Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Stepson Is Obsessed with Learning About His Father”

My wife and I dated in the 80s and broke up in 1986. We both married other people whom we didn’t really love and we both ended up divorced and with each other again several years later. I have two boys from my marriage and she has one from hers. I live in her house with her and her son. Recently, her son has been getting out old pictures from the attic, including his parents’ wedding photos, and looking at them.

My wife’s ex is a druggie and a drunk and we just want him to stay a bad memory. We try to pretend that he never existed, but it’s difficult now. All we want to do is pick up where we left off in ’86 and move forward. How can we tell the boy, who is now 16, that he is not allowed to see his dad for safety reasons? We want to destroy the pictures of him so that the child will not have this example to look at in the future. — Pretending the Past Never Happened

You may want to pretend the past never happened — that you and your wife didn’t break up 27 years ago and have marriages and lives and children with other people — but it did. And those children, who were products of relationships you and your wife may regret, are people. They’re people with hopes and dreams and curiosities and a need to be loved. And what you want to do — erase all signs of where they came from because it makes YOU uncomfortable–is not only incredibly selfish, it’s mind-blowingly cruel.

I don’t know what the custody arrangement is that your wife has with her ex-husband. I don’t even know whether her ex has any desire at all to see his son. But, regardless, there’s a big difference between your stepson visiting his father and looking at some harmless photo of him. Photos do not pose a “safety threat,” if that’s what you’re concerned about.

But we both know that isn’t your biggest worry. You just don’t want the past interfering with the life you’re building with your wife. And that’s just too bad. The past is present. It is present in the three boys you’re raising — the boys you and your wife had with different spouses. And no amount of destroying the evidence is going to change the fact that each of you had experiences and lives and families without the other. It also doesn’t change the fact that you’re together now and you are who you are and you’re able to be the kind of partner for each other that you couldn’t be 27 years ago precisely BECAUSE of the experiences you had when you were apart. So quit trying to pretend the past didn’t happen and embrace where it brought you.

As for your stepson, it’s time for you and your wife to sit down with him and talk to him about where he came from. Answer questions about his father. Tell him about your love story with his mother and how happy you are that, if you two had to be apart for a while to become the people you are now, you are thrilled your separation resulted in three such wonderful sons. When you wish away the past, you’re wishing away your three boys. When you regret that the past happened, you are essentially regretting that your boys were ever born. Is that what you really want? I hope not. And for your boys’ sake, I hope they never feel like it is.

You got what you wanted. You have your wife. You two are back together. Now, quit being so selfish and start thinking about the sons in your life. Your stepson, especially, could use a strong father figure — one who is loving and thoughtful and, most of all, compassionate. Start showing him some compassion. Put your own needs and desires aside and be there for him. He’s obviously looking for answers to something. He’s looking to the past (probably because you and his mom are trying so hard to pretend it never happened, which can only make him curious about what you’re trying to hide). If you’d rather he stay in the present and you’d rather he avoid the same fate as his father, step up and ask him what questions he needs answered. Be open and honest with him. Start guiding him forward through adolescence instead of pretending his past never happened. You say you want to move forward. Well, what’s holding you back?

***************

You can follow me on Facebook here and sign up for my weekly newsletter here.

If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

56 comments… add one
  • avatar

    Sue Jones September 4, 2013, 10:07 am

    LW, you can say to your stepson that his father is no longer in his life because he (biodad) has an illness (mental illness, addiction) that prevents him from being present and able to co-parent. It may be once he turns 18 or 21 that he will want to make contact, and that is his right, but please do due diligence and explain to him that he was not a nice man.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest September 4, 2013, 10:13 am

      I like this, except for saying he was not a nice man. I would just say the first part.

      Great advice from Wendy.

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      • avatar

        oldie September 4, 2013, 11:22 am

        Yes, LBH, you don’t want to say the kid’s mother married a ‘not nice man’ or that his Dad was never nice. Far better to leave it as Wendy did. The guy was fine, the boy’s mother loved him, married him, started a family with him, loved their son with him, then something happened to the guy and he is no longer the man he once was. Late onset of mental illness or drug addiction, whatever, the guy changed and couldn’t recover, mother divorced him to protect her son and herself, and has now built a new loving marriage and family for herself and her son. It is both a far more compassionate story and also has the benefit of likely being far truer. Step-dad’s and his wife’s memory of this guy will forever be fixed on the person he was when wife divorced him. If she always thought of him that way, they never would have been married. Probably she thought of him differently once, because he was different, just as current step-dad must be different or at least be viewed far differently by the kid’s mother, if she is now married to him and they have stayed together for something like 15 years.

        LW seems determined to believe that he and his wife are the same people that they were in ’86, that there was no good reason that they broke up then, and that neither of them really loved the spouses they married and started a family with. That is really serious revisionist thinking. Let’s hope LW has changed since ’86, because if he really married a woman he didn’t love, had two sons with her, then dumped her and his kids to go back to a prior sweetheart, then he really wasn’t that great a guy back then. Let’s hope that the flaws he had, which contributed to a break-up with current wife, a regretted marriage, and a divorce, have been corrected. He seems to think he’s a perfect person, always has been, always will be, and that he just needs to anchor himself and family in the ‘true reality’ of the dead 1986. Truly dumb thinking!

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle September 4, 2013, 11:39 am

        Yeah, I’m with you in regard to everything you brought up in the second paragraph.

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  • mrmidtwenties

    mrmidtwenties September 4, 2013, 10:10 am

    Exactly what Wendy said.

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  • katie

    katie September 4, 2013, 10:12 am

    WWS.

    i identify with this so much, because i know almost nothing about my family. i have my mom and dad and sister, but after that its a blur of lawsuits, suicides, births, affairs, deaths, and lots and lots of drama. i want to know so badly what happened, because i am connected to these people in some way. even though i never met them, they are still genetically my family, and so im curious. that is a natural and normal thing, i think. since ive moved to chicago and been able to see one aunt and uncle (the only ones who will speak to us), ive gotten a little more of the story. it comes in bits and pieces, little stories from my aunt, mostly, while we are washing dishes after dinner or something. i got a good chunk last year when we went through a box of my grandmothers pictures. it just fascinates me so much. i just learned that my other uncle’s son, my cousin, actually lives two freaking blocks away from the aunt and uncle who talk to us. two blocks!

    it is absolutely cruel to withhold this information from your step son, to the point of wanting to destroy the pictures. it borderlines on international laws about stripping someone of their heritage in my opinion. the fact that a grown adult cant even muster the courage to talk about something so simple as a prior marriage is the most ridiculous thing i have ever heard. you are a coward, and currently a very terrible step father. you will continue to be until you change something.

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    • katie

      katie September 4, 2013, 10:19 am

      oh, and i will add that i have a cousin (daughter of the son of the aunt and uncle who talk to us) who’s mother died of alcoholism. she is 10 and knows what happened.

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  • avatar

    starpattern September 4, 2013, 10:13 am

    Seriously. 16 is old enough to be able to understand addiction and why it means his bio father can’t be around. I feel like being open and honest will get y’all a long way here.

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    • avatar

      Sara September 4, 2013, 11:48 am

      I agree that 16 is old enough for this conversation. 16 is also old enough to know that you have a possible genetic vulnerability for addiction. Best to know about your family history as you start experimenting with different substances.

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  • Lindsay

    Lindsay September 4, 2013, 10:13 am

    It’s one thing to be concerned for your stepson’s safety, and another to want to pretend that he doesn’t have a father and destroy all ties to his past. You seem to expect your stepson to have the same feelings toward this man as you do, which is ridiculous because to you, he’s your wife’s ex, and to your stepson, he’s his father. Big difference, right?

    I think this is a situation where you need to branch out and think about others’ feelings, and not just your own. And like Wendy said, your stepson is a PERSON. And people wonder where they came from, wonder about their absent parents and want to know their history.

    So, tell him why it’s unsafe to see his father and why he’s not in the picture, but don’t try to pretend his father doesn’t exist.

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  • avatar

    Taylor September 4, 2013, 10:14 am

    Beautiful advice Wendy!
    Compassion is an underrated virtue.

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  • avatar

    GatorGirl September 4, 2013, 10:16 am

    Just tell him the truth. Good grief.

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    • avatar

      GatorGirl September 4, 2013, 10:21 am

      Also, it’s worth cluing him in on his fathers addiction problems as addiction is often tied to genetics.

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      • bittergaymark

        Bittergaymark September 4, 2013, 3:31 pm

        IF the addiction issues are even real. This whole letter is bullshit, I think. All just convenient excuses, I suspect…

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray September 4, 2013, 11:17 am

      WGGS

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    • avatar

      Beckaleigh September 4, 2013, 12:24 pm

      Agreed! However, the truth needs to come from this kid’s mother and not the step-father. Its a conversation that should be had between just to two of them.

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  • avatar

    kerrycontrary September 4, 2013, 10:16 am

    WWS. I think if the boy is 16 he’s old enough to hear the truth. His biological father has addiction problems and he’s not suitable to be around. The son’s curiosity about his father is perfectly normal. Be there to answer his questions and support his feelings on the subject. He’s at an age where he’s establishing his identity, and he might be going through something similar that a lot of adopted kids go through.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest September 4, 2013, 10:19 am

      And if he does this, odds are the kid will have the answers he wants and may no longer be curious. The longer you hide things, the more curious he will be.

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  • avatar

    TECH September 4, 2013, 10:25 am

    I think the #1 role of a stepparent is to acknowledge and respect the role the biological parent had in the child’s life. Even if the biological parent is a drug addict. Wendy is absolutely right, if you wish the past never happened, you are wishing these children away.
    LW, what you should tell the 16 year old boy is that his biological father has a substance abuse problem. In order to protect his emotional and physical well being, you and his mother have chosen to remain out of contact with him. When he is 18, he can make whatever decision he would like regarding contact with his father.
    A 16 year old would understand that.

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    • avatar

      LT September 5, 2013, 8:29 am

      YES. My family is riddled with step-parents, and the most successful ones have been the ones that were kind and welcoming, but very, very respectful of the actual parents.

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  • BriarRose

    BriarRose September 4, 2013, 10:28 am

    This is just part of being a parent. You have to do things that might make you uncomfortable or maybe even deep down, feel threatened. My daughter has a framed picture of my ex-husband in her room and a Daddy doll in her bed (a doll I ordered for her). She asks questions about him and likes to hear stories about him. That’s just how it is.

    I realize my issues aren’t the same, but I definitely struggled with how to explain to an 8 year old that her parents are divorced because Daddy had some sort of personal crisis, had an emotional affair, decided he didn’t love Mommy, and left. I’m sure as she gets older, she’ll want to revisit my very generic “we grew apart” explanation. And that will have to happen. I’ve always kind of imagined it will be around age 16, and I’ve told myself that will be the time for a more frank discussion. Same for you. Tell him the facts, gently. Trying to keep it all a secret will just drive him more to find out, and perhaps he will rashly reach out to this man, which is what you’re trying to avoid in the first place.

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  • avatar

    ktfran September 4, 2013, 10:32 am

    I’m so glad Wendy answered the way she did. All I thought while reading this letter is WOW. This guy basically wants to tell his stepson that he was miraculously conceived. I mean, come on. Are you kidding me? You’re a grown man, probably in your early 50’s, and you want to pretend that several years never took place? I feel sorry for your stepson.

    Sorry, I have no practical advice except WWS!

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  • Fabelle

    Fabelle September 4, 2013, 10:37 am

    WWS. There are so many things in this letter that are just— no. Not okay. It’s not okay to want to destroy all photographic evidence that your stepson had a father… it’s not okay to wish his existence was simply a bad memory… it’s not okay to pretend the past never happened.

    It’s natural for your stepson to be curious about his bio father, & it’s you (and your wife’s!!) job to explain things to him in a gentle, age-appropriate manner. Yes, this may interfere with your selfish— & frankly deluded?— desire to “pick up where you left off in ’86”, but like Wendy said: “that’s just too bad.” It’s time to step up, here. You can’t eliminate all traces of your stepson’s father while refusing to take on the role yourself.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray September 4, 2013, 10:54 am

    I think now more than ever is the time to be honest about the situation with his bio dad. 16 years old is not too young to know the truth. When he’s 18 he can seek out his bio dad without any issues from you or his mom, and that sounds like it could just end up hurting him more, so I think it’s important to be really open about the subject now and explain why he’s been hidden all these years, but you can’t keep pushing away the truth as if it never happened. And I think he needs to be prepared for if/when he decides to seek out his father himself that it could hurt him a lot, but you can’t stop that from happening, at least not when he’s an adult, which is why it’s really important now to be honest about who his father is, and why he’s not been in his life. But it’s also important not to bash his father because no one wants to hear that about their family, especially one they have never met. It’s so natural to want to know where you came from and who you are, and it’s harmful to push those desires under the carpet. I’m no saying throw all caution to the wind, but starting an open dialogue would be helpful. I’m sure at 16 he can handle a conversation like that.

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  • avatar

    Addie Pray September 4, 2013, 11:17 am

    Perfect response. Nothing left for me to comment, except “perfect response” and “nothing left for me to coment, except ‘perfect response'” and “nothing left for me to comment except, ‘nothing left for me to comment, except ‘perfect response”” …. Also this: point of order: I leave for vacation on Friday so next week will be spotty commenting by me. (Famous last words, I’ll probably comment more frequently since work won’t get in the way of my life!) Ok gotta work byeeeeeee

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  • avatar

    lets_be_honest September 4, 2013, 10:18 am

    Obviously there is a decent age and a gender difference here, but this forum might help you. I was given some great ideas on how to approach my daughter about her biological father.

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    • avatar

      lets_be_honest September 4, 2013, 10:26 am

      Oh, and since I talked to her, aside from a couple questions during that one conversation, she hasn’t asked anything again, even though I made it very clear she could ask any time.

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  • avatar

    You Go Girl September 4, 2013, 11:24 am

    I am the oldest of four children. My father died when I was only four years old, and my youngest sister was only two months old. Four years later, my mother remarried a widower with nine children, and my stepfather adopted us.

    Like the stepson of the LW, I was very curious about my real father. I am also very persistent, and would continue to ask questions about him, but my mother would always become very angry if I asked questions. She would only say bad things about him, and destroyed all his pictures. My youngest sister was very devastated that no pictures exist of her with our father.

    I am now 55, and I have continued to grill my aunts and uncles about my father with mixed success because their descriptions of him are very vague. I now know he was a lawyer who loved to read, and he was not a bum like my mother implied. I was astonished to learn that my father was a Woody Guthrie fan. A few months ago, one of my brothers asked me about our father because I am the only person who remembers him. He has two adopted children, and suddenly realized that he is also adopted and has the same type of questions. Somehow their wedding album survived the purge, and I am going to make him electronic copies of the pictures.

    So I plead with the LW not to erase your son’s past. He wants to know where he came from, and this need to know is perfectly normal. He is old enough to remember his father, and he is naturally curious about why he never visits him. Please be there for him as a father figure, and he will still regard you as his real father. Legally my stepfather is my real father because I was adopted, but I call him my stepfather because he was mean and cruel.

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    • avatar

      Addie Pray September 4, 2013, 11:28 am

      Thanks for sharing your story!

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  • avatar

    lemongrass September 4, 2013, 11:28 am

    This kid will be seriously messed up if you pretend that his bio dad doesn’t exist. Life is messy, families get broken and you can’t just sweep all that under the rug. Explain to the kid that his dad has an illness that prevents him from being a part of his life but that you are all glad that he was once with his mom because you now have him and you hope that you are able to fill that spot in the boys life.

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  • avatar

    Amanda September 4, 2013, 11:35 am

    WWS! LW, I hope that you weren’t serious about destroying pictures of your stepson’s family because that is so fucked up that it’s unfathomable to me. Instead of destroying pictures, why don’t you and your wife grow up instead? You know, act like adults and have a conversation with your stepson about his family, including his father and grandparents, why his father isn’t in his life, etc. Then, let him ask any questions that he may have.

    Also, reality is a far better place to live than Imagination Land. Please consider moving back.

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    • avatar

      KL September 4, 2013, 12:52 pm

      Yeah, the letter reads like the LW is living in soap opera world, where people can just be written out of the plot in the service of the Epic Romance.

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      • Miss MJ

        Miss MJ September 4, 2013, 1:34 pm

        But, but, but…if they loved other people then it’s just not EPIC! I mean, as it reads now, the LW and his wife were In Love, but were separated by Cruel LIfe, and overcame Great Odds such as loveless marriages to other assholes who clearly forced them into both marriage and children, to Find Each Other Again so that they can live in True Happiness for the rest of their days. Except…Evil Stepson has the audacity to threaten their Special Love by daring ask about the Evil Asshole who forced LW’s wife to marry him and bear children instead of accepting his role as Evil Asshole and adapting to the Fucking Fairytale his mother and step-father are trying to live out here.

        This whole letter kind of makes me sick. Also, is anyone else wondering whether this Epic Romance is why one or more of their Loveless Marriages broke up? “We both ended up divorced and with each other again several years later” is pretty vague. And, honestly, that would explain a lot about the bizarre thinking going on here.

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      • avatar

        ktfran September 4, 2013, 2:06 pm

        I totally pictured them “reconnecting” on facebook. Flirting. Having an emotional affair. Ending their marriages. Continuing as scorned friends. Then finally marrying as soon as they thought a sufficient amount of time had passed.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow September 4, 2013, 2:49 pm

        Seriously, What The Fuck. This letter makes me sooo angry. If I was Wendy, I couldn’t have been so nice.

        LW, Wendy called you selfish, and she’s right. Katie called you a coward upthread, and I agree with her too. I will add that your are also an idiot, and your behavior is despicable. I’m sorry that your stepson’s existence taints your Perfect Love Story, but DEAL WITH IT. He’s looking at pictures, for the love of god! If his mother does not want him to see his father for safety reasons, then she can tell him that. Jesus. I have one ex I’d love to wish away into non-existence, but wishing doesn’t change the past. You can’t pretend like the ex doesn’t exist because – NEWSFLASH (hi, bgm!) – you have proof of his existence (and your wife’s relationship with him!!) living under your roof. Get your head out of the sand and treat your stepson with some respect.

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        iwannatalktosampson September 4, 2013, 2:51 pm

        I miss you. And your thoughts.

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      • Fabelle

        Fabelle September 4, 2013, 3:00 pm

        I’m just gonna post this here so I can also say hi to Cats, & miss you <3<3<3

        but was anyone else bothered by the LW's repeated use of "the child", "the boy" , "her son"? I didn't wanna go all lit analysis on it in my original comment on the letter as a whole, but that really bothered me because he seems to be COMPLETELY detached from the idea that this is his ~stepson~, not just a random inconvenience leftover from his wife's other marriage.

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      • iwannatalktosampson

        iwannatalktosampson September 4, 2013, 3:04 pm

        RIGHT? It makes my cold black heart hurt. My mom had more affection and love for the foster children that lived in our house than this guy does for HIS STEPSON. Thank you LW, for keeping the therapy profession alive and well.

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      • Miss MJ

        Miss MJ September 4, 2013, 3:07 pm

        Yeah, but that’s because his stepson IS “just a random inconvenience leftover from his wife’s other marriage” who won’t even do the LW the courtesy of forgetting his father actually exists and instead wants to learn about the man. Obviously, the stepson would eventually be curious about his father, but I wonder how much of the LW and his wife’s apparent self-absorption is driving his need to seek out some other familial tie in his life. Possibly none, but still, the tone of this letter makes me feel for the stepson. At least the LW’s kids don’t have to live with daily reminders that they are more or less an unfortunate accident in their stepfather’s eyes.

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      • CatsMeow

        CatsMeow September 4, 2013, 3:26 pm

        YES, Fabelle! I noticed that too! Every single thing about that letter rubbed me the wrong way.

        Also, y’all missed me? I’m flattered. But I’ve been here all along, haha.

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  • Just Max

    Just Max September 4, 2013, 11:37 am

    WWS.

    I will add one more thing: DO NOT destroy those photos!
    My parents divorced when I was 8; I do not know all the details nor do I have memories from my childhood. Neither do I have mementos from a marriage and family that did exist for 8+ years. Upset and hurt, my mom destroyed dozens and dozens of photos from those years. I have not one photo of any of my parents holding me as a child, or us as a family. Not one. The one and only photo of their wedding is at a distant relative’s house, which I got to see during a vacation trip when I was a teen.
    I cannot express how what my mom did makes me feel. (and I do empathize with the fact that she was upset, betrayed, and or whatever at the time, but can’t see how destroying photos made it any better for her, or us). Please, do not do the same to your stepson.

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  • avatar

    painted_lady September 4, 2013, 11:47 am

    WOW, LW. Something to keep in mind is, as much as you and your wife may want to erase your past, this man ceased to be solely your wife’s past the second she had a son with him. You abdicate the right to cut people out of your life when you have a child with them. Yes, absolutely, cut off physical contact if the parent poses a threat, but you cannot and should not erase the fact that the person existed. That’s beyond fucked up.

    Destroying pictures isn’t going to convince your stepson he never had a father. That’s insane. All it’s going to do is convince him there’s some deep dark mystery he has to solve, and that his parents are controlling assholes who will lie to keep their version of reality intact. It’s going to convince him that he can’t depend on you to tell him his family history and he needs to seek out answers on his own. And very likely, that would mean finding his biodad, alone and without someone to ensure his safety.

    Unless his biodad is legally prohibited from contact with your family, you legally cannot stop your son from finding him. Shy of a lobotomy, you’re not going to erase the desire that’s already there. He’s not your property, he’s not your wife’s property, and his feelings aren’t yours to approve.

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    • avatar

      painted_lady September 4, 2013, 12:17 pm

      Another point, simply because I am flabbergasted at how little empathy for your stepson you have:

      Imagine there were some relationship that your wife didn’t approve of. Say, your sister. And so she tells you she wishes your sister were just a bad memory. She deleted her number from your phone. She refuses to discuss her. Won’t even acknowledge that you have one, and if you keep bringing it up, she says she’s going to cut your sister out of any pictures.

      Don’t you see how crazy/controlling/borderline abusive that is? I know you’re an adult so it’s different, but imagine that your parents had done it to you. Would it matter how dangerous she was? Would that make you stop acknowledging that she ever existed? Would it be okay that someone wanted to completely deny she ever was? It’s not okay. Just because reality is unpleasant, doesn’t mean you get to alter it for the people in your care. It’s not right, and hell, it’s not even *possible.*

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  • avatar

    Lucy September 4, 2013, 11:49 am

    I haven’t read all the comments, but this letter seems fake. If by some chance it’s real, I can’t believe this LW thinks he has the right to destroy photos of his stepson’s father and pretend he doesn’t exist. That level of arrogance is just… incredible. Wow, LW. You (and your wife, assuming she agrees with this insane scheme of yours) need family therapy, like, yesterday. I feel really sorry for your kids.

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  • avatar

    GatorGirl September 4, 2013, 11:58 am

    I am half expecting this LW to come back and defend himself till he’s blue in the face. I’d enjoy a response/update.

    Also curious if the wife is totally on board with this or is just agreeing because it seems “easier”.

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  • bittergaymark

    Bittergaymark September 4, 2013, 12:05 pm

    The destroying photo thing is so decidedly “off” it makes me question the veracity of ALL the LW’s other claims…

    Oh, and for the record? Marrying people you don’t love is not among the actions of a “nice” man. Or “nice” lady. Talk about fucking glass houses, man. I wonder how much be so cruely used and discarded has to do with the exes problems…

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    • avatar

      TECH September 4, 2013, 12:35 pm

      Yeah, when the LW said both he and his wife married people they didn’t love, it seemed way off. What would make more sense is that they fell out of love with the people they married, or they changed their minds, or at one thought they were in love but came to their senses.
      This LW seems completely threatened by the fact that his wife probably did love someone else at one time. He’s threatened by a situation that he willingly walked into.

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      • avatar

        oldie September 4, 2013, 4:00 pm

        To both you and Mark — I think the guy’s telling the truth. He’s just that warped. For some reason, he and his now-wife felt the need to re-invent themselves and bleach away their pasts. Hiding from their pasts is now the most important thing in their world, even if the son has to pay the price for this selfishness.

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      • avatar

        LT September 5, 2013, 9:01 am

        What really gets me about this narrative is that there was a solid decade between the break-up in the 80s and the kid being born. The re-write is pretty extreme- they were apart for a minimum of 11 years and thought having multiple children was a good idea, which is not a drop in the bucket. I’m also disturbed by the fact that his kids don’t seem to factor into this letter at all. Where are they in all this? They obviously get to know his ex-wife, and probably live with her. How would he feel if the ex-wife just up and decided to erase him from their lives?

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  • Imsostartled

    Imsostartled September 4, 2013, 12:42 pm

    Wow! This letter really made me feel bad for the kids. It seems as though you don’t have primary custody of your boys “I live in her house with her and her son. “, but when they are with you do you pretend that their mom doesn’t exist and that their stepmom is their “real” mom? Because with all this crazy talk of burning pictures of your stepsons past it makes me wonder.

    Story time. My father is an alcoholic (he’s been in recovery for ~20 years). When I was 4 this escalated to the point where my mom divorced him and I couldn’t see him because my mom didn’t trust what he would do. I still remember my mom telling me that I should not go with my dad if he ever tried picking me up from pre-school. For 4 years I didn’t see him, from the stories he apparently was homeless at one point, still drank and may have done harder drugs. He was clean for about a year before my mom asked me if I’d like to see him. I was curious at 8 because I had no idea what had happened to him, so I said yes. Fast forward to now, he hasn’t relapsed, is a good man (aside from his addiction) and danced with me at my wedding. (My mom and dad are actually roommates now… but that’s a different story 😛 )

    Anyways the point of that is that I am so grateful to my mom for watching out for me, and when it was safe to see my dad again she let our relationship develop. I would be a much different person if I had never seen my dad again after I was 4. She didn’t sweep the past under the rug and pretend I didn’t have a father, but she did what was best for me. Now I’m sure your stepsons situation is different, and his father very well might be a “bad man”, but it’s his right to know who his father is, and it’s not at all weird that he’s looking at old wedding pictures. I did that when my dad was gone. Many times and I was like 6-8. So please step off your high horse and do what’s best for your stepson.

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    BreezyAM September 4, 2013, 12:43 pm

    As a cautionary tale LW, I encourage you to listen to Wendy. My father and stepmother did what you’re wishing you could do (and seemingly asking Wendy’s advice on how-to do). By the time I was in my late teens, I was running away constantly trying to find my “real family” and in fact I did. I have not spoken to my father’s second wife in 23 years, except for three occasions when I told her I was sorry when her son died at his funeral (I was, and I am a polite person) and a second time when my brother put her on the phone when our grandfather died because he stupidly answered my call in front of her and she demanded to speak to me. Again, I was cordial.

    And I moved out of the country in no small part so my children would never be near her and so I won’t have to pay for her elder care (she resides in a state with filial piety laws). I tried to reverse the adoption (I will never, ever forgive my dad for allowing that) and told the lawyer straight up I’d put a bullet in her before I paid for her elder care.

    Now she was no saint, and she had issues…. but most of the tension in our relationship came directly from her (and my father back then before he got his brain back) trying to erase my mother, part of me. And there was just no reason. She could have been a great stepmom in her own right, or at least decent. She made a competition where there didn’t even need to be one. And yeah, sorry, even if my mom was some horrible person, listening to someone else trash her was not my bag, and never should have been. My mother had numerous, major issues, but my stepmother made her out to be a demon to try to assert herself in the mom role, and that was just unnecessary and showed way more about her, than my actual mother. And my mother was dead. And I should add for years I believed my physical disability was caused due to my mother trying to abort me with a coat hanger (this was 150% untrue, but as a kid, I bought this) and that my mother died due to drug use (also wholly untrue). So despite the fact I believed this completely, I still thought my stepmonster was an epic cunt for telling me this. So just don’t go there. Be your own man and let him know his father is a danger to him, that it was decided by courts. Acknowledge it has to be hard for him. Assure him you know you aren’t his dad but you’re there to love him as much as he will allow you to love him, and even more if he would be willing. There is no reason to get all eraser happy over his bio dad. Nothing you can do will erase the bio dad. He will always be a part of stepson whether or not they talk or even meet. Let your stepson assign you a place and have his OWN relationship, whatever that may be, with his dad or the memory of his dad. Build your own self. To do otherwise will cast YOU as the demon… some might say rightly so.

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  • AKchic_

    AKchic_ September 4, 2013, 12:17 pm

    LW, I have kids with manchildren who are shady and/or drug addicts. I can understand why you and your wife don’t want to even think about the ex, but this is half of who your stepson IS. You cannot deny him the right to know who his biological father is/was. Especially at 16.

    It’s time for your wife to stop acting like her life is a fairy tale and be realistic. Her bad marriage happened. She even has a lifetime souvenir in her son. She needs to sit down and explain to him the circumstances of their meeting, their relationship and why they divorced. He’s old enough to understand. YOU should not be there. Why? You weren’t a part of that relationship and have no business telling it’s story.

    However, YOU can check to see whether or not this guy is still a drug addict or even still alive. Is he in jail? Does he have a criminal record? Some of these things your stepson may want to know.
    If he hasn’t cleaned up yet, a hard rule of “we don’t want you communicating with him while you’re under 18 unless he’s clean” needs to be implemented.

    I would also recommend a counselor that your stepson can talk to. A FAMILY counselor so your wife can discuss her fears about this as well as the son discussing HIS desires. You all may need family counseling if communications between father and son start up.

    My oldest started talking to his stoner father (my son is 13), under my supervision. As predicted, after 3 facebook e-mails, the communication stopped and my son realized that a relationship really isn’t something he can count on and is glad to have my 2nd ex-husband, my 3rd husband, my stepdad and my faux-brother to lean on.

    I will NOT be letting my 2nd son talk to his father. It’s too dangerous (he tried to kill us). The mothers of his other children are in agreement (it’s a common tactic of his during the break-up of a relationship and he uses the children against the women anytime he has anything to do with them).

    Good luck. Remember, this isn’t about you, but about the needs of your stepson. Right now, he is trying to find his identity. Sometimes, that means you need to look to your history to find your future.

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      lets_be_honest September 4, 2013, 12:21 pm

      AK, I was wondering what ever happened with your son talking to his father. Glad your son was given a chance to be able to realize it himself. Such a shame though, but sounds like he’s better off.

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      • AKchic_

        AKchic_ September 5, 2013, 12:23 am

        I figured that because there really wasn’t anything to update on the subject, it wasn’t worth bringing up. I’m happy to answer questions about it. He didn’t reply to any of my messages when I did message him after the initial “do you want to talk to him” Facebook message. I did text him once during Ren Fair to tell him that M was participating and if they went that M was considered a performer and couldn’t be interrupted for personal time and as long as he was in costume, he couldn’t fall out of character. It took him a week to reply back and basically misinterpret my message completely. My message was basically what I just wrote, his was “no problem, we’ll maybe stop by and see him and chat. If not, we’ll get together another time.” *headdesk*

        They haven’t corresponded since the first week of June. Long enough for M to find out he has a younger half-brother and an “adopted” younger sister (new girlfriend’s kid) and that we live in the same general area of town.

        My son didn’t even bother to try to add his biological father as a Facebook friend. I don’t know who I feel more sorry for; my son for not getting any really real relationship with his biological father, or his biological father, who squandered quite possibly the one chance he had at a relationship with a really good kid.
        At the same time, I’m relieved. I didn’t want to have to constantly monitor the relationship, or have to run interference, or have to worry about bad influences from him (Bio-D thinks that being fat and smoking pot are perfectly acceptable lifestyle choices for kids, and encourages poor habits in the older brother when he sees him). I know I’m allowed to be conflicted, but I don’t let my son(s) see that. Outwardly, I am apologetic and sympathetic towards my son for the lack of communication and relationship between the two. It’s what he needs.

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        lets_be_honest September 5, 2013, 9:11 am

        I’m sure you know this, but it sounds like your son is better off. He learned a tough lesson, unfortunately. I’ll never understand how adults can be that way toward their children-or any child. Honestly, it sounds like it worked out for the best.

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  • Heather

    Heather September 4, 2013, 3:05 pm

    The part about this letter that rubs me so badly the wrong way is that the regard for the needs of the stepson take a backseat to LW’s and his wife’s.

    Everyone else has said this, but it needs to be reiterated; LW, this isn’t about you. Do NOT destroy those pictures. Your stepson has every right to want to know about his biological father. Have a discussion with him and treat him like the young adult he is. And do NOT trash or say cruel things about biodad. Discuss his illness with his son with nothing but the utmost respect for the situation.

    You say you want to just start where you and your wife left off 27 years ago. Well guess what? You can’t. Stop trying and stop hindering your stepson based on that selfish reason.

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