How to tackle the ‘previous marriage’ discussion

Should you be honest about your previous marriage?

Happy mature couple having coffee together in the kitchen

Like Tom, many Australians who have been previously married may one day need to fess up about their past relationship. Today, Jo Lamble advises Tom on how to approach such a discussion.

Q. Tom
I have been married before and although I don’t really keep quiet about it, my wife and I haven’t told our adult children. Should we? And if so, how do I broach the subject?

A. I suppose there is no reason why you’d have to tell your adult children that you’ve been married before, so if you’d prefer not to, you’re not doing anything wrong. If they did find out by another means, I guess they’d wonder why you hadn’t mentioned it but you could easily explain that you didn’t see any reason to bring it up.

But I can’t help thinking that telling them provides you with a wonderful opportunity. Without criticising your first wife, you can tell them why that marriage failed and why your marriage to their mother has worked. There are always lessons to be learned after a relationship breakdown and these lessons can be shared. Since they know you to be a committed family man, they shouldn’t judge you for having been married before and so there shouldn't be any negative fallout.

As to how to broach the subject, an opening might come up when one of your children or grandchildren gets engaged or moves in together. Talk of commitment can trigger a conversation about what your relationship history has taught you. Starting the conversation with: Did I ever tell you I’ve been married before? Taking a casual approach can show them that it’s not a big deal for you or your wife and so it shouldn't be a problem for them.

Jo Lamble



    To make a comment, please register or login
    The Librarian
    14th Sep 2016
    If you keep secrets about your past like this that are fairly major you do run the risk that if they find out it may damage their trust in you. They may not tell you it has but in all likelihood it will. Similarly if you have had children from a previous marriage or relationship and you try to keep it a secret this is likely to cause more serious trust issues- you did not tell them about their siblings.

    14th Sep 2016
    Being up front is the best way with any subject. As Saks in the above comment, you betray a trust and it is forever lost.
    14th Sep 2016
    What's to hide is my question? Marriage failures are as common as marriages themselves so why hold back
    Young Simmo
    14th Sep 2016
    Not sure about this one, only been married once and still am to Mrs Wonderful. The only thing that comes to mind is if, your current wife is on a limit of $200 a year for clothes, you don't let her know your previous wife was on $2000. If you do make the mistake, you better find the instruction book for the washing machine.
    ex PS
    18th Sep 2016
    Surely this is something that would come up in the normal everyday conversation. When I am asked what happened to my first marriage I simply state that we were married too young and neither of us really new what we wanted in a life partner.
    Other than making it clear that we both contributed to the factors that led to the split, I don't feel the need for further details.
    The only person who I feel warrants a detailed explanation is my current wife, anyone else can think what they want.

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