On finding out that your father isn't your biological parent.
Hello everybody, welcome to episode 42 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino.
With today’s episode comes a complicated question from a viewer who finds herself in a very life-altering scenario involving lies about who her true parents are. Very happy to be able to help this woman, so let’s all listen to her story, honor her vulnerability, and hear what she has to say…
QUESTION: “Dear Greg, I’m 33, and I just learned that the man who I thought was my father is not my father. My biological father reached out to me on social media asking to meet up, and after confronting my mother and apparently stepfather about this, they confessed that they knew all along. While my mother is now encouraging me to see him, my stepfather insists that I shouldn’t. Frankly, I’ve never been very close with either of them, and this only adds to the complication. I’m feeling conflicted about who to listen to, whether I should meet my real father, and just who to trust. Could you offer your thoughts on what you’d do if you were in my shoes?”
A Question of Trust
Well this sure is a conundrum, yeah.
Lots of pieces to this question, I sure don’t blame you for feeling a little bit scrambled. Glad you reached out; glad you came to us for support.
I guess it’s interesting to me that you say you don’t know who to listen to as one of the things you’re conflicted about. I just find myself wondering why you feel as though this has to be about listening to or taking direction from one party or the other.
Because based on what you’ve said, it doesn’t seem like you have much reason to trust either of your parents right now — your parents being your Mom and your “stepdad” (and I’m sorry if that term is still new and feels a little funny to hear). They’ve kept this secret from you forever, you say you’ve never felt very close to either of them.
Why start taking direction from them now? Why start seeing your future and your big decisions through their lens now?
Your Stepfather and Biological Father
It doesn’t seem as though they’ve offered you wonderful guidance in the past, and I don’t see why that would change now, especially with such heavy subject matter. This is a decision for you to make for yourself, regardless of which parent agrees with your decision.
That being said, I do think there’s plenty that you can gather from your parents’ reaction to your father reaching out that can help you navigate through this a little bit and make you COME to that decision for yourself.
So your stepfather is resistant to you meeting your biological father. Why might he be feeling this way; this man who you don’t feel particularly close with in the first place?
Well, assuming he’s also aware of the distance between you two that you feel, we can speculate that these feelings or more rooted in fear than love. So feeling like insecurity, pride, and ownership over you.
These feelings are different than feelings born out of love, like, say, WORRY, about you meeting your biological father and getting hurt. Again, that’s a lot of speculating, but I could see how he, who’s lived a lie about the fact that he’s not related to you, might be dissuading you for these reasons that have more to do with his interest than your interest.
Of course, I don’t know anything about this man besides what you’ve told me, and he and your mother may have had good reason for withholding this information from you, but these standpoints are still worth being aware of.
One thing to pay attention to in particular might be how aggressively or peacefully he reacts to this disagreement between he and your mother.
Speaking of your mother, who DOES encourage you to meet with your father, gotta wonder her thoughts behind all this…well, actually, you don’t HAVE to wonder.
You can just communicate with her and have a dialogue about this like I encourage everyone to do…but if I had to guess as to why she’s changing her mind about this relationship between you and your real father NOW, I would think it’s because she recognizes the damage in the family, the betrayal, and how you two meeting could bring about a sense of truth and revitalization.
Though I don’t know about the relationship she had with your biological father, the fact is that her connection to you and her connection to him runs much deeper than your stepfather’s connection to you or him, so her standpoint can be more relied upon. She’s more knowledgable about everything, everyone, and THEORETICALLY, more caring as well.
Your Feelings about Your Biological Father
Now…you didn’t mention how you felt when hearing from your father, which is interesting. I can only assume that for that reason, the feelings are more based in confusion and surprise rather than excitement or anger.
All I’d say is that your father should be considered a neutral party for now.
I would not necessarily jump to the conclusion that he is more or less trustworthy, more or less anything than your mom and your stepfather. He’s an individual, and really shouldn’t be lumped into the same opinions and behavior associated with the other two.
Of course, feeling trepidatious given that you’re only hearing from now makes TOTAL sense, but he’s entirely separate from the family dynamic that you’ve known all along, and as I alluded to earlier, there could be any number of reasons behind why you’ve not been told about this until now, why he didn’t reach out until now, etc.
Refrain from Premature Judgment
You can talk to him if you want. You can not talk to him if you want. But either way, I would advise that you refrain from prematurely judging him.
Not only is prematurely judging him more of a defense mechanism than anything, but it doesn’t stand to change anything within your family or your perception of your family. And it sounds to me like it could use some changing. Being at least open to the idea of a relationship with your father provides a chance to rebuild an otherwise dissatisfying family life. Definitely not a guarantee, but a chance.
Again, I don’t know exactly how you feel about hearing from him.
Interaction vs. Confusion
The fact that you’re looking to me and the parents you feel disengaged from for answers tells me that this IS confusing and you’d rather have someone else give you an answer than have to commit to one yourself. That makes sense, wanting a means of deflecting pain should this end up being another painful encounter in a family history that already has plenty of them.
But if you can muster the strength to interact with him, prepared for any result, you’ll probably find that you don’t have much to lose, since you’ve never been close to him to begin with. At the most, it’ll be another lacking parental relationship, which, while not ideal, is something you’ve proven you can handle.
And I would think that you could handle THAT easier than you could handle the ongoing questioning or the ongoing “what if?” feeling that would follow you should you choose to ignore him.
Thank you again to the woman who sent this question in. The vulnerability you guys show sometimes is just so humbling; it makes me so proud and it makes me hopeful for a future in which people express themselves and reach out more.
Obviously this situation is about as unique as they come, but I can still hope that everyone took something from this episode as I always do.
As you know, you can send any of your own struggles into us be email at advice AT oldpodcast DOT com
We’ll step into your corner and do what we can for you.
That’ll do it for today though, friends. Thanks for being here. Thanks for sharing. And I hope you’ll listen next time. Until then