Anyone who has filled out a profile on a dating site knows that one of the key questions relates to marital status. The options are pretty straightforward: single, separated, divorced or widow/widower. Despite honesty being the best policy, many people hesitate to click “divorced” – including me.
The Deception Game
About 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce, yet there is often a stigma attached to a potential mate with a failed relationship – especially one in which two people stand under the chuppah and promise eternal love. I was fearful that a marriage I had that lasted one year would be viewed as a character flaw, so I lied on my dating form 35 years ago – I checked off the box that said I was single.
On one of our early dates, the woman who was to become my bashert and now wife of going on 34 years proclaimed she was not interested in dating a divorced man. With a deep swallow of regret, I asked why. Almost as if by memory, she listed her reasons: if someone was divorced, it was her belief the man would come with a lot of baggage in the form of an ex-wife, kids, alimony and so on. My match went on to explain that she wanted her experiences, in the form of starting out a life together, to be new to both people and not a replay. Lastly, someone who was divorced and lied about it on his form would not be trustworthy and honest. One more thing: no one in my wife’s family had ever been divorced, making it an unfamiliar experience.
As the months went by, I had this lie hanging over my head, and when it was clear we were headed for marriage, I had to come clean. To say the least, it was not a fun day. More than once, I circled back in my memory and questioned whether if I should have said something on our first or second date to my then-match about the falsehood on my form. It also has been a subject for discussion over the years which leads me to some advice from my wife’s perspective – the person hit with the “misinformation.” Here’s what she’d say to someone who has lied on their dating profile and needs to come clean.
Explain, But Don’t Make Excuses
It was important for her to hear all of the reasons why I did not put it on my profile. For example, my marriage was very short and one that happened because I was young and living far from my hometown for the first time in my life. She did not want to hear excuses, but did want to know why.
With one lie under by belt – and it was a big one – it was time for her to hear nothing but pure honesty. It was a time in which she needed me to swallow my pride and ask for understanding and forgiveness. I had to be totally sincere in explaining why the relationship failed in order to regain her trust.
Yes, there was venting – a lot of it. I think, in her mind, it was a good occasion to throw some things at me about her past. If the goal was to dish out some pain, it was successful. That night, after dinner out, we went back to our individual homes. My now-wife wanted space and time to think things through, and even though it left me feeling uncertain about the future, I had to step back and be patient.
Yes, there were questions – lots of them. Most of the questions centered on around why we got married and how it broke up, but some were far more personal than that. I think she was analyzing whether there was anything similar between our relationship and my previous one. But she had every right to ask; it’s better to be safe than sorry, no matter how sad it would have been if we broke up over this lie.
I was in the wrong and have no excuse for what I did; it’s definitely better to be honest from the get-go than to deal with the fall-out (and a potential breakup) when you finally confess. In addition, I hope my cautionary tale also convinces some people loosen their rules regarding dating someone divorced or even someone with children. It’s important to have high standards and know your deal breakers – just make sure you don’t let the good ones get away.
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