Tell Me About It: He’s a troubled young man and I want to offer him stability and a good education but my wife is completely opposed
PROBLEM: I studied in the UK and lived there until my mid-20s. I had a fantastic time, met some amazing people and indulged in a party lifestyle with absolutely no regrets.
I had a few long-term and some short and very short-term relationships. I met my wife in the UK, and we returned to Ireland about 15 years ago. We now have three children between the ages of seven and 12 years of age and have a nice life. Last year, a former girlfriend whom I went out with probably three or four times contacted me via social media. She told me that after our relationship fizzled out, she discovered she was pregnant and that I was the father. At the time, she decided, for her own reasons, not to inform me and raised our son with a new partner.
I was initially quite suspicious, and I arranged to speak with her by phone. She explained to me that her partner had recently passed away and that our son was struggling. Both our son and his stepfather were aware of the situation and by the sounds of things had a wonderful relationship. I immediately told my wife of the situation and she stated that she did not believe that this was my son and possibly the whole thing was part of an elaborate scam.
I arranged to travel to the UK and met my son. I had planned to ask for a DNA test but when I met him, I knew there was absolutely no need. He was happy to meet with me and we spent a fair bit of time together over the course of a long weekend. I have travelled to see him several times since and have kept in regular contact via social media. He is a very troubled young person and I believe he needs stability. He is very intelligent but has struggled academically. I would like him to move to Ireland for a period and live with my family and get to know his siblings.
We are not wealthy, but we certainly have the space for him in our large house. My wife refuses to discuss this – she does not want our ideal life to change in any way. We haven’t told our children yet that they have another brother because she doesn’t want to unsettle them. I feel that I have a responsibility towards my son, and I could find a way to fund a better education for him, but I really feel that in order to really help him, I need to develop a strong relationship with him and be a constant presence in his life.
He would like to come to live with me and his mother agrees that this would be good for him, but I cannot see a way forward as my wife is completely opposed to these plans.
ADVICE: In many ways, you have behaved in a text-book manner: you have responded to the discovery that you have a son with sensitivity and responsibility and your desire to do well by him is laudable. However, you also have a wife and a family who must find a way into this new situation and this may take longer and be more difficult than you think.
As a father, you feel an immediate connection with your new-found son but your wife does not have this and may perceive him as a threat to her security and family and thus responded with resentment. You may wish to move quickly on bringing your son to Ireland, as he is clearly in need, but this may be perceived as an imposition by your wife so I wonder if you can slow down this process and break it into steps so that your wife can have time to adapt to her new situation. Perhaps some sessions with a family therapist might help you both to listen and come to an understanding of each other’s positions (familytherapyireland.com) and this would allow bring some objectivity into the situation. This may mean delaying your son’s next education step or allowing for an interim period so that he can find a safe connection with your family before adding the stress of academic achievement.
Your wife is worried for your younger children but mostly they adapt if their parents are confident and happy with their decisions and they feel involved in the family decision-making. The starting point is for you and your wife to work on your communication and faith in each other, then you can include the younger children in the decision-making process as if you have their buy-in, you have a much higher chance of success. Your older son also needs a voice in family decisions and after a suitable time, it is appropriate to include him in this.
All of this is very sensitive and fraught with each person’s fear of exclusion so proceed slowly and but with the help of an external professional, your family should be able to navigate these stormy waters.