DEAR AMY: My wife (who is 64) recently discovered a new cousin, "Meg," (also in her 60s) through DNA testing. Meg lives in a different part of the country and although they have not met in person, they communicate via social media and email, and have since become close friends. My wife's uncle, at the time of his affair with Meg's mom, was married with four young kids. He recently passed away. My wife's aunt is in her late 80s and suffers from dementia. She is in very poor health. Her aunt has no idea that her late husband fathered a child 60 years ago while they were married. My wife is close to her four cousins, who are not aware that they have a half-sister. I believe that my wife should let them know about Meg. If it was me, I would want to know if my father had sired another child and that I have a half-sibling out there. My wife feels just the opposite, and will not tell them. Who is right?
Curious About Cousins
DEAR CURIOUS: I believe you're right. However, importantly, you and I don't share DNA with your wife or her cousin, and so while we have the right to our opinions, that's about all we have.
DNA testing has exploded in popularity, and questions about the unforeseen personal and relational complications arising from it have flooded my in-box.
We are in fairly uncharted territory. But the truth is the truth, and people deserve to know the truth about themselves.
I have long advocated against holding onto "family secrets," mainly because people who keep secrets are basically deciding for themselves who is deserving of the truth. I realize that people keeping secrets are often well-meaning, as I assume your wife is. But I also believe that most people can handle the truth, even if it is surprising, shocking or painful. (For instance, you and your wife don't really know whether her aunt knew about her uncle's infidelity. The aunt may have kept it secret.)
In this case, your wife has met a person, "Meg," who is so wonderful that they have become close friends. And yet your wife is denying her cousins the opportunity to also know her.
Your wife may be waiting for her aunt to die before disclosing this news to her cousins. The same DNA testing and social media that brought her and Meg together can also eventually lead Meg to her half-siblings. Your wife should consider how her cousins will feel when they learn that she has had a secret relationship with their own sister.
DEAR AMY: My wife's sister is getting married in five months. Both my sister-in-law and her fiance come from cultures that are not accepting of homosexuality. I've only spent a few weeks total around my sister-in-law's fiance, but after a few meetings I started getting an impression that he might be attracted much more to men than to women. He doesn't seem overly physically affectionate — and sometimes he seems downright aversive — to my sister-in-law, while I've seen him be quite physically affectionate to old male friends. I like and respect him as a person, and he genuinely seems to mostly treat my sister-in-law well. I've talked with my wife about this, and both of us are utterly unsure if we should do anything, and if so, what we might do. Any thoughts on how best to proceed?
DEAR UNSURE: Congratulations! You are about to have a new in-law. And congratulations! You don't need to have an opinion — or do anything at all — regarding his sexuality.
He might be straight, but acculturated to maintaining a physical distance from women. He might be gay and closeted for cultural (or other) reasons.
Your sister-in-law might be straight or gay, and marrying for love or for cultural or financial reasons.
The beauty is that unless your in-laws solicit your opinion on their marriage, you can — and should — accept this couple at face value.
DEAR AMY: "Stuck in the Middle" said her best friend gave her adult kids' violin away to Stuck's son. Now the adult kids are pressuring her to get it back. Thank you for telling people that parents are not responsible for keeping their kids' stuff forever!
DEAR GRATEFUL: Yes, our adult children might prefer that we maintain their rooms as shrines and their possessions as treasured museum pieces, but at some point, if the kids don't claim their stuff, ownership reverts back to the parents.