DEAR AMY: I have an extremely happy marriage of 11 years. Our lives were just about perfect, and then my husband found out that he was the father of a girl born 50 years ago. This was a one-night stand, and the child’s mother gave the baby up for adoption. This biological daughter now has three children of her own. Almost overnight my husband now has a daughter and three grandchildren! He and his daughter have been exchanging photos, text messages and phone calls. I know there is a future meeting on the horizon. I am having a VERY difficult time with this. I feel like everything has been turned upside down. It’s hard for me to be happy for him; I don’t know how far he will take this. She loves her adoptive parents, and lives in a different state. Her biological mother passed away recently. This situation has really stressed me out; I’m on board one day and then blow up the next. He is 73 and I am 70. I feel like this is an intrusion into our happy lives. How should I handle this? Are my feelings abnormal?
Unhappy Camper in Florida
DEAR UNHAPPY: Your feelings are not abnormal. Your family system was humming along nicely, and now things are changing.
It is normal to feel conflicted when facing extreme changes or transitions (even changes that are positive). Even lottery winners sometimes sink into a depression when their lives are turned upside down.
But here’s the rub. Life is just like that. People get ill, people get well, families grow and shrink; fortunes and futures can change with the click of a computer mouse.
No matter how you feel about this, you will do best if you behave less like an ignored teenager, and more like a mature partner. Your husband should include you in his communications. You should look for ways to embrace this. You don’t say whether you have children, but look what happened: You’re a (sort-of) grandmother!
Give yourself time to adjust. Your husband and his newfound daughter will be forging a relationship (distant, close, or somewhere in between), and you should be a supportive participant.
If you continue to struggle, a counselor could help.
DEAR AMY: I’ve been happily married for years, but I’ve been harboring a secret: When I was very young, I was sexually abused by a relative. For a long time, I lacked the courage to tell anyone. After college I told one friend, but the friend told me I was making it up. Since then, I’ve never spoken a word of it to anyone — not even my therapist. I’ve become a functional adult, and have managed to put most of the trauma behind me. The emergence of the #MeToo movement has brought up a lot of emotion, and I feel like I want to tell my husband my secret. But how do I start?
DEAR UNSURE: The #MeToo movement has inspired many people to come forward with their survivor stories — the hashtag itself is an invitation to move away from secrecy toward solidarity.
Your therapist is an ideal guide through this process; start your disclosure there.
Be aware that disclosing and discussing this will unleash yet more feelings about it. Understand, too, that others will not necessarily behave in predictable ways when you disclose your abuse experience. For instance, your husband’s first reaction might be shock and disappointment that you hadn’t told him earlier. He might also want to take an action toward your family member that you don’t want to take. This is why working with a therapist through this process would be wise.
I think the best way to disclose something challenging and hard to talk about is to start by saying, “I have something important to tell you. This is hard for me, so I hope you will bear with me while I do my best to tell you about it.”
I give you so much credit in your decision to move forward. Other survivors are standing shoulder to shoulder, supporting you.
DEAR AMY: “Scared” was a wife in a long-distance relationship. Somehow, she and her partner had decided that it would be acceptable for him to live eight hours away from his young son. Now her partner was having second thoughts about the distance, and Scared was responding selfishly. Thank you for advocating for children, even when the adults in their lives don’t.
DEAR GRATEFUL: Children have no voice and no power. I feel for them.