Auntie SparkNotes: My Dad Lied About a Past Marriage
A few weeks ago I was looking for something in a stack of my dad's legal papers. While searching I discovered something that shocked me. The place to fill out "previous relationships" had a name written there and the date of their divorce. I have no qualms about divorce but I feel like I've been lied to all my life.
My parents are always telling me that when I get married I'll have some rough patches with my husband blah blah blah but that divorce should be the last ditch effort. Like if my husband cheated on me or was abusive.
Now granted, I don't know my father's reason for divorce, but I still feel hurt. Now I feel can't trust anything he says about his past anymore. Am I being silly Auntie? Is it really my concern? Should I ask him about it? Please help.
Are you being silly? Well, okay: maybe a little? I mean, of course it's upsetting to find out that you were lied to—or at least, that you weren't told the truth. But think about this: have you really never told a lie, or failed to correct a misconception, because you were afraid that the truth would be at odds with the way you want people to see you?
And if not, then congratulations: you're the one person in the entire world who has never, not once, taken the opportunity to avoid an unflattering revelation. (Or, alternately, you're not a person at all, and the robot overthrow of the human race has officially begun.)
But your father is human, and flawed, as all humans are. And thankfully—for all of us—omitting the truth, even an important truth, doesn't automatically make a person a dirty rotten liar in all things, forever. More likely, this is the one big skeleton in your dad's otherwise remains-free closet. And while I personally find it really bizarre to treat a divorce like a dirty secret—or to actively hide the truth of one from your kids—some people, for whatever reason, still feel incredibly stigmatized by having a failed marriage in their past.
And for your parents, who feel so strongly about divorce that they're already making a point to advise you against it, it's not hard to imagine that they just found it too embarrassing and difficult to admit to you that they haven't always practiced what they preached.
But hey, now you know. And while your father's romantic history isn't your concern, the hypocrisy of his position is concerning. And since divorce is already a topic of conversation between you, and since you came by the information innocently, there's no reason why you shouldn't ask about it.
My advice: ask him alone, at a calm moment, and without making accusations. Just explain what you found, and that it surprised you, especially considering how strongly he's always spoken against divorce. And then, give him the floor and see what he says—without judgment, and with understanding.
Have you ever found out by accident about a parent's secret? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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