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Strange truth can get lost over time

Dear Carolyn: I’m 16 and a member of a nuclear family with several siblings. In my family, trust has always been stressed as very important: My parents have drilled it into our brains that once trust is lost, it is hard to gain back.

This weekend I was looking through the filing cabinet for my birth certificate (which I needed for school) when I came across my father’s divorce decree. It seems that he was married before, a fact that he and my mother have concealed from my siblings and me.

I feel hurt and angry that they did not tell us such an important part of my father’s life.

It’s not such a big deal that my dad was divorced, just that he avoided telling me. Is it unreasonable to feel this way? Should I just butt out? I haven’t brought it up with him as it was obviously his wish that I not know. – Trust Turbulence

I’m not sure that’s so obvious. They may have intended all along for you to know at some point, and that “point” just never seemed to arrive.

Time can slip by quickly when the telling is awkward and the need to tell isn’t pressing.

You have a real and legitimate complaint here, and I am not making excuses for your parents. It’s just mitigation worth considering: A truth like this is strange, because it is at the same time significant (to a person’s history) and inconsequential (to the day-to-day business of your family). That strangeness means it’s possible your parents never meant to be deceptive, but instead were merely stumped.

Even if you’re not convinced there’s any valid reason for their withholding this information, please tell your parents of your discovery, and hear them out anyway. Trust is indeed hard to gain back once it’s lost – however, it can be rebuilt.

And the first step in that rebuilding process is for each party to lay out its facts, motives and feelings to allow the other to draw its own conclusions. It’s a profound act of trust and good faith for each of you to take down your walls, come what may.