(The Root) —
"Should I tell my fiance that my friend is really my ex of 10 years? If I do, how should I approach it? He and I don't hang out, but my fiance knows about him because he calls from time to time. We're completely platonic, and I don't look at him as my ex. I'm sure my fiance has friends he's had sex with, but for some reason this feels different to me. Please help me decide what to do." —C.T.
What you're essentially asking is should you be entirely honest with the man you are planning to spend the rest of your life with. Yes, you should. My grandmother had a saying — "Everything done in the dark will come to the light" — and it has proved, sometimes unfortunately, to be true.
It's a small world, and the truth will eventually come out. Your omission is a big issue now, and it has the potential to become monumental if your fiance ever discovers the whole story from anyone but you, which could easily happen if you don't speak up.
Understand that the biggest problem here is not that your now-platonic friend is a long-ago flame. Plenty of people get into relationships, break up for whatever reason and down the line become genuine friends. Most mature people can understand that this happens. And while it can be uncomfortable, especially in the beginning, they have an easier time accepting it when they're told the backstory up front.
You've compounded the situation by, in some sense, lying to your fiance about the nature of your friendship with the old dude. It doesn't matter how long ago the relationship was. It does matter that when the ex called "from time to time," your fiance perhaps asked, "Who's that?" and you likely said, "Oh, him? Just a friend."
That answer omitted the whole truth. I'll guess that you recognized there could be a potential conflict, and you wanted to avoid the issue at the time, and so you did. But you may have made matters worse in the long run.
Come clean with your fiance as soon as possible. Leave out the part about, "I'm sure you've done it, too." That's irrelevant — you didn't say you had any concrete examples, and playing tit for tat in relationships is a recipe for disaster.
Set the tone of the conversation by telling him that you've been thinking about your future together, and you feel it's important to begin your marriage with a clean slate. Then tell him what you've done: not been entirely up front about the full nature of the relationship with the man he thinks is just your friend. Also say why you didn't tell him the whole truth, whatever your reasons are, and then apologize.
I believe you when you say there's nothing going on between you and your ex. But understand that from your fiance's perspective, it will seem shady. He will wonder why — if everything is on the up-and-up as you claim — you felt the need to hide information from him during your relationship. He may also wonder why you didn't trust him with the truth, and whether you can really be trusted.
The level of his anger will depend on whether he believed you when you said that your friend was just that and whether you've denied it before. If he didn't suspect anything and you're coming clean out of the blue, he's likely to be upset but more likely to receive it better. However, if he had suspicions about the nature of the friendship — which I suspect is the case, since your guilt seems to be weighing on you now as opposed to when you first downplayed the relationship — things will likely get a little ugly. You didn't just lie once — you've been lying, and that is a huge breach of trust.
Unfortunately, I can't predict whether your fiance will get over it in time. He's been lied to. His reaction to this information will depend on whether something like this has happened in his previous relationships and if trust issues have come up before in your relationship.
What you have on your side is that he's hearing the truth from you and, since you're engaged, he obviously loves you. There's a lot invested in the relationship thus far. It's not so easy to walk away from this relationship, even if it's been damaged.
In the best-case scenario, be prepared to stop communicating with your friend, even if it's just been a call "from time to time." That's not ideal, of course, but if the friendship is causing a wedge in the relationship with your fiance, then it has to end. And no, that doesn't solve the underlying problem of trust, but it's a make-nice action that will go far in getting your fiance to want to work with you a little more on this relationship.
You may also find that in the spirit of keeping it real, your fiance has some of his own confessions. You can't get upset, though, because you were just as wrong as he was. Just hear him out, and when he's done, you two need to be proactive about being honest with each other. Enlist the help of a therapist if necessary. If you two can get through this one, then your marriage, one based on honesty, will be better for it.
Demetria L. Lucas is a contributing editor to The Root, a life coach and the author of A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.