I may have opened Pandora's box
I have a problem that is rather layered but I will try and condense it. I developed a hobby of genealogy a year or so ago after doing a 23 and me DNA test. I found it to be fun tracing my roots and I was constantly talking with my significant other about what cool things I was finding out.
He was raised by a single mom who hadn't maintained any family ties. His mother had left the father portion of his birth certificate blank and actually gave him the last name of her ex husband because that was the last name of her other children and what she was going by at the time. She always assured my partner that her last husband, who died in a car accident when my partner was 3, was his father , that they just had a falling out right before he was born and that was why he wasn't on the birth certificate, and that man was 100% Italian. Privately he has always gone by this man's last name and identified as mostly Italian and he has wanted for years to make it legally official and get his last name corrected.
His mother passed away in 2016 and she was ALL he had in terms of family.
Because of all of the success I had in connecting with lost branches of my own family in the last few years, I thought it would be a great gift to get him a DNA test and trace his roots for him too. In my naive thinking, I thought if I can confirm a cousin on his dad's side that would make the process of his name change easier in the courts . Maybe they would even be willing to foster a relationship and help my love fill in some of the gaps in his own identity because even though he's over 40, he struggles with his identity and having grown up fatherless. My gift to him for Christmas was a 23and me test and he registered the results to me because he is not tech savvy and making the connections is my jam.
I have been in damage control mode ever since. I opened the results before he did, since he authorized me to do so, and he is a very very negligible % Italian. He is actually more Norwegian than anything else..which means the man his mother told him was his father is NOT his father. That was confirmed for me when I reviewed his matches and he actually does have a half sister/aunt match with a completely different surname. I had already done parts of the family tree of the man he thought was his father and I'm fairly certain that man was not adopted and they were in fact very Italian.
I did plan out a non hectic day and I casually mentioned his results were in. I opened them and he looked at them with me, but I couldn't bring myself to point out or talk about what I felt was the truth. He was pretty taken aback by the results, he made a comment about his identity being so strongly Italian and he's not that at all so….I just feel so bad. I sort of justified the results away like…"maybe this overlap with Italy that is showing up as Iberian is your dad connection, or you probably got a bigger portion from your mom's side". And he just left it at that.
I have continued to work at trying to identify his biological father, but it's been a few weeks and we haven't addressed the elephant in the room. He did not have a very easy upbringing, developed severe substance abuse issues, but has been sober off and on for the past 5 years or so and he is rather….emotionally sensitive and prone to bottling stuff up and then disaster spiraling. I just don't know how I should handle this now. I can tell he has kinda put 2 and 2 together in his own head and it is bothering him. It is coming out in underhanded ways and comments like him choosing a Viking cruise line to write about for his college English paper and absolutely destroying his office when he "couldn't think of what to write", or him making pasta for dinner and making some sort of comment about not having justification for how much he likes pasta cause he's not Italian. My love is also very sensitive to perceived rejection and all of the potential father candidates were married at the time of his conception...which means opening a whole can of worms for THAT family and exposing secrets some probably don't want exposed so they may not acknowledge, or respond and reject him. He also has some borderline personality tendencies and it gets really….hairy when he is confronted with perceived rejection... I don't want to come out with what I think until I've got actual answers for him or have identified his actual father and at least contacted him to see if he's open to connecting. I just don't even know if I'm doing the right things. Should I just put it all down, walk away , and never speak of it again? Should I come out full disclosure immediately on what I SUSPECT to be true currently? I can understand from a personal point of a woman and having been a young single mom myself, why his mother was not upfront with him but I do worry he will go down a whole other rabbit hole of anger toward her... any advice on how I should proceed??
You need to ask him what he wants to do.
He may sense that all this is SO much more important to you than to him.
Back off on any discussion of ethnicity. He is his own person and responsible for his own actions.
Find another hobby.
Hi and thank you for sharing this difficult situation. Something to keep in mind, conflict is either acted out or talked out, both are hard situations. We must choose our hard. Reading your post, it sounds as though your intentions were good and you wanted your partner to find the same joy you found when researching your family tree. Your intentions seem noble. Unfortunately, his results carried a very different story which sounds to have resulted in pain, sorrow, and maybe even some regret. He might even be a little upset with you for the gift. When we get upset, we tend to direct our anger in many directions and blame as many as possible. You may consider letting him know you sense he is carrying some strong feelings around concerning the results and you would like to listen to how he is feeling because you care about him. When someone opens up and begins to talk with us, the best thing we can do is listen and be present with them. Listening is not only remaining silent while they share but also repeating back what we are hearing them say so that they know they are being heard. Listening to others lets them know we care about how they are feeling. All of this is assuming trust is already foundational in the relationship.
We are called to carry one another's burdens and this situation seems to be an enormous emotional burden on your partner. Prayers for guidance, courage, comfort, and peace as you seek to help your partner gain understanding, perspective, and healing in this difficult time. Please respond back and let us know how things turn out for you both. God bless.
SunBeams- Thank you so much for your thoughtful and helpful reply. You reminded me there IS a strong amount of trust and a very deep bond between us. I think I just needed to wait until it was the right time to breach the subject. Timing can be everything with us, I have learned over our 14 years together.
In a lull of schoolwork and housework this weekend we sat down to talk and he brought up the topic of needing to get his and his son's last names changed, so the conversation did come up again rather organically. This whole thing runs so deep it seems Karma-tic ( he just found out a few years ago he had an 11 year old son(he's 13 now) that the mother had given him the last name of her husband at the time also not knowing my love was the actual father..but that's a whole other layer of this...)
I was a bit wrong about the fact that my love had suspected the truth. He had not made that connection after seeing his results, so his mind was a little blown, but I was able to gently guide him into what I suspected to be true and point out the family I did think he was connected to based on the DNA. He was shocked, BUT he was also quite hopeful and felt like this was actually great news. He never did have a chance to have a father, since the man he knew as such died when my love was only 3 - so if there is even the SLIGHTEST chance his bio dad is actually still alive and may not know about him- he sees that as a good thing. I asked him very plainly if he wanted me to continue to dig and see if I can narrow it down via genealogy, research, outreach, etc. and he gave me resounding YES. Please do. We talked a bit about expectations and he said again, it may be hard if his existence opens a can of worms on a secret that someone was hoping wouldn't get out, but even if there is the slightest possibility that his actual father is still alive and they may be able to connect and get to know each other, it is worth it to try and find out. I'm going to carry on my research cautiously and respectfully as I can. Thanks for your kind words Sunbeams