Make lemonade out of husband’s long-ago affair and surprise child

Carolyn Hax
Carolyn Hax

Q: My husband recently dropped a bomb on our lives. He was contacted by someone claiming to be his child. Many years ago, when we were married a few years, he had a one-night stand. Never saw this person again and now, bingo! I am devastated and angry. Our children are 37 and 35. This surprise person is 33. So I was home with two small kids when he acted like an idiot one night. We do not want our kids and family to know about this situation. But he has been contacting this person after I thought we agreed on no contact. I am hurt and betrayed. This person seems to think we should be one big happy family. I think not. What do you say?


A: I say you’re entitled to your fury.

I say it’s your prerogative not to acknowledge “this surprise person” or tell your children.

I say “acted like an idiot” is a fair assessment.

I say your husband’s furtively breaking a “no contact” agreement is a fresh betrayal right when he needs to re-earn your trust.

And I say that digging in to these justifiable positions will hurt you more than anyone else.

Why? Because it happened, all of it. The affair isn’t going away, the child isn’t going away, the pain isn’t going away, no matter how hard you shove them out of your field of vision. Not telling your kids won’t remove the weight of knowing.

It will, however, introduce the weight of a secret, which is considerable.

So my advice is to take the time you need to be angry and to keep this person as far from your personal sphere as you want to and can.

Then, when the anger starts to dissipate — counseling might be helpful here, just for you — consider doing the exact opposite of what your initial make-this-go-away impulse said to do.

Consider: Giving your blessing for father and child to be in touch. Meeting this person yourself. Sharing the news with your children, and, if and when they’re ready, encouraging them to get to know their sibling.

Consider that “one big happy family” can still be the effect when the cause is anything but. If you feel embarrassed, then please note: Everyone screws up, but not everyone is brave.

You have the power to bring grace not only to your husband and a now-grown child who had no say in existing, but also to yourself, through one transformative act of forgiveness and inclusion.

Lemonade, in lifetime supply.

Email Carolyn Hax at, or chat with her online at noon each Friday at

Washington Post Writers Group