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Dating Advice #125 - Historical Cover-Up
Dating Advice 125

Dating Advice #125 - Historical Cover-Up

She's moved beyond past mistakes, but feels guilty for not 'telling all' to her potential husband.


Dear Rosie & Sherry,

I am 29 years old, in the first healthy relationship of my life with a Jewish man. This man is caring and giving, very intelligent and circumspect, honest and communicative on a level unparalleled by any man I know. We have been dating for almost a year and are talking about the future. He has changed how I think about marriage; rather than pining for an unrealistic Prince Charming, I feel like I have found someone steady who would be a good husband and father and life partner, and who I love very much.

The problem is that I have made significant omissions in telling him about my past dating experiences, going so far as to lie to him about the extent of my involvement.

Everyone I talk to, including my parents, assures me that my past is my own, and since I recognized and corrected my behavior, he does not need to know all the details. He is particularly interested in my past and has questioned me about it on several occasions, and I feel terribly guilty for lying to him.

On one hand I feel I should come clean, because if he loves me enough he should be able to work through what happened before we met, and if we are headed toward marriage, there should be no secrets. On the other hand, I think he would be devastated, not only by what I would tell him but by the fact that I lied to him, and I can't bear the thought of hurting him like that.

Please help me. I am in a small town in the middle of nowhere with no rabbi, no close friends, and no family nearby, and I could use some guidance.


Dear Brenda,

Your parents and friends are absolutely right. Certain aspects of everyone's lives should remain private, even in marriage. Even in the most honest marriage, we don't need to tell our spouse every deep dark secret.

We're not encouraging people to lie, or to hide really important information from someone they are becoming serious about. Certain information must be shared, although there is a time and place for such revelations. For example, we would expect a person to disclose a previous marriage, children (even if they were born out of wedlock and given up for adoption), a mental or physical health issue (including a disease transmitted by physical contact), serious indebtedness or financial complications, a serious criminal record, and significant details about their lives.

Some of these facts should be discussed earlier in a courtship, while others can wait until the couple is more comfortable with each other. A rabbi can give you proper guidance as to when to make a disclosure and whether you have an obligation under Jewish law to reveal something.

What do we think can remain private? The details of brief indiscretions you committed when you were younger and that you now feel bad about. Disclosing these details is not cathartic, even though you may think so, and it certainly will not help a relationship. What we would recommend saying is that when you were very young and immature you did a few things you are embarrassed about and have put it behind you a long time ago. You can tell the man you are dating that it is not helpful to talk about this subject because it has been some time since you moved beyond it and have evolved into a very different person.

Both of you have to keep in mind that people make mistakes in life, and they may always remember them with some amount of personal shame. Hopefully, each of us can grow past our mistakes by being able to compartmentalize the regret, decide we will not do this in the future, and move on to a more productive way of life. This follows the Jewish concept of teshuva, literally “return,” in which a person acknowledges they have made a mistake, resolves to improve their behavior, asks God to forgive them, and moves forward.

If the man you are dating cannot accept this explanation, we do not believe that giving him more information will not help your courtship. In fact, it will probably make it worse. We hope he is the type of person who can accept this explanation and can continue to grow with you toward a wonderful life together.

Rosie & Sherry

April 12, 2003

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Visitor Comments: 4

(4) Anonymous, April 21, 2003 12:00 AM

Good advice

I agree with your advice and believe when we have worked through forgiveness and obedience with our heavenly Father, we should walk in the new person we have become. It is the new person the fiance' met and come to love. The past should be as far as the east is from the west. I would be concerned with all the interest for details of Brenda's past on the fiance's part. Perhaps he has a past he hasn't worked through fully and needs to before this marriage. Perhaps he is hiding jealousy and his imagination is nipping within. I would suggest counseling. If I were Brenda, I would consider these feeling to come clean may just be feelings of false obligation needing to be addressed before marriage.

(3) Anonymous, April 17, 2003 12:00 AM

Anonymous one is being naive.

I know that I am susceptible to judging a person by their mistakes....even if they mean nothing in the present; it isn't very healthy but I have been guilty of it. I certainly do not think that a personal moment of weakness or crazy thinking should follow this person into her present relationship. She realises her mistake, it does no one any benefit to dwell on it now. I do believe, however, that R & S were dead on about things like health issues and serious money trouble being divulged; they may follow you into your current relationship.
As always, I really enjoyed your column.

(2) Anonymous, April 15, 2003 12:00 AM

I disagree with your view: Honesty is extremely important.

Witholding of important information amounts to lying. Lying can be, and usually is, very damaging to a relationship. Sooner or later, some or most or all of the important information that had been witheld could/would surface with very damaging results. I believe loving and mature people can and should discuss all important matters from their past and thereby allow the other party to decide if it is acceptable or not. This way, one commences a new life with an absolutely clear conscience and with the knowledge that honesty and trust go hand in hand. Potential Partner who lied/lies, can't be trusted.

(1) channah, April 14, 2003 12:00 AM

ANY Explanation is a bad idea

If Brenda tells him that in her past she did things she is embarrassed about and has moved on, putting it behind her, that's only going to make her potential husband wonder even more strongly if there is something he SHOULD know, and it will make him all the more curious. It might also lower his esteem of her. If Brenda has done tshuvah before HaShem, then she's done tshuvah and shouldn't even need to make any reference at all to her earlier behavior at all. Doing so will only make more questions in her would-be husband's mind. She would be dropping one shoe, but not the other. Not good.

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