Reddit user u/MissRodriguez1 recently posed the question: "What is a secret that your family/friends didn't want you to know?" The thread quickly filled with many wild, dark, and genuinely shocking family secrets that people learned later in life. Here's what they shared:
1."My mom (~60 years old) was having an affair with a woman my age (~30). The woman and her two daughters moved in with my parents as a safe house to get away from her abusive husband. It apparently started off innocent, but while she lived there, my mom realized she was a lesbian and made a move on her, which the woman reciprocated. They hid it from my dad until he found out and confessed that he, too, loved this woman. They became poly, though it was basically my mom and the woman in a relationship with my dad as the live-in best friend, and they hid it from everyone. There were several hints that we put together, so we confronted them about it. After denying it for several months, they finally confessed to it."
2."My grandfather was a pilot, and it was well known he had a second wife in Australia and that I had distant cousins because of it. My grandma didn't shy away from this fact, and she even kind of romanticized that my grandpa (who died way before I was born) was a traveling 'Don Juan.' When my grandma passed away, I had the job of going through piles and piles of papers. Most of the stuff was bills, newspapers, and junk mail. But, I found love letters from a guy in Hong Kong with photos of my grandma and this man together. The letters were so deeply moving and touching. Their love was so passionate. I was able to piece together that my grandma was so distraught from my grandpa's infidelity that she went to live with her lover for about year. When she decided to leave and return back home, his goodbye letter was heart-wrenching. I also pieced together that my dad's birthdate was about six months after my grandma left Hong Kong."
3."I was going through the old family computer one day and found out the real reason why my dad moved us to the other side of the country. Turns out it wasn't to be closer to our extended family like he told us. Apparently dad had turned in one of the fellow doctors at his clinic for giving out prescriptions for painkillers that were neither ethical or legal. What dad hadn't expected was that all the addicts getting drugs from this guy were VERY upset. A few things started making sense after that. The time the dogs broke the glass door? Nope, someone had tried to break in and got scared off by the dogs."
"Dad's sudden interest in guns and teaching us how to shoot? Surely that's because stepmother's family was all ranchers, right? I mean, that's why I learned to throw a lasso when I was like 6 or 7 years old. Nope, it was because dad was scared for our family's safety, but also wanted to make sure we knew that guns were not toys and we'd know how to use one if we were ever in a situation where that knowledge could save our lives. I never told him I found out. He tried so hard to shield us from the reality of the situation."
4."A college girlfriend of mine had a dying great-grandmother. She had like a week left to live, so she decided to tell her kids and grandkids that she had a years-long affair with her son-in-law, my girlfriend's grandfather, who had been dead for years. Basically, this woman’s daughter, who was still alive, got the news that her dead husband had been sleeping with her mom for half their marriage...all of this only a week before her mom was about to die. I’m sure that was a dark week for her."
5."My aunt, who I was somewhat close to, died a year and a half before I found out through a Facebook post. Every time I would ask if she’d be at Christmas, a birthday, etc., it was always, 'She’s busy,' 'She’s in the hospital,' or 'She doesn’t want to leave the house and risk getting sick.' Turned out she had already gotten sick and died. I should’ve realized, but I didn’t believe they’d lie about something like that."
6."I learned a bunch of stuff about my grandfather after he died. He was a bootlegger and ran whiskey from Canada down the coast into New England. He was an arsonist and burned down several buildings owned by people he had grudges against. He eloped at 16, had several kids, then completely bailed on that family a couple years later."
7."My parents had a son before me. Neither one ever talked about him. In fact, nobody in my entire extended family (uncles, aunts, grandparents) ever mentioned him. I was adored and doted on. It was a happy, loving childhood. When I was 21, I found a box with old photos and saw my parents with a kid, so I asked my mum who it was. She simply looked at it and said it was her son. It came as quite a shock. When I tried to press for more info, she told me he died when he was 3. I wanted to know how, what, and when, but she stopped me in my tracks, and he's never been brought up again."
"I know that his passing was a result of an accident that took place while he was playing. I don't think it's my place to know all the details. He was born a decade before me, so even though I sometimes feel sad when I remember that he existed, I've never felt the need to grieve his loss because I never knew him. If anything, my parents overcompensated with gifts, affection, and their time when I was growing up, so nothing ever felt off to me. I believe in letting bygones be bygones, and some mysteries are best left unsolved."
8."My mom used to strip. No one will admit it. My dad got drunk once and let it slip out about the 'club' she worked at when he met her. I’m fairly sure she did a porn or two. I hope to NEVER stumble upon those."
9."This is about my friend's dad. He left the family when my friend was young, but would occasionally send a gift or card. My friend got a Facebook message one day from a woman who had been doing ancestry research. It turns out his dad had done the same thing (get married, have kids, bail) several times over, and my friend has a crap-load of half siblings he never knew about. They're all friends now."
10."My mom and dad met at this facility where non-criminals would live amongst first-time offenders as a way of trying to rehabilitate these first-time offenders for when they got out of jail/prison. My mom was a student and it was cheap rent. My dad was convicted for driving the getaway car for a bank robbery. I found out, through my uncle, when I was 15. Then, at 16, my dad's ex-girlfriend confirmed it was true. Then, my mom told me when I was 19 or 20. My dad, however, has never spoken about the matter, but according to my mom, he still denies that he did it."
11."When I was growing up, my family would always avoid talking about my paternal grandmother. I knew she had vanished when my father was just a teenager, but that was all. No one ever spoke about her, and any questions I asked were met with uncomfortable silence or swift topic changes. It was as if she had been erased from our family history. A few years ago, I stumbled upon an old box hidden in my dad's closet. Inside, I found a stack of letters and newspaper clippings. Curiosity got the best of me, and I started reading. Turns out my grandmother was the victim of a high-profile kidnapping when my father was 16."
"The kidnappers had demanded a hefty ransom, but despite my grandfather's best efforts, he couldn't raise the amount in time. The police were involved, but they never managed to find her or the kidnappers. The case eventually went cold, and my father's family was left devastated. The letters in the box were a mix of desperate pleas for help, ransom negotiations, and letters my father had written to his missing mother, pouring out his heartache and longing for her return. To this day, I have never brought it up with my dad, but now I understand why her name was never mentioned. He spent his entire life trying to forget the tragedy and keep his own children safe from the painful truth. And, even though I know the secret now, I will continue to protect his wishes and keep it to myself."
12."I grew up thinking my father abandoned me and my mom, but years later, far into adulthood, I learned from my grandma that my mom left my dad and didn't allow him to see me so that she could extort money out of him. I, to this day, still don't have a relationship with him."
13."My maternal grandmother was married to a widower who had four children from his previous marriage. She made him give up his kids before she married him. I guess she didn't want to take care of his children. She became pregnant with my mother, and when my mother was about 5 years old, her parents (my grandparents) got divorced. My grandfather just couldn't live with my cold-hearted grandmother any longer. My mother didn't tell me. I found out by coincidence that I had four uncles."
14."When I was a little kid, I was wading around in the ocean. Suddenly, my mom's boyfriend told me to come to shore, then I felt something hit my leg. It looked like my leg had been rubbed with sandpaper. They said it must've been a crab, and I was dumb and believed them. It was actually a shark. He saw it swimming towards me and that's why he told me to come to shore. They didn't want to tell me because they were afraid I wouldn't want to go back into the ocean."
15."My 4-year-old brother died the day I was born, which resulted in my mother rejecting me my entire life. During my childhood, my grandmother had to protect me, as my mother would not feed me or nurture me. This resulted in me acting out and developing an eating disorder and serious psychological traits. By the time I was 14, I ran away. My grandmother explained it all to me when I was 19. My mother, to this day, has never tried to contact me. One time, two or three years ago, I decided to text her. She was upset I had her number and asked me not to text her, but to email her instead. I’d just turned 40 that year and was mentally and emotionally prepared to understand. After one email, she told me she was too busy to reply."
16."When I was 17, I found out that my dad wasn't actually my biological dad. My mother had an affair and got pregnant. My parents knew I wasn't my father's child and decided to keep it a secret from me and my mother's side of the family. I grew up with two older siblings and one younger sibling who turned out to be my half-siblings. I was treated differently my entire life, and when I found out I was an affair baby, I felt instant relief. I knew my whole life something was wrong within my family dynamic. I moved out when I was a teen. At 16, the last argument I had with my parents ended with me saying: 'There's no way I'm related to you people. Something must've happened at birth.'"
17."The man stalking me/my mom for the first 12 years of my life was my biological father, and he was an incredibly violent paranoid schizophrenic who had almost killed my mom. My parents only told me because I went for a walk with my friend around the neighborhood without telling them for the first time, and they lost their minds thinking my bio dad had gotten ahold of me."
18."I found out in my mid-30s that prior to marrying my father, my mum was a prostitute, confidence trickster, and arsonist. Seriously. She was a prostitute who was recruited in 1952 by a conman to bilk people out of their investment capital in a 'We can turn black and white photographic negatives into color photographs! We just need capital to develop the machinery!' scheme. Investors were shown negatives, black and white photographs, and color photos from the same negatives. It didn't occur to them these were merely colorized black and white photos. When the investors gathered to see the wonder they had created, the entire building, the machinery, and all the plans went up in flames. The conman was promptly arrested. So was my mum. She agreed to testify against him in exchange for misdemeanor charges."
19."Long after my dad died, my mom finally admitted to us that he was always just her second option. The man she visited often with us (without our dad) during holidays was actually the love of her life. But, he had a wife and kids, and my mom had our dad and us kids. This man later moved to the U.S. and died in a car accident there."
20."My family has ties to the Italian mafia. My great uncle was part of Al Capone's crew and was stabbed to death in Chicago, and my grandfather moved to escape that life. This is why I have no extended family on that side, that I know of."
21.Finally: "I found out in my 20s that one of my grandfathers was a serial killer who got caught. He was responsible for seven deaths. The family changed their name so they wouldn't be associated with him and his crimes."
Does your family have any secrets you learned later in life? Let us know in the comments below!
Note: Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.