Advice from Amy: Husband's Surprise Offspring

By Amy Dickinson | September 27th, 2021

A "perfect family" is – shattered...?


Senior man telling wife about surprise offspring Image

Dear Amy: MY good friend just found out that her husband has a grown child he’s never known about.

This person was born many years before my friend and her husband even knew each other. He was not in a relationship with the mother of this child.

My friend is shattered. She has always been proud of her long-term marriage and their great kids, who are all doing well.

Now she believes the reality of her “perfect” family has been shattered. She can’t seem to believe the man she thought she knew could have been so sexually casual.

I have stepchildren that I enjoy, and I’d like to convince her that this is not the end of the world.

I hope she can get back to enjoying her marriage and family.

Amy, I guess I’m looking for some insight as to why this is such a big deal for her; and is there anything I can do to help her?

— Worried Friend


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Dear Worried: I sincerely hope that any students returning to campus might read this letter and understand that today’s casual sex could result in a multitude of unintended consequences.

As much as any of us might understand that — in theory — previously unknown relatives might surface at any time, when it comes to family relationships, the understanding of theory and the acceptance of reality are two distinct and different experiences.

Of course your friend is thrown off! Anyone would be, but if she truly believes that this makes her own wonderful life a lie, that’s a deeper problem.

As one partner of a successful long-term marriage, she could be encouraged to see this as one more life-challenge to encounter alongside her husband.

Surely they have tackled difficulties, losses, reversals, surprises and uncertainties together before this.

Don’t try to “convince” your friend of anything, but do remind her that this situation, which landed on her doorstep so suddenly, will actually unspool and evolve gradually.

She needs to come to an understanding on her own that, put into a larger perspective, this mainly reveals everyone’s humanity.

Are she and her husband working through this with the help of a counselor?

You should suggest it.


In the tradition of the great personal advice columnists, Chicago Tribune’s Amy Dickinson is a plainspoken straight shooter who relates to readers of all ages. She answers personal questions by addressing issues from both her head and her heart. A solid reporter, Dickinson researches her topics to provide readers with informed opinions and answers. Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068

© 2021 by Amy Dickinson

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