I waited to get married and said yes to a girl. Her family seemed quite religious as well and I really wasn’t looking for anything beyond that.
It was arranged and on my first meeting with my to-be-wife I asked if I should know anything about her past. To that she said there’s nothing like I should know. I didn’t want to question further a person devoted in Islam so I accepted and said yes for marriage.
She comes over to the US and a few months later I find she was hiding a cell phone and a credit card. I thought I gave her everything she needed so I couldn't figure out this suspicious behavior.
Later on, I found emails of her asking for divorce from a gentleman from her college. So, she was married before me. Her family knew and just kept their mouths shut.
I didn’t inform her anything since there was no trust left. So, I filed for divorce.
Now she blames me for not discussing and not informing them before I took this step. Well, I couldn’t continue a marriage that started with deceit. Me and my family had to go through a lot and the experience had been emotionally draining and legally complicated since immigration was involved. I wanted to share a good life with her but it’s gone.
I would appreciate some good advice to cope with this. Salaam.
Salam alaikom dear brother,
Thank you for writing to us. I am really sorry for what you have been going through with your marriage. It must be very sad and disappointing to realize that your wife hid from you the fact that she was married prior to this in your home country.
As a result, you feel emotionally drained because this situation was especially complicated for you and for your family. And you are asking how to cope with this.
I think that your reaction – that without consulting her, you just filed for a divorce – is understandable.
You feel deceived as you thought that she and her family were religious and pious people, so you did not expect possible dishonesty. You put your trust and faith in this marriage.
However, I wrote “reaction” and not “response” because I think that there is a difference between the two.
I am not a scholar, so I am not sure whether it is obligatory to reveal that one was married prior to a proposal. If you would like to know more about this, please write to our section, Ask the Scholar.
However, from a counselor’s point of view, mutual trust and sincerity are the pillars of a successful marriage. And deliberately hiding certain things that will probably come to light, which will inevitably shake the confidence and trust among the spouses.
I think there are two separate issues here: that they hid important information from you and that caused you to lose your trust. And the other is how your marriage was prior to this situation.
You did not write about this in your letter, so I don’t know whether you were happy with her, got along well with her, or you had other issues as well that contributed to your decision.
So, I think that part of a proper response is to start by focusing on the first issue and trying to understand what happened and why it happened.
Clearing things and trying to get the whole picture are always better. Why?
Because you will avoid falling into assumptions about the motivations and intentions of others and learn the correct lesson from this experience.
Talk to Her and to Her Family
I would suggest putting your hurt and disappointment aside, sitting down and talking to your wife. You can do it involving both families, as her family probably took a major part in what happened.
List down the questions you really want to know the answers to. If you really want to clear things up, get to the point.
Why did they think it was better to hide this from you and your family?
Were they afraid that you would reject this marriage otherwise?
Why did she want to marry you and why did she end up in that relationship? What was the real intention of marrying you? Was there any “interest” or was it a genuine attraction towards you?
How does she feel towards her ex-husband? Etc.
Try to make this conversation without reproach and offense, as most probably that way you won’t get genuine, sincere answers.
I think it is good to stay fair, as you have been since the beginning, and let them hear their version of the story as well, before you make any final decision.
They may not have wanted to harm you intentionally but chose the wrong way to handle a situation.
They will bear (and they already are bearing) the consequences for not telling you what happened.
Maybe they repented their decision. I think it would be good to know why they think that this marriage of yours should continue.
All of us commit mistakes, and if Allah can forgive those sins, we have to try to do that as well.
Tell Them How You Feel
You can also ask them to understand your point of view.
How would they feel if the same happened and she realized that you were – or you still are – married to someone else?
You can tell that you feel betrayed and you have lost the trust and good will that you started this relationship with.
If their answers do not convince you because you see something dishonest or of interest, you can still proceed with your separation attempt.
Even if this happens, at least you will be more tranquil about the rightness of your decision.
Start a New Chapter
At the same time, if both the family and especially the girl repent and you realize that it was not intentional harm but rather some fears behind it and attempts to protect their daughter, you may change your mind.
If you feel that you get along with this girl, you love her, you have mutual attraction, and feel good as husband and wife, you can try to forgive her and start with a new page.
I know that it is not easy, especially if you feel disappointed and betrayed. But you can try to give her a chance if you feel that otherwise your marriage would work.
Open and Fair Communication
Insha Allah, if you handle this situation with sincerity, fairness, and respect, you will also gain the same respect.
Show your good manners as a standard for how you would like to treat issues among you in the future by speaking about things with sincerity and trying to solve problems together.
Make the istikhara prayer.
Learn to Trust Again
Whatever your decision is, I think the main focus is about trust. Learning to trust in her or in a new relationship.
If you continue with the divorce, take your time to make peace with this experience before you go into a new marriage. It will be important not to carry your disappointment, hurt and lack of trust into the relationship.
Take it as a test, an opportunity to learn and grow. Ask yourself, “What could have I done better?”
You said that “Her family seemed quite religious as well, and I really wasn’t looking for anything beyond that.”
Unfortunately, apparent religiosity is not a guarantee of a successful marriage.
Make sure that you will do your research on compatibility and possible risks when you are looking for a new partner.
I recommend a marriage counselor, at least for a couple of sessions where you can learn about how to gain trust back. Or try our life coaching services for in-depth advice.
You can learn to trust again. How?
- Give yourself time to heal. Forgive her, whatever your decision is.
- Accept that people can genuinely repent and learn from their mistakes and improve—what happened once may not happen again. Give her a chance to demonstrate it.
- Set up rules for transparent, sincere communication and commit yourself to it.
- Try not to live in the past. Do not bring up what happened every time you have a conflict.
- Move on, open a new chapter. If you feel the need to speak about it, set up a time when you are allowed to express your sentiments.
- Take responsibility for your actions. You are both accountable for your deeds in front of Allah.
Read here more about how to build trust in relationships.
May Allah help you with the best outcome, brother.
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