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Dear Mary: She doesn't know the man she's dating could be her half-brother

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Illustration: Tom Halliday

Illustration: Tom Halliday

Illustration: Tom Halliday

This is the only letter that I have written in 40 years so you can see I am concerned.

My wife and I have been married for 36 years. When we were married for 16 years my wife had a brief affair with a friend of both of us. She had a baby daughter around that time. That girl is now 20 years old.

I have recently discovered that this girl is in a strong relationship with a son of my wife's lover. This is worrying in that they could be half-sister and half-brother. Can you give me any advice? Also could you advise me as to how I would go about getting my DNA.

Please help me Mary.

Mary replies: I am very glad that you have written to me and I can fully understand your concern. I wish I had more details than those that you have given me, but I will have to make do with what you have told me. As a result I will have to presume some things, and forgive me if I get them wrong.

Did you bring this girl up as your own daughter? I'm unclear about this. You refer to the girl that your wife gave birth to - let's call her Ann - as if you do not know her. Perhaps she was adopted, or perhaps a relative took care of her.

Has your wife kept up contact with her? Or perhaps she has no idea of the true identity of her mother. She also may or may not know who her father is.

This then makes things all the more difficult as you try to do what is best for everybody.

Have you discussed this with your wife? She is even more directly involved than you as Ann is her daughter regardless of who the father is. A lot depends on whether or not she has kept in touch with Ann, because if she has then she can speak with her. If not then she may not want to confront the truth as to what happened 20 years ago.

This brings me to the father of Ann, if it is not you.

Presumably the friendship that existed between you and this man ended when your wife and he had the affair. But it is one of his sons that is in a relationship with Ann. So surely it would be up to your wife to approach him and ask what should be done. Given the fact that you wrote to me and have asked about DNA I am presuming that you have no access to the internet. When I Googled DNA in Ireland on your behalf a number of companies that do the test came up, and the cost seems to be roughly in the region of €200.

One such company is DNA Ireland. However, because of the current Covid-19 lockdown it states on its website that services have been temporarily suspended until further notice.

But for future reference the address is Vicar's Road, Cork T12 Y0YC, (021) 496 5809. These tests are done with a buccal swab where a sample of your saliva is collected from inside the cheek.

Thanks to the wonders of modern science it will be possible, with DNA testing, to ascertain who is the father of Ann. Naturally Ann will have to be tested and if you do not show up in her DNA then the father of Ann's boyfriend will have to undergo a test also. There is possibly a lot of heartache ahead, depending on who knows what, and it is very sad that the unsuspecting couple may have to pay a heavy price for the actions of their parents many years ago.

It is unfortunate too that you have had to be brought right back to the time of the affair. That cannot have been easy for you.

I hope you have a trusted friend with whom you can speak about all of this, and the emotions that will have come to the fore.

I realise that men can find it very difficult to talk about their emotions and if you don't have a friend to whom you can open up then you could always seek professional help. I know that lots of counsellors are now working online and not face to face, but if as I suspect you are not able to be online that avenue is not open to you. But when we are back in whatever will constitute as 'normal' in our lives you should contact the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy on (01) 230 3536 and ask for the contact number of a counsellor in your area.

Or you may feel it more important to seek relationship counselling for yourself and your wife. Whichever avenue you decide to explore I feel sure it will be a great help to you.

 

You can contact Mary O'Conor anonymously by visiting www.dearmary.ie or email her at dearmary@independent.ie or write c/o 27-32 Talbot St, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O'Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately

Sunday Independent