Dear Matchmaker Rabbi:
My ex-fiance is in jail, partially as a result of crimes committed against me and partially as a result of crimes committed before we met. At some point before we married, I figured out that he was responsible for my identity theft problems, that he had a criminal history and that he was married. It was shocking because he was very loving, responsible, seemingly honest and such a welcome part of our family. Dealing with this was a nightmare and there was a lot of drama. I am trying to move on and leave it behind me, short of occasional legal issues I have to deal with (e.g., testifying as a witness in court).
How much of this do I reveal in future relationships and how soon? This situation defines and reflects upon him and not me, but it is so bizarre and outside of most people’s idea of normal. I don’t want to scare anyone away.
Wow, you have really been put through a lot!
I agree that this isn’t something you should reveal right away — not because you have anything to be “ashamed” of but because, as you have observed, your experience is pretty far outside the realm of what most people know. Until a person gets to know you, and trust you, a date might wonder what role you maybe had in everything.
The “good” news — and the piece you should try to keep in mind — is that many folks have had relationships with troubled people. Most troubled-exes aren’t in jail, but they are addicted, they are medicated, they’ve lost custody of their children, etc. etc. There are a lot of skeletons rattling around in a lot of closets out there!
If I were you, I would be honest, but very brief in what I said about this guy until I entered into a relationship with someone. You can say things like: “I was engaged once, but I found out he was a liar and a cheat, and it was a very painful situation for me and my family. So, we never married.” If the person presses for more, simply say: “I’d be happy to tell you more at some point in the future, but honestly, it’s behind me now and I don’t want to dwell in the past.” The important thing is not to sound defensive, or like you are hiding something … but don’t get bogged down in details either.
I think the same kind of circumspection is needed for people who are divorced,too. If you have ever been out on a date with a guy who is divorced, you know that the last thing you want to hear on the first or third date is some long blow-by-blow explanation of what happened to the relationship and why it ended. To know he was married for X years, when it ended, and a very brief statement as to “why” is really all you need.
Once things are intimate, physically and emotionally, that’s the time to start dusting off the ol’ skeletons. A month into things perhaps? Or two? It all depends on when you feel like your new boyfriend has started to understand the real you.
– The Matchmaker Rabbi