January 29, 2023 | Eul Basa

People Reveal Their Forbidden Family Secrets

Everybody has their secrets, and so does every family. Most of these secrets are kept well hidden, and many family members are forbidden to talk about it.  Don’t know of any family secrets? Well, then, consider it a stroke of luck, and make sure not to go digging! We've collected all the stories from Redditors whose own family secrets are weighing them down.

39. Grandma the Bootlegger

When I was growing up, I always heard stories about my dad as a kid hanging out in his mom's tavern. The first time we visited his home town, he showed us his house, which is on a crossroads and split-level: front door goes to the top floor, "basement" (or lower floor) opens out the back, which then has a small road and parking area to the tavern. It wasn't until many years later that it dawned on me that my dad grew up during Prohibition and my grandma was a bootlegger. Mom has forbidden me from digging into it any further.

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38. Just a Number

The fact that my girlfriend is older than my stepfather.

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37. Fooling Nobody

My sister pretended to be me when she got arrested. Joke's on her, she paid the fine and when it was discovered that they didn’t follow proper procedure, they refunded the fine to me! Karma…

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36. Brother’s Keeper

I have an uncle who got a girl pregnant and then ended up in jail. While he was in jail, his brother (my other uncle) ended up marrying the girl and raising the child as his own. Now my first uncle is out of jail, and has to deal with the fact that his child is being raised by his brother. It's awwwk-ward.

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35. Fatherly Reappearance

My Bio dad showed up last summer. 27 years of never having contact with me, and he comes out of nowhere. Turned out he just wanted me as a bone marrow/kidney donor for his other son. I agreed to be checked if I was match. I'm not going to blame the 10-year-old kid for his father being a competitor for biggest jerk, but my family and I don't talk about it. I went behind my mother's back to talk him in the first place after he showed up.

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34. My Sister, the Thief

That time my sister stole thousands of dollars from my father's business while working there.

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33. Alcoholism in the Family

A lot of people in my family are alcoholics. It's okay to acknowledge that they drink a lot, but it's not okay to call them alcoholics, even when they do things like routinely pass out on their front lawn, get a huge number of DUIs, drink so much Labatt that the company sends them a flag and a lawn chair, get fired from Fabricland for drunkenly screaming at customers then barfing on a quilt, or get pulled over on a motorized beer cooler by the RCMP. All those incidents can be discussed so long as no one mentions alcoholism.

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32. Mom’s Nudes

It was Thanksgiving. My parents had recently returned from Hawaii. My dad wanted to show everyone the photos. He connected the digital camera to the giant flat screen TV and started up a slide show. Of my mother. Naked. In their bedroom. He scrolled through several and then quickly turned it off and said “whoops. Wrong cartridge!”

I was 21, and my boyfriend was with me for the holidays for the first time. My mom started crying. My boyfriend went silent. I just said “oh my god!” Somehow my 100 year old grandma missed the whole thing. We never speak of it. If it is brought up, my mother will yell “WE SWORE TO NEVER MENTION THAT!” And get red faced.

Hey y’all, my mom would be mortified that I told the internet. Let’s all agree to never mention it to her!

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31. Underestimating Family Awareness

I thought it was that my aunt was hardcore into substance abuse. Turns out nobody knew. To be fair, I didn't "know" per-se, but it was so obvious that I thought everybody knew but didn't mention it. My family was blown away when she got busted going to Florida to buy pills so she could resell them here. I was like, "yeah, duh."

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30. Pro-Choice in Practice

That super pro-life cousins and aunt ran to get an abortion for my 16-year-old cousin when she got pregnant.

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29. Do Not Mention the Parrot

The parrot from Hawaii. When I was in kindergarten, my family took a trip to Honolulu. While there, a man on the street asked if we wanted photos with his parrots. My sisters and I were jazzed up about it, so my parents said ok.

The man had each of us holding a parrot, or a parrot sitting on our shoulder as my mom snaps some pics. Then the man asked my dad to kiss the parrot. My dad was not about this. He was not going to kiss the parrot, but to make my family happy and to get away from parrot-man, he did. And that’s when the parrot chomped his lip. Blood and everything.

To this day, over 10 years later, mention of the parrot will incite a 20-minute rant from my dad regarding parrot negligence, and then he gets so mad he has to go fix something in the garage. Do not. Bring up. The parrot.

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28. Mystery Father

My grandmother came home from a business trip pregnant. That child is my mother, but she was raised entirely by the man my grandmother married. We have no idea who the biological father is since grandma passed away without telling anyone his name.

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27. A Brother out There Somewhere

My father had an affair, and I have a half-brother.

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26. Grandparental Hypocrisy

My uber-catholic grandparents met when my grandpa was married. He left his wife, my grandmother got pregnant, and they eloped in the 40s. My grandma was 18 and my grandpa was 27. He took her to her senior prom. No one knew about this until last year...and my uncle was born “early.” Apparently no one in my family can do math and never added up the birth and marriage dates.

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25. Substituting Words for Suicide

The numerous suicides. It's FINALLY getting to the point where they admit that these people even existed, let alone died. One of my great uncles killed himself before I was born, and if not for all the group photos and my great aunt being a decent human, I wouldn't have ever known his name. My mom likes to pretend they died in "car accidents" or "heart attacks." It made for some real confusion once I got older.

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24. Vacuum Hangouts

We had a centralized vacuum system in my house growing up. Mom caught me “lying next to it.” With my pants down.

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23. That Time in the Park

My wedding day. It was a 6-month marriage to an emotionally abusive woman that ended with infidelity, depression, and homelessness. I'm totally fine now, but I don't ever mention it. So no one else does. My grandpa has brought the wedding up a couple of times for necessary reasons, but refers to it as, "that time we met you in the park."

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22. Dad’s History

That our father lied to our family about everything: where he grew up, lived, military background, other family, jobs. We found out after he died and never spoke of it again. It’s been 10 years since he died.

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21. Not the Only Family

Our feelings.

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20. Alzheimer Difficulties

My grandfather remarried a woman who almost immediately developed Alzheimer's and forgot who he is. He is now dating his first wife, while his actual wife is confused who anyone is. He refuses to divorce because the terrible family of his second wife bailed when they saw how expensive she was going to be, and my family had to get her care because she was too much for my grandfather to take care of (he is almost 90). I called out the relevant members of her family for bailing and was told I was being rude, which might be true, but I'm also darn right.

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19. Doing the Right Thing

That my grandfather (on my dad's side) was the only one to accept my oldest brother when he came into the picture. My dad married my mom when my brother was 3, long before I came along, and everyone looked at him like a nobody and told my dad that my mother was a loose woman.

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18. Ignoring the Eating Disorder

My sister's eating disorder. She eats a ton and goes on to vomit. She goes jogging for one hour or more per day (every day, no breaks even though her knees hurt like crazy) and refuses to eat any carbs, fruits and vegetables only. I seem to be the only one who realizes the magnitude of this. I seem to be the only one who thinks of this as a sickness, not as a "temporary phase." It's been like this for 3 years already, and I have no idea when my parents noticed. Whenever I say something I get "shushed" at and later have to justify my "insensitive behavior" in front of my parents. So I just kind of gave up on arguing. Not sure what I can do to change things without disrupting the family.

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17. Dodging a Bullet

My dad selling off his Enron stock before the scandal broke and the company collapsed. He got sick of everyone saying, "Looks like you dodged a bullet there," so now we all just keep our mouths shut about his good timing.

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16. Ignoring the Divorce for the Sake of the Relationship

A slightly happier story than most here: a few years ago, my sister and I reconnected after not seeing each other for 10+ years. The split was due to our parents' divorce being an absolute disaster. Neither of us has any desire to reboot what wasn't our fight to begin with, so we just don't bring it up.

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15. Merry Christmas

One of many is Christmas two years ago when my brother cried in front of us for the first time in his adult life, and then my dad started yelling at him over politics and my sister and I hid in the bathroom because we started crying too. When I came out, my dad started yelling at me, saying I had no heart. Then we had to open presents.

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14. Jesus

Jesus. They can talk all day about politics, but if Jesus comes up, everybody gets uncomfortable.

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13. Thanks for the Compliment

My Father. Unless I’ve done something my mom doesn’t like, then she can’t wait to pull out the “you’re just like Your Father.” Side note, my dad is awesome, so secretly I take this as a compliment.

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12. No One to Talk to

My mother's mental and physical abuse of both me and my sister during our childhoods.

I can't talk about it with her because the conversation never goes anywhere. Same crap every time I try to bring it up to get the smallest bit of closure: "that never happened" turns to "well if it happened it didn't happen like that" to "well if it happened like that then you provoked me and it's all your fault." On a certain level, she believes she genuinely was not abusive because what she did to me was much more mild than the even more abusive upbringing she had. She thinks the fact that she did "better" means she did good.

I can't talk about it with my sister because she's much older than I am and got the heck out of the house the second she could (not that I blame her) and wrote off the entire family. Not only my mom but also me and everyone else, and I've never had any relationship with her and have been rebuffed when I've tried to reach out.

I can't talk about it with extended family because my mother never did anything in front of them, and I'm a perpetual screw up so I have zero credibility. Tried talking to an aunt I used to be close to about it once and she scolded me for "making up stories" and immediately told my mother what I had said. I knew that if she didn't believe, me none of the rest of them would. I never tried again.

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11. The Slip-Up

Apparently our dad had another kid about 8 years older than me. My mom blurted something out about it after their divorce when she was pissed about something. It was along the lines of, "if he thinks he can forget you exist like that other kid of his..." She then turned very white and I was never able to get more out of her than that. My dad pretends he doesn't know what I'm talking about, but has apparently told my brother a bit of the story and then backtracked and never talked about it again. So yeah, apparently I'm not the oldest.

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10. Priest Life

My grandfather's brother was a priest when he was younger. His wife of 40+ years used to be a nun. Their first child was born a few months after they left.

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9. Ghost Child

Me. Family code of honor and uptightness means that the queer eldest son who primarily went into theater rather than accounting or engineering doesn't exist!

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8. For Therapist Ears Only

That New Year's Eve when my mom tried to commit suicide by swallowing a bunch of antidepressant pills. For years, everyone has acted like it didn't happen. She doesn't want to talk about it. Both she and I saw therapists for it.

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7. We DO NOT Talk About Cottage Cheese

My family does not talk about cottage cheese. I can tell you want to hear more about this, for that we must start at the beginning. My father is a lover of all things dairy. He would drink so much milk as a child, his mother would tell him, "You either have to become a dairy farmer, or marry a farmer's daughter." And dear dad did just that when he and my mom tied the knot.

Dad also loves cheese: solid cheese, soft cheese, and...cottage cheese.

Dad is, however, very squeamish. He cannot stand the sight or thought of blood, body fluids or...cheese curds. This makes enjoying his cottage cheese (by the quart) difficult. No one is allowed to talk about cheese, curds, whey, or how it is all made when he is enjoying his snack. If you make the mistake of mentioning any of these things, dad ends the conversation by throwing his hands in the air and yelling, "WE DON'T TALK ABOUT THAT!"

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6. Not Accepting

My uncle married his cousin and had 4 kids, and that’s acceptable, but me being gay isn’t. Wow.

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5. Lying About Vietnam

Dad did not go to 'Nam despite what he tells all of my sister's boyfriends..

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4. Like the Brother Never Even Existed

My brother who died. We never, ever talk about him. It’s so strange, growing up I knew I had a brother and I knew he was hit and killed by a car walking home, but I don’t know anything about him aside from that. I’ve seen his pictures, I know what he looked like. I don’t know anything about his personality, his likes or his dislikes, the type of music he listened to. I once found his comics in my mom’s closet when I was younger, but that was about it.

It is almost like it’s just a story and he wasn’t a real person. It wasn’t until my grandfather died about 11 years ago that my mother and I walked to his grave. She broke down into an inaudible mess, and it really hit me for the first time ever that he was a real person, as crazy as that sounds. I don’t understand that pain of losing a child, but it hurt to see my mom mourn like that, almost as if it had just happened.

The only time since then he was ever mentioned was by my dad a few months ago. Out of my mother, father, and sisters, I’m the tallest. My dad told me how the only one of us who was taller than me was Jimmy, and how he always seemed to keep growing, how he probably would have towered over me. I almost cried. I wish I got to know him.

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3. Ignoring the Truth

That my parents died from AIDS in the early 90s when I was 2. Growing up, I never knew how my mother died, and I was told my father just "disappeared." I remember throwing a tantrum in middle school for wanting to know what really happened to my parents. My aunt finally told me the truth. I remember crying alone in my room for hours. I'm pretty sure their deaths were the starting point for how strange my family is.

Anyhow, my family hasn't mentioned it since then, and I'm now 27. As far as I know, we've never said the words HIV or AIDS aloud in my family. If it must be talked about, it's "that disease" or something similar.

My friends constantly wonder why I never mention my parents, and I still have hang ups telling people why/how they passed away. It makes me feel so conflicted inside because I know I should have nothing to feel ashamed of, but my family and society makes me feel my parents' deaths should be swept under the rug.

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2. Learning the Truth About Dad

I was always told by my family that my biological grandfather on mom’s side died in a rock climbing accident right before Mom was born. I found out last year that what actually happened was, while he was still attending a military college in the South in the 60s, my grandmother discovered that he liked to wear women’s clothing after finding a box of dresses in his size in his closet. The next day, she came back to find him hanging from the ceiling, and she and two of her brothers had to smuggle his body out of the room and convince a coroner to rule it an accident. I’m honestly not even sure of who all in the family knows the truth, but anyone who does sure as heck doesn’t talk about it.

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1. Double Life

My pawpaw had a secret girlfriend for several decades. We suspect some of her children might be his as well. He had 7 children with my mawmaw, and I guess to escape he'd leave and live with the girlfriend for a couple of weeks at a time. The woman lived a couple houses down from them, so my dad and his siblings never suspected anything, because he was still around the house a lot during those times.

My mawmaw didn't like it, but she was a very prim and proper woman, and this was during a time when people didn't air their dirty laundry and they certainly didn't divorce. I was told that when the woman died in the early 2000s, my mawmaw sent flowers to the funeral; not sure if it was out of spite or just because that's the kind of woman she was.

No one talked about it for years and years until my mawmaw started showing signs of Alzheimer's and dementia in her 70s. She would revert back to that time a lot. It was hard watching her relive it every day.

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