As an only child, I sometimes get confused about sibling relationships. It’s like being faced with an unknown language. There’s no way I will ever understand the love, hate, and total weirdness of having a brother or sister. It’s just not there.
So when I read this post on Reddit about a stepbrother and sister having a romantic relationship, my mind exploded. It’s a truly difficult situation for anyone to be in and it brings up all sorts of thorny issues about family relationships, biology, and cultural taboos.
“Some backstory. When my son Nathan was 2, he met a friend in his daycare class, who we’ll call Abby. Her dad, Jack, was one of the only other single parents there as his wife had left after Abby was born. Jack and I bonded over our children and ended up dating for a year and a half before getting married, and we had our daughter Eliza less than a year later. Jack and I always raised all three of our children the same, and though they knew that Nathan had a different dad and Abby had a different mum, we had never thought to question if they saw each other as siblings,” the OP writes.
“Then, last week, Abby and Nathan sat Jack and I down and told us that they had something important to say. Abby started in about how for the past few years [she] and Jack had been in a romantic relationship. She said that it happened after they were both adults, that they had gone to relationship counseling when it first started and that they were seriously thinking about marriage. Nathan then told us that they had admitted to having feelings for each other as teenagers, but had never acted on it because they were afraid of ruining their friendship, hurting each other, and most of all what we would think.”
The OP writes that Jack hugged their children, told them he was sorry for keeping them apart, and that he could “tell how happy they are together.” The OP just got up and left.
“My husband is right, they do look happy together. In fact, I’ve never seen my son or daughter happier. But I just can’t accept this. I haven’t responded to any of their messages or calls, and pretended I wasn’t home when they tried to visit during the day. I’ve been fighting with Jack since this happened, even so far as telling him that if it were my choice they would never have my blessing, and I would put them both in therapy for having incestuous desires.”
The OP and Jack have been fighting ever since, and she knows she is hurting both her children and her husband. But “every time I think about it their whole relationship just makes me sick and angry.”
Jack has been calling the OP a bad mother and comparing Eliza’s sexual identity as a lesbian and her relationship with her girlfriend to Nathan and Abby’s relationship. He has also threatened the OP with divorce.
The OP also added that although Abby and Nathan went to therapy, they did not disclose that they had been raised together: “I just want to say, almost every comment here is referring to Nathan as ‘my son’ and Abby as ‘his girlfriend’. Abby is my daughter. She’s been my daughter since before she could remember, I adopted her, she’s always called me mum and never treated me differently than Eliza or Nathan have.”
“You’re also pointing out that because they aren’t biologically related, it isn’t incest. No, they’re not biologically related, but they are still siblings. They always used to treat each other as brother and sister, and while I wasn’t in their heads I do genuinely believe they saw each other as siblings…they went to relationship counselling, not individual therapy. They never disclosed to the therapist that they were raised as siblings.”
There’s a lot going on here, so let’s see what Redditors had to say about this messy family situation.
“They are adults and it sounds like they took the correct steps before starting a relationship. if you continue you’ll lose everything, is this a hill you’re willing to die on? Perhaps, you should consider therapy to work through your issues with their relationship. After all, they aren’t biologically related so this isn’t incest. You can’t force them to feel like siblings just because they grew up together,” noted FailurePlayingStereo.
“I’m so so confused over the comments. Nathan and Abby were raised as siblings since they were toddlers and share a sibling not much younger than them. This isn’t a case of you and Jack meeting when your children were all grown, or possibly a much younger sibling they didn’t see much or even living in different houses throughout their childhoods. They were raised as brother and sister, and while they don’t share blood, they do have a sister together. I think your reaction is completely normal and justified,” said actualreallifebear.
“They’ve been raised with each other as siblings since they were two years old, this isn’t as if it was two older children being forced under the same roof, who perhaps might not view each other in the same way biologically related siblings would. They almost certainly won’t remember a time when they weren’t raised together as brother and sister. They are as much siblings as any other brother and sister. All these commenters looking at this through a biological lens are pretty creepy and disgusting, honestly. I don’t give a damn if they’re not biologically related, they’re siblings and siblings should not be fucking each other. OP has every right to object to her two children entering into an intimate relationship,” said SaltireAtheist.
“I completely understand why you are freaked out, but it seems their relationship is there to last…Have you tried going to therapy to see if they can help you seeing it from a different angle? The only other choice seems to be you losing both your children…(your husband is an asshole by how he is reacting and threatening you, your initial reaction is not that unexpected and probably many people would initially be weirded out as well if they were in your shoes),” suggested Lily2404.
“Even if OP did work through it and eventually accepted it, my mind is boggled that the husband was like, ‘yup, this is normal and if you don’t accept this by morning there will be a divorce’… like wtf?? This is weird. This is a lot weirder than actual accidental incest. I have a half brother and stepmom that has been in my life since I was just a bit older than op’s kids. I’d never date my half brother’s sibling/my step sibling, especially if I was raised with them?? Biologically it’s fine and it’s something the family could work through but the couple lied to the therapist which means they absolutely need to go back and do the therapy properly. They might as well not have done it at all,” said angry_ecologist91.
“Your husband is right that you’re not really being a good mother, or person, by just shutting your family out. Still, he is wrong with the way he’s trying to address it, but in the end, both his and your opinion have valid points. As far as your children go, I can only speak about what you’ve said, but it does seem like they have tried to address things at least, and this is a decision that they’ve thought through. Nevertheless, given the emotional familial ties, they should really go to both personal and group therapy (not just couples because you and your husband could benefit from these discussions as well). I don’t really know how you’re aware how much they disclosed at their sessions, but if you’re right, then they negated the emotional ties in therapy so therapy wouldn’t have addressed all the issues that need discussing. A therapist can only help you if they know what they’re helping you with,” said DerridaisDaddy.
What do you think the OP should do in this unusual situation?