Style Sex & Relationships

Friday 24 May 2019

Dear Mary: Should I tell him about my traumatic past?

Picture posed
Picture posed

I feel like I'm damaged goods and I don't know if I should tell my partner. I was pregnant twice in a previous long-term relationship. Both unplanned pregnancies ended prematurely, causing much emotional trauma.

My ex offered me no support in these times. He was very unreliable. I've always felt relieved that I did not have a family with him. I have no doubt that I'd have ended up a single mother with no support from him. However I feel enormous guilt over what happened.

My wonderful partner often expresses his wish that we'd met much earlier. We've decided that we don't want children.

We're a 'mature' couple and were never likely to have a family together anyway. I've never told him that maybe I can't have children - I don't know if I can.

We've both had long-term relationships before meeting each other, but they're not something that ever comes up in conversation. Should I be totally open with my partner about my past?

I'm afraid that he'll see me as tarnished by my experiences. I fear telling him would end our relationship.

Mary replies:  I'm glad that you have found love having had such a bad experience in your previous relationship. And the fact that you are on the same page regarding not wanting to have children - no matter what age you are - is perfect.

You don't actually say what happened to cause the pregnancies to end prematurely. Perhaps you had two abortions and as a result may not be able to have children. Or it may be that both pregnancies ended in a miscarriage. But you've already both decided that you don't want to have a family so it won't be put to the test as to whether or not you could have children together.

Even though neither of you have discussed very much about your previous relationships - and remember he will also have his own narrative - you ask if you should come clean about your history.

This makes me wonder if you have had any sort of counselling regarding whatever happened to you with the pregnancies.

You have to remind yourself that you did what was best for you in the particular circumstances you found yourself in at the time, but in no way are you damaged goods. You are uniquely you and that is all.

As with any secret, the longer time goes by the more difficult it is to tell somebody.

You seem to want to tell him so that you will feel better but sometimes it is preferable not to share. For instance what would the point be in somebody telling their partner that they had been unfaithful to them if by now the affair was over and they were getting on fine?

It seems more like confessing in order to feel cleansed but without taking account of the effect the confession would have on the partner.

I suggest, if you haven't already done so, that you talk to somebody for post-abortion or post-miscarriage counselling.

The HSE's website is a HSE support service, and if you search for post-abortion counselling you will get all the necessary details. They also provide free and confidential counselling on Freephone 1800 828 010. In the case of miscarriages you should go to for support.

Only you can decide whether or not to tell him, so speak to somebody professionally to begin with and then ask yourself what you would hope to achieve if you were to tell him your history.

You can contact Mary O’Conor anonymously by visiting or email her at or write c/o 27-32 Talbot Street, Dublin 1. All correspondence will be treated in confidence. Mary O’Conor regrets that she is unable to answer any questions privately.

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