Should You Lie About Past Marriages?

Hi Evan,

I have an unusual situation. I am divorced after a 15-year marriage and dating someone about 5 months now. It is starting to get serious. This guy knows a lot about me including a 6-year marriage prior to the recent long one. What he doesn’t know is that briefly, as a teenager, I was married for 6 months. It ended in divorce and religious annulment. My therapist tells me I need not disclose this information, but I kinda feel like I am being dishonest. The relationship was so long ago and I never discuss it. But it happened. Should I wait until things get more serious or should I have already fessed up?

LJDear LJ,

Your situation isn’t all that unusual. While the subject about which you’re lying happens to be a brief, distant marriage, it may as well be ANYTHING.


Just name your past skeleton and insert it into this sentence:

(              ) was so long ago and I never discuss it, but it happened.

So the real question is… whether one has the right to keep ANYTHING to oneself in a relationship.

The felony…

The strip club gig…

The lithium…

The adoption…

The homosexual phase…

So the real question isn’t whether one should lie about past marriages, LJ. It’s really whether one has the right to keep ANYTHING to oneself in a relationship.

And I think you’ll find that this is a perfect case of different strokes for different folks.

If I’m going to play philosopher, however, I think we need to parse these old skeletons and come to some conclusion about what it’s fair to hide, and when, if ever, you should confess your past sins.

I’m just going to come out and say it: if it doesn’t directly impact your partner RIGHT NOW, you have every right to keep it a secret.

If you don’t know whether your secret would impact your partner, flip the whole situation over. Would you want to know…?

And no, your first marriage does NOT impact your relationship whatsoever.

But there ARE things that DO matter to a partner:

Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Credit Card Debt

The aforementioned homosexual phase and drug/alcohol/depression issues.

And if you don’t know whether your secret would impact your partner, flip the whole situation over. Would you want to know if your future husband was an alcoholic, or has genital herpes, or has fought anxiety, on and off, for 10 years?

I think you would.

So if we’ve established that the criteria for telling a secret is the secret’s ability to impact a relationship in the future, the question remains: when do you say something?

That’s a little trickier.

If it’s a health thing, like STD’s, you have to come clean right away.

But if it’s something that is deep in your past, doesn’t impact you today, but is something you would want to know about your partner, I’d hold onto it until you’re sure that the confession would not impact the relationship.

If it’s something that is deep in your past… I’d hold onto it until you’re sure that the confession would not impact the relationship.

I told my wife about my past anxiety within the first 2 months. She didn’t tell me about her credit card debt until 9 months in. She thought I’d be judgmental, and she was right. But I also loved her, and wasn’t going to give up the relationship because of poor fiscal decision-making. It was just another challenge we’d have to tackle together.

Anyway, while I admire your conscience, LJ, I frankly think you’re making too big a deal out of this.

The guy already knows you’re twice-divorced and you think he’s going to flip out that there was a third time, back in the early 70’s?


If that ancient tidbit manages to break up your relationship, let’s face it: it wasn’t a very strong relationship to begin with.

Join our conversation (47 Comments).
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  1. 1

    Your therapist thinks you need not disclose this information? Religious annullment or not, it’s a matter of public record.

    If you’ve gotten to the point of getting serious, why wouldn’t you feel comfortable telling  your partner about an early teen marriage? Do you believe he’d think less of you because of it? Might he think lesser of you for lying by omission?

    I think you better examine why you don’t want to tell your bf about this marriage – maybe you aren’t as close as you’d like to believe you are.  And secrets, even long ago secrets,  have a way of coming out – wouldn’t you rather he hear about this from you instead of through a casual conversation by someone who knew you “back in the day”?

  2. 2

    If the relationship is strong and you deeply care about him then tell him.  If he loves you and is a non-judgemental soul, it truly won’t matter. 

  3. 3

    As a former therapist, I am surprised that you were told not to reveal this important information to your bf.  Relationships are built on honesty.  Would you not expect to be told about his former marriage even if brief and way back in his past?  “Secrets” have a way of coming out – whether from another person or inadvertently from you.  Good luck in your relationship! 

    1. 3.1

      Terri, I  agree with you that relationships  are built on honesty and trust I am going threw the same thing  right now, in 2015 on the day when we were married I  found out that he has a car with his X wife still in his name, and you know how I found  out, we were already going threw the process of buying  a house, the mortgage  company  emailed  some documents  to me for us to sign,  the documents  included our financial debt, so I  was going  threw the documents reading  each page and got to his debt and discovered  that he still has financial  debt with his X wife. Well that’s  not all, all this time I have been thinking  that he had an X wife, on April 29 2016 I found out that he has 2 X wife’s , I  found that out by checking our insurance  status with Tricare   insurance,  their was buttons that says eligible  and ineligible, I  clicked on the ineligible button button and got a surprise, it showed that he has 2 X wife’s, it showed their  names and the names  of the X wife’s children names, their  is something  else that I  found  out also to much toemtion. I  dated him for 5 yrs before  I  married  him, I feel like  he deceived me, I do not trust him and frankly I  do not want to remain married to him,  I’m afraid  of what else  I  will find out, I absolutely  donot  trust  him, and when I  asked him why did he lie and withhold  important  information  from me,  he said that he didn’t want to loose me , being  dishonest makes it worst, people  you you should be honest up front,  knowing all that I  know, I absolutely would not have dated or married him if I knew about it, He discuss me now and I  hate being around him, he’s a lier. BE HONEST!!!

      1. 3.1.1
        Aimee Charbeneau

        I am so sorry for you.  You’re not alone. A big virtual hug from another victim of a liar

  4. 4
    Adrienne Ragland

    Honesty is the best policy – especially when it’s a matter of public record.  And if you can’t be honest with him- I agree with the posted that said, maybe you aren’t as close as you think.  Either you trust him with the information or you don’t. But if you don’t – or think he will judge you poorly – I wouldn’t invest much more in the relationship.  There is nothing I have told my boyfriend (including some dark stuff from some dark days) that has made him stop loving me.  

  5. 5
    Christie Hartman

    I wrote a book on dating divorced men and so I come across this issue a lot – usually it’s people omitting that they’re still married or still getting divorced, or, less often, people omitting that they’ve been divorced or have kids. My rule is, the more the information would influence your date’s desire to be with you, the sooner you should speak up. If this guy already knows you’ve been divorced twice, I doubt he’ll care about the annulment and so there’s so hurry to tell him. But I would tell him – hiding it only makes you look dishonest.

  6. 6
    Parker Lee |

    Hey Evan, good stuff man. I’m always amazed at the advice you give for woman.
    Definitely a fan of yours!

  7. 7
    Sam P.

    I disagree on not telling him about the first marriage unless you believe you can keep that a secret from him forever. 

    Some people may see the teenage marriage as something that doesn’t affect you in any way and therefore shrug it off, but other people might realize it was a MARRIAGE and be less than calm.  Also honesty is the best policy and even if this guy doesn’t mind that you were married as a teenager, he might be angry, even shocked, at you for not telling him about it. 

  8. 8

    Sam P, # 6:   I kind of doubt that this guy would be “angry, even shocked” at her first marriage — because he “realizes it was a MARRIAGE!”  🙂  — given that he already knows about *two* other MARRIAGES! that she’s had, and evidently isn’t too freaked out.

    Which kind of makes me wonder why she’s so worried about admitting the first one.  Unless it’s just the intertia-type embarrassment of bringing up something that you probably should have brought up earlier, if you were going to bring it up at all. 

  9. 9

    @TripleM #8

    That makes perfect sense to me.  It might be more embarrassing to bring it up now after 5 mos. together than it would have earlier when they were getting to know each other. “Oh, by the way…”

  10. 10
    Rich Man

    It doesn’t really matter at all. Lie about it or not, the truth will still be known. It is only better to tell your partner in the very beginning.  But the person with the past marriage should be ready to face the things that would emerge after telling his/her partner about past relationships. It could turn the person down or not.

  11. 11

    Maybe this is information he SHOULD know in order to judge weather or not he wants to continue in the relationship. I think just by not telling she raises a red flag about herself. If I found out 5 months into the relationship that she had been married 3 times before instead of 2, it would impact me. It’s lying by omission for sure. I married a woman who had been married 3 times before, but she told me right up and I respected her for it. I didn’t like that fact, but i liked her. She has to put it all out on the table.

  12. 12

    IMO the real question is why she omitted that one in the first place.  Obviously it shames her in a way the later two divorces don’t.  Because she was so young?  Because it was so short?

  13. 13

    She’s so vague in the letter and wants to avoid talking about it so badly that I’d bet the potential reasons she may not have mentioned it is because of the annullment (if her current sweetie is religious, this may be a factor, though as an atheist I know next to nothing about annullments), and/or because there were aspects of the relationship dynamic (as opposed to the fact that it was a marriage) that she is not yet comfortable talking about with her boyfriend – I am thinking abuse of some kind.  Whatever it is, it’s almost certainly something she doesn’t want to admit about who she was when she was with this guy, rather than the marriage itself.

  14. 14


    You may be right Honey. I kinda assumed she didn’t tell him from the start because she was sensitive about telling a new man she’d been divorced 3 times.  I would have thought as they got to know each other better though she would have been more comfortable disclosing  the early marriage, especially since it was so brief. She may have other reasons for not disclosing, but if they are getting serious doesn’t that make it even more important to tell him at some point?

  15. 15
    sugar daddy

    You have to tell him all about your past. If he is really serious about you, that won’t get in the way. Better him now than later so you will have a smooth relationship as no secrets are kept. besides, if you won’t tell him, it will haunt you forever.

  16. 16

    Funny thing is,for the last 5 years I’ve been lying in my profile and while I’m dating saying  I’m “divorced” even though I’ve never been married. Women will disqualify a guy in his late 40’s who’s never been married but being divorced is absolutely normal.It’s never been an issue,I don’t have to “prove” that was married and divorced 14 yrs ago yadda yadda yadda…. so it becomes a non factor in our relationship/dating scenario like the difference of lying about my age by 3 years….irrelevant. You’re as old as you look.PERIOD 

    Men on the other hand have very different “qualifier’s” and “dis qualifier’s” than women.If a guy is attracted to a woman and he has great chemistry with her EVERYTHING is negotiable and can be forgiven.Of course it depends on who has the power in the relationship and who has more options etc… Does a woman who’s getting 100 emails a week really have to care what ONE man thinks?

  17. 17

    Well if that guy is deeply in love with you then teenage divorce will not matter him at all. he will listen from one ear and remove it from another ear…so tell him because you should not build a relationship on dishonesty because then the base of the relationship will be weak and a single tremor will destroy the relationship…

  18. 18

    @JB #16

    Just curious: have you ever come clean on lying about your age and marital status to the women you’ve dated? If so, what was their reaction?

  19. 19
    Karl R

    JB said: (#16)
    “for the last 5 years I’ve been lying in my profile and while I’m dating saying  I’m “divorced” even though I’ve never been married. […] it becomes a non factor in our relationship/dating scenario like the difference of lying about my age by 3 years…irrelevant”

    This sounds like something you would hear during the first 5 minutes of of sitcom episode. 15 minutes into the episode the girlfriend makes some comment about your previous marriage to your sister, and your sister responds, “What are you talking about? He’s never been married.” Hilarity ensues.

    I can’t begin to count the number of ways your plan can go wrong.

  20. 20

    @Selena #18

    You’ll love this one Selena……… one time I really hit it off with a woman on our initial meeting and on our first date (like an idiot because I thought we’d really hit it off “enough”)I told her I had lied about my age and I was 3 years older. She said she didn’t care and we had a great time and made another date.(BTW she was a bank fraud investigator for a living….. lol …the irony) Before the date she called and canceled saying it DID bother her that I lied about my age and she didn’t want to go out with me.The reason this is so funny is that on our initial meeting for a drink she told me HER last relationship was with a woman.Now I know men aren’t supposed to care about such trivial things but I KNOW there was NO mention of being bi-sexual in HER profile but I guess her NOT putting that in doesn’t actually constitute I lie just an ommision. Since then 5 years ago I never tell my actual age in my profile. When I meet someone in a club or singles event situation I still may if I think it’ll be a plus instead of a minus of course depending on her age…etc 

    Yes Karl, I could eventually get into a little “hot water” (I have thought about it)and there’s  way too many variables to whether I would like or dislike the outcome depending on how I feel about that particular woman/scenario at the time. I also tell anyone I introduce anyone to what’s going on. But of course I might “run into” someone yadda yadda yadda….. Oh well….. life will go on and I just hope they like me enough to stick around if I care. In other words it might be the “perfect out” if I want to end something with someone etc….OR I could get my heart broken if the reverse happens. But I probably would’nt of even met them if I put my actual age/never married. So I’ll never know for sure. The bank fraud investigator that walked away stung for a day or two but hey……  do I really want to date a bi-sexual woman ??? No,I don’t….lol at least not for any length of time. 😉

  21. 21


    You’ve piqued my curiosity- how old ARE you really? C’mon, you can tell us…

  22. 22

    @ JB
    I may be a minority but personally I wouldn’t care that you had never married or your age (provided it was close to mine).   I’d rather have the honesty though.  AND – if you did lie about these things on your profile but came clean to me at some point in our getting to know each other, I’d understand why and I wouldn’t hold it against you.
    By the close to my age remark; I mean – it bothers me when I get a flirt from some man and when I check his profile; it says he’s 45 (I’m 40) but his photo’s look like he is in his late 60’s.  This just happened recently so I use it as an example.

  23. 23

    Yeah JB, there is quite a bit of irony to go around in the fraud investigator story. 😉

    I haven’t tried online dating, but I can see how shaving  a few years,  checking the divorced box would be tempting.  Like BeenthereDonethat wrote in #22, I think if you came clean to me
    as we got to know each other it wouldn’t matter, I could understand why.  The whole divorce thing though,  don’t you have to make up a back story to go with it?  I mean, when you’re getting to know someone mention of significant previous relationships tends to come up. If someone told me an elaborate tale of a previous marriage the first week we were dating and then told me he made it all up 6 weeks later…I’d probably end it because I wouldn’t feel I’d be able to trust him. I’d wonder what else he’d lied to me about and how comfortable he’d be lying to me about anything in the future. Ya know?

    You’re right though, it could be “the perfect out”. Unless ofcourse the woman you don’t want had become so enamored of you she didn’t care. 😉  “Oh, what a tangled web we weave…”

  24. 24

    #22, BTDT-

    I know! I’ve gotten those too. There was one guy who said he was 35, writing me recently. I don’t know in what year he was 35, but it definitely wasn’t anytime during the millenium.

  25. 25

    I’m 49 now (5’11” 175lbs)and I can certainly pass for 46 maybe even younger but to women that are 41-44 the difference they read when they see the number 49 over 44 or 46 is HUGE !! Go figure….lol
    I can understand why some women might think guys of a certain age might not be “active” enough etc….but every person IS different. I play tennis,go biking,rollerblading,dancing and can run rings around most women younger than me. So………….. And yes I’ve gone and met women that SAID they were 44 but WERE or at least looked like they were 54 !! Anyone who’s done online dating has been through it.

    Selena,there’s no “elaborate story” other  than “I was married for about 4 years and I’ve been divorced for 13 years” that’s it. If you like me now and are attracted to me and we enjoy each other’s company,get along etc….. do the past statistics that are irrelevant etc…really matter ? That’s an opinion. Of course to anyone it depends what their options are too.

    The woman I’m dating now casually is 41 she’s never questioned anything. Her main profile pic was at least 5 yrs old but she still looks great and we’ve had a great time.

  26. 26

    Smiling JB. If you’re gonna lie…KISS (keep it simple stupid) 🙂

  27. 27

    I appreciate all the comments. This really has been an issue for me..
    Truth be told, there was no abuse. Just a stupid mistake on my part, and on his part he felt pressure from family to get married and really didn’t want to be. I came home to an empty apartment 6 months later. He had vanished. He was too embarrassed to tell me. I was humiliated but life goes on. That is why I don’t ever mention it. It’s just such an embarrassment and I don’t want to be judged unjustly.
    I still am on the fence as to when to fess up. My boyfriend has told me he loves me so I know his feelings, but I guess the sooner rather than the latter is the consensus here.

  28. 28

    I am a proponent of never lying in these situations. Building trust and honesty is so important in a relationship. LJ, I really hope you stop feeling embarrassed soon. I do not judge you. People that really care about you will not judge you unjustly.

  29. 29
    Dismayed Reader

    These conflicts stem from the liar’s self-defensive need to believe that one’s sexual behavior and how one reports it (or doesn’t) does not reflect at all on one’s character.  People with colourful sexual pasts get angered and insulted by the idea that their behavior and lack of disclosure might have some bearing on their desirability as a mate.  They attack this thinking because it makes them feel dirty and paints a bleak future for them.
    When the truth eventually surfaces, those who’ve lied insist that their sexual behavior is trivial and inconsequential and blame the victim for “their insecurities”.  They want to view their digressions as insignificant and defend them as “not worth mentioning”.  They want to accuse the victim of taking “nothing” and blowing it out of proportion.   But, if it’s “nothing”, if it’s so minor, then why lie about it ?   The need to lie only attests to its significance to and continuing to lie only gives it yet more significance.  It gives this “nothing” a power that it doesn’t deserve.  It gives it “legs” in the relationship. 
    Lying to a potential spouse to hide your past sexual behavior is selfish, disrespectful and incredibly short-sighted. You want to be perceived a certain way ? Behave that way. You want to indulge yourself sexually ? Accept that it will reflect on your character. You want to lie about it ? Expect consequences.
    Lying to influence someone’s decision to make a lifelong commitment to you means one of two things will happen – either you’ll have to continue lie as much/often as necessary for the rest of your life in order to keep the truth from surfacing, OR, if/when he finds out, you hope/expect/demand to be forgiven.
    You lied because you didn’t want to be seen as a slut ? Well, too bad, now you’re a lying slut. Well done. You’ve poisoned the relationship forever. Your only recourse now is to blame it all on him, which is the standard practice.
    If you choose to follow this advice to be dishonest, your expectations should be zero.

    1. 29.1

      i agree with @dismayed reader….
      i HAVE come across such people in the past….and the relationship turned out to be nightmare!!

    2. 29.2
      Cheryl Dailing

      My husband recently was found out. I accidentally discovered that he had been married THREE times previously, not two, as he had told me. I am angry and hurt, And YES, he turned it on me, for finding out because I did so by googling him. I was “snooping.” I feel tricked into loving him, and now I feel like just another WIFE


  30. 30
    Karl R

    Dismayed Reader said: (#29)
    “These conflicts stem from the liar’s self-defensive need to believe that one’s sexual behavior and how one reports it (or doesn’t) does not reflect at all on one’s character.”
    The question isn’t whether someone should lie about their sexual past. The question is whether someone should lie about a prior marriage.
    If someone has been married, I’m going to assume they had sex with their spouse. I’m certainly not going to hold it against them. And if I was considering marrying the woman, I’d be more concerned if she didn’t have sex with her spouse. (I’d rather not be the next spouse she doesn’t have sex with.)
    Dismayed Reader said: (#29)
    “People with colourful sexual pasts get angered and insulted by the idea that their behavior and lack of disclosure might have some bearing on their desirability as a mate.”
    My wife had multiple sex partners before we started dating. I don’t know the exact number. Since she’s now my wife, I can safely assume that it didn’t affect her desirability as a mate.
    I also had multiple sex partners before we started dating. My wife doesn’t know the exact number. Since I’m now her husband, I can safely assume that it didn’t affect my desirability as a mate.
    Neither of us lied about our pasts (nor do we recommend lying), but we also didn’t tell each other every little detail.
    I don’t particularly care whether you think I’m a slut. I’ve never had a woman break up with me (or refuse to date me) because she believed that I’d had too many partners. I’ve never broken up with a woman (or refused to date a woman) because I thought she had too many partners.
    Read the last three paragraphs of Evan’s advice. His opinion (which I agree with) is that the boyfriend won’t flip out when he’s told about the third divorce.
    Dismayed Reader said: (#29)
    “If you choose to follow this advice to be dishonest,”
    What advice are you talking about?
    Most of the people who responded (including Evan) recommended against lying.

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