CAROLINE WEST-MEADS: ‘Should I tell them about their half brother?’

I am a man in my 80s and have been worrying recently about something that happened nearly 60 years ago.

I was married to my first wife for 20 years but we divorced when our daughters were in their late teens. 

Before we got married, she told me that she’d had a baby boy when she was 18, but was sent away to London for the birth and forced to have him adopted. It was the 1960s, when this was common practice.

At 18, my ex-wife was forced to have her baby son adopted 

I don’t know if she ever told our daughters about it. They are now in their 50s, with adult children of their own, and if they know they have never said anything to me. 

I confided in my mother soon after my marriage and my second wife is also aware – we married over 30 years ago and have a daughter and grandchildren together. Sadly, my ex-wife died four years ago. 

My daughters remain close to her sister, their aunt, who knows about the past, but I don’t know whether she has told them anything. I’m not sure what to do. Should I talk to them?

A It is sad that you and your first wife never felt able to have this discussion with your daughters, and I wonder if it was because she carried a burden of unwarranted shame. As you know, her story is just one of tens of thousands in a tragic legacy of young mothers forced to give up their babies for adoption from the 1950s to the mid-1970s.   

Often, the women – sometimes still really children themselves – were taken far from home and forced to give birth without family support or antenatal care. The emphasis was on hiding something seen as shameful rather than offering support to the mother and baby.

I wonder why it is haunting you so much now. Perhaps with your late wife’s death and your advancing years, you are thinking about your own mortality and realise that if you don’t tell your daughters, this story will die with you.

In life in general, more problems arise by not talking about things rather than the reverse – and my initial inclination is that your daughters should know. 

In life more problems arise by not talking about things 

However, a word of caution. Although they are old enough to cope emotionally, your daughters might be upset that their mother never told them about their half-brother, especially as she is no longer alive to answer their questions. There is also the half-brother to consider. 

While it can be wonderful to trace an adopted sibling, things don’t always work out. If he was put into care or has had a difficult life, he might feel resentment towards the daughters that his mum raised. 

So, firstly, talk to your wife about it all, but also contact, a charity that supports those affected by adoption, to talk things through and to help you decide the best course of action. If you get on well with your late ex-wife’s sister, it would also be  a good idea to get her thoughts.

 He’s unsure whether to return to his ex

Q I’m a divorcée of five years and recently met a lovely man. Things were going well until he dropped the bombshell that his ex-wife was begging him to come back. He says he doesn’t love her – and that he loves me – but he finds it difficult during the week being away from his children, who are both under 12. 

He has told me they miss him being around, too, and that his ex isn’t coping well without him. He has asked if we can stop seeing each other for a few months while he decides. Should I give him time or walk away?

A The hardest thing for divorced parents is only seeing their children part-time. It is the reason why people often stay in difficult marriages (at least until their kids have left home). 

However, if you agree to this arrangement, you will be in agony while he weighs things up. And even after the few months have gone by, he might well remain undecided.

By saying  she is not coping well without him, his ex is trying to make him responsible for her happiness. If they are truly no longer a couple, then that isn’t his role, while the flip side is that he is clearly kind in not wanting her to be unhappy. 

My concern is that his dilemma could go on for years, if you let it, so you need to talk to him about the pain it causes you. You could give him some time to decide;

I suspect if he went back they might well split up again. However, without telling him, set your own deadline. If, for example, he is Still caught up in the emotional turmoil of his ex’s life in six months, it is time for you to move on. 

Meanwhile, don’t stay at home and wait – go out, have a full social life and keep busy.

If you have a problem, write to Caroline West-Meads at YOU, 9 Derry Street, London W8 5HY, or email You can follow Caroline on X/Twitter @Ask_Caroline.

Caroline reads all your letters but regrets she cannot answer each one personally.

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