Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

“My Fiancée Lied About Being Married Already”

My partner and I have been together for two years. We met through an online dating site, and in the beginning of our relationship we asked each other the usual questions (“Have you ever been married?” “Do you have any children?” Etc.). We both said neither of us had ever been married before nor did we have any children.

Fast forward to two months ago. I found out that my partner got married nine years earlier. It was up in Canada, and, as it was a same sex marriage and not recognized here in the U.S., she figured it was never a “real marriage.” My partner tells me she only married this person to help her get kicked out of the army for being gay. She also tells me there was never any physical and/or emotional attraction for this person, and that she was simply doing “a favor” for a friend. After they were married, my partner’s then-“wife” decided she wanted to become a man – and this ended their relationship. My partner believed the marriage was then considered invalid and “wiped out” as this “woman” was now a man. She never bothered following through with seeing if she was still married in the eyes of the law. Well, she was and is still legally married and has since officially filed for divorce.

My partner tells me she kept this secret from me for our entire relationship because she was embarrassed, ashamed, and disgusted by what she did. We had gotten engaged last fall and, needless to say, our engagement is now called off. I am having a real hard time understanding why she accepted my ring last fall. Wouldn’t that not have been the time to tell me the truth about her past? My partner wants me to forgive her and try to understand her reasons for keeping this secret from me. I struggle with trying to understand and forgive. At this point I am not even sure if I can ever get those feelings back that I once had. I just feel betrayed and hurt. I’d appreciate your advice. — Unable to Trust After She Lied About Being Married

This is like this morning’s column, only you were spared making the commitment of marriage to this woman before knowing the truth about her. Also, her truth isn’t an entire lifestyle she was hiding that will affect your life together. It is an omission that affects your relationship, and certainly your trust in her, but it’s not one that can’t potentially be overcome. Only you can decide if this lie, this omission of truth, is a deal-breaker for you. And only you can decide if the effort it will take on your ex(?)-girlfriend’s part to get out of this marriage is worth the wait. And only you can decide whether you believe her excuse for keeping the marriage a secret (“she was embarrassed, ashamed, and disgusted by what she did”). Maybe all of that is true, but I also suspect she was lazy about legally clearing herself of the marriage, psychologically unprepared to re-visit what might be emotionally unfinished business, and afraid of losing you.

Now that you know about this marriage, what do you really know about that past relationship of hers? That it effectively “ended” when the wife decided she wanted to be a man is curious. It suggests that there was, in fact, some sort of “relationship” beyond what your girlfriend has described (which sounds more like some sort of business agreement . . . or “favor,” as she said). If it was never a romantic relationship — never a “physical or emotional attraction,” what difference would it have made if the wife suddenly wanted to be a man? Why was THAT the nail in the coffin of their sham marriage?

It’s just a hunch, but I suspect there is more to the story than you have heard. But even if there isn’t, you were kept in the dark about a really big issue even after your girlfriend agreed to marry you. What does that say about her value system in regards to relationships (i.e. what she believes is important to share and know before committing to someone)? What else is she keeping from you? And can she do anything to earn back your trust? These are questions you need to sit on, discuss with her, and follow your gut on. There’s no right answer. There’s only what feels right to you. And if this doesn’t, then MOA, and try not to let this incident keep you from loving with a full and open heart in the future.

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If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at wendy@dearwendy.com.

18 comments… add one
  • Ika

    Ika April 20, 2015, 12:12 pm

    What is with people hiding major things about themselves from their SO?? Especially when they see their relationship is moving toward getting engaged or married! I just don´t get it.

    Secrets have a way of coming out. Much better to be open from the beginning, so the other person can actually decide if its a deal breaker before getting in deeper.

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      jlyfsh April 20, 2015, 12:21 pm

      I don’t get it either. It seems like people think keeping a secret is way easier than it is. Especially when it’s on the level of I was married before and just thought I wouldn’t mention it. I can see waiting to share something like that, but I think when you’re getting engaged is a good time to discuss it, haha.

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      • Ika

        Ika April 20, 2015, 12:25 pm

        Yeah, this kind of reminded me of TBBT when Penny thinks she was just fake married to her ex. How naïve can someone actually be?
        At least LWs fiancee figured it out before they actually tried getting married, I suppose. THAT would have been awkward haha

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  • Miss MJ

    Miss MJ April 20, 2015, 12:29 pm

    WTF? Your girlfriend was going to marry you without bothering to tell you that she was already married and never got divorced? This is nuts. And, if you hadn’t found out before you got married, then you’d be in the position of it being your marriage that wasn’t not a “real marriage” and that can be a huge mess when it comes to dealing with property and other assets, not to mention children, benefits, health care rights, and so much more. JFC. Being married isn’t something you just sort of forget to tell someone; it’s a deliberate lie and one that can directly harms the person you’re with significantly.

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    • Skyblossom

      Skyblossom April 20, 2015, 12:43 pm

      It’s a huge lie and should have been disclosed when they were sharing whether they had ever been married. That was the point to be honest. Not only was she lying about ever being married, she was still currently married. That’s a double lie. She should have said I was married, never got divorced so am still married although I don’t think it is legally recognized in this country.

      LW I don’t blame you for feeling betrayed and hurt. Your relationship had a huge lie at the center of it. Even her availability for marriage was a lie. Take your time sorting out your feelings. There is no right or wrong way to act here. You could break up immediately. You could give it some time and see if you can trust her in the future. You could decide that you will never respect her and be done with this relationship. You don’t need to make a decision now. You can take all the time that you need and if you decide that it doesn’t work for you and never will you can walk away. If you decide to try and make it work that’s okay too but I’d suggest you give it enough time before marriage to be absolutely sure about your feelings. If you have any reservations at all you should wait.

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      • Ika

        Ika April 20, 2015, 1:10 pm

        The “facts” about the 1st marriage also leaveme wondering how honest this person can actually be. I mean going through a fake gay marriage just so someone can get out of the military… it sounds either like BS or a really gross, dishonest thing to do.

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        cleopatra jones April 20, 2015, 1:35 pm

        Yeah but who does that? Go through a fake gay marriage to get someone out of the military. What did the LW’s girlfriend get out of it? Usually when people do stuff like that, there’s some kind of tangential benefit.
        .
        When my long ago co-worker asked me to marry him to get a green card, at least he offered me cash and a house in Mexico. I didn’t do it though because…I’m not about that life. 🙂
        .
        I don’t know, if the ex-partner wanted to get out of the military why didn’t she just disclose she was gay? IME, just saying you are gay will disqualify you–you don’t need to go through the whole fake gay marriage thing to get out. In fact, I would venture to guess that by going through with a gay marriage while in the military she would have gotten a court martial.
        .
        Seems like there’s a whole lot more to this story than meets the eye.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom April 20, 2015, 2:39 pm

        Very interesting. Yes. It does sound like an entire string of lies.

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      • Skyblossom

        Skyblossom April 20, 2015, 2:42 pm

        I’d personally break up immediately because I would never trust her again. He may need more time to come to that decision but I assume he will find that he can’t trust her or respect her and then he will be done. When my ex-boyfriend cheated on me it took me a while to realize that my entire opinion of him was changed and that I could no longer trust him and if I couldn’t trust him I couldn’t respect him and if I couldn’t respect him I couldn’t love him and then I knew it was over.

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  • avatar

    Sunshine Brite April 20, 2015, 12:40 pm

    It’s mind boggling how some people view their ‘starter marriages’. I think there’s more to the story as well to the level of their involvement. She knows that secrets are secrets and that there were plenty of opportunities to tell you the truth.

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  • mylaray

    mylaray April 20, 2015, 2:55 pm

    I doubt I could get over something like this. Her saying it wasn’t a real marriage and the whole story behind it is just odd reasoning for not saying something prior. Did this ex ever come up in conversation at all? Or was that completely hidden too? If she was able to hide something this big, what else did she hide? You’re left with more questions than answers and I don’t see how you could continue this and fully trust her again.

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  • bagge72

    bagge72 April 20, 2015, 3:18 pm

    I think this is a case where you should have waited a little bit longer to get engaged so you could have figured out more about your partner. People are so anxious to get married now a days it seems. At least you dodged a bullet, because she got caught in her lie. If she didn’t have to get a divorce you never would have known.

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  • Pamplemousse Rose

    Pamplemousse Rose April 20, 2015, 5:08 pm

    Your girlfriend hasn’t even made up a plausible excuse about the circumstances surrounding her first marriage: Canada also had differnet “don’t ask, don’t tell” rules about gays in the military. It repealed such legislation in 1992. And a gay wedding was held on a military base in Nova Scotia in 2005 . So a gay marriage wouldn’t have gotten someone kicked out of the military in 2006. On top of all the stuff Wendy said about why would tranitioning to a man end a sham marriage – your girlfriend is still not being truthful about her past and can you live with that?

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    • avatar

      MsMisery April 22, 2015, 12:05 pm

      I think the ladies in question got married in Canada because it was legal there and not here, then came back to the US so one of them could be kicked out of the military under DADT. Not that either of them are Canadian. But this story is so twisty-turny, I could be wrong!

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  • avatar

    pebblesntrix April 20, 2015, 5:40 pm

    My take on this seems to be a bit different from the previous commenters, LW.
    Now, I give this perspective on the assumption that your partner is being honest about her belief about the validity of the marriage.
    This is a complicated story and it seems she was unclear about the legal status of what happened so it makes sense that in the beginning of a relationship she might respond “No” when asked if she had been married before. It’s not a first-datish kind of story to get into. Moreover, people try to distance themselves from anything that brings up feelings of “embarrass[ment], shame, and disgust” and since it was so long ago in the past, I can see how she would want to pretend it never happened especially since (thinking the marriage wasn’t legal anymore) she had no reason to believe it had any effect on her present and future. Everyone has shameful things in their past they’d rather no one knew about. And it really wouldn’t make sense to bring it up when you two got engaged.
    Now, that being said, I’m assuming that once you two were exclusive and in love and all that that you probably had more in-depth conversations about relationship history and I DO think that would’ve been the time for her to at least mention even if she didn’t want to go into details. Moreover, I agree with Wendy that there is probably more to the story when you look at the cause of the relationship ending because of the sex change But quite likely, the sex change was a real issue for your partner and in working through her shame and embarrassment about the whole matter, renarrated the story to herself as ‘doing a friend a “favor” without any physical and/or emotional attraction for this person’. We renarrate and reinterpret our pasts to ourselves all the time, it’s just a human thing to do.
    It’s not clear to me why you are questioning, LW, why she “accepted my ring last fall.” Presumably, it’s because she loves you and wants to marry you. Is that now it doubt? If not, what’s really bugging you about this secret? What is the feeling of betrayal and hurt actually about? Is it because you won’t be her first spouse and that was important to you? You say, “At this point I am not even sure if I can ever get those feelings back that I once had. ” What feelings are you talking about? Love? Trust? Respect? Admiration? People are fallible– were your feelings in proportion to that reality? Is your sense that she actively hid this entire relationship from you and if so, is it that it casts irreparable aspersions on her character? How do you imagine her past matters for your relationship going forward?
    My questions are trying to get at what your fundamental issue is with what happened because only when you uncover that can you determine whether and how to go forward with this relationship.
    Good luck.

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  • avatar

    MsMisery April 22, 2015, 12:03 pm

    Does she think the previous marriage was “not real” because it was a gay Canadian marriage or because it was a business proposition/helping a friend type deal? The former would skeeve me out, the latter not so much. THAT SAID, she absolutely should have disclosed this info to you, not only because it prevents you from marrying in the US (hello bigamy!) but because it says a lot about her character.

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  • avatar

    MsMisery April 22, 2015, 12:06 pm

    Full disclosure on the first date has a bad rap. Everyone’s cards out on the table right away!!!! You wanna know what you’re dealing with so you can decide to even order that entree!

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  • avatar

    Sk April 22, 2015, 9:01 pm

    Thanks everyone for your perspectives. Just to follow up with some comments of my own: my partner truly believed the marriage was not valid for two reasons -1. It was done in Canada and not yet recognized in the U.S. and 2. She was told by the woman she married that once she transitioned into a male, the marriage was automatically dissolved. Gullible, yes.
    The reason why I am so hurt and betrayed is because my own personal past involves me dating a woman who was living a double life and still married to her husband (she lied to me repeatedly about this, adamant that she was divorced and she wasn’t) my partner knew all of these details yet still chose to withhold the fact from me that she was also married. I think it’s obvious I had trust issues from a previous relationship. I feel my partner was very selfish to hide her prior marriage from me for many reasons, the main one being she already knew the details my previous relationship that was based on lies and deceit.
    And I forgot to mention that in addition to feeling embarrassed, ashamed and disgusted – my partner was afraid she would lose me if she told me the truth at the beginning of our relationship BECAUSE of my past.

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