I’m troubled by my son who is in prison

Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a civil servant in my 60s. My family of four includes my wife, one son in his 30s and one son in his 20s.

My eldest son committed a crime over 10 years ago and is currently in prison. He is scheduled to be released in a few years after serving his sentence.

My second son joined a major company upon graduating from university and is now working in the Kansai region. The other day, he told me that he is involved with a woman he cares for, and we both are worried whether the fact that my eldest son is in jail could affect that.

We can’t come to any conclusion as to whether we should honestly tell the woman and her family about my eldest son.

If we tell them the truth, it would most likely break up the relationship. But if we don’t tell them the truth, we will have to keep lying for the rest of our lives. I don’t think my second son and I would be able to bear that mentally.

The woman and my second son know each other from university, and she seems to want to marry him. I would appreciate your advice on how we should deal with the woman and her family.

— M

Dear Mr. M:

After reading your letter, I feel you have already come to a conclusion.

I think it would be difficult for your second son to maintain a serious relationship or marriage while keeping such a big secret from his partner.

In the first place, it’s normal for people to want to know if the person they are going to marry has siblings and how they live. The woman might ask your second son any day now if he has siblings. How would those questions be answered?

I think you and your son have no choice but to be honest.

I understand that your family is taking the crime that your eldest son committed very seriously. I can tell that you are a serious and sincere person. I believe that showing such an attitude is the right choice for your family, including your second son.

It may sound harsh, but if just by telling the truth about your eldest son results in the relationship breaking up, I think that’s the way it has to be.

Your second son should be the one to tell her first. Because your second son was a minor at the time of the incident, he may not fully understand his brother, the incident or the related circumstances. So it is important that you explain these matters to him thoroughly to make sure he fully understands them.

— Yoko Sanuki, lawyer