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Ask Pajiba (Almost) Anything: What To Do When Your Husband Is Not Your Baby's Daddy

By Tori Preston | Pajiba Advice | May 16, 2019 |

By Tori Preston | Pajiba Advice | May 16, 2019 |

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Hey, remember how we’ve been getting a lot of questions lately that seem super straight-forward at first, but there’s actually a whole lotta thorny backstory to wade through? Not this week, friends! For the first time since we started this column, we got a question that might actually be too short. Like, I genuinely want MORE context for this. I have more questions than the letterwriter does! And while this isn’t the first time we’ve tackled a Maury-esque paternity query, it might be one of the first times we’ve ever advocated… honesty.

Hey, it’s a good policy! Sometimes. Unless you can get away with not.

[Reminder: You too can send us your drama at [email protected] and we’ll always answer you honestly — even if you aren’t telling us the truth in the first place! I automatically assume at least 20% of our questions are complete fabrications, or 20% of a given question is at least a light fib. It makes it all so much more interesting. Join the fun!]

Alright folks, hold onto your butts because this is gonna be a fast one:

I found out my husband is not my bb daddy. The real dad wants to be in her life but afraid of the consequences of my husband finding out. How do let him be involved without my husband knowing? Do u think I should tell my husband? My bb is a year now.

Dear BB Mama,

Thank you for coming to us with your situation, which I’m sure is causing you a lot of additional stress — on top of the stress of having a baby to care for in the first place! And look, I’ll be honest — I’d love to pepper you with additional questions, just for context. How long have you been married? What is/was your relationship with the baby’s father? How did you discover that your husband wasn’t the biological father, and how did the father find out he WAS the father? Did you tell him? What sort of relationship does the biological father want with your child now?

But ultimately, those are questions in my own self-interest, not yours, and they don’t really have any bearing on the answer I’m going to give you. Simply put:

I think you need to tell your husband the truth, as painful as that may be. And yes, there are plenty of perfectly good reasons to be honest about this situation (having the biological father involved is helpful if your baby ever has any medical issues, for starters). But there is a ruthlessly practical part of my brain that thinks you need to be honest simply because I don’t see how you can let the biological father be involved in your child’s life without your husband’s knowledge. That is a massive secret for adults to be carrying, but more importantly it is NOT a burden that should ever be placed on a child. If your baby ever learns this man is her biological father, then she’s stuck being complicit in a lie. And if she thinks he’s just her fun uncle or something, she may still get suspicious — especially since it sounds like you’re considering having these interactions happen behind your husband’s back. And yeah, that might work right now, when she’s young. But there will come a time when your daughter can talk, and yet doesn’t really have a filter, and then she’ll probably mention her “uncle” to your husband — or you’ll have to coach her not to. You’d basically have to teach her to lie.

No matter how you look at it, it’s not fair to put your child in this position. She shouldn’t have to lie or feel that some part of her existence is a secret from her own family. She did nothing wrong. But that doesn’t mean you did anything wrong either. Life is complicated, and even setting The Maury Show jokes aside, your situation isn’t that uncommon. It’s a tough thing to poll for, scientifically, but I’ve read that anywhere from 9% to 30% of people may not know who their real father is — or rather, the person they think is their biological father in fact isn’t. And that’s why I don’t really need your specific context, because whatever happened in the past happened. You don’t owe us an explanation. But you do need to make sure that, moving forward, what is best for your child is your first priority.

So we’ve talked about why I think being honest with your husband is important if you’re planning to let your baby’s biological father be involved in her life, but let’s play out other scenarios. You said the biological father wants to be in her life — but what happens if you prevent him from doing so? Do you think he’d respect your wishes, or would he fight for his parental rights? Could he retaliate by telling your husband directly, or even spread the gossip to your mutual acquaintances? Secrets are easy to keep when only one person knows the truth, but your secret is already shared — which means right now you have to consider how much you trust the biological father. Even if you let him be involved, and set ground rules at the outset, he could change him mind and want more time or influence in your child’s life down the road. Being honest with your husband now means the biological father can’t use this secret against you later on.

Maybe I’m a cynic, but when it comes to shared secrets I think it’s best to assume that they’ll always eventually come to light. It’s not a question of if, but when. So if we operate with that in mind — that your husband will learn the truth about your daughter, one way or another — then you can weigh options based on how he’ll take the news best. Being honest with him now will be painful, but will he value your honesty? Will he react worse if he learned the truth from another party? You specifically mentioned that you’re “afraid of the consequences” of your husband finding out, which I almost took to mean you’re afraid this could end your marriage — then I realized you might literally be concerned with his reaction in the moment. So if you are scared of the possibility of violence or anger, please know that you do not have to tell him on your own. You can work with a counselor on how to deliver this news, and you can even consider taking your husband to a counseling session to tell him in that setting. If nothing else, you could have a neutral third-party in the room when you talk to you husband, just to make sure his reactions don’t escalate too far.

The other thing I’d recommend you think about is what your best possible outcome is. It may seem basic but: Do you love your husband? Do you want him to be your child’s father? Do you think her biological father will be a good influence on her? It’s easy to lose track of your desires with all these different considerations you’re weighing, but I think it will help you choose a path forward if you have an ideal goal in mind. Life may be messy and imperfect, but within all this chaos people manage to make a lot of surprising things work for them. Family isn’t just about blood — it’s made. It’s a choice. So while I said you need to think about what’s best for your baby, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also consider what’s best for you. And that will inform how you deal with the men in your life. Your husband may be hurt to hear that he’s not your baby’s biological father, but it may help if he knows he’s the man you want to be your baby’s daddy. When we talk about being honest, it’s not just about the past. You can also take this opportunity to be clear about what you want for the future as well.

One last thing, BB Mama: please know that I realize it’s a hell of a lot easier for me to sit here and tell you all the purely practical reasons why I think you should be honest than it may be for you to do the thing yourself. Whether you’re worried about losing your husband, or being a single mother, or having to tell people why your child has two father figures in her life — it’s all terrifying. That’s why I wouldn’t judge you if you did decide to play the odds and try to keep a lid on this, to preserve the life you have right now — and you wouldn’t be the first mother to do just that. No matter how scared you are, remember that you’re not the only woman to have been in this position. You are not alone.

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