“We Went to City Hall and My Boyfriend Found Out I Was Married!”

My loving relationship of five years (three years living together) ended recently. I have a son from a previous marriage and he has a daughter from a previous marriage as well. Three months ago, we went to city hall to get married, and it was there my life ended. He found out by the clerk that I had gotten married when I was 19 (to a man I divorced but who is the father of my two other children who are 23 and 26).

I sat him down and told him the ugly truth: I married a guy in Greece and had two kids. I was physically and mentally abused for years until I finally left him and took my kids to the USA. He came months afterward, brainwashed my kid, and took them back to Greece (all three saying it was just a vacation for the summer). When summer ended, I had to go to Greece because no one was answering my calls or emails. When I arrived, all three shunned me, told me they were not leaving, and then my ex and his mom threw me out of the house and told me to forget about them. What hurt the most is that my kids, then 8 and 10, agreed to this.

So I went back to the states and, for a couple years, was constantly trying to keep in touch with them although they never answered any of my mail or phone calls. I got remarried and had a baby, but, after a year, that marriage ended, and I decided to stay single for a long time. Five years ago I started to date someone and a year later my long-lost kids from Greece called me up out of the blue and said that they needed to come back to the United States — that they did not like living in Greece anymore. So they came and it was very awkward for everyone. After a while they went their own way and now they live in different towns and they keep to themselves.

I know I made the mistake of not telling my boyfriend about them and about that prior life, but I was just too ashamed, embarrassed, and heartbroken to relive it. Plus, I didn’t want him to judge me. He thought I was the greatest thing on earth and I honestly did not want to shatter that image he had of me with two broken marriages and two other kids. After I was done apologizing to him and telling him the whole story, he packed all of his stuff and left.

It’s been three months since he’s been gone and I’m desperately trying to win him back. His whole family has forgiven me and they are currently trying to convince him to come back home but to no avail; he continues to tell me that I’m a liar and that he could never trust me again. It wasn’t until a month and a half ago that he came by and we got intimate. Since then, we constantly have sex whenever we see each other by chance — we have this crazy chemistry. I know he loves me and I know it’s wrong for me to be having sex with him being that he’s my ex. I don’t know what else to do honestly… — Heartbroken With Regret

Your long-lost kids came back into your life, telling you that they could no longer live in the same country as the man who verbally and physically abused you and kidnapped them, and, rather than focus your time and energy into rebuilding and repairing your relationship with them, you decided things were too “awkward,” kept them a secret from your boyfriend for years, and let them go their own way in a country they hadn’t lived in since young kids?! I’m not sure the reluctant ex who can’t forgive you should be your biggest concern.

You need some help in the form of dedicated therapy. Obviously, continuing to have sex with your ex, whom you keep running into “by chance,” isn’t the smartest idea, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. You need more guidance and therapy than I’m qualified or able to provide in an advice column. Two broken marriages, one of which was abusive and ended with a kidnapping of your children (!) needs to be properly processed. You need healing — not just internally, but with your kids. You need to fill some of the cracks of your life before you try to build, or even rebuild, a serious romantic relationship on the crumbling foundation that is your personal history.

Even if your ex forgave you, you are still the same person who lied to him for years, lost her kids to an abusive ex, and basically didn’t fight for a relationship with them when they re-entered her life years later. Those are a lot of cracks that haven’t been filled, and you need to fill them to stabilize the foundation of your personal life or nothing — no relationship with anyone — is going to be able to grow steady and strong on top of it. In short order: therapy, reconnecting with your kids and trying to rebuild a relationship with them, making sure your son who (I assume) still lives with you feels loved and secure, lots of soul-searching and self-care, and then maybe eventually a relationship with someone you can trust enough to share all of the cracked pieces of your past with.


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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.


  1. Stop. Getting. Married.

  2. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

    I feel undertones of bitterness towards the kids for returning to the U.S.
    Sort of a ‘if they hadn’t come back, fiance and I would still be together’. Feels very “Flowers in the Attic’ to me. 🙁

  3. Northern Star says:

    I wouldn’t trust you, either. You can’t even be honest in your own letter. “I started to date someone five years ago” when the kids turned up… “My loving relationship of five years…” with the boyfriend… So, that’s the same person, right? Or at least, you started the relationship with him the same year your long-lost kids finally came home?

    The children you claimed to love and miss finally broke free of their abusive father, and you didn’t want them in your life because it was “awkward.” And you had your other two “official” children lie to your boyfriend about their siblings, too. Wow.

    Your ex has kids himself. I’m guessing he doesn’t want them under the care of someone with such profound bad judgment, who is dishonest and willing to throw away her own children. Stop trying to get him back. Get professional help to understand why you make the awful choices that you do.

  4. Juliecatharine says:

    Wow. WWS. Your kids showed up at 18 and 21…basically as soon as they would have the wherewithal to come back to the US but it was too awkward…..wow.

  5. dinoceros says:

    Finding out that you secretly had kids and two marriages is a HUGE deal. That’s not only showing a partner that you’re dishonest and have a very large capacity for lying, but you’re basically pretending to be a different person. There’s nothing you can do at this point. Stop having sex with him. It’s only going to make things feel worse for you if he in fact chooses not to get back together.

    The really sad part here is that he most likely wouldn’t have cared that you had been married before and had kids. Your story would have been pretty sympathetic, I think, in that you were married to a bad guy and he started all this drama himself. Maybe this is a good thing, though, because you shouldn’t be in a relationship with someone that’s based on you being perfect. (Though I suspect that he saw you more as a regular person than you may have realized). It sounds like you assume that someone loving you means they don’t see any flaws, which is not true. People just love their partner, flaws and all. That’s something for you to learn more about before you jump in with someone else.

  6. Bittergaymark says:

    Yeah. Despite your epic greek tale of woe is me — face it, LW. You blew it. And the way you failed your children when they finally came back to you just makes me… Well, sad. You blew it, LW. And NOT just with the guy you did — in fact — repeatedly lie to.

  7. Demitasse says:

    I agree that getting back together with the fiancé should not be the LW’s first priority, but I’m a bit uncomfortable with everyone’s readiness to shame her for not having a certain kind of relationship with her adult children. Maybe a closer relationship with them wouldn’t be healthy or happy for everyone/anyone involved! “Awkward,” here, could mean almost anything.

    …Also, may I be forgiven for thinking that this letter bears a strange resemblance to the plot of a cheap romance novel?

  8. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

    I went back and re-read the letter. Now I know why this whole thing felt like ‘Flowers in the Attic’.
    This LW literally hid her adult children from her boyfriend for 3-ish years! That’s some crazy shit right there. It wasn’t like the LW would have to fully support them, they just needed to get away from their father.
    I can’t even with this mess today…

    1. I LOVE your reference to Flowers in the Attic. That book/movie is so sick and twisted on so many levels. And I love it. But not in real life. Just no.

  9. I think yes to the counseling but I want to go more into it. Without spewing all my personal details, which aren’t the same but provide me some understanding let me tell you, in my opinion, he is wrong. Yes it was a big “lie” but it wasn’t a lie in the sense that you did something wrong, it was a trauma you were avoiding. I don’t doubt it ate away at you constantly.

    He is right to be upset he was misled but he also sounds like an ass who is possibly the least understanding human being ever.

    I would say MOA from him because he sucks. Counseling for sure.

    But do know that I totally get why you withheld this. I don’t think you had any intention of hurting or lying to hurt someone. I believe you were traumatized, scared, etc.

    1. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

      He doesn’t suck. She sucks for doing something so mind boggling horrible to someone who should without a doubt be able to trust her!
      Shit, they were together 5 years she could have told him at SOME point about her kids and past. Even when the kids showed up on her front door step, she conveniently ‘forgot’ to tell her SO about them. She didn’t even try to help the kids by ensuring that they were healing from 1) being forcibly separated from her and 2) abused by their father. She was way too concerned with keeping her man. That’s some socio-pathic level stuff right there.

    2. RedRoverRedRover says:

      The guy does not suck. Trust is the absolutely most important thing in a relationship. It’s the bedrock that everything else is built on. Without it, there is no relationship.

      LW did not trust her bf enough to tell him the truth. She thought he would judge her (her words). There was no trust on her side.

      On his side, he presumably trusted her untik he found out she’d been lying by omission for their entire relationship, about a major part of her life. For him, it’s not just about the betrayal of the lie, but also the realization that SHE didn’t trust HIM enough to share this with him. He was right to leave. There’s no foundation left.

      She may very well be damaged, and I understand why she did what she did, but the fact is that she didn’t trust him and now he doesn’t trust her. And he doesn’t “suck” for realizing that there’s probably no coming back from that.

    3. Just because a person is damaged (and I believe the LW is) does not excuse them from behaving in a moral and ethical manner. Think of the damage she inflicted on her boyfriend. Everything he thought he knew about her – how many kids she had, how many times she’d been married, her basic character – was wrong. It’s not her fault she was abused by her ex-husband, but it is her fault that her recent boyfriend decided that this information about her was something he didn’t want to deal with. I think that she is perhaps too damaged to be in a relationship right now, and the best thing she can do is stop sleeping with this guy, scratch this relationship entirely and get some help in healing herself so that she doesn’t do this again.

      1. Sorry, this was meant to be a reply to Janelle.

    4. dinoceros says:

      Intention vs. impact. A person can lie out of fear, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are actively lying to their partner for years. It’s one thing to have empathy for her, but it’s odd to say that the boyfriend is the one in the wrong. What exactly did he do wrong? It’s unacceptable to break up with someone who has been lying to you and is living a different life than what they portrayed?

      I dated a guy who didn’t tell me he had a kid in the first several dates, and I found that pretty dishonest and manipulative. If that had gone on for years, then I could never have trusted that he was ever being real with me.

    5. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

      She absolutely did something wrong. She hid an entire decade of her life. She hid two children who came to her while she was in this relationship and she found them to be too awkward. Having someone be this highly deceptive is what sucks. There is no foundation for a relationship after this. There can be no trust and that is her fault not his. What she did sucks.

  10. He sucks? Yep, sure he does. He’s found out that his gf basically created a false life and drove two of her children away to perpetuate that huge lie. I would say MOA, because the relationship is dead and she would be doing the guy a favor.

    1. Bittergaymark says:

      Seriously. Some here will defend ANYTHING… she DROVE her kids away so the lie would be easier… That is BEYOND fucked up.

    2. That was my thought, too. That is a pretty big omission when you are at the very moment of being married. It isn’t at all like, “well, I guess i should have told you i ate all the Oreos” (a tearful confession, alas, I have made about my dishonesty and vice). “Chemistry” is a pretty crappy way of justifying using sex to keep him hanging on the line. The kindest thing would be to spare him this clusterf**k and act with more integrity next time you get seriously involved with someone. Plus everything Wendy said.

      1. You have not been in anything close to her situation. Understand those who have could have a different perspective.

      2. I recognize that there are different perspectives. I just don’t agree that LW’s perspective is honest or, to be very frank, moral. She drove her two children away to perpetuate a lie. She was going to marry this guy based upon a huge lie. And you think the bf is a bad guy for not marrying her? Really!

        She may well have been traumatized by her abusive marriage and her ex running off with her kids. But, then she should have sought therapy before marrying a second, let alone a third, time. And she should have tried to get her children back and welcomed them home when they did return. She didn’t. She takes zero responsibility for pushing her kids away, because of ‘awkwardness’, which wanting to pretend they didn’t exist would definitely be.

        I don’t see how you can possibly turn this story around to make the bf (and the kids?) the bad guy. That’s my perspective. I won’t say she’s a bad person, because you may well be correct that she is a badly damaged person.

        If she is badly damaged, it is her job to get the therapy she needs prior to marrying some guy based upon a HUGE lie. The way she presented herself is a total fraud.

      3. If she were so traumatized and ashamed of this past marriage, she should have sought counseling and tried to make peace with it. Not get married again to a person with whom she couldn’t share this HUGE secret. I don’t doubt that’s the way she felt but that is a massive deception and he doesn’t “suck” for not wanting to marry her anymore.

      4. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

        That is a pretty big omission when you are at the very moment of being married.
        And I suspect if the clerk has never told the fiance that she had been married, LW would have continued to pretend like those kids didn’t exist.

      5. @Janelle – none of us have been close enough to judge this, but she has asked for our views by submitting her request. I’m with Ron. She may be damaged form her past, but it is still her responsibility to have her act together and act with integrity when she enters into marriage. of course, this wouldn’t be a first date revelation, but even tactically, she shot herself in the foot by letting it go that far – that’s apart from the question of integrity. I can feel empathy for her past and her current broken heart, but that doesn’t excuse the behaviour or the giant lake of denial in which she chooses to tread water. And i didn’t even weigh in on the Greek kids.

      6. Janelle, the problem is it’s not a real relationship if you’re hiding something like that and misrepresenting yourself. You’re not being your true, authentic self. You’re pretending to be someone else. And as a result, your relationship is not authentic. He does not suck. She needs to fix herself and find a guy she can share her darkest shit with. That’s what you do. You can’t marry someone you’re hiding something like this from. She was wrong.

      7. The LW just didn’t hide an abusive marriage, she presumably hid having more than one other child… two children who she helped raised until they were 8 and 10. That’s a big deal. I honestly don’t blame the guy for leaving.

  11. Rangerchic says:

    I’m sure it was awkward to see your kids again. Maybe they didn’t have a choice when they “chose” to stay with their father. If he was abusive to you than likely he was to them in some way. Then they come back and instead of welcoming them and telling your BF about everything you…lied by omission. And you let your kids just go off on their own because it was awkward. How disheartening for them. I bet you were/are angry with your children too (which I can kind of understand – but that’s on you to work out, not them).
    It’s a lot for your boyfriend to comprehend and try to work through. It’s a lot for him to find out about you. Who knows if he can forgive you.

  12. Your boyfriend doesn’t know who the hell you are. Anyone who can have a five-year relationship and keep a huge, important part of their past hidden is shady at best. That’s the kind of thing that con artists do. Have you also never told your third child that he has siblings? I can’t believe you could reunite with your kids and never mention it to him. “How was your day?” “Fine, I picked up the dry cleaning”…AND SAW THE FACES OF MY CHILDREN.

    I’m also astounded that you just let your abusive ex kidnap your kids. He couldn’t have taken them out of the country without your permission. I don’t know how effective the legal remedies are for getting back kidnapped children from parents abroad, but I’m baffled as to how you just came home and apparently never sought legal counsel. I would fight like a tiger to keep my daughter with me, and away from an abusive person. The fact that you gave up on an EIGHT and TEN year old is mind-boggling.

    1. I agree with first part of mail but remember the kids were born in Greece. i am not sure if the LW actually had the custody when she took the kids back to US. If not, then the father have more right to keep the kids in Europe ( yes, europe sucks ) than the LW. And the LW may not have the resources to wage a custody battle besides the kids saying they wanted to stay with dad. I think she feels since they grew up with dad, they may share his attitudes than be sympathetic to hers.

      Besides leaving Greece does not mean they fled the father. They hardly have jobs there. So they may have moved here for better opportunities than for their mother.

      1. That’s a good point – perhaps their being born in Greece would have made things more difficult. It’s still pretty awful that she seemingly gave up on her kids (only letters and calls until she stopped even doing that).

      2. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Europe doesn’t “suck” for having those rules. It’s the same in the US. In the US you can’t even move your kids to another state, let alone right out of the country, without permission from the other parent. If one parent does that, the other is within their rights to bring them back to their home state or country. That’s the way it should be, and that’s what happened here.

      3. Could not respond to RR so responding on the thread – I said Europe sucks because, no matter where the children are born, which parent had the better resources, which parent is deemed more suitable, european courts will always favor the Europian parent. Read about Kelly Rutherford case for example.

      4. @saneinca An American court ordered the children returned to their father in Europe in that case. She made baseless allegations of sexual abuse against him (if I’m remembering correctly) revoking his visa to remain in America. She wanted to alienate the kids from their father. It backfired. So yeah. Courts act in the best interest on the children. In this case it’s making sure they are with their dad.

      5. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Lol, what Firestar said. It wasn’t even a European court. Get your facts straight at least if you’re going to insult an entire continent (because Europe isn’t a country you know, and each country has their own laws about child custody).

    2. Avatar photo meadowphoenix says:

      I get the feeling that kids situation was far more complicated than you’re telling, because I don’t see anything here about what custody looked like (MOST international courts are NOT going to let a parent move children overseas permanently from their home country, when it’s clear one parent doesn’t want that, dual citizenship or no). I wouldn’t be surprised if you couldn’t get your children back because YOU technically kidnapped them, and your ex knew you were shit out of luck with Greek courts (and American ones).

      Anyway, the problem I see here is not necessarily that you didn’t tell you ex-fiance about the marriage. I don’t think its reasonable to feel obligated to expose trauma to even your SO. But it’s weird as fuck that your KIDS came to America and you said NOTHING to him. That’s weird and I would be out with that too.

      1. Avatar photo meadowphoenix says:

        whoops that’s supposed to be it’s own comment.

      2. RedRoverRedRover says:

        Exactly, re custody. Greece was their home. Both parents would have had to agree to permanently move them to the US. the father didn’t agree. That’s not “kidnapping”. That’s bringing them back to their legal home.

      3. dinoceros says:

        Yeah, aside from the lying part, pretending your children don’t exist makes you seem sort of heartless. At least that’s how I’d perceive it if my partner suddenly said that he has kids he’s been pretending don’t exist.

    3. International child abductions happen with frightening regularity precisely because it is fairly easy to keep a kid with dual citizenship in one of the countries away from the other parent. Usually the story is a holiday or visiting family and then boom, child is gone. There was a famous case here recently where the dad took the kid to Lebanon and the mother set up a re-kidnap attempt complete with news crew. It all went horribly pear shaped and she’ll probably never see her child again.

  13. findingtheearth says:

    LW: stop blaming your kids for something they were forced into when they were 8 & 10. Not knowing the custody situation, it’s hard to have anything but empathy for them. Especially since they were living with an abusive parent.

    Reach out to your adult children. they should not be a secret.

    He could have still thought you were great had he known the truth from the get go.

    I am with everyone here: go get counseling. You need some intense therapy to deal with this.

  14. Avatar photo Skyblossom says:

    You had an entire hidden decade and hidden children. Of course he left. If you can hide an entire decade of your life and two children who returned during the just deceased relationship he will or course feel like he doesn’t know you at all. He didn’t know you. Not even slightly. You didn’t give him the chance to know the real you and you didn’t give him the chance to choose the real you. The one thing he knows now, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that he can’t trust you. Not even slightly. This wasn’t just past history. Your two kids came back while you were seeing this man and you didn’t mention them. Not even once. If he is family oriented, finding out that you could send your kids away just to keep them hidden, would be a dealbreaker. On top of the rest of the deceit the ability to find your kids expendable would be a huge dealbreaker for most family oriented people.

    All you can do now is move on. Trust is a critical, essential part of any successful relationship. He can’t trust you and probably never will. How could he. He must be wondering about what other massive secrets you still have.

    Next time be yourself. Let any potential partner get to know the real you, not some fake, perfect you. Cut off the sex because he can’t trust you now. The sex is a ploy to resuscitate something that has been totally destroyed. Sexual chemistry isn’t enough to save a relationship that has no trust. You’re just dragging out the inevitable. It’s over. It done. Your secretiveness destroyed it.

  15. You hid the existence of your children. You allowed yourself to be pushed out of their lives. Even when they contacted you. It’s like you wrote them off and didn’t want them. Which, frankly, makes me wonder when you stopped wanting them. You lied about it for years. Your focus isn’t even rebuilding a relationship with them. Your children, who apparently grew up with an abusive parent and absent mother. It’s too awkward. Your focus is winning back your ex. Begging a man to take you back isn’t awkward, it seems. Outstanding. I’m guessing he misses the woman he thought you were. In time, I’m sure he will realize that person never actually existed and he’ll move on without you. One can hope.

    1. Skyblossom says:

      How someone treats their children is so fundamental to who they are that there is no way to see this LW in a good way. I can be sympathetic to her losing her children to an abusive ex but not to her turning them away as awkward when they finally escaped that ex and returned to her. Considering that the youngest was 18 it sounds like the kids came as soon as they could both legally get out. They escaped as soon as they could to a mother who didn’t want them. How sad for those kids. I could never continue in a relationship if I found the person I was seeing was that callous with their own children.

      1. Avatar photo Cleopatra Jones says:

        Right. If she treated the children she birthed that way, I can imagine how she could/would treat step-children. The fiance is right to run away from that.

  16. Another Jen says:

    I think the fiance is being incredibly responsible in removing his own daughter from this situation. The person he lived with for 5 years has a secret past, a marriage she didn’t reveal or address until the court blew her cover, and 2 adult children she denied and left hanging when they returned to the country. I can’t see any reasonable father thinking “this is someone I want to play a huge role in my daughter’s life and welfare.” I mean, as far as he knows there could be more you’re hiding.

    He obviously cared about you deeply to live with you and go as far toward marriage as he did. But, he’s doing the wise and cautious thing…which is every parent’s responsibility. The continuing hook-ups are a bad idea, unless you like having a physical relationship with someone you know doesn’t trust you.

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