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Love Letters

He wants to meet the daughter he gave up to marry me

Twenty years later, he’s having second thoughts about relinquishing his parental rights.

Submit your questions for Meredith here.

Q. Twenty years ago, I was dating my now-husband and broke up with him. During the period we were broken up, he impregnated a woman. He approached me to get back together, but I told him that under no circumstances would I ever want to be a stepmom. I made this 150 percent clear. He was more than fine with this and had already discussed this with the other woman and signed away his parental rights.

Our marriage has been somewhat rocky. For a long time, he didn’t love me enough to have my back. Things are better now, but he just dropped a bomb on me. He wants to meet his daughter and possibly have a relationship with her. I quit my job and moved to another state for him roughly 20 years ago. His career required a lot of travel, so I stayed home with the kids. I do not want this girl or her mother in my or my children’s lives. I feel like I can’t stay in this marriage. I just don’t know what to do. I’m a 50-year-old woman with outdated skills.

— 150 percent clear

A. Here’s the thing about people: Sometimes they change their minds.

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You can make all the rules you want, but your husband had a child before you were back in his life. There was always a chance that his daughter would show up on her own or that he’d want to seek her out over time.

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You asked him to promise that he’d spend the marriage doing what made you most comfortable, but to assume he would — or could — was wishful thinking. Partnership involves flexibility and accepting that not all decisions are final. You have to be willing to grow with someone — and to listen.

I’m going to suggest couples therapy (no shock there), but no matter what, you should ask your husband more questions about why he wants to meet his daughter. Try to be empathetic and to consider how it could work, as opposed to how the whole thing might fail. Remember that he has not asked you to be a stepmom, and that it’s very possible his daughter isn’t looking for one. She’s 20 years older now. Don’t assume anything about her.

If you know you don’t want to be with your husband anymore for other reasons, please be honest about that. If you felt more employable, would you already be out the door? If so, that’s something to discuss.

— Meredith

READERS RESPOND

The reality is that if you do divorce him, presumably, he will still be in your kids’ lives, and they will meet their half sister whether you like it or not. Is this really what you want to destroy your marriage over? CRUCIFIEDZEOFF

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What’s the harm in accepting the relationship between your husband and his adult daughter? It’s not her fault she was born in those circumstances, and it’s nice that her father wants to get to know her. EJIC

I think much of this matter hinges on the letter writer’s insecurity — about her life skills, about her decision to take her husband back, about her own family anxieties. She and her husband may have put a patch on things, but they never addressed their problems. RED-SPECK

Meredith Goldstein’s novel “Chemistry Lessons” is now available. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Send letters to meredith.goldstein@globe.com.