Ask Amy

Fallout from man’s double life with secret family

Q. My partner and I have been together for almost three years. He has two adult children from his previous marriage, and one adolescent child from a previous relationship. When we met, I was getting divorced, and his other relationship was dissolving.

We now have a 2-year-old, and we’re expecting our second child together soon.

He has never told his children about me or our child. He has a very strained relationship with the adult children, but a very good relationship with the adolescent. They talk every day and are together every other weekend.


The adolescent’s mother doesn’t want the child around me. My partner’s reason for not telling his child is he’s afraid the relationship will end and the child won’t want to see him, be around him, or may be angry with him.

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This situation has caused a lot of arguments in our house. I desperately want his child to be a part of our lives, especially for our children. My partner keeps telling me that in time he’ll talk to his child about it. But it has been a couple of years!

I can understand his fear, but he hasn’t even tried to talk to the child. I think the longer he waits, the worse it will be.

I’m frustrated and hurt by the way he’s handled things.

I’m tired of fighting over it. What can I do to help? Do I just have to accept the child may never be a part of our lives? It feels like our life is a secret and it shouldn’t be.



A. First of all, I’m genuinely puzzled about why you would choose to have two children with someone who already has two sets of children and is keeping you — and now your children — in the closet.

The way your relationship started (both of you in the midst of dissolving other relationships) may have created a pattern for how it is continuing. And yes, with every passing day, and more children, this deception grows more serious.

Rather than face the reality that his adolescent might be confused, hurt, and angry to learn that Dad has a whole other family, he is doubling down on the secrecy. His cowardice is needlessly creating a crisis for all of you.

You are a coward, too. If you don’t want your life, and your children’s existence, to be a deep and dark secret, then own it. Give him a nonnegotiable deadline.


Find a relationship counselor, make an appointment, and state your very reasonable case that you will not stay in the closet. Map out a plan for this disclosure. If he refuses, you should reconsider staying in the relationship. This is not emotionally healthy for any of you.

Q. My brother-in-law is divorced with two daughters. His daughters live in one city with their mother, and he recently moved back to the West Coast to live with his fiancee, who has two teenage daughters from a previous marriage.

Last Christmas, my brother-in-law gave my sons gift cards, same as he has done for several years, but this time signed it from his daughters AND his fiancee’s daughters.

I assume he will do the same this year.

Are we obligated to send gifts for his fiancee’s daughters? We only see them once or twice every few years.

To Gift or Not to Gift,

Los Angeles, California

A. Welcome to the “gifting” season.

First of all, I need to state for the record that I detest the word “gift” used as a verb. I acknowledge its legitimacy, but — there, I said it. Why “gift” when we can all “give”?

Yes, you should send gifts to these girls. They are a part of your brother’s — and now your — family. These gifts needn’t be elaborate, in fact reciprocal gift cards might be fine — but I hope you will find a warm way to welcome them into the clan.

Q. “Upset Ex” was divorced from her husband for 18 years but she reported that he is coming to her now for financial support.

While I agree with all your suggestions to try to help him, I got the sense that she would feel responsible if he were to actually follow through with his suicide threat. That would be the most difficult thing she would have to deal with.

Concerned for Upset Ex

A. Yes, his threat is part of the way he manipulates her. Connecting him with a professional social worker would be best for both of them.

Amy Dickinson can be reached at