“When is the Right Time to Tell Someone How I Was Conceived?”

From the forums:

(TW: rape; suicide)

“For reference, I’m a 27-year-old male. I was raised by my biological mother and her parents. My mom was very candid with me about everything. I grew up knowing I was created against her will, but she kept me anyway, which I will always be grateful for because I really loved my mom. But the rape ruined her entire life completely and she struggled greatly. She took her life when I was 12 years old.

Now, let’s get into the issue I’m here for. I’m very self-conscious about what I am. I look a lot like the rapist and my mother always talked about the “power of genes” and I’m fully aware of the fact that I’ll always have these bad genes. It’s something that always scared me but also motivated me to be a better version of myself every day.

When it comes to dating, the last thing I want to do is to trick some innocent girl into bed without her knowing who I am. In high school, I started dating this amazing girl who seemed really into me at first. She was new at the school and didn’t really know who I was, but since it was a small town, she found out eventually. It was really difficult for her to continue dating me. She even regretted the time we spent together and the fact that we lost our virginity to each other.

So, in order to avoid this happening again, I like to come clean to anyone I’m dating about who I am before we go to bed together. This sometimes results into long dating without sex, which makes some feel restless or think that I’m not attracted to them just because I wait too long.

I’ve been dating this girl I work with for a month now. She’s been dropping hints about sex, but I have made it very clear that it’s best we get to know each other very well before we go to bed. I really think she and I could have a future together and I want to give her everything, but I also want her to know who I am and for her to decide for herself so she won’t regret anything. At the same time, I don’t want to scare her away with such a horrifying secret, and I’d like for her to know me more before she learns about my genes.

How long do you think I should wait before I tell her?” — Dating Someone New

You deserved to have been assured at every opportunity how separate you are from your biological father and how little his genes have to do with who you are. His only contribution to who you are is some DNA, and that’s not what makes a person. You are not denying anyone the totality of who you are as a person by withholding details of your conception. It has nothing to do with who you are, and it’s no one else’s business; you’re under zero obligation to share this information – not before you have sex with someone and not after. The girlfriend who left you after you told her and who said that you should have told her sooner was cruel and immature and showed a poor level of empathy, even for a high school kid. I’m sorry that happened to you.

If you want to give women a reason for waiting a while for sex, you can address the topic without sharing such intimate family details early on. This is ultimately a trust issue and you can say: “I know I may wait longer than you might expect or want, but please know it isn’t because I don’t want it. But building up trust first is really important to me and I’m enjoying doing that with you.” Not only would any woman you’d want to date seriously understand and appreciate it, but also I think it would even turn many of them on.

I would not share the details of your conception until you have lots and lots of trust built with someone first. I don’t know how long that would take. I would think at least a few months. It might not happen until long after you have sex. It doesn’t matter – it’s entirely your decision about when or even whether to share this information, and having sex should not be contingent on it.

You’re right to think that sharing the details of your conception this early on could scare someone off, but maybe not for the reason you think. It’s not because of your genes but because sharing something so intimate and personal before trust is built-up is a little bit of a red flag. It comes across as desiring to push the relationship forward at an accelerated pace, and that can be a turn-off to a lot of people – especially well-adjusted ones.

If it’s in your budget, I would highly recommend working through all of this, including your mother’s death, with a professional counselor or therapist. There’s a lot to unpack, and so much of it is related to your perception of yourself and how you identify. Getting a tighter grip on those things will make you more attractive to potential partners and better-equipped to navigate and foster healthy relationships going forward.

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


  1. You are under no obligation to reveal this. Genes do have some influence upon who we are but are not determinative. How you describe yourself and your worries are strong evidence that you are not going to become your ‘not really father’ as a criminal and rapist. You did not inherit his character or responsibility for his crime. I hope you are no longer living in the small town of your birth.

  2. CanadaGoose says:

    This is not your shame to bear and I feel terrible for you that you’ve been made to feel that way. You are innocent and some DNA is not going to change that. Your mother should not have shared that information with you at all, and certainly not as a young child. What a burden to place on you. Despite her ordeal, she would have had other issues with her mental health beyond that to drive her to take her life. How tragic for you both.

    I too am a product of a non-consensual encounter. I didn’t learn of it until I was an adult but it has never even occurred to me until reading this that I should in any way feel like some kind of bad seed who I should warn people about. Sure, share your childhood loss when and if you are ready but not as a warning that you might flip a switch and become a rapist. That is just not going to happen. I agree with Wendy’s therapy suggestion if you can manage it, and honestly, just forget about it. Obviously you won’t forget forget but you have nothing to make up for, no reason to warn people off you, nothing. You have done nothing wrong. Be free of this mental and emotional burden. It is not yours to bear. It never was. I wish you much happiness.

  3. “Who you are” is not shaped by a biological father who you never knew. “The power of genes” says more about your mother’s struggles with her ordeal, her difficulty to cope with her own life, than about who you are yourself. Really, this is so alienating for you to identify with this rejection due to someone else, who you are not. You are not guilty of anything, it is not your fault and you are not supposed to share such a burden of self-hate for a crime you didn’t commit. You are an innocent young man, deprived of a father and a mother. This is your reality, not the violence that you didn’t inflict, who you are a victim of, as well as your mother. Forgive yourself and allow yourself to love and date.

  4. Avatar photo meadowphoenix says:

    OP, I think you have been greatly impacted by the way your mother raised you. You seem to think it was protective, but I think you should consider that your mother was in a state of grief that meant she could not give to you the care, respect, and love that she was obliged to give. I second Wendy’s advice that you talk with a professional who can help you unpack that, because you are no more your bio-father than your mother. You can only live with how their choices affected you, an innocent, who had nothing to do with it. Nothing about the choices either one of your parents made can be inherited, and if anything, you should try to only approach those partners who have shown they deserve the intimacy and trust that sharing this story requires.

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