Back in the day when I was young I’m not a kid anymore but some days I sit and wish I was a kid again (Song credit: Ahmad, Back in the Day). Has something either from your past or from your significant other’s past ever crept up and bit you in the ass? Maybe a long lost sibling, a dirty little habit that they were able to hide before you moved in together, or an additional step child that you did not know about.
It is not uncommon for people to enter blended families with a little extra baggage. Besides there have been exes, possibly children born, maybe properties purchased, maybe a divorce or two, and a whole life that was established prior to your current relationship. There is bound to be at least a skeleton or two lingering around in the closet. So what do you do when things get a little strange because of an unanticipated revelation?
I went into my second marriage with the hope of getting all of the things right that I missed in my first marriage. We were being “transparent,” open and honest with each other about everything (at least I thought we were). Being a person who was heavily into finances I asked the big question “how is your credit? Is there anything that would stop you from being able to purchase a house?” His answer was oh yes, my credit is good. I have one thing on there that I am currently paying on and it is $5,000.
$5000, no big deal right? Wrong! We proceed to get married and I find out that not only was that $5000 there, but page after page of financial irresponsibility was on his credit report. What was I supposed to do? I should have run his credit report before saying I do and sitting in front of a mortgage broker who laughed us out of his office. I really had no clue what to do. I was about 2 months pregnant with our son and I had two young daughters from my first marriage to consider.
I’ll be honest. My first reaction was to call an attorney to find out if we could get the marriage annulled. When they said no, I decided to dig in my heels and make it work. When I tell you that finances were an issue for us for the entire length of our marriage and ultimately broke us apart, I tell you that attempting to hide things from your significant other or spouse is never a good idea. It has a way of eventually leaking out and permanently damaging the trust in the relationship.
What things have either crept up from your past or from your spouse or significant other’s past? Take Mike and Gloria for instance (based on a true story). Gloria found out that not only had Mike been sexually active with men in the past, but he was also HIV positive. Mike never told Gloria any of this. Perhaps he was too embarrassed. She found out by snooping through his things and looking up the name of his medication, and by checking some of his text messages and online activities. Gloria chose to hang in there and try to make it work. These remain major issues in their marriage.
Like a slithering snake the past comes up and before you know it, it has paralyzed the relationship and thrown all of the lovely plans that you started with into a whirlwind. The questions arise. The communication either gets non-existent, or vicious and unproductive. And what was once the ideal situation quickly becomes terribly uncomfortable. So how do you handle it when things from the past unexpectedly creep up?
- Be upfront and honest about what is really going on with you. If you have a thing of the past that is likely to come up, just go ahead and spill the beans. If your significant other or spouse cannot handle it, at least you have been fair enough to allow them to make that decision for themselves. Inevitably they will find out and will most likely become resentful.
- If you forgive, also let go. Many people will forgive small mishaps. However, when the revelation is a big one it can be more difficult to forgive. If you decide to forgive, let it rest and let it go for good. Bringing it up over and over again only re-opens the wound each time never allowing it to fully heal.
- Something that is major or important to you could be insignificant in the eyes of your spouse or significant other. I know finances were major for me, but my ex did not really care much about his financial health. Try to catch and discuss those things early on. Ask the hard questions and dig for the answers that you need.
- Take a step back. If a big revelation came out and your spouse or significant other is hurting, you initially want to give them some space. They may need time to process what they have just learned. Gloria took a few days to herself to really process what she had learned about her husband Mike. It was shocking and painful, but she eventually forgave him and they moved on together.
- It is okay to decide to move on. Some spouses and significant others cannot handle the revelation that comes out and they decide to move on instead of figuring out the current situation. This happens in some instances where the betrayal is so deep that the person just cannot bring themselves to stick around for the pain. When this happens, it is okay to move forward.
Some things that were acceptable as kids can be intolerable for an adult. Put yourself in the shoes of your spouse or significant other and evaluate whether your thing is something that they really should know. Everybody has something from the past that they are not proud of. It is just a part of our human experiences.
Join my Facebook group DMV Happy Blended Family Network for more blended family related topics. Reflections Life Planning is an estate and financial planning firm that focuses on helping blended families to navigate the landscape of planning where the legal and financial nuances are different from nuclear families. If you have questions or concerns related to your blended family’s finances or legacy planning reach out for answers.
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