Dear Amy: I have become the person in my family who holds family secrets.
I am the last of my immediate family, but I have half-siblings from my father’s second marriage.
Family folklore (which I haven’t been able to verify) is that our dad fathered a child with a high school sweetheart, and the child was put up for adoption. This child would be close to 80 years old now.
I’ve also become aware that prior to meeting my father, my stepmother got pregnant by a married man, was sent out of town to have the child and then also placed the baby up for adoption.
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So, I have another half-sibling, and my three half-siblings have two half-siblings. My siblings don’t know about either of these stories. I have tried to find my half-sibling and have come up short, and have found nothing about my stepmom’s situation. Her sister is still living.
I feel torn in keeping this information from my half-siblings. They also feel ashamed that they don’t know much about their mother. I love them and don’t want to hurt them.
I don’t know what can be gained from telling them these stories. I also don’t know how/why I know all this and they don’t. It doesn’t seem fair to any of us.
Is it worth telling them while they still have time to possibly find their sibling, even though I haven’t been able to find mine/ours?
Dear Conflicted: The two stories you relate fall into the hearsay/rumor category. In fact, since both stories are so similar (a person has a baby out of wedlock and places the baby up for adoption), it’s possible that the two stories are in fact one story that has been jumbled or conflated over time.
Unless you have actual evidence that either story is true – or even corroboration of the story from another living family member – you shouldn’t repeat it.
You and your siblings should spend as much time as possible with your aunt (your stepmother’s sister), who may fill in some of the gaps of the family history through photos, letters, and stories. You could ask her privately about these rumors to see if she has any insight. But do not assume they are true.
Dear Amy: My husband and I have been married for 27 years. He is the only child to his single mother.
From the time we started dating, she has made it clear that he was her “best friend and bone of her bone.” She has tried to like me, but because I am his wife, she can’t. My husband takes care of me very well, and she wants the same attention for herself.
For example, he gave me a surprise 50th birthday party, and she wanted him to give her a surprise 80th. She has been nasty to (and about) me during the entirety of our marriage.
He is having a hard time now because of her age. He feels bad that I won’t invite her to join us on vacation. I will not compromise on this, because she requires too much attention from him and ruins every trip. She has been this way for 27 years.
What can I say to him to help him not feel guilty about his mother and to realize I will no longer put up with his mom’s open jealousy toward me?
Not Gonna Do It!
Dear Not: Your jealousy toward your mother-in-law is also out in the open.
Your husband will inevitably feel guilty about this. Guilt is practically built into the DNA of their attachment. You should not expect either of them to change substantially regarding the way they relate to one another.
Rather than continue to hammer this home, you could generously encourage your husband to take his mother on a short vacation with just the two of them. This suggestion should come from a generous place – not to test or punish him for enduring this challenging relationship. It will also relieve you from witnessing the dynamic you resent so much.
Dear Amy: I had to laugh at the question from “Phone Tagged” regarding cellphone etiquette. My sister and I have the exact same issue. She thinks that every “missed call” should be returned promptly. I say that if you want a returned call, you should send a text or leave a message.
Dear Called Out: I also know people who would never communicate by voice if they could help it, and who return every voice message with a text.
Email Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.