Keeping Secrets in Marriage

Posted by in communication skills in dating, love after 40 | 0 comments

keeping secrets in marriageDear Sandy,

My daughter’s wedding is only 3 weeks away, and I am in severe emotional agony over a situation that happened 28 years ago.  When I was very young, a boy who lived in my neighborhood and I were dating secretly, because our parents didn’t approve.  Eventually, we decided to elope without our parents consent.  About one year into the marriage, we realized that we made a mistake, and both sets of parents arranged for us to get divorced quickly. 

Soon after, I met my husband and we’ve been living a beautiful life together with our children. I feel bad that I have been keeping secrets in my marriage ~ I never told him of my brief marriage. I had no real reason to, as throughout all these years I had no contact with my ex-husband ~ until now.  My daughter is engaged to his son!  When the father of the boy walked into our house, it was a complete shock to me.

My ex is pretending to have never met me previously, as it seems that he also kept our brief marriage a secret.

I really don’t believe in keeping secrets in marriage, but this was a unique circumstance that I just wanted to forget about. Now I can’t sleep at night, carrying this huge secret, especially since I will now have constant contact with this man.

My elderly parents feel that I should leave the secret buried, as my ex also seems comfortable with keeping our secret. They feel that telling my current husband and children will open a can of worms and cause much hurt to everyone.

What should I do? Should I make believe that this man is just my the father of my future son-in-law, or come clean with my past and tell everyone that he was once my husband?


Dear Jodi,

What a shock it must have been to learn that your ex-husband is the father of your future son-in-law! You thought you could just put your past behind you, never disclose your divorce to anyone, and all would be fine and dandy. Who would have ever imagined that you ex’s son would marry your daughter? It’s all pretty surreal.

The Harm of Keeping Secrets in Marriage

When I read your amazing story, what concerned me most was the shame you felt about your first marriage, which led to you keeping it from your husband. Keeping secrets in marriage can lead to a general lack of openness and trust. And holding onto shame about what you’ve done in your past can be corrosive. When you let go of a secret that you’ve held onto because of shame, it can be quite liberating.

I suggest that you first work through your feelings of shame, perhaps with a therapist. Jodi, you have nothing to be ashamed of. You were young and in love, and you did something impulsive by following your heart and getting married. That took courage!

It also took courage to end that marriage when you realized it was a mistake. Luckily, you met a lovely man soon after, and you’ve lived a wonderful life. You have so much to be grateful for.

If your husband and you have a wonderful marriage, he should be able to handle your disclosure. It will be a shock at first, but imagine the relief at not keeping secrets in your marriage any longer.

Because you’ll now be seeing your ex-husband much more frequently, I think your secret could eat away at you if you don’t disclose it.

Whether you decide to tell your kids is up to you. Again, if it’s about shame, please work through it. I’ll bet your kids could handle the truth. They are much more resilient than we often give them credit for.

Best of luck to you. And congratulations on your daughter’s wedding!





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