I am thirty-seven, happily married for twelve years, and have two children that I adore. A few months ago I found out that I have an eighteen-year-old daughter. She searched for me and got a court order for a paternity test, which is how my wife found out about it.

I don’t feel anything for the girl because I didn’t even know that she existed: she is a complete stranger. But this has caused a rupture in my marriage. My wife doesn’t trust me anymore because I didn’t tell her after I found out.

I don’t want to lose my family and I don’t know how to handle this situation, as my wife is very uncomfortable with it. She married a man with no responsibilities, and now this has come to light. What should I do about the girl?

Dear Friend,

When we do the math based on the information, you must have been nineteen years old when you had some sort of sexual relationship with the girl’s mother. You married your wife six years later and probably did not tell her about your previous sexual relationship. However, you lead us to believe that your wife is uncomfortable because of the responsibility and not because of the other relationship.

The unspoken part of your story is that the girl’s mother chose to never bother you for eighteen years. She never asked you for child support, nor did she try to interfere with your marriage. She obviously knew that you were the girl’s father because she eventually told the girl who you were, but she chose not to do anything about it while your daughter was still a child.

However convenient it was for you to not know about your daughter for the past eighteen years, it was not good for her. She grew up not knowing her father, and it obviously left a vacuum in her life, which is why she wants to know you now. She is an adult, so your wife does not have to fear child support or financial obligations. Legally, any financial help for her now would be voluntary.

The fact that you kept the secret from your wife after you found out is not your daughter’s fault; it is your fault. You chose to keep the secret, so it will take awhile for your wife to trust you again. However, this really has nothing to do with your daughter.

You say that she is a stranger, but you are forgetting that she has your genes. She is like you in many ways even though she doesn’t know you. But she wants to know you, and for you to reject her would be to turn insult into injury. Whether you can help her financially or not, we beg you to accept her into your family, unless or until she does something to deserve rejection.

Please see a professional counselor and get help for how you and your wife should handle the next steps. Ask your wife for her forgiveness, and also ask God to forgive you. Our Heavenly Father cares about your family and about your daughter. Ask Him to guide you and to give you wisdom.

We wish you the best,