My husband had girlfriends in the past which he refuses to talk to me about. During our engagement, he made it clear that he wasn’t an angel in the past, but that he’s a different man now and he doesn’t like to talk about his past since it is between him and Allah. He also told me that he is not in touch with any of his ex-girlfriends. Things went well, and we got married.
A few months after our marriage, I saw an old photograph on his friend’s Facebook page of him sitting next to a girl. My husband first told me that she was a friend, then explained that this was one of his ex-girlfriends who he had intended to marry but did not because his parents didn’t approve and because he and his girlfriend had issues as well. He refuses to tell me what these issues were. The critical point is that I found out that she is still his friend on Facebook and that she sends him messages every now and then, contradictory to what he had told me previously about not being in contact with any of his ex-girlfriends. My husband let me go through all the messages between them, and there was no foul play there alhamdulillah (all praise and thanks belong to God). I also found out that he had met with her during our engagement period to let her know that he was getting married to me.
Besides all the pain and anger that this has caused me, my husband has now planted the seed of suspicion and curiosity in me. I want to know everything about his past—What were the personal reasons that caused him to break up with this girl? Why didn’t he remove her from his Facebook account prior to my finding out about her? Why did he still leave the path of communication open between the two of them? Was he a virgin when he married me? My husband refuses to give me any answers to these questions, which frustrates me. I feel betrayed.
Every now and then something happens to spark another question in my head about his past. Whenever I confront my husband with these questions, he gets extremely angry and tells me this is irrelevant information that I don’t need to know, and he doesn’t answer my questions. This has led to daily fights between the two of us for the past few months. He feels that he has the right to keep his past to himself, and I feel that I have the right to know certain things about it. It is to the point where if my husband had to pick between getting a divorce and telling me the details of his past, he would not know what to choose.
What is your advice for our situation?
Many couples will experience difficult times when secrets come up in marriage. Some counselors have a “radical honesty” policy where nothing should be kept secret, including previous pre-marital or extramarital relationships. Others believe that honesty isn’t always the best policy and that there are valid reasons for keeping some secrets from one’s spouse. Our personal belief is that ultimately it will depend on the type of information revealed and what purpose it will serve.
Consider these questions:
The Qur’an even tells us:
“O ye who believe! Ask not about things which, if they were made known to you, would trouble you.” (Qur’an 5:101)
It sounds like your husband made amends and returned to his faith, and he may not be comfortable revealing that part of his history. If you believe your husband is sincere in his transformation, you may be obsessing over information about your husband’s past that has no relevance to your relationship with him today. Perhaps you are having difficulty accepting your husband for who he is, including the fact that he has made mistakes in his past. You married him knowing that he had past relationships with girls, but now that you’ve seen remnants of his history, the reality may be difficult for you to process and accept. You are letting your curiosity get the best of you and control you rather than focus on the positive aspects of your relationship. Your husband probably chooses not to share with you details about his past because he understands it will not improve your relationship and instead may even damage it.
Instead of focusing on the type of man your husband is today, you are investing your emotional energy into unnecessary information that is driving you and your husband apart. Your need-to-know particulars may be driven by your own insecurities. If your goal is a successful and healthy marriage, you must reflect on why you are feeling insecure and how you can move towards accepting your husband unconditionally.
Your husband’s past does not define his present, nor should it define your relationship. He has acknowledged that he is a changed man. Your perception of him may have changed, although he is still the same person you married. If you want to be happy in your marriage, you will need to let go of the past and give him the benefit of the doubt.
It is also important for you and your husband to have an honest conversation about the level of sharing you expect in your marriage. This might mean involving a counselor to help you make a distinction between personal privacy and complete transparency. Identifying what should be shared or not shared is part of essential communication skills that couples must learn to use in their marriage. Having these conversations will help you establish dialogue and bring you closer to each other.
WebbCounselors is a collaborative advice column produced by two WebbAuthors, Amal Killawi, a Clinical Social Worker with a specialization in mental health and marriage education, and Munira Lekovic Ezzeldine, a Marriage and Family Therapist, specializing in premarital counseling. Please note that our counselors are not religious scholars and will not issue religious rulings.