Ask Amy: DNA Truth Has to Start Somewhere

By Amy Dickinson | June 11th, 2021

A family secret revealed – but how "revealed" should it get?


DNA truth is shocking Image

Dear Amy: I have recently discovered — through DNA testing — that the man who raised me is not my biological father.

Actually, this isn’t a great surprise, as I look nothing like my three siblings, and have always wondered why.

As many people have discovered, there were a lot of “extra-curricular” activities when men were deployed during WWII and women were home and this appears to be one of those instances.

My siblings and I are in our 70s, and my parents’ generation are all gone.

The dilemma is whether — and how — to tell my siblings about this discovery.

While I am in favor of telling them, my wife wonders if I should.

And if I were to tell them, how should the topic be introduced?

– Wondering


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Dear Wondering: Your wife is doing what loving spouses do by introducing a “what if” qualifier. Listen to her (and to me), and then make your own choice.

Here’s one way to start your conversation: “Hey, what’s up with all this DNA testing, amirite?”

My point is that when you’re ready, the way to talk about this, is to just start talking, and let the verbs and nouns fall where they may.

When it comes to introducing a challenging or difficult topic, however, I think it’s always wisest, and easiest, to start by saying, “This is tough. I’m not really sure how to do this, but I hope you will bear with me…”

One or more of your siblings may be upset by this (at least, initially). They may feel betrayed by this evidence of your mother’s infidelity, and they could blame you for being the messenger.

It is also a strong possibility that one or more of your siblings may know about this (especially if they are older), or may have suspected it.

Your DNA parentage might represent a long-held family secret that will finally be resolved.

You seem to have a measured and rational reaction to this news, likely because, even though you may have questions about your DNA, you actually really do know who you are.

You are a man who was raised by your two parents, and you are part of an aging sibling group who have already been through life together. This is one more adventure for you to encounter as a family.

Your demonstrated equanimity, as well as an open and loving attitude, will set the tone.


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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