Trigger warning: sexual assault
Q: Dear APW,
I’m writing for a bit of advice. I’m getting married within a few weeks (yay!) and it is my second marriage. I was married pretty young (my current fiancx and I are both in our early 30s now) and was divorced in my mid 20s. The divorce largely happened due to some pretty terrible PTSD and depression I was experiencing after a sexual assault committed by a friend.
My ex-husband and I are on good terms and had a pretty amicable split considering the emotional state I was in at the time, and I have spent the last several years rebuilding myself, and am really proud of where I am now in comparison to where I was then. Due to the nature of what happened, I’ve been very close lipped about the reasons behind the split, and many people who have met me since my divorce sometimes don’t even realize I’ve been divorced. I don’t hide it, but I don’t bring it up because people almost always ask “What happened?” and it is just a story that I don’t generally feel comfortable sharing.
Now that my second wedding is approaching, I am wondering if I should clue my fiancx’s parents in on my first marriage. They are lovely people, but I haven’t spent a ton of time with them (they live across the country) so I’m not super close to them. I’m worried that some of my close friends or family at the wedding may casually reference my first wedding and throw them for a loop. I don’t want them to think I am trying to hide something and thus start my relationship with my in-laws on the wrong foot, but at the same time, it is a really delicate situation that I am still navigating how to discuss with people.
Should I disclose this to them beforehand? And if so, how can I structure the conversation in a way that doesn’t allow for a ton of questions without making me look flighty or like I am not taking marriage to their son seriously? Any advice would be appreciated.
A: Dear Anonymous,
I’m so sorry that this happy time is stirring up the terrible past for you. I’m frustrated for you that an awful thing can continue to affect you in new ways. It’s just not fair.
But, oh yes, they need to know! Not because it’s any of their business (it’s not!) but because this is something sort of personally flammable for you and if it flies up in your face unexpectedly, that’ll be bad for you. You’re nervous about kicking all this up. Take control by kicking it up yourself, not allowing someone else to accidentally step on a landmine.
Ask your partner to let their parents know that you’re divorced. Have them tell their parents that hey, Anon has been married before, it was a long time ago, there’s not much to know about it, but it was a difficult time and she really doesn’t like discussing it. That’s all they need to know.
And that’s all anyone needs to know. If anyone ever again says, “Wow, what happened there?” when they learn of your divorce, you’re allowed to just say, “Oh it didn’t work out! Have you started season five of Schitt’s Creek?”