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Take My Advice: All in the Family?

When I was a baby my parents divorced and my dad moved across the country and started a new family. He totally cut us off–we had no contact with him growing up, or with anyone on his side of the family tree. Fast forward to now. I met an amazing guy, we have the same weird sense of humor, like the same things–basically we’re a great match. We’ve been together a couple months and we’re in love…and after a lot of long conversations and some digging around facebook, I’m afraid he might be my first cousin. I don’t have proof, and I haven’t talked to him about it yet, but the snippets line up–he grew up near where I think my dad’s family was living, and I know my dad had a sister with kids. Should I tell him? Should I tell my mom? I’m freaking out that I might be inadvertently on the path to inbred babies.

-Inadvertent Incest

Back the train up a minute before all those “ifs” throw you off the rails.

You have what sounds like very circumstantial evidence of something that’s only theoretically problematic. Why only theoretically? Because whether or not you share once-removed genes with this guy, you share nothing else–no family history, no knowledge of each other until you met and swooned, no secret perverse desires better suited to a “Flowers in the Attic” adaptation. Your dad essentially cut these people out of your life before you even had a memory of him, let alone them, so to you, they’re strangers. The real taboo with incest isn’t just how many genes you share, it’s the idea that you’re transgressing what certain types of relationships should be.

Yes, there are bigger, more hemophiliac concerns than that, but the ick factor isn’t genetic, it’s about the knowing transgression.

But now that you have this in your head, you’re not going to get it out by just saying “whelp, no big!” So tell the guy what you’re thinking, and ask your mom for more detailed information about your dad’s family (I’m assuming you don’t know anything very definite, otherwise you wouldn’t THINK he was your cousin, you’d KNOW).

Then make your decision based on what you learn. If your fears are confirmed, I’d suggest you cut things off now, because it will cast a cloud over your relationship, and you’ll always feel like you have something to apologize for.

Also, flipper babies.

If that happens, before you go back out on the market, spend some time on Ancestry.com.

Posted to Commentary, help