one to decide if Great Uncle, or any other family members, are told


    This. I agree with this. LW and his/her sister can have as much or as little contact with Jane as they want and no one else needs to know who Jane actually is.

    I know I've mentioned his before, but I'm in a slightly similar position to Jane. I know my dad has a son from his first marriage. I don't know if this guy (who is nearly 50 by now) knows who his biological father is. My siblings and I are torn between wanting to meet and know more about this guy and "letting a sleeping dog lie". My dad has no interest in finding him but says he doesn't care if we do.

    Last time I looked him up was 11 years ago and he lived in the town I currently live in. I am ALWAYS looking around at everyone to see if someone looks/acts like my dad.

    Image result for someecard betting someone half your shit youll love them forever
    charlotte989875short+sassyei34
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