You’re in love, but you’re worried your fiancé or partner will leave you – or at least think less of you – if you tell him everything about your past. If so, you are not alone! Couples are getting married at older and older ages, which gives them plenty of time to live an exciting, foolish, embarrassing, and sometimes even guilt-soaked lifestyle. You did it, you may or may not be ashamed of it…but you should you tell your fiancé about your past antics, experiences, surgeries or jail terms?
“In three weeks I am getting married to my fiancé,” says Shefali on 6 Ways to Avoid Repeating Your Past Relationship Mistakes. “Should I tell him about my previous marriage, which ended by mutual agreement after one month? If yes, then when? I’m positive he won’t find out about my past if I don’t tell him…and I don’t want him to know I was married before.”
That one is easy: “yes, you should tell your fiancé about your first husband.” A previous marriage is a big, important experience that has a direct effect on the current relationship. If you were married – or living together in a committed relationship – before, you have learned and grown in ways you couldn’t have otherwise.
How much you tell your fiancé about your past depends on your experiences, lifestyle, relationship, and values. Whether or not you’ve been married before, read Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before — and After — You Marry. You’ll discover how to communicate honestly and deeply, not just talk. You’ll learn how to become “soul mates” – not just marriage partners.
Know that men and women perceive most things very differently. Here’s an example from Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts:
Her Journal: “Tonight, my husband was acting weird. We had made plans to meet at a nice restaurant for dinner. Conversation wasn’t flowing, so I suggested that we go somewhere quiet so we could talk. He agreed, but he didn’t say much. I asked him what was wrong. He said, “Nothing.” I asked him if it was my fault that he was upset. He said he wasn’t upset, that it had nothing to do with me, and not to worry about it. On the way home, I told him that I loved him. He smiled slightly and kept driving. When we got home, he just sat there quietly and watched TV. He continued to seem distant and absent. Finally, with silence all around us, I decided to go to bed. About fifteen minutes later he came to bed. But I still felt that he was distracted and his thoughts were somewhere else. He fell asleep. I don’t know what to do.”
His Journal: “Rough day. Boat wouldn’t start, can’t figure out why.”
How Much Should You Tell Your Fiancé About Your Past?
These are a few general thoughts on how much you should disclose about your past. Everyone’s situation is different – only you know your fiancé’s personality, values, and habitual ways of responding to you and others.
I am writing from a married Canadian woman’s perspective. Shefali, who asked how much she should tell her fiancé about her past, is an Indian woman who comes from a traditional background and culture. What I believe about revealing one’s past has a lot to do with my North American culture, and it may not be the right answer for a woman who was born and raised in traditional India.
Understand what – and why – you want to hide your past
People hide their pasts for various reasons: fear of rejection, shame, embarrassment, fear of judgment, reluctance to face up to their mistakes and choices, and plain old laziness. It’s easier to pretend the past doesn’t exist than it is to actually have to deal with it!
My mom is schizophrenic, and I was always humiliated and ashamed to tell people about her. I thought they’d think less of me, so I hide everything about her. If one of my friends caught a glimpse of her, I’d deny she was my mother (she wore dirty, torn, baggy clothes, most of her teeth are missing, she was overweight, and she had long black hair). My husband hasn’t even met her yet – but that’s because we live far apart geographically, not because I’m ashamed. Now that I’m 42 years old, I care less what people think – and I know my husband will love me regardless. Also, my mom doesn’t travel and I didn’t see the value in us traveling all the way over to her province for a meeting. What good would it do? I talk to her every two weeks, but she’s not part of my life the way a normal mother is.
I hid my past because I was ashamed to reveal who I really was and where I come from. I didn’t trust my friends or boyfriends to accept me for who I was. I didn’t tell anything about my childhood because I hadn’t accepted it myself.
Reflect on how you want to enter your marriage
Are you okay with your fiancé keep secrets from you? Are you okay with being married to someone who you can’t tell everything to? Are you okay with suppressing part of your life, about living a lie for the length of your marriage? Then yes, you should keep your secrets, hide your past, and not share your life.
You want an open, honest, trusting, mutually accepting relationship, right? Then, seriously consider telling your fiancé about your past. Especially if it’s a previous marriage! I think he has the right to know you’ve taken this step once before. If you’re not sure how your fiancé will react if you tell him about your past, read The Best Advice I Ever Got: Start As You Mean to Got.
Remember that who you are is a result of your past – for better or worse
You’ve come a long way, Angel. You’ve learned and grown, achieved and succeeded. You’ve also failed and made mistakes. Everything you’ve done has made you what you are today: smarter, wiser, more self-confident, and more insightful.
So, there is nothing you need to be ashamed of. Your experiences have made you who you are, and you should be proud of who you are. You’re allowed to make mistakes, impulsive decisions, and stupid choices. We all do – if we’re living life to the fullest! If you’re happy with who you are, then you should tell your fiancé everything about your past, both good and bad.
Feel free to share your thoughts below — will you tell your fiancé all your secrets and everything you’ve done? I can’t offer advice, but you may find it helpful to share your experience.
If you’re embarrassed or ashamed about your past, read Is the Past Haunting You? How to Find Peace and Freedom.