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How honest do I have to be?

He’s not legally single but he’s ready to find a new relationship. 

How much—and when—should he share with potential dates? Our elder weighs in on this unfortunate situation.

Dear EWC:

I am a man who has a wife of many years who had a mental breakdown. After several years of dealing with her issues, she lives in a nursing home with dementia. She will only get worse. I am married and cannot get divorced because my elder law attorney tells me there’s a lot of money at stake. My wife has a trust and I will get it upon her passing. In the meantime, I have to pay the facility for another year to get her on Medicaid.

I met a nice woman on a dating site about a week ago. I have not told her about my situation because I am afraid that she will reject me. Should I be upfront with her? At this point, it is a marriage in name only. I want to move along with my life and find a nice relationship with this woman.

Folk replies:

Since you’ve only met this woman online a week ago, I don’t think you have to say anything to her about your situation just yet. But if you and she decide to meet, start dating, and hit it off, I strongly advise you to be honest with her about how things stand with you and your wife so that she can decide for herself if your situation is one with which she is comfortable.

I am sorry that dementia has taken your wife away from you long before her physical death. I get that you are lonely and want companionship. But it wouldn’t be fair for you to get the companionship you need through deception. If you decide you would like to have a relationship with this nice woman, you will need to convince her that you’re a good guy, and you cannot do this by hiding the truth from her.

In my experience, the best thing to do in these situations is to come clean fairly early on. The longer you wait, the more likely this woman is to feel lied to. Your situation is not as unusual as you may think; you have a right to move on with your life, but you cannot build a new life based on an old lie. Tell your new friend the truth and give her a chance to make her own decision.

I hope this helps. Good luck!

Dating/Relationship 

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