Would you want to know?

Here’s a question for you. Imagine you’ve spent years trying to find the love of your life; you’ve dated and fallen in and out of love, but never found that special someone. Then finally you meet someone and you just click; it’s not something you can explain, you just feel an immediate attraction and it’s like you’ve known them all of your life. Soon you know it’s love and you can’t imagine being apart. You get married and start planning to spend the rest of your lives together… and then you discover that you are brother and sister.

That’s the story which has been coming out of Britain over the last few days. It’s so sad and what makes it even sadder is that they’re twins, which is why their connection was so strong. Their birth was normal (not in-vitro) and they were adopted by separate parents and never told that they had a twin. It wasn’t until after they were married that they discovered the truth. Now their marriage has been annulled and it’s sparked debate over whether children should have more access to the identity of their birth parents.

Supposedly this is very rare and you’d hope it is given all of the circumstances that would have to occur, but here’s my question. Imagine you’re in their position, a day before you’re about to hear the truth… would you want to know? If someone offered you the chance to know the truth but you knew it would destroy everything, would you still want to know?

I’ve been wondering about this since I heard the story, and I would. I believe it’s always better to know the truth, even if it’s incredibly painful. But I’ve read a few blogs which haven’t been as sure and honestly I can understand that too. It’s an incestuous relationship and if you knew you’d be repulsed, but for several years they (and you’d hope their families) thought they were a normal couple. It certainly would have been “easier” for them to go on in ignorance, if not “right”.

They must be living in their own kind of hell. To have formed that connection, then suddenly have it broken without the possibility of it being restored… I find that almost unimaginable. Not to mention it’d be impossible to see each other as brother and sister, so they’d actually be losing two relationships… the only good thing is that they didn’t have children. There was a case in Germany where a man served a two-year prison sentence after fathering four children with his sister; they’d been separated at birth.

It’s made me wonder about something else as well, though. Here I’d rather know, but what if I could find out the day I was going to die – is that something I’d want to know? Honestly, I’m not sure… a large part of me says yes; if I knew, I’d have time to say goodbye, time to live my life. But I think as well that I’d be more afraid of death if I knew; I’d know what I was losing, feel time slipping by… I’d rather value each day as it comes and I can only do that by not knowing… just as I’d rather not know if I’m supposed to meet someone, so I can value the relationships on the way.

If there’s one thing I want to take away from this story, it’s that. It’s so easy to take everything we have for granted; our homes, relationships, health… I’d hope something like this wouldn’t happen, but still, one day we might find it all gone. Better to cherish what we have now than have regrets later.

What about you? What would you do? Is there anything you’d rather not know? I’d be interested to find out. πŸ˜‰

15 thoughts on “Would you want to know?

  1. i don’t want to know. perhaps it’s stupid, but in some ways ignorance can be bliss. this is in the case that i would really never ever have to know. i don’t see why not; if i’m never ever going to find out the truth, i will believe the ‘lie.’

    i’d love to know if i would find someone to spend the rest of my life with, except that i don’t believe in ‘destiny’ like that; i think anybody is a potential, whether circumstances allow us to it.

    some things i’d really like to know are why some people in my life left me and who ever had a crush on me, if any. πŸ˜›

    CJ: Interesting, so you’d rather not know. I can understand that; if it’s not going to hurt anyone, and you don’t know the truth, then what are you doing wrong? I suppose the thing is that eventually you’ll probably find out anyway, through a blood test or something. Wouldn’t finding out then be even more painful… especially if you had children?

    And I agree about destiny, I don’t believe in “the one” either… it’d be nice to know if we’d meet someone, but who’s to say that’s the only person we’re compatible with? We might miss out on so many other experiences.

    Crushes would be interesting! Although I acted like an idiot around girls all through high school, so perhaps I’d be better of not knowing what they thought of me! πŸ˜‰

  2. I read that story, CJ, and it blew my mind! But to answer your question directly – yes I would want to know. They are trying to sort out how adopted kids can have better access to their birth parents in the UK – and they do try to keep children in the same family, if it is not possible they do stipulate that the children do have access to each other if they are separated.

    Very sad story – but how many more times has this happened?

    CJ: It’s a very sad story, isn’t it, Will? Almost the kind of thing you’d expect to see in a book, not on the news.

    Hopefully it’ll lead to a change in the laws regarding children’s rights… we need to protect privacy, but it seems incredible that children can be separated or born and never know where they came from… even if it happens to just a few, it’s too many.

    The sad thing is we’ll probably never know just how often it does happen… but it’s probably more often than people want to admit.

  3. Ah, cj, I shouldn’t have visited your blog today, as my computer is away getting repaired (I hope) and my online time is sketchy. But, I had to say something here, as you’ve caught my attention!

    My response to your first question is this–yes I’d want to know if I found myself married to my genetic sibling. However–and I may be alone or weird in this–I don’t know why this situation has to be tragic. I understand that the law would annul their marriage, because, legally, genetic or legally adopted sisters and brothers cannot marry. But–and this is just for consideration; I only want to explore the issue–would a continuing relationship truly be immoral? The people involved were not raised together. They did not know each other as brother and sister. The connections we feel with each other contain many nuances and dimensions.
    This is not necessarily my position, but those who believe in reincarnation often believe that our relationships with other souls change from lifetime to lifetime. A person may be your mother one lifetime; your brother another; your best friend a third. The social and legal conventions around this are to prevent genetic anomalies and social awkwardness, but are they inherently immoral if both parties consent?
    Again, let me emphasize I’m not taking a position, but just asking, as we tend to automatically assume the persons you write about must necessarily part, as they would find it difficult to relate as siblings.

    Let’s look at this from another angle. Social scientists have studied the Kibbutzim in Israel, where children are raised communally. The parents and children do form their own families within the Kibbutz, but, while most of the parents are out working, all the children live and are cared for together. We might think that, as the children from different families know each other well, they might naturally form intimate relationships when grown up. But, they rarely do this. They tend to think of other members of their Kibbutz as family, as siblings. While there is no legal taboo against their marrying, they tend to think it would be strange and unnatural, and, generally are not attracted to each other.
    So, the question arises, as it has many times, is it nature or nurture that forms families?

    I would think that in the couple’s case you reported that they might want to refrain from having natural children, for health reasons, but should they be banned from the love they have found?

    Well, this is probably quite enough for the moment, but I’ll be back to answer your second question. My goodness you’ve got me thinking!

    CJ: You know, it’s interesting but I’ve actually been thinking something similar as well… so you’re definitely not alone, Muse. Part of the reason I wanted to write this was to try out a couple of ideas for a post about taboos I want to write in a few days and this case seems to fall into a grey area. Their relationship is something society would say is “wrong”, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s immoral either.

    My personal feeling is that if they don’t know the full details of their paternity, then they’re just a normal couple. But once they know it becomes more difficult to see them staying together. They’ve lived separate lives, but it would have to change their feelings in some way, create doubt. They’d constantly be rationalising their relationship to outsiders and the pressure would take a toll on them. And not having natural children would take a large commitment; even adopting would be difficult as they’d have to follow the law. Asking each other to forgo a family is a lot to ask, even for love.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s wrong either. It isn’t; perhaps the idea of continuing the relationship is questionable, but if two people consent and take the proper precautions there’s no reason they couldn’t continue. They wouldn’t be hurting anyone and it’s their life to live. I just think that in the end their relationship wouldn’t be sustainable; the pressure of it would work away at their relationship and it would be much harder to break off later.

    For me it’s not that society says they must part, or even that we assume they must; more that the risk of the relationship is too great to endure. And it’s quite possible that what they thought was love in fact wasn’t. Often twins share a special bond; if they’d never known each other, it might have been that bond which drew them together, rather than love. They might not know whether it was love or not unless they were apart for long enough to tell.

    Definitely interesting food for thought, Muse… and to answer your question, I think families are created by a number of factors; nature, necessity, longing, need. Society defines a family as one set thing, but it can be many more… in the end it’s the connection that matters, and if it’s a real connection then the rest should take care of itself. Thanks for commenting; I know how hard it is for you to use the computer right now – I appreciate it, and your thoughts… you’ve given me a few things to think about! As always. πŸ™‚

  4. I would rather know the truth inspite of the heartbreak and pain it would cause. Though I don’t see why such a relationship shouldn’t continue. In India, especially down south, marriages between a girl and her maternal uncle are common. That is a close blood-tie isn’t it? Besides, as Muse said, apart from their blood-ties, the two people in concern did not have a brother-sister relationship. They lived in different families without any knowledge of the other’s existence until they met later.

    CJ: I don’t think it’s as much that the relationship couldn’t (or shouldn’t) continue, but that it couldn’t survive once the truth was known. The amount of pressure it would place on the couple would be tremendous and I can’t see any relationship surviving that. They would be constantly rationalising their relationship to outsiders, feeling like they shouldn’t have to; knowing they shouldn’t have children would also be an obstacle… sometimes love isn’t enough.

    But for whether a relationship would be morally wrong, you’re right, I don’t think it is either. Society might say it is, but they had no pre-existing relationship; they might be blood-related, but they were strangers to each other. If they both consented there’s no reason they couldn’t continue the relationship… it’s just that personally I don’t think it would be sustainable. But then maybe I’m just not a romantic. πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the comment and for sharing your thoughts. πŸ™‚

  5. I forgot to mention this earlier, but isn’t this a bit like the story of Oedipus?

    CJ: Yes, it’s not that unlike Oedipus… although if this was the guy and his mother I’d be really creeped out! It seemed to make Freud happy though. πŸ˜€

  6. I remember having an idea for a story similar to the story of Oedipus some years ago, before I was aware of Oedipus and when I found out about Oedipus I felt like Sophocles pinched my idea.

    CJ: Sounds like you were about 3000 years late, unfortunately. I love Osiris & Isis and I’ve always wanted to do something like that… I look at it as a retelling, which isn’t so bad.

  7. Very strange that WP suddeny logged me out while posting the above comment.

    CJ: WP’s been acting up lately, particularly with comments and avatars. I’ll see if I can change it.

  8. Yeah. Till yesterday, my username wasn’t leading to my blog inspite of me having filled out the Website textbox in my Profile.

    CJ: Yeah, that’s been a bit of a problem lately. Looks like it’s solved now, though. It might have just needed time to update.

  9. Hi CJ!

    Thanks again with the flickr URL help!

    If you read my first blog, you might understand a bit about me. I can relate to β€œI admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.” – E. B. White

    I have always had a difficult time writing.

    Not sure if I would want to know about the day of my death. I will think about it and get back.

    Thanks again πŸ™‚

    CJ: Thanks Lynn! If only more people asking for help in the forums could be as gracious as you. πŸ˜‰

    I’ll have a look at your post in a minute. I just saw the Flickr photos and they look great now. I find writing difficult myself, but the way words can touch someone whatever they’re feeling is an amazing thing… that’s why I love it. And why I love that quote.

    I’m still torn about wanting to know the day I’d die… personally I think I’d settle to know I’d have enough time to say goodbye, to die peacefully, and still be able to live my life.

    Happy blogging, and welcome to WordPress. πŸ™‚

  10. I think it just really sucks how much we have to look to our society for “normal” behaviour. My opinion is that who cares if they ended up together because of the bond instead of true love? And who cares if the relationship could survive. I say, if they found happiness in each other and were willing to press on knowing what they know, aware of the way people would act/think/treat them then GO FOR IT! If the relationship ultimately ends then at least they tried… I am a firm believer in “it’s better to have loved and lost then to have never loved at all” saying.

    In truth, I live my life with the feeling that as long as you aren’t hurting anyone, go and pursue happiness with all you’ve got. Too many people throw it away for fear of what people will think or say.. Too many people act on their fears and this ruins lives and dreams. I feel sad for that reality. I fight that reality every day trying to overcome my fears.

    Besides, who are we to say what is abnormal behaviour versus normal? Some eastern tribes cannabalise their dead as ritual; they believe that eating the flesh releases the soul. In fact, it would be a serious moral issue if they chose not to eat someone. Here that would obviously not fly… But to this tribe, perhaps our customs of burying the dead would be considered horrible. It would be like punishing the criminals in their tribe to prevent them from getting to Heaven. Not saying this isn’t weird, but hey, religion is weird… and so are all the people on this planet – that’s what makes us all so interesting πŸ˜‰

    CJ: Hey Rotiki, thanks for stopping by. I agree with you that “normal” behaviour is very much in the eye of the beholder; what we consider taboo changes over generations and just because something is considered normal to society now doesn’t mean it will be in twenty years. But I do still think it’s important that we respect social norms as well. The conventions of society are what hold the fabric of modern life together; it’s not rules that protect us, but the knowledge that there are consequences for disobeying them. While I agree there’s nothing morally wrong for the couple to pursue their relationship, in society’s eyes recognising it would set a precedent and that’s something we might not want.

    As for whether their relationship could survive, I still don’t think it could and is a genuine point; I think they would lose more by pursuing it and would only gain more pain. My impression is that they might not have been in love at all; it’s a strong connection that twins share, and if you can imagine meeting that person having never known them, it would be simple to mistake that feeling for love. That would make their relationship false… I’m not sure anyone would want to go on living that lie.

    Personally I don’t believe it’s better to have loved and lost because I don’t believe the idea that there’s one person out there I’m meant to be with… I think there are many people we might be compatible with, but each relationship is unique. Whether it’s better to have experienced love or not depends on the relationship. Is it really better to have been in a relationship for 30 years only for it to turn bitter at the end, leaving you with no pleasant memories? Is it better to have loved someone with your whole heart, only to see it go unreturned? Or to see your love wither away and die in pain, and then know you must go on without them? I do believe in love but for me, sometimes I think love just isn’t enough.

    But if these two people really are in love and they want to pursue it, that’s their decision. I agree that they should be able to and I would hope they find happiness… I just wouldn’t expect society to recognise it any time soon, that’s all. πŸ˜‰

  11. P.S. I definitely don’t want to know when I will die. I prefer surprises – they’re more exciting lol!

    CJ: Yeah, I know what you mean. I’d rather be surprised right up to the moment I have a heart attack from sitting at this desk and blogging too much. Ah, that’d be the way to go. πŸ™‚

  12. Hi CJ,

    I agree with you. I believe it’s always better to know the truth, even if it’s incredibly painful. I have always been too honest and I speak my mind, I really don’t hold anything back. Heck, I couldn’t keep the Santa thing going with my kids. πŸ™‚

    Words to live by:

    “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways, totally worn out, shouting “Holy shit, what a ride!”

    CJ: That’s my problem too, I’m always too honest. I’d rather know the truth and think others do too, but often they don’t want to hear it or are afraid of the truth… I’m never sure what to say then. Usually I try to be honest; if they respect me enough to ask my opinion, I don’t hold back. πŸ˜‰

    Great saying! I’ll have to write that down for when I need a boost. I’ve always loved a quote by Amelia Burr: “Because I have loved life, I shall have no sorrow to die.” If I can feel like that at the end of my life, then it would have been a good one.

  13. After thought… I am sure you are aware of my tennis connection. Are you planning any Australian Open excursions?

    CJ: Not this year, unfortunately; I’ll have to settle for watching it on TV. I’m hoping to go next year if I can save enough money; if it works out well, that might be when Federer overtakes Sampras’ record. Unless Federer gets it this year… he looks in awesome form at the moment.

  14. You’ve made some excellent points in your response to me, and I very much appreciate the thought and time you’ve put into all this. I agree that this knowledge would have to change the relationship of this couple. I keep trying to put myself in their place–although that’s a strange place to be–and think they might move somewhere no one knows them and change their name(s), etc., but what about the family and friends they’d established? The article doesn’t say anything about how their adoptive parents reacted to the situation. It must be challenging for them as well. I’d hope they’d want to hold off on having children for a while until they get used to the new relationship. They could always consider artificial insemination–the children would still be related to them both! Oh, this is so strange to contemplate. Besides, the article alluded to problems having to do with artificial insemination, too, if the child never has info. about the donor. Theoretically, a person could meet her or his half-brother or sister and not know it. Yikes.
    I didn’t watch the FOX news video the first time I read your post, and I must say I didn’t appreciate the commentators’ disrespectful attitude towards the story. I know this topic creeps people out, but a little compassion was in order, IMO.
    OK, as for your second question, I think it might be nice to know when I was going to die, to give me time to prepare. Some say we do know subconsiously, but most of us aren’t aware. I commented on an earlier post of yours about death that my mother had about a four month warning of her death time, and she used that time to see her friends, plan her memorial service, and decide about some gifts she wished to make. We had good long talks, then. I’m sure there were times she was scared, too, (understandably), but on the whole, she handled it really well.
    I don’t think I’d want more than a few months warning, though, and so many times we don’t get any warning at all. That’s OK, too, really. Quite the post you have here, cj!

    CJ: Interesting thoughts, Muse. I’ve been thinking about what you said about how it must have impacted them and their family and friends, and that’s a very good point. Initially my first reaction was whether the family (parents) might have known? I’d hope not but I’m not sure how the adoption process works, and twins look so much alike… makes you wonder exactly how they found out.

    I agree with your other points about artificial insemination and donors as well… I’m going to mention that again in the post on taboos, so I’ll save my thoughts for the new post. It’s very uncomfortable putting ourselves in their shoes, though, isn’t it? It’s never easy challenging preconceptions… and that video was strange. I’m not sure why an Australian news site had a US news report to begin with.

    To die peacefully, with enough time to prepare and say goodbye, sounds like the ideal way to die for most of us, I think… I wouldn’t want too long for it to settle in my mind, but to have a little warning and a chance to reflect and say my farewells, that would be how I’d like to go. If that doesn’t happen, and it won’t for most of us, that’s okay… perhaps in some ways a sudden death is more peaceful, to die living your life like every other day. I could accept that too.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Muse; I really appreciate them. This post has kind of taken on a life of it’s own and that’s wonderful… it’s made me think about things in different ways, and that’s exactly why I love blogging. It’s not just a collection of words and comments, but of thoughts, ideas… sometimes a post becomes like a living thread as the discussion continues and that’s an amazing thing.

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