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Ask E. Jean For DearSugar: Do I Tell My Husband the Truth About Our Son?

Dear E. Jean,

I’m close to losing my mind. This week I received the results of a paternity test. It confirms that my husband is not the father of our 10-year-old son, our oldest child. The news will absolutely destroy my husband and devastate our four happy children.

How did this happen? Three days before I married my husband, a guy I dated in college came over to my house, took me out to dinner, and begged me not to get married. Afterwards he drove me to the beach, we went for a walk — well, you can guess the rest. The wedding took place, my husband and I went on the honeymoon, and when we came home, I knew I was pregnant. Both our families were ecstatic. “A honeymoon baby!” they called it. But I was suspicious at the time that it could be either man’s.

However, I put it out of my head, gave birth to an awesome boy, 10 years passed, everything was fine. Then I heard the other man was getting a divorce and there was a big fight with his wife over money. His picture appeared in the paper. I looked it up. The resemblance to my son was unmistakable. But the worst part is the wife was accusing him of abusing their children.

That was when I decided I had to know for certain. And the results of the DNA samples (samples I took from my husband and son while they were both sleeping) confirmed what I feared: My husband is — I’m quoting — "excluded as a biological parent" of my son.

I'm a total wreck. It's like a bad Maury show. The truth will demolish my son’s trust, my husband’s love, my other three children’s stability. What can I do? How can I find the words? What do I say? I don’t know how I’m going to live through this. — Devastated.

To see E. Jean's answer,


My Dearest Devastated,

I realize that most people will disagree, but I advise you to keep your secret. For now.

See an attorney. Draw up a letter containing the facts to be given to your son in case of your early death — and stipulate the letter is to be opened when he’s grown.

And, of course, if your son ever develops health problems that could be hereditary, you’ll disclose the facts surrounding his birth to your pediatrician and to the biological father if you need to obtain his health records.

But other than these two circumstances, I see absolutely no reason to explode this bomb at this particular time. When your son is an adult, you can tell him. For now, let the family grow up and prosper.

Because the truth is never pure and rarely simple, as Nabokov said, nor is Truth with a capitol “T” always a good thing. It can also bring evil. Just ask Oedipus.

To see more advice from E. Jean, visit Elle Magazine and

Join The Conversation
DallasC DallasC 6 years
I am so sorry all those people said mean things. I know your message is an old one and I am interested in what you decided and how it worked out. I have a very similar problem. My husband is not the biological father of one of our children because of a marital indiscretion of mine. This is further complicated by the fact that my husband and child know the biological father very well (and the biological father knows the truth). I do not know whether to ever tell, and if so, at what age should I tell my child? He is 8 now. I do not want to hurt anyone. I have tried to put myself in my child's place and consider whether I would want to know and when. I have no idea. Bless you and your family and pay no attention to those who judge you. I am sure they have plenty of skeletons in their own closets.
JaimeLeah526 JaimeLeah526 8 years
Wow this is a difficult one. I would keep it to myself at least until I found out that the man did not abuse his children. Your son will want to meet his father and his father may want to be a part of his life and obviously that is not something you want to do if this man is abusive. I think you should tell your husband though at least at some point. Tell him that you slept with another man and he may ask for a paternity test but don't tell him that you already got one unless you are going to tell him all about it now. The two of you can decide when and if to tell your son but it is going to devastate him. There is a good possibility that this will end in a divorce and break your whole family's heart. I would tell your husband when all your children are grown and then he can make a decision for himself instead of staying for the children. He's still your son's Dad even if he isn't the biological father and nothing can change that.
lily3484 lily3484 8 years
First of all, I really have a hard time with a lot of these comments. This poor woman has suffered enough. Who are we to judge her. Im sure that all of you have done something in the past that you have had to suffer the consequences for. I definitly agree that this situation needs to be held in confidence until the child is older. You made the mistake in the past and your husband and child should not have to live through the pain of your past decisions. The time will come where honesty will be the right option but as for now, your child needs stability and this news will be devastating to the family. Your son has a loving father and you have a loving husband. From what you have said, it seems that the "real" father of your child is the man that has raised him for 10 years of his life not the abusive man upsetting another family. Your in a very tough situation. I hope you make the right decision for you.
k8-rckstr k8-rckstr 8 years
Her question is in regards to what she should do now. She obviously already knows she made a mistake and doesn't need to be reminded about it in a place where shes looking for advice. She is acknowledging she made a huge mistake 10 years ago. How would you people like to be condemned for a mistake you made a decade ago?
bransugar79 bransugar79 8 years
I would like to add that I can understand why people think you should tell your husband and again if it was just about the two of you I would agree, but I think people are forgetting that some people are not capable of sperating their emotions and if you do tell him he may begin to take his anger or a hurt out on your son. It may never be that dramatic but even a subtle chaneg in the way he treats your son could cause permanent damage.
Janine22 Janine22 8 years
I truly believe that honesty is the best policy. (But if this were me, I would tell him that there was a chance that the child is not his as soon as I found out I was pregnant). But if that is the route you take, then be prepared to deal with the repurcussions (ie, your hubby potentially leaving you). And I think that your son is too young to know or understand this situation yet. Also, if you tell your son, he may want to meet his biological father, who is apparently a child abuser! I think you should really think about getting some counselling.
reeeeka reeeeka 8 years
I really don't have any advice...I just wish you and your family all the best once you do tell them.
gidigirl gidigirl 8 years
This is a tragic situation... I am so sorry that you find yourself in this predicament. We all make mistakes.. this one just happens to have devastating consequences. I say follow E.Jean's advice. Keep this to yourself.. I think it is improbable that in telling your husband only, you will be able to protect your son. More than likely, at the very least it will affect the relationship between your son and the only father he has ever known.. and it could certainly lead to a divorce.. Do you honestly think that your husband will be able to keep the cause of the divorce to himself? Do NOT share this with anyone in your immediate circle. Talk to a therapist and take this to your grave, unless circumstances force you to do otherwise. Goodluck
ella-ehhh ella-ehhh 8 years
Ok, so it's kinda freaky that this is posted here because something very similar to this JUST happened to me. I am 19 years old and just found out that he man who I thought was my father might not be. My step-dad raised my and I consider him my dad, but now that he and my mother are getting divorced, he doesn't have much to do with me anymore so I really have no father figure in my life anymore. Finding out after 19 years of believing that this man created you and that your brothers & sisters may not really be related to you is hard to swallow.. Long story short, I spent about a month getting to know my possible "father"... We talkd every day, saw each other a couple times a week, he got to know my boyfriend & we really bonded. I was sooo excited to have a man in my life who WANTED to be a father figure to me and loved me for who I was. I convinced myself that this man was my dad and he believed without a doubt that he was as well because we had so much in common and really did look alike. (my REAL father hasn't had anything to do with me since i was 5) .... My heart literally dropped when I got the paper in the mail saying he wasn't my dad.. I felt like someone close to me died. It tore me up inside.. So basically my advice is,your son definitely has a right to know. Even though it was hard for me, I am glad that my mom told me because if this guy turned out to be my dad & something happened to my mom before she ever got to tell me, I never would have known who made me and that's not fair. You can't be greedy because of your own fear. I would, if I were you, write it in a letter and put it somewhere hidden but to where it can be found in case you die (haha) If you have a man who loves your son and plays a father figure in his life as well as the life of your other kids, then I wouldnt risk losing it. I would definitely write it down or something though that way, one day, your son will know the truth... Sorry this is so long and it may not be the best advice but... it's a tough situation.
happiness80 happiness80 8 years
I think the advise saying you should tell you son later but not your husband is not going to cut it. There is no way your son will find out without your husband getting the info. You either tell ONLY your husband NOW or you tell NO ONE ever. There are advantages to both...but none to the halfway scenario where you tell them say 10 years from now - your hubbie will feel even more bitter and your son will probably hate you for stealing his "identity". Whereas if you tell only your hubbie now, the worst case scenario is divorce (the kids will still be taken care of). If you have to start your life afresh, its best to do it now when you are still relatively young. And there is even still the possibility of forgiveness. The other good option is to never say - as most advocate. The problem is - it does not seem like you are strong enough to hold it all in - considering you are already blabbing on a website.
MissJules5x MissJules5x 8 years
i posted my response earlier... its not just her husband she would have explaining to do to if she decided to come out with it... she would have to tell her husband then her son, eventually the father would get involved, and she would have to tell her entire family including her other children. its a big tangled mess and i dont see any good coming out of it. it really doesnt matter who his biological father is at this point- his father is his father. period.. she made a mistake 10 years ago that she will undoubtedly pay for for the rest of her life, but i think its something she should keep to herself. she will hurt many people by this confession. you should have told your husband before the wedding what had happened or as soon as you found out you were pregnant and had any doubt in your mind it wasn't his child. its been many years, and many years more complicated. i would just let it go. unless there is an emergency i wouldnt tell anyone ever. go to counseling and speak to someone to help you get your mind off of it. but like i said... it doesnt matter that biologically your son isn't your husbands child. he was raised by him and thats all he knows. would you really want to take that away from both of them because of a mistake you made a decade ago? i dont think so.
LiLRuck44 LiLRuck44 8 years
I love how people say "I don't usually lie, but..." or "I don't condone lying but...." Seeing how you've already spilled it to a public message board, and will probably spill it to a therapist, it doesn't seem likely you'll be able to keep it a secret anyway.
lovelie lovelie 8 years
First of all, I agree with my fellow posters who feel that this woman is soliciting for ADVICE...not judgment. Many of you are spouting off lofty judgements which is just downright cruel. No one is perfect, we have all made mistakes, unfortunately this one may affect more than just the perpetraitor. That being said, I 100% agree with E. Jean. Keep it to yourself for now, and maybe someday, if you feel your family is strong enough and wise enough to grieve what they surely will have to grieve, then tell them. At ten years old though, I don't think he will be able to process what is required to move forward. I sincerely wish you the best...stay strong.
yeokr yeokr 8 years
i ABSOLUTELY agree with Jean's advice; you obviously recognize it as an indiscretion and my thoughts are that if you plan on it never happening again, it is unwise to reveal it because most people would not be able to forgive or forget. the advice concerning possible health defects etc. is well thought out - especially because you can trust a medical professional to maintain confidentiality. there are many men who will marry women with children and raise them as their own, but since those men are made aware from the outset and given the opportunity to choose what is best for all involved, it is a different scenario altogether. if your husband was made aware of the circumstances he might not be affected, but he could feel betrayed and take it out on your son who at 10 certainly needs a good father figure. all in all, the indiscretion happened and revealing it would subject your family to many frightening possibilities in my opinion.
erthed erthed 8 years
Oh, and I'd burn the paternity paperwork. Get it out of the house. It would be even WORSE for someone to find it.
erthed erthed 8 years
I also agree with sylviamcdanyel who said you never should've taken the paternity test to begin with...HOWEVER...that's a "shoulda" you can't change. Moving'll know when you have to tell.
Mykie7 Mykie7 8 years
I'm going to say keep it to yourself. Telling your husband will do nothing but assuage YOUR guilt, and why should he (or your children) be burdened with that? The only drawback to this is going to be if someday your son becomes ill and you need medical treatment for him. You may end up having to tell them then and it's going to be worse. I do NOT advocate lying, but at this point you are going to destroy EVERYONE if you say anything, and it will (As I said) be just as selfish as cheating on him in the first place was. I'm still absolutely appalled that someone could cheat on their fiance THREE DAYS before the wedding. But, that's for you to live with, not me. The day may come when you have to tell them, but hopefully by then your kids will be grown and you won't be tearing up their family as much as you would now. But any way you slice it, this whole situation is your fault, and you're the one that should live with the silence of it now.
erthed erthed 8 years
Shoulda, coulda, woulda...what she SHOULD have done in the past is moot. I feel for you right now, I really do. What a difficult situation. Obviously you are not proud of what you did, nor were you after you did it. However, for the sake of your family, I would not bring this up...yet. There will be a time when you will need to do this without even having to question yourself. Wait for that. It was a bad decision to begin with years ago, but you can't change that. The only reason to bring it up right now is purely selfish. You would selfishly be bringing that up to help your guilt. You deserve to deal with this on your own, but more so, because it means the difference in happiness of 6 other people right now. Best of luck to you, really. We have all done stupid things in the past. Whether it's a difference in maturity, responsibility, respect, whatever, we have become who we are because of paths we've chosen in the past. It's what makes We grow with time in many respects. Decisions you make now are probably different than ones you would've made in the past, and vice versa. It's big. It is. But you will know when it's the right time. I just don't think now is the right time.
Vsugar Vsugar 8 years
I can't believe I'm saying this, but I agree with E. Jean. There is no reason at all why everyone needs to know this information. Your husband does not need to know, your son SHOULD know, but it sounds like there are good reasons not to bring this man into your son's life. I totally totally agree with everything E. jean said.
sylviamcdanyel sylviamcdanyel 8 years
SAY NOTHING. You should have never had the paternity test to begin with!!!!!
Lovaajn Lovaajn 8 years
To the person who wrote for advice: I beg of you to pay no attention to Matamoros, who is clearly misogynous. His plain hatred and distrust of women is a disgrace to men, and women. He should be as ashamed and disgusted by himself, as we should all be for him.
melizzle melizzle 8 years
Keep your mouth shut. If the guilt eats at you, find a good therapist.
Katillac Katillac 8 years
If it really is the best thing to keep it a secret, then you should. Sometimes people only tell the truth for selfish reasons, to "get it off their chest". But that usually makes everyone feel horrible, including the person keeping the secret and everyone else involved. You are the one who made the mistake, so the burden should be yours to carry, not the rest of your family's too. And of course, give him the option when he is an adult to find out the truth. I liked the suggestion the author made.
LiLRuck44 LiLRuck44 8 years
I meant to add - your husband deserves to know the truth.
NiceDriveway NiceDriveway 8 years
wow. People here are SO cruel. It's disgusting, honestly, how mean some of you are. Yes, this woman made a mistake. A mistake 10 years ago that she has been regretting for a while. Does she deserve to be "punished forever" or to not "deserve happiness?" Of course not. I'm not condoning her behavior, but I would never go so far as to say you deserve to suffer in silence. As for advice, I'm with EJean. Don't tell. You'll put a wall up between your son and the only father he has ever known, and neither of them deserve that. See a therapist if you need to talk. You'll only alienate your kids and your husband by saying anything--and none of them deserve that.
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