Last year, at 47, I accidentally discovered that my mother had been lying to me about my biological father for my whole life. She married the man who raised me when I was 6 months old and swore the entire family to secrecy. I found my biological father, and we are both devastated to have missed out on a lifetime of love and family connection. His family has welcomed me with open arms. He apparently proposed to my mother, but because she was much younger than him and not ready to grow up (in her words, the power dynamic in the relationship was in his favor), she declined. She told him she’d had multiple partners and there was no way to know whose I was. She confided to me that she didn’t want anyone else having a voice in how I was raised, and she told my aunt that she married my adoptive dad because he was a partying hippie and she wanted to keep living that life.
My mother is also mentally ill and has been barely functional most of my life. She abused and neglected me and my younger brother our entire childhoods and still plays the victim every chance she gets. Everything is all about her. I’ve handled things like chores and bills for my parents since I can remember. I love my dad, but he’s only ever made excuses for her. This time, I’m simply not prepared to forgive and forget. She had plenty of time to tell me the truth and never did. I don’t want to fracture my family, and I’m being urged to forgive her, but I don’t see how I can. To complicate things, my dad (who raised me) is dealing with a progressive disability, and my parents are aging. They will need increasing care as time goes on. I’m struggling. I won’t have the means to get regular counseling for a few more months. What do I owe my mother and father after this? Is this something I can reasonably consider a relationship deal breaker?
—Where Do I Go From Here?