Q&A with Geoff: Why Do I Feel Threatened by My Husband’s Daughter Who Was Born Out of Wedlock?Nov 22, 2023
My husband recently found out he has a 45-year-old daughter he had no idea about. She was placed for adoption as a newborn. Years later she decided to find her birth parents. She found out her birth mother had medical issues so then decided she needed to find out about her birth father’s medical history. Well, out of the blue, my husband received a letter stating that she was sure he was her father by what little information her birth mother gave her. She got on an ancestry site and found she had a close match to his brothers and a couple other relatives. They have exchanged phone calls and now my husband wants to meet her. He wants to meet her one on one. My question is, why do I feel threatened by this and why my emotions are up and down? I told him I will support him in his decision of what to do. As his wife, that he met 10 years after the child was apparently born, I wonder what do I do? Where do I fit in? The daughter also sent me a friend request on Facebook. What do I do?
I can only imagine the shock your family experienced when learning about his daughter. It’s a lot to process, for sure, so I hope you can be gentle on yourself and everyone else involved as you move forward, integrating her into your lives. Let’s talk about how you can move through this in a healthy way.
Please know that it's normal to have a range of emotions when something significant like this appears in your life. You might be feeling a mixture of curiosity, fear, jealousy, insecurity, excitement, and other emotions. In fact, you might experience one emotion more often than the others. Just remember that experiencing one strong emotion doesn't mean it needs to define the entire experience. Do your best to honor the full range of emotions, instead of only listening to fear and insecurity.
As humans, we are sensitive to competing attachments that threaten our bond to those we care about. This can be anything or anyone that draws the attention and focus of our loved one away from us. It’s a biological survival imperative that creates a strong reaction in us when we are little, but doesn’t entirely go away as we age. Of course, as adults, we have to share space with lots of potential competing attachments and recognize that we can’t always be the center of our partners universe. Even if the logical part of you knows his daughter won’t steal him away from you, it’s still normal to wonder what will change in your relationship with him.
Like the faithful brother in the story of the Prodigal Son in the Bible, you might wonder what you mean to your husband now that all of his energy is focused on making sense of this new relationship in his life. Of course, his daughter is not a Prodigal, as she never chose to be in this situation, but it’s understandable that you might question what you mean to your husband, even if for this moment.
The fastest way to regain your emotional balance is to reach out to your husband and ask how you can best support him as you guys approach this situation together. Working together as a team will help both of you feel supported and connected as you lean on the security of your relationship. Recognize that your interest and support in his experience will also be a great source of strength to him. There is no need for each of you to isolate yourselves in this new and unfamiliar territory.
As you consider how to respond to his daughter, I encourage you to err on the side of generosity and inclusion. You might struggle to know how to respond, but I believe you can be filled with a love for her that might even surprise you. Finding a long-lost parent must be an overwhelming experience for her. There’s no need to compete with her, as you both have different relationships with her father. If you only make this about your experience, and fixate on the perceived threat, you will miss out on a sweet opportunity to support your husband and his daughter.
It’s important to give this time and allow everyone to adjust to this new family reality. Your feelings of affection and connection will likely increase over time as you learn more about her, spend time with her, and watch his relationship grow with her. It might seem imbalanced right now as his attention prioritizes making sense of this discovery. However, as you work together with him, you can both lean on the strength of your marriage as you welcome her into your family.
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