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Ask Amy: My family is trying to keep me a secret. I want the truth to come out.

Ask Amy: My family is trying to keep me a secret. I want the truth to come out.

Dear Amy: Five years ago, late in life, I learned that I was adopted.

My birth parents and adoptive parents have died.

“Janice,” my birth mother, moved out of state to give birth to me, telling only her siblings and a few close friends.

The biological cousins I’ve located were aware of my birth because of whispered conversations but never spoke directly to Janice about it.

My birth family has been extremely warm and welcoming. Despite this, they say they don’t want anyone who might have known Janice to find out about my existence, because they believe that is what Janice would have wanted.

I understand wanting to honor her wishes, but I do exist, and the family’s wanting to keep me a secret makes me feel like my birth is shameful.

Furthermore, these family members are ignoring the fact that Janice never wanted them to know about me, either, and yet they are happy to have a relationship with me.

Similarly, my half-brother from my birth father (“Henry”) doesn’t want me contacting Henry’s widow (his stepmother), whom he hasn’t told about me. He believes it would upset her too much to learn that Henry gave up a baby some 30 years before they met.

Speaking with people my birth parents knew might give me perspective on their feelings. I believe this would give me some closure.

I feel I deserve to be acknowledged for who I am and how I came to be.

Am I out of line in wanting to reach out to people who knew my birth parents?

How should I handle this with the family?

– Secret Child

Dear Secret Child: Yes, you do exist, and you have the right to declare your existence in any way that you believe serves your interest.

You do need to understand, however, that your choice might have an impact on your relationship with these family members you’ve recently formed friendships with.

You are trying to piece together a long-ago story regarding two people you’ve never met.

You’ve been denied the dawning awareness, garnered over decades, that people who grow up with their birth families receive. You’re trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle on a sped-up timeline.

My instinct is that you should give this a little more time, visiting in-person with family members as you find your place within this family system. Don’t only visit the past with these people, but work on building a relationship you can all carry with you into the future.

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Your instincts are completely understandable, but even those people raised within birth families carry many questions. My point is that no one is guaranteed closure.

And so I urge patience. If time is closing in on you, then make your choice on a case-by-case basis – with full awareness of the possible consequences.

Dear Amy: I had a longtime friend who has had multiple affairs during her 20-year marriage.

Her husband has found out about each of them but, for whatever reason, chooses to stay with her.

She has claimed that she has affairs, in part, because she has such little respect for a man so cowardly and needy that he doesn’t stand up to her.

When she started her most recent affair, I tried to convey that I would prefer not to hear about it because it made me uncomfortable. (Her husband cried to me about this.)

She said her husband has agreed to it, so it was no different than an open marriage, and that I’m being judgmental.

Our friendship is basically over now, which saddens me.

My question is whether I should have just accepted this relationship, since both parties have apparently agreed to the arrangement. Am I the one in the wrong here for asking that she not discuss this with me?

– Boundary Challenged

Dear Challenged: It isn’t necessary for you to accept your friend’s choices, since your knowledge of them has resulted in you losing all respect for her.

It was reasonable to attempt to establish that you didn’t want to be an audience to episodes that damage your friendship.

This friendship is quite out of balance, which is one reason it has ended.

Dear Amy: “Bewildered Bachelor” insulted a 60-year-old woman by saying, “You look good for 60.”

I am a 91-year-old woman and still offended when someone says, “You look good for 90.”

How bad am I supposed to look?

– Hanging In

Dear Hanging In: Or how good are you supposed to look? We’ll have to ask “Bewildered.”

You can email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068. You can also follow her on Twitter @askingamy or Facebook.

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