Q. I am the father of four sons, divorced from their alcoholic mother 17 years ago when the boys were very young. All of my sons are now in their 20s.
Shortly after my divorce, I learned from a good friend of my ex that she began her long streak of infidelities within the first year of our marriage.
I was aware during my marriage that she was “spending time” with male co-workers, including one man in particular, during a period of time which coincides with the conception of one of my sons. This particular son does not resemble his brothers. His physical characteristics strongly resemble the male co-worker that I suspect his mom was having a relationship with. I have questioned for years whether I am his biological father.
For both his sake and mine, and for numerous other reasons, I have considered discussing this with him or getting DNA testing done. I cannot discuss this with my sons’ mom, because I will never get the truth.
Is it wrong to discuss this with my son and/or get DNA tests to confirm or deny my biological connection to him? What is your advice?
HEARTSICK IN THE HEARTLAND
A. It isn’t necessarily wrong to try to discuss this issue with your son, but if you do, you should prepare yourself for a wide range of reactions from him — from possible relief to rejection.
You should closely examine all of your motives for wanting to determine his DNA. This sort of DNA revelation can be extremely destabilizing, not only for an individual but for the entire family system — including his relationship with his mother and his three brothers.
I always advocate for an individual’s right to know the truth about their DNA, but for your son, having this question imposed upon him by a parent — versus his choice to investigate on his own — could be very tough for him. (And if you make this allegation and you two are proven to be biologically related, what then?)
I suggest that you have your own DNA tested. See where that effort takes you. If your adult sons have already had their own DNA tested, your family connection (or lack of connection) might be revealed through the testing database.
Q. My boyfriend proposed to me. I joyfully accepted, and then four hours later I found out that my grandmother had died. It was unexpected and painful. I am having a hard time feeling the joy I think I am supposed to be feeling right now.
Because of the upcoming funeral, my fiance and I will get to see family members that I have not seen in a while, and I don’t know if this is the time to tell them of our engagement, though I imagine some may notice my ring.
I feel guilty when I feel any amount of happiness about being engaged because of the grief I still feel from losing my grandmother. And I worry about sharing the news.
My question is: Should I hold off telling my family about the engagement until everyone has had time to grieve the loss of my grandmother?
Would sharing the engagement overshadow the celebration of life we should be focusing on? And if I wait, should I hide my ring in order to not bring any attention to it?
GRIEF AND JOY
A. I’m so sorry you are experiencing this very tough loss. I think you should tell your immediate family about your engagement now (if you haven’t, already).
Don’t make any sort of public announcement during or after your grandmother’s memorial, but don’t hide your ring, either.
If people ask about your ring, you should confirm your engagement and allow them to congratulate you. This happier news reminds everyone that good things continue to happen, even during otherwise tough times.
A couple of weeks after the funeral, you might announce your news to a wider circle, and on social media. I hope it will provide some comfort to understand that your grandmother would have wanted you to experience joy and excitement.
Q. I very much object to your sympathetic response to “Looking for Love,” the 72-year-old husband who hasn’t had sex with his wife for 20 years.
I am a man in his age group, also in a very long marriage. Intimacy involves more than just sex, and if he has been in this sexless marriage for this long, in my opinion, that’s on him.
A. Well put. Thank you.
Amy Dickinson can be reached at email@example.com.