Satapathy asks: I had a past sex relationship with my ex-boyfriend. Now I’m going to marry a new person. He is very honest, well-behaved, cultured, loyal. I want to tell him everything about my past, but I know that after knowing this he will leave me. But I don’t want to play with his emotions. What can I do?
Hi Satapathy –
This is as tough an issue as exists. As any dog can tell you, the key to relationships is trust. That’s why we’re so loyal. That way, when we break a rule (like when I took that pizza off the counter last week), our humans can still know that we’re trustworthy deep-down, where it counts. And I know that my human will be trustworthy to me, even though he got really mad about that pizza!
I wish I could give you a simple clear answer to your question, but I can’t. And this is for one simple reason: In order for your marriage to be based on trust, you’ll have to tell him about this issue, which is likely to take some of his trust in you away.
And that is TOUGH! For anyone!
I’ll throw in a thought, though. A friend of my human, Handsome, is a therapist, who told him a story recently. A client of hers had let her husband think she was making more money at work than she was, so he wouldn’t worry too much as he was looking for a new job. She’d actually built up a sizable amount of credit card debt, while waiting for a payment that got delayed. She’d done nothing really wrong or mean, but when she finally told her husband about it, he was furious. He felt she’d been lying to him, and wondered how he could ever trust her again. He even said “How do I know you haven’t been cheating on me too, now?!” And the therapist had to say that the husband was right, but then asked her, “But how would he know you hadn’t been cheating, even if you hadn’t hidden this debt?”
The truth is that all trust involves a choice. Your fiancée doesn’t know about your past relationship, but he also doesn’t know that you don’t have a secret life as a prostitute and porn star right now, or that you’re not an international dealer in drugs and poison gas weapons, or that you’re not a serial killer. Sure, he has no reason to think you’re any of those things, but he doesn’t know you’re not. Just as you don’t know he’s not one of those things!
So just like Handsome’s friend’s client, you’ve been covering something up, but that doesn’t prove you’re untrustworthy at all. Though it does prove something that you haven’t wanted to tell your fiancée.
Did I say before that this was TOUGH? It sure is!
And here’s the toughest part. You sound like you would like a marriage based in all these qualities you see in this man – honesty, loyalty – and the only way to have that marriage is to tell him about your past. Otherwise, you’ll spend the rest of your life fearing that the truth will somehow come out.
Or will you? Let’s say that your ex-boyfriend told your future husband that you two had done certain things. And you told your husband he was lying. What would your husband believe? Maybe he’d believe you, and you could go to your grave holding onto the secret.
But there’s one thing that’s absolutely sure here, and I really want you to think about this one. The marriage based in secrets and lies is possible, but always involves fear of getting caught. If you instead dared to tell your fiancée the truth, and he still accepted you, you would have a marriage built on as strong a foundation as possible.
There’s a reason that marriage rituals often involve pledging to stay together “for better or worse.” In your fiancee’s eyes, what you did with that ex-boyfriend might be the worst thing you ever did. Okay, then if he accepts that, you’ll know he’ll stick with you when you do other “worst” things, like spilling coffee on his favorite book, or forgetting his mother’s birthday, or scratching the car, or taking his pizza off the counter and making a mess all over the kitchen floor when you’re eating it (not that I’d know anything about that!).
So that’s why I’m saying I can’t tell you what to do. If you’re right that telling him this would make him leave you, maybe it’s worth it to hold onto the secret, knowing that you’ll spend the rest of your life being completely faithful to him, with a “what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him” attitude. And you can have a great life that way.
While if you tell him the truth, and he stays with you, you’ll be able to trust him more than you do today. Which sounds pretty great.
And in the worst-case scenario, if you told him and he left you, wouldn’t that tell you that he wasn’t the loyal guy you thought he was? And maybe that you’re better off without him?
So here’s my one bit of advice. Find a way to get some time alone. Get out of your home, into a natural place – a beach, a park, whatever you can find. And sit and close your eyes, and breathe deep. If you find that prayer works for you, that’s good too. But what’s important is that you find YOUR answer to your question.
There’s no perfect answer. But you will have to live with whatever you decide for the rest of your life. So find the answer that works best for you. The one that tells what sort of marriage you foresee, the person you want most to be.
Neither choice makes you a bad person, as long as you make the choice out of love. Which sounds like just what you’re doing. Both make sense, and have their good points. And can be the basis of a terrific and loving marriage.
So are you a strong woman who keeps a secret that your husband couldn’t handle, in order to make the marriage work? Or one who insists on sharing your past so that your husband knows who he’s really marrying, and you know the depth of his loyalty to you?
Whichever you choose, I send you my deepest hopes that your choice results in a marriage of joy and love forever.
Please let me know!
All my best,