Hi, Carolyn: I’m writing to you because I don’t know who else to ask. My wife and I have been happily married for six years. We have a beautiful daughter, age 2. For about the past six months I have suspected my daughter isn’t really “mine.” I have never suspected my wife of cheating on me, but for a number of reasons I cannot quiet my suspicions about the baby. I have not confronted my wife because I know that might devastate our marriage. But I have to know. What should I do? – Suspicious
Give careful thought, please, to what you “have to” know. When just seeking the truth could change your life in dramatic and irreversible ways, it’s best to start not by actually doing something, but instead by inviting each possible truth into your imagination as fact.
That way, you can figure out the way you want your life to look before you start saying things you might regret. If your life were a physical structure, this would be the “blueprint before sledgehammer” approach.
If your “number of reasons” point to infidelity, for example, then you need to imagine the worst, and assume your wife did cheat – Imaginary Scenario 1 – and then you need to decide whether you’d want to stay in the marriage or leave.
If the answer is to stay (Scenario 1a), then you need to ask yourself, is that outcome better served by not digging into the past? If the answer is to leave (1b), are you ready to challenge your paternity – or have it challenged by your at-that-point-estranged wife?
If on the other hand your suspicions are based solely on your child’s appearance, then you need to ask yourself if you’re being irrational; genes are a lot more complicated than the “She has a cleft chin and therefore can’t be mine” parlor games would suggest.
But let’s say instead you have an unshakeable gut instinct that this is someone else’s child. If you’re right, then the percentages would be obviously (and heavily) in favor of infidelity, which loops you back to Scenario 1.
Still, you can’t entirely rule out the rarer than rare, yet not unprecedented, hospital error – Scenario 2 – so you also have to imagine your way through to the conclusion of a different worst-case altogether: If the baby turns out to be neither your nor your wife’s biological child, would you still love this baby? Want to raise her? Want to find your biological child and switch?
In other words, would it make a difference if this were error versus deception?
If you decide you’d want this child no matter what, then the question becomes, again, why you’d want to risk everything to scratch even a torturous itch.
And finally: What if you started digging, wrecked your marriage, and learned your daughter is “yours”?
I urge you to imagine your way down every painful avenue here, best cases as well as worst. Then, once you’ve figured out what you can live with emotionally, please, if you’re considering any action at all, have a lawyer vet it legally. Only then can you be confident whether truth-seeking serves your interests – and your family’s – or smashes them to bits.
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