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Carolyn Hax: Pregnant woman discovers husband is already a father

| Sunday, Feb. 25, 2018, 9:00 p.m.

Adapted from a recent online discussion.

Dear Carolyn:

I've been married two years and am 6 months pregnant, and up to last week I was so happy preparing with my husband, “Tom,” for our first child. Only it turns out it's not his first child. He was contacted by the 18-year-old son he and his girlfriend gave up for adoption when they were in high school.

I feel so betrayed and furious that I was blindsided by this news. Tom has apologized profusely and explained he couldn't tell me because it wasn't just his news, since the ex-girlfriend is still part of his social circle. She was even at our wedding. For our baby's sake I'm trying to stay calm, but I feel like the whole experience has been ruined for me. I could have handled this if only he had told me a long time ago, but he thought it was more important to keep a secret for a girl he dated almost 20 years ago than it was to be honest with his wife.

Every day I feel like asking him what other terrible secrets he's keeping from me.

How can we get past this so we can welcome our wonderful baby as we should?

-- My Husband Is Already a Father

Time and good counseling.

I see his point that it wasn't fully his news to disclose, but, at the same time, it was incumbent on him to go to the ex-girlfriend before marrying you to let her know he was going to tell you -- because it was your right to know.

Both of you need to do some hard work to rebuild the trust between you. He needs to see that he's wrong if he genuinely believes “he couldn't tell me because it wasn't just his news.” That's the linchpin. A mistake two years ago can be treated as past, but defending the mistake is very much an issue in the present.

You, meanwhile, need to articulate your concerns clearly. If you won't trust him again unless he is able to validate your point of view, then he needs to know that; don't mistake staying calm for suppressing valid concerns.

Regardless of how he responds, you also need to be ready to decide at some point how you can leave this behind, and then do it. You can remain married or not, a good outcome is possible either way -- but there's no good outcome in remaining angry. Not for you and especially not for your baby.

When your feelings settle a bit, please also rethink the notions of this experience being “ruined” and your husband having other secrets. It's entirely OK to decide there aren't ripples beyond what has happened. He had this one very significant and shared secret; he faced Road A or Road B when he met you; he chose B when he should have chosen A. As long as he understands the full extent of his error and is committed to not repeating it, then this is at least a candidate for compartmentalization.

Re: Father:

Since the husband gave up baby at birth, it WILL be his first time being a father. They will be experiencing all those baby milestones and sleepless nights, etc., together for the first time.

-- Anonymous

Great point, thanks.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com, follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at www.washingtonpost.com.

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