I am engaged to “Robert” and we have set a wedding date for six months from now. He’s a great guy and we are compatible in all the ways I think are important except one: Robert told me part of a secret but won’t tell me the rest of it. As a result, I feel like I can’t trust him. While we were dating, Robert told me that fifteen years ago he had fathered a child with a woman he was in love with but never married. She is married and they are raising the child, and Robert isn’t in the child’s life at all. In fact, he made a promise to the mother that he would never get in touch with the boy (I don’t know if he is in touch with the mother). After Robert dropped this bombshell on me I began to worry that this child might try to find Robert, or later, there might be some inheritance issues. I asked Robert to tell me more about the situation and he refused, saying it would violate their privacy. I don’t think couples should have secrets from one another. I feel he should tell me what I want to know so that I am protected, and together we can work out whatever issues might arise, but I think he has misplaced loyalty to this woman and that child, not to me. No amount of pleading has swayed Robert, and I’m so upset that he can’t trust me that I am thinking of calling off the wedding. I just feel that he might be hiding other things, and how will I ever know? This is a huge headache. What do the two of you think about this?
Tony’s Take: I don’t think this has anything to do with your fiance trusting you, but it is all about you trusting him — it is clear that you don’t. Robert has some reasons, probably very valid ones, for not being able to tell you more. For example: his child was most certainly adopted by the baby’s mother’s current husband, and if so, that required your fiance to give up his parental rights. That order was most then likely sealed, therefore, he may not legally tell anyone including an officer of the law, much less you, the details regarding the adoption which includes the identity of the woman, the address, the name of the child, etc.
You really have no need to know all the details except maybe due to some form of jealousy. He has told you the facts that you need to know, and he has been honest about them. Why do you need to know more of the details? You are letting your idle curiosity destroy your relationship with this man.
If you must ask questions you need ask only one: did the former girlfriend’s new husband adopt the child? If he did, then the issue is totally closed because there is no way that it effects your life on any level. If not, then you have a right to ask further questions and he if he refuses to give you more information , then you must consider your situation since it leaves him open to child support and other paternity issues.
Alison’s Take: Deception and lack of trust is the poison that ruins relationships. If you don’t have complete trust in your partner, the relationship can’t flourish. You’ll always wonder if s/he is holding something back, even if s/he is not out-and-out lying, and that’s exactly what you stated in your letter. To me, that’s the ultimate lack of respect. It puts up a barrier that you can’t break through.
As I see it, being totally honest can be difficult, but it is the ultimate test of the strength of your love. Mistakes,bad judgement, broken promises can cause a lot of disappointment and anger, but at least being honest about them gives your partner the opportunity to react, understand and ultimately, to forgive. It is the things you don’t know about that you can’t fix.
Due to adoption issues, there might be some pieces of the puzzle that Robert should keep private (e.g. names, contact information). but what one can and should divulge to a fiance or spouse is different than what you might tell anyone else in the world. Richard isn’t just the father of that boy, he is also the potential father of your children. What he did before in his life absolutely does impact you and your current or future children. Even if that child has been adopted, that doesn’t stop this boy from seeking him out (he’s already at least 15 years old so can do it right now). The emotional impact of this on you, on your fiance, and on any other siblings or family members now or in the future, could be significant. You deserve some protection and consideration, as well.
In my opinion you do have a right to insist upon knowing the complete circumstances surrounding Robert’s relationship and history with this woman. If he refuses to provide it, he is also refusing both to protect you and to show loyalty to you as his future wife and family. Robert told you just enough to enough to worry you, and not enough to clear your mind. He has shown that he doesn’t love and trust you enough to shift his loyalties from his past to his present and future– at least not yet. If he is looking forward, to the rest of his life with you, he cannot keep this from you. He should tell you what you want to know — all of it. If he keeps secrets now, he will continue to keep secrets later. Tony is just incorrect. This has nothing to do with Robert doing the right thing to protect an innocent child, he just is afraid to trust you. Tell him to get over it, or get out of your life and don’t marry him– and mean it. If you don’t, you will always wonder what else he isn’t telling you.