Ex-husband's troubled history burdens family
DEAR AMY >> After many years of marriage and two children, my now ex-husband revealed that a few years before he and I met, when he was about 30 years old, he had a “consensual” sexual relationship with his 15-yearold, non-biological niece (his ex-wife's niece).
Everyone in their family found out about it and was upset — but nothing happened.
I was devastated by this information and other serious problems in our marriage, and we divorced. We've been divorced for seven years. Our children are 15 and 17 years old.
My ex and I still live in our hometown and share custody of our children.
I haven't told our kids — or my family — about this event.
I'm living in fear that my kids will find out one day and that they will resent me.
Holding onto this secret has cost me a price, personally. On occasion I look like the “bad guy” in our divorce, which is unfair to me.
I think my ex can still be charged for this crime, and although this is unlikely, it has impacted our lives in other ways.
Should I just live with this and hope for the best?
— Sick of Secrets
DEAR SICK OF SECRETS >> First of all, no sexual relationship with a 15-year-old can be considered “consensual,” because (with a few exceptions depending on the state where this occurred) 15-year-olds are too young to consent.
The age differential between a 30-year-old and a 15-year-old makes this lack of consent more obvious (this is not like two teenagers having a sexual relationship).
If you have any valid reason to suspect, believe, or worry that this behavior might continue (or resurface), then you should notify your children.
But you don't mention having this concern.
You have every right to loathe your ex for this sexual misconduct or for any other reason.
You don't have the right to use your knowledge of this crime to retaliate against your ex-husband now.
And so you have to question your own motivation.
Based on the way you've framed this, you seem worried that your kids might have too high an opinion of their father — when you believe that he doesn't deserve it. In fact, he might not deserve it. But he is their father. Familial love is not balanced. Children do love undeserving parents.
If your ex-husband lies to your children about you or unfairly casts you as “the bad guy,” you should immediately correct the record.
Otherwise, this is not your secret. It's his. If the victim ever chooses to come forward, he will be forced to face this.
You worry that if you don't tell your children, they will resent you.
I believe it's more likely that they will resent you if you do tell them, because you would be transferring the burden of this knowledge from yourself onto them.