What do I do after my boyfriend just told me he was married before?

by Neha
(India)

I've been in a relationship about nearly 2 years, and my boyfriend told me just 2 days ago that he got divorced at age 25 (now he is 31). He never told me he was married. I feel hurt, what should I do know? I don't understand. I never dreamt of marrying a divorced man. I am a girl who maintained good integrity of myself. This hurts me a lot, I feel scared to love him and marry him because I feel he belongs to another woman and I feel I can't be sexually intimate with him because I feel that way about him.


Answer from Coach Theresa: Hello Neha. I know that you are upset with your boyfriend for not telling you he had been married before. It can be such a shock when you get information like that. There are a few things going on here:

First, not that I'm justifying this, but men keep things secret for a few different reasons: Either they are worried about your reaction to what he's going to say and they don't want to be "in trouble" or worse, to be broken up with, or they are ashamed of what they have done and again, don't want to "get in trouble" or be judged, or they have just forgotten the incident completely or didn't think it was relevant to your relationship because it happened a long time ago.

I don't know why your boyfriend did not tell you he was married before and only he can answer that. And why did he decide to tell you this now? Were you getting more serious and talking about marriage and he wanted to make sure you knew his past or was he telling you that he had been married before and didn't want to walk down the isle again? Again, only he can answer this. Even though you feel that it is important to know his past with other women, he may not feel that way since YOU are the one he is with now. (And, if for some reason, you break up and date someone else, this experience will teach you to ask someone before getting too attached if he's been married before if that continues to be important to you.)

Now, I'm not sure if this is a red flag that he may be hiding other things from you or may hide things from you in the future, as I don't know him. So, you need to ask yourself, "Is he open and honest with me about everything else?" If the answer is yes, then this is an isolated incident and he was probably afraid to tell you because he knew how you felt about being with someone who is divorced and didn't want to upset you or have you break up with him for it. However, if he is routinely secretive and vague, that is a red flag, and I would not continue a relationship with someone who I didn't trust completely. You have to go with your gut on this.

Next, I know that you are upset that he is divorced and that you never saw yourself marrying a divorced man. You don't say how old you are, but as you get older there are fewer and fewer men who have "saved themselves for marriage". By the time you reach 30 years old, most men and women have had at least one or two serious relationships, may have lived with a significant other and have probably had sex with one or more partners. That is just how life is. So it is an unreasonable expectation to expect your boyfriend (or any boyfriend) to never have dated, never had sex or never had another relationship (including marriage) with another woman before you, especially since he is 31.

And just because he was married once (and divorced 6 years ago) does not mean that he "belongs" to another woman. If he "belonged" to her, they would still be together. Trust me when I say this: when two people decide to get married, they are full of love and happy with each other at that time and when things don't work out for whatever reason, it is very painful and upsetting to go through a divorce. NO ONE WANTS TO GO THROUGH THAT. And to be judged for having gone through something so painful feels even worse! Imagine yourself in his shoes. If this had been you, would you like to feel like no one would love you, have sex with you or marry you ever again because of this?

Most people try to put that part of their life behind them and move on to greener pastures. That is why he is with YOU now, NOT her. You have to keep reminding yourself that he is with YOU now.

So, my advice here is to find a way to deal with your feelings before speaking to him.

One of my favorite ways for dealing with feelings is the Feeling Letter technique from Barbara D'Angelis' book, "How to Make Love Work" or John Gray's "Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus". You write a letter to your partner with ALL four feelings of anger, sadness, fear and guilt until you can get to the love again and you make sure that if you have a lot of negative feelings that you balance them out with love at the end.

Get out all of your feelings of anger until the feeling moves to sadness, then do all the sadness until it moves to fear and do all the fear until it moves to guilt/sorry/my part in it. Once you get the feelings out, you ask for what you want and you add in the things you love about them.

If you feel safe enough to share it with your partner, it can bring the two of you a lot closer, especially if you both use this technique from time to time. Here is an example from your situation:

Dear (Insert boyfriend's name here),

I'm so angry that you didn't tell me you were married before. I'm furious that I had to find this out 2 years later! I'm angry that you didn't tell me! I'm so mad that you were with another woman! I'm angry that I don't trust you now! (Continue until all the anger is gone.)

I feel sad that you didn't tell me. I'm disappointed that you are divorced and you have been with someone else. I feel so sad that I don't trust you the same way now. I feel sad that I'm unsure about our relationship now. (Continue until all sadness is gone.)

I'm worried that you have been holding back other information from me. I'm afraid that I can't trust you again. I'm afraid that you are going to keep secrets from me in other areas. I'm afraid that you won't tell me the truth. (Continue until all the sadness is gone.)

I'm sorry that I didn't make you feel safe enough to tell me this before. I'm sorry that I got so angry. I'm sorry that I made you feel judged for being divorced. I'm sorry that I had an unreasonable expectation about how all men should act. (Continue until all the guilt/sorry is gone.)

If you don't feel some relief, go back and add more feelings on this subject only. Then go to the love part:

I love that you always take me out to dinner and hold the door for me. I love that we laugh and giggle together. I love that you put your arms around me. I love that you always hold my hand. I love that you always give me a big hug and a kiss whenever we see each other. (Add as much love as you have put in anger to balance it.)

Then go to what you want and hope for:

I want us to be close again. I want to trust you. I hope that we can work this out. I want you to feel like you can tell me anything without getting in trouble. I want to feel happy and passionate about you again.

After writing this letter and getting all of your feelings out, you should be feeling a lot better! Trust me on this technique! It can work wonders for staying happy and passionate about someone over the long haul.

Once you've written the letter, ask him to read it out loud while you are there and THEN ask him why he held back from telling you he was married before and why he is telling you now. He needs to feel safe to tell you and that he won't "be in trouble" so when you DO ask him, tell him that you will be open to what he has to say and that he won't be in trouble.

Then when you hear his answer you can decide how you would like to proceed with this relationship, but you will be doing it objectively, not rashly out of anger, fear or sadness. If you do decide to break up with him because being with someone who has not been married before is important to you (and that's ok), it will go much more smoothly for both of you after sharing your feelings. And then your job will be to remember the good times and appreciate the positive things about your former boyfriend so that the Universe can bring you someone with all of those good qualities and more fitting to what you want.

Let me know how it turns out.

I wish you the best.

Coach Theresa

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