Dear Amy: A relative contacted me on an ancestry site after learning that we were cousins (most likely first cousins, once removed).
We had no knowledge of each other and excitedly exchanged information about ourselves and our families. Eventually, though, she wanted specific names of male relatives who, presumably, might be her birth father.
She was not adopted and was raised by two parents (presumably, the father who raised her didn't know he was not her biological father).
At that point I explained that I did not feel comfortable giving names and asked if she could speak with her mother about this, however uncomfortable that might be.
I truly felt I'd gone as far as I could, ethically speaking.
My cousins (one of whom might be her biological father) are married, and I had their lives to consider in this genetic search process.
After declining to provide names of family members, I never heard from her again, which grieves me.
Now I'm left wondering: In this age of DNA discoveries, what are our obligations to family members, whether they be known or hidden? What is ethical here? — Curious Cousin
Dear Curious: This is a great question, and it — and others like it — are emerging as DNA discoveries unearth family secrets.
I agree with how you've handled this. You chose to register on this site and communicate with this long-lost cousin. Your other relatives have not made the same choice, and you don't have the right to reveal their identities without permission.
You could force this issue into the open by saying to your relatives: "I have been contacted by a previously unknown cousin through a DNA site. She is eager to reach out to other family members. If you are interested in communicating with her, let me know and I will give you her contact information."
I'm not advocating for this approach, but it is an option that offers your relatives the same choice you have faced.
You could also reach out to your cousin again in order to stay in touch, without changing your own choice about disclosure.
Dear Amy: My co-workers all have children or grandchildren. My husband and I never had children (medical issues).
Most of my friends and co-workers were determined to get out of school, get married and have a baby! Me? I wanted to travel and do things I wanted to do before I got married. And I did!
Having a baby was never on my radar. Oh, I figured I would want a baby one day, but it wasn't a priority.
I'm the type of person where I see dogs that are around me before I see the cute baby. And, please, don't show me a video of your kid learning to run or dancing. No thanks!
My problem is that when my friends talk about babysitting their grandchildren (which I think they do too often — they can't seem to say no to their kids!) my eyes tend to glaze over, and I zone out.
At work when co-workers start talking about their kids or grandkids, I have the same reaction. Usually I just go back to my office.
What is wrong with me? Why don't I like kids? — M
Dear M: I don't know why you don't like kids. I don't assume that you actually dislike human children, but that you are bored by a topic that you don't see as relatable.
Perhaps if you pretended that children were dogs, you could at least feign an interest in them. Maybe not.
There is a high likelihood that I wouldn't be overly interested in your photos from your most recent travel adventure. But if you showed these photos to me, I would politely engage with you, because your travels and your pooches are important to you.
Friendship and collegiality confer a certain amount of benign politeness. You might not be overly interested in a friend or colleague's golf game, her kids' soccer score, or her grandbaby's first steps, but a nod and a smile are all that is required; then you can go back to your office.
Dear Amy: Thank you, thank you for your response to "Tightrope Walker," whose co-worker had survived a suicide attempt.
Yes, after a crisis, it is such a relief to interact with people in a "normal" capacity. Not directly addressing the crisis isn't being in denial. It is demonstrating that you see the survivor as more than their illness. — Been There
Dear Been There: Re-entry is so hard after a personal crisis. Thank you for your wisdom.