Cruel Twist of Fate
Dr. Phil speaks with couples in unconventional marriages.
"My husband and I were happily married for 15 months until we found out we were brother and sister," says Jonnie. "We share the same father. We were so shocked. I think we're still in shock."

Jonnie and Dennis hit it off right away when they first met. They learned they both grew up in Detroit. "We pulled a map out and realized our moms' houses were only five blocks apart," says Jonnie. "We went to the same store, the same parks. We had so much in common we couldn't believe that we'd never met before."

"After the first six months of Jonnie and I dating, I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her," says Dennis.

For their first anniversary, Dennis and Jonnie went back to Michigan to visit family. It was there that the puzzle pieces began to fall into place. Dennis was showing his aunt their wedding photos when she recognized Jonnie's dad. "My aunt said she had another photo of him. Then she showed us the picture of Jonnie's dad and my mom at the high school prom," explains Dennis.

"When I looked at the picture, I knew instantly that Dennis's mom
had to be pregnant with Dennis in the picture, standing with my father," says Jonnie.
"I was in complete denial," says Dennis. "My mom was dating Jonnie's dad off and on when the guy I thought was my biological father was in the Navy. I called Jonnie's dad after finding the photo and asked him if there was a chance that I might be his son. And he said yes, there was a chance."

"Dennis and I knew we had to get a DNA test. I had to know if he was my half-brother," says Jonnie. The test proved that they were indeed related.

"I was really sorry she was my half-sister because I wanted to stay married to her," says Dennis. "We tried to make it work and get back to life as normal, but it just didn't happen." After agreeing they should split up, Jonnie moved out.

According to the laws in their state, their marriage was null and void after they found out they were siblings. "Even if Jonnie and I separate forever, I still would like to have a brother/sister relationship with her," says Dennis.

"I've had a hard time dealing with the whole brother/sister issue," says Jonnie. "Dr. Phil, I'm still in love with my husband. Should I fight for my marriage, or just live with the heartache and move on?"
"What was your first reaction when you realized the relation?" Dr. Phil asks Dennis.

"I was in denial all the way until the very end, until the DNA test. I just had no inclination that the gentleman that I thought was my biological father wasn't," Dennis responds.

Dr. Phil makes a clarification. "This is a DNA issue. I think that's what people need to think about as they realize this. What makes your sister your sister at one level is that you share that intimate history with her. Dennis and Jonnie don't have that shared history. "Do you have any moral issues with this?"

"I want to right the wrong. I feel like I've been deceived," says Jonnie. "I want back what I thought I had."

"Now you want this relationship to continue as husband and wife at a romantic level, correct?"

Jonnie nods and asks, "My big question is how do I get past the DNA issues?"

"And you know that children are out of the question. Are you OK with that?" asks Dr. Phil.

"I'm fine with that," says Jonnie.
Dr. Phil points out that even if they get past the issue of being related, they still have relationship issues that they'll need to work on. He tells Jonnie: "You don't get along particularly well because he looks an awful lot like your dad. Because it's his dad too. And you have a lot of resentment toward your father, correct?"

Jonnie wipes away a tear. "I think I do."

"Are you taking that out on Dennis?"

"I'm not sure what I'm taking out on Dennis," she says.

"I think she is," says Dennis. "After finding out, we actually starting fighting like brother and sister and about the littlest things, but it was just all so enhanced. I couldn't do anything right. And I believe it was because of the resentment [toward] her dad."

"You're not in favor of continuing this relationship on a romantic level, are you?" Dr. Phil asks Dennis.

"I would. If I could get back to the way it was prior to finding out about us being half-brother and sister ... As soon as this came about, everything went haywire," he says.
"What do you want?" Dr. Phil asks Jonnie.

"I want us to be together," she says. "I want what I thought I had, which I know isn't possible. But I just, I want to make it right. I know I need closure. I need closure from finding out that we're half-brother and sister. The picture was the opening of it and I feel like there can be closure so that we can move and just work on our marriage."

"Are you in denial about the fact that this is your half-brother?" Dr. Phil asks Jonnie.

"She's fully aware," says Dennis.

"I'm aware of it, but I'm really upset," says Jonnie.

Dr. Phil asks Dennis, "So you're OK with the origin of it and you're not bothered by the fact that you share some DNA?"

"I married her, not a bloodline," says Dennis.

But Jonnie is having a hard time moving forward. "I don't think I'm past the DNA fact," she says.

Dr. Phil suggests that they research where they can legally ratify their marriage. "But it comes from the inside out, not the outside in. I think you do have to get resolution about where you stand on that issue. If it's just too big an issue that you can't get beyond, then you need to acknowledge that. If you are seeing your father in your husband and holding him accountable for your anger and resentments over there, you've got to finish that emotional business because you can't make him pay for the sins of someone that came before him. And he is convinced that that's what's happening and I agree with him."

Jonnie turns to Dennis. "Sorry," she tells him.


"You are responsible people caught up in a tragic and horrible twist of fate. I can't solve this for you here, but I can tell you you are entitled to have this ball of yarn unravel." Dr. Phil offers them counseling individually and as a couple.

"We appreciate it," says Dennis and Jonnie.