Dear Prudie: My son is not my late husband's biological child. Should I tell his parents?

Help! My Son Is the Product of an Affair. Do I Have To Tell My In-Laws?

Help! My Son Is the Product of an Affair. Do I Have To Tell My In-Laws?

Advice on manners and morals.
Aug. 6 2012 4:12 PM

Not My Husband’s Baby

In a live chat, Prudie advises a woman whose in-laws fawn over her son—not knowing he’s the product of an affair.

(Continued from Page 1)

A: Your hands-on approach, from alcohol to sex toys, needs some serious rethinking. I also have a 16-year-old daughter and I just reviewed a book for Slate about talking to your kids about sex. I'm all in favor of honesty and openness (even if I'm not in favor of watching porn with your grown children), but I'm having a hard time calling forth the image of you, Dad, demonstrating how to use a vibrator. Please tell me you demonstrated on yourself, not her. If it's the latter, then you have committed a grotesque violation and your daughter will need to see a counselor—who might call the authorities on you. Every family is different, but in the natural course of events your 16-year-old develops an aversion to explicit sex talk with Mom and Dad, especially talk that involves conversation about her clitoris and how best to stimulate it. There are plenty of great books out there on sexuality you could have given her and said you two are around to answer any questions she may have. But again, if in helping her to understand self-pleasure you applied a vibrator to your daughter, then you need professional help.

Q. Deception by Omission: Prudie, your advice with the LW whose child is not the bio son of her dead husband is pretty shady. If the bio dad does pop back up and wants some kind of relationship with the kid, her lies are going to surface and it is going to be bad for her, the child, and the grandparents. This is a case where she should be honest, that her husband agreed to raise the child as his own and he is listed as the father on the birth certificate, but is not the biological dad. Otherwise, it's a lie by omission that they will eventually find out about (I say that assuming she will tell her child at some point that his father is not his bio father), and all heck may break loose.

A: As I said, legally and I believe morally the boy was the son of his late father. I don't think it's a lie for the grandparents not to know about the affair, and it is not shady to maximize the relationship between a fatherless boy and his grandparents.


Q. Re: Father/Son Problem: My ex and his father watch porn together. I found out when I walked in on them in the "man cave" at his parent’s house. Later, when I expressed my shock/discomfort, he was equally surprised that I didn't watch porn with my mom. This was five years ago when my ex was 35. I am not saying it is any less gross. I am just letting you know that your husband/son aren't the only ones doing this.

A: You have a minority response. Others are suggesting that this may be a sign there is some long standing sexual violations going on between father and son. Even though every day I get letters showing how depraved people can be, I don't think there's any reason to think what mom saw was evidence of something worse than what it was. Sure, she should talk to her husband, but I still say keeping cool is the way to approach this.

Q. My Single Life Upsets People: My wife and I had a whirlwind romance. We met just after college, got married five months later, and had a great relationship—until she passed away shortly before our first wedding anniversary. This was almost 10 years ago. Despite our short married life I still love her and feel as though she might walk in through the door any minute. There have been some women romantically interested in me but I didn't feel the same way about them. My family and friends have been vocally critical about my single status over the years. They say I'm depressed and over doing my grieving, neither of which is true. I still love my wife, but I don't feel like I'm still in my grieving stage, nor do I feel sad or depressed. They say it's weird for me to remain single for so long and that I should "find happiness" with someone new. But I am perfectly happy with my life, I don't feel lonely, and I have no real desire to start a relationship with anyone. Are they right, though? Is there something wrong with me for not wanting to get married again?

A: Even though you say you're not sad and grieving, it's striking that 10 years later you still expect her to walk through the door. You might be suffering from a form of "complicated grief," and I think it would do you good to explore this with a counselor. Sure it may be that your late wife was the one and only love of your life. But as someone who married a widower, I was lucky to find out people can have more than one love of their life. I think your friends are onto something when they think that someone who was capable of great devotion and connection is missing something by going through life without a partner. But if after exploring this you conclude you're happiest solo, then you can confidently tell them you appreciate their concerns, but your life works for you.

Q. My Womb, My Choice: I recently went to lunch with a friend I hadn't seen in quite some time. Over lunch we were catching up on our lives and what was currently going on. When I mentioned that I was five months along with my fourth child, she freaked out! She told me that I was selfish for having another baby and for not opting to adopt a fourth child. She also said that anyone who has three kids should be FORCED to adopt if they are planning on having more children. I was speechless and not sure what to say to this. She of course is a single woman with one child. She went on and on about how I was selfish because there were kids that needed families and that by me having more of my own children I was making the world's overpopulation worse. I told her that somehow I doubt my four kids will kill the water and food supply. She just kept saying that I was selfish. Thankfully, the check had arrived so I paid for my meal and left. Since this disastrous lunch, she has been emailing me articles about the pros of adoption. She also has left messages on my cellphone asking to see me. I don't know what to do besides ignore her, but I am tired of the incessant phone calls and emails!

A: Please don't compound her horrible mischaracterization of you by making one of your own: "She of course is a single woman with one child." I'm not single, but I only have one child and I wish you only happiness with your brood, and appreciate you're doing more to create taxpayers to fund my Social Security payments than I have myself. (You will appreciate the new comedy video by Jim Gaffigan. He and his wife just had their fourth and he says people say such things as, "That's wonderful. I didn't realize you were Amish." ) Your friend's idea about forcing reproductive choices on people would make her a successful local functionary in China, but it turns out she is a lousy friend here. Send her an email that states her communication to you has become harassment and if it doesn't stop immediately you unfortunately will be forced to take legal action. Then block her emails, and if you can, her calls. And if she won't stop, it might be worth the small payment to have a lawyer send her a cease and desist letter.

Q. Re: Workplace Awkwardness: Does she really have to be such a jerk? This guy is, by her own admission, a "nice guy"—not the office sleazeball. He's also a co-worker, not a boss. He wrote to say she's beautiful, and wants to know if she has a boyfriend. Presumably he wants to ask her out. I think it's enough that she just says "I'm flattered, but I'm not interested," without threatening to call HR on him! Men have it hard these days ...

A: OK, OK, good point. I'm turned off by his approach. Sending a co-worker messages about her beauty shows very poor judgment. He should have engaged her in conversation, seen how it went, and then asked, "If you're not seeing anyone, would you be interested in getting dinner some night?" I agree she should politely tell him she's not interested—but I still think she should take that screen shot.

Emily Yoffe: Thanks everyone. Next week the chat starts at a permanent new time, 12:00 noon Eastern!

Starting this week, we’ll be spreading out the chat, publishing the transcript in a shorter, more digestible form. You will still be getting all the questions and answers (just not all at once).

Emily Yoffe is a contributing editor at the Atlantic.