DEAR CAROLYN: In a nutshell, I have children with my wife and also a child outside of my marriage with another woman due to infidelity. My wife knows, but does not want to inform our kids. When, if ever, is an appropriate time to introduce the children to their sibling?
I think my concern is for my children, but maybe I’m fooling myself. It is hard to keep the two lives separate, so certainly I am partially motivated by my desire to simplify this situation. I am resolved to keep it up as long as necessary, though. It’s been going on for six years, so it’s not like I’m just trying to weasel out of this because I can’t keep a secret.
DEAR ANONYMOUS: Crowded nutshell.
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The appropriate time is when your wife changes her mind. For now.
I could explore your children’s right to know – about this side of their father as well as about other siblings – and certainly there’s a compelling argument to be made that the child deserves a complete set of relatives. To deny him or her an extended family is to penalize the innocent.
At the same time, the members of your original family could be hostile to the child, who at 6-ish (right?) is nowhere near ready for that.
You also have to assume they’ll find out on their own eventually.
As for your bid for efficiency, color me unmoved.
No matter what your motivation, you don’t get to break your promised embargo while the kids are minors. Minor children put your center of gravity at protecting the vulnerable and cooperating with your co-parent. With adult children, that center shifts in favor of truth, because adults can act on the revelation independently.
You must make that case to your wife before any bomb-dropping. One point in your favor: The truth will blast your image immeasurably more than it will hers.
Be patient, too – think years – and selfless, contrite, ever mindful of her feelings, and ready to drop the subject anytime she’s had enough. Line up a good family therapist, too, since negotiations this complicated often go better with a skilled referee.
DEAR CAROLYN: When is the proper time in a courtship to disclose genital herpes? I thought the right time would be when discussions begin about physical intimacy; however, I was recently told I was dishonest, and it should be discussed upfront. Do I need to wear a scarlet letter on my forehead on first dates?
Wanting To Do The Right Thing
DEAR RIGHT THING: I’m all for forehead messaging, but people might misread yours as a different H-bomb entirely (same repellent effect, probably).
You disclosed this nuisance – as in, not calamity – when you felt ready and before you jeopardized anyone’s health; if there’s such thing as a universal standard here, you’ve met it.
There will always be individual preferences within that standard, as with anything else, and that’s one reason for dating – to find out whether you navigate gray areas compatibly. You two apparently didn’t, but others will hear your news your way and appreciate your honesty.
Obviously it’s no fun to start all over again knowing another truth-telling moment awaits, but companions you choose for their kindness likely won’t throw your disclosure back in your face – nor will those who realize it’s no longer 1982.