Hello, world. My name's Stephen LaConte, and this is Hey Stephen — a cozy little corner of the internet where BuzzFeed readers like you can DM me for advice.
Today, we've got this woman, who recently took a DNA test and stumbled upon a shocking family secret: She has an aunt she's never heard of before, and has deduced that her grandfather likely had an affair. Should she tell her family what she's discovered, or keep it a secret? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:
Y'know, I'll occasionally see a commenter on this column claim that a question I've chosen is too easy — that there's a clear right and wrong to the situation at hand, and the DM'er shouldn't need anyone's help to see the answer. So, this one's for all of those readers out there who want a REAL sticky problem to solve. This one's complicated. There's nuance. There's a gray area. There's subjectivity. Are ya happy now, commenters?!
And because there really isn't a one-size-fits-all answer to this question, I won't try to give you one. I think that would be unfair of me; I don't have nearly enough information about your family to foresee the possible consequences of speaking out versus staying silent. Much of this will depend on your family's unique dynamics and circumstances, and your relationships to the key players involved. So, instead of giving you one singular path forward, let's make this a choose-your-own-adventure advice column! I'm going to ask you four key questions that I think should unlock the answer that's right for you. Ready? Here we go.
Question #1: How certain are you of the information you've uncovered? Do you have concrete evidence that this woman is definitely, indisputably, unquestionably your aunt? Mail-in DNA tests like 23andMe can connect you to people who are likely a close relative, but usually, more testing would need to be done in order to establish an exact relationship. Is it possible this woman could actually be a cousin of some sort? If there's any ambiguity as to how this woman is related to you, don't jump to conclusions just yet. Instead, you might choose to present all the information you do have to your family, and try to solve this mystery together. If there is shocking news to break here, let science do it instead of you.
Question #2: What's your relationship like with your father? He would presumably be the first person you'd bring this information to, if anyone. Let's say the two of you have a talk-every-day, tell-each-other-everything kind of dynamic. Well, then I think it would be difficult for you to withhold something this major from him — it would likely weigh heavily on you, driving a wedge in an otherwise healthy, trusting relationship. But on the other hand, maybe you two aren't particularly close. Moreover, maybe there are reasons you're not close — maybe he's the kind of person you need to keep at a healthy distance for your own wellbeing. If that's the case here, silence is a valid option. Your personal comfort in revealing this information matters a lot; can you have tough conversations with your dad, safely?
Question #3: Have you spoken to this woman? And if not, what would you do if she reached out to you tomorrow? I'm assuming she has access to the same information that you do, and if she is indeed your aunt, it's possible she'll contact you in hopes of learning more about her paternal side of the family. If you think there's any chance you're going to communicate with this person — or if you already are messaging with her — that's a solid point in the direction of telling your family. It's one thing to withhold from them that you got a strange result from 23andMe and decided not to pursue it further. It's quite another thing to withhold from them that you're chatting with the half-sister they don't even know exists.
And finally, question #4: Do you think your grandfather would want to know about this? In your DM, you only mention the possibility of telling your family this news after he passes. Is there a reason for that? Based on the limited information that you have, your grandfather might not even know that he has this other daughter out there. Would he want the opportunity to reach out to her? If so, maybe it's worth making this connection sooner rather than later. Perhaps you have good reason to wait — maybe he has a serious health issue going on, or a history of abusive behavior that you're trying to keep at bay, etc. — but just remember that once your grandfather is gone, so, too, will be the opportunity to get answers from him. Your family (and especially this possible aunt of yours) may wish to gain some clarity on this situation, which of course, will not be possible if you decide to wait.
So, there you have it: Four key questions to unlock your next move, and they can only be answered by you. Make the call that's right for you, for your relationships, and for your family at large. And if you're so inclined, please write back when you have an update to share — I'm sure our readers will be curious to hear from you. I will be, too. Good luck.
Last week, we heard from this woman, who's hiding a big secret from her boyfriend: She's been meeting up with sugar daddies for extra cash. Her boyfriend knows she used to have this side hustle back in the day, but she promised to give it up when they started dating. Should she tell him that she's still meeting up with these other men or keep it quiet? Here's what she wrote to me, via Instagram:
There's nothing wrong with the work you're doing, but there is something wrong with the way you're going about it. Your boyfriend is under the impression that he's the only person you're having sex with. It's important for him to understand that he is not. And while your partner has no right to dictate what you can and can't do for work, he does have a right to decide whether he wants to be in a non-monogamous relationship. If sugaring is something you want to keep doing, you need a partner who's on board with that. It could impact him, in ways both physical and emotional.
So, let's start with the physical: Your boyfriend needs to know what's going on so he can make informed decisions about his sexual health. It's good that you're using protection with your outside partners, but I can't fully agree with your claim that your actions "would never put him at risk." Condoms reduce your risk of STIs, and they're definitely worth using. But they do not eliminate the risk entirely.
Of course, this is not to say that the sex you're having needs to be feared, judged, or avoided — a lot of sex carries some degree of risk, and it's fine to weigh those risks against the benefits and decide for yourself whether it's worth it. But the emphasis here is on for yourself — you can't make these decisions on behalf of your boyfriend, too. He gets to do his own risk assessment, which requires all the information you are currently withholding from him. And if he decides to stay in the relationship, there might be added precautions he'd want to take moving forward, like using protection in your sex life together, or committing to a routine testing schedule, or establishing some ground rules for safer sex with others.
And then, there are the emotional impacts for your boyfriend in this situation. Even if sugaring is nothing but a job for you, the job still requires going on dates and having (or at least performing) emotional intimacy with another person. Your boyfriend should know that you're chatting with these other people, flirting with them, having sex with them, forming some sort of an ongoing relationship with them. He's allowed to decide whether he's comfortable having a partner whose work involves going on dates with other people. If you don't let him make that decision for himself, you're opening him up to some inevitable devastation down the line.
Having said all that, I think you have two options for how to proceed here:
Option 1: If you want to keep sugaring, you should explain to your boyfriend what's been going on, and ask if he's willing to stay in the relationship with the understanding that you are going to continue that work. Of course, your ask here is going to be complicated by the fact that you've been doing it behind his back this whole time, despite assuring him that you were not. That may be too big a betrayal for him to get past. But if you can explain what this work means to you (financial freedom), and also what it doesn't mean to you (having genuine romantic connections with other people), then maybe he can get on board with it. And if he can't, at least you won't have to keep this part of your life a secret anymore, and you'll be free to find a partner who's perfectly fine with it. That sounds like a happier existence to me.
Option 2: If you don't want to keep sugaring, well, I still think you should tell your boyfriend what's been going on, because he has a right to know. But you should also stop sugaring! There's nothing wrong with having a sugar daddy, but ideally, that's an arrangement you enter enthusiastically, not under duress. And it sounds like the source of your financial strain here is that you're splitting expenses 50/50 with a partner who makes significantly more than you. Would he be open to splitting bills in a way that's proportional to your incomes instead? You've already moved and changed jobs to be with this guy; it seems reasonable that he pay more right now to ease the transition.
Although...just like in Option 1, this request will inevitably be muddied when it's paired with your admission of guilt. It will be hard to pack "I've been sleeping with other people" and "Would you mind covering more of the rent?" into the same conversation. Again, it is certainly possible that the deceit of the past six months will be too much for him to overcome. But having an honest dialogue about the difficult financial situation you're in right now — and the sugaring work that it led you to — seems like a healthier way to proceed than continuing to sneak around behind his back.
I'll end this with a small-but-important disclaimer to everything I've written above: People who do sex work of any kind often face higher rates of violence and abuse, even from their own significant others. It's not always safe to come forward about this stuff, and sometimes, secrecy is vital for protection. In my advice, I've suggested telling your boyfriend the truth, in part because he knows your history with sugaring and (unless you've left something out of your story) he did not respond in an abusive manner. As far as I can see, there aren't any red flags in your DM that telling him would put you in danger of anything worse than possibly getting dumped.
But if I'm wrong about that — if you think there's any chance that telling him would cause him to have a violent reaction — then ignore my advice. He has a right to be upset about the deceit, to be sure, but he has no right to harm you over it. If that's a possibility, focus on getting out of that relationship ASAP, and do whatever you need to do to make it happen. Honesty is important, and I'll always advocate for it when I can, but it is not as important as your safety. I hope this disclaimer doesn't apply to you, but it felt worth mentioning for you or anyone else who might be reading this. Good luck.
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