Dear Mary: Should I tell my family about my boyfriend's drugs and prison past?
I'm a successful, educated woman in my early 30s who has been dating a man with a criminal record for over two years.
I never thought I would be in this position. I come from a very normal, middle-class, hard-working family (as does he), so this is nothing any of us have experienced growing up.
I have had two previous relationships, both were with wonderful men, which ended for reasons to do with distance, youth, university and emigration, so I feel I have enough experience of healthy, functioning relationships.
My partner and I have been extremely happy together, he is loving and supportive, we have great fun and enjoy the same things - we love health and fitness, music, gigs and travel - and life has been very happy for us both.
However, as we discuss the possibility of marriage I really fear my family will judge him on his past mistakes, and this has caused me serious stress.
Over the past couple of years, I have known him to be honest, hard working and decent.
I knew him as a friend before the relationship began.
However, 11 years ago his life was extremely different - he was dealing with a drug addiction, he had serious debts, suffered constant threats and served time in prison for armed robberies.
He was always totally open with me about his past from the beginning, and never hid it from me.
It was already eight years later when I met him, and he has huge remorse for what he once did.
Since his conviction, and subsequent release, he has completely turned his life around.
He has been fully clean, he attends regular counselling to ensure he is never in that position again and is in full-time employment in IT.
All my friends are aware of his criminal conviction too, but they all have welcomed him fully over the years and think he is great for me.
We want to have every chance in life, however we are both increasingly worried that his past will prevent it and that some of my family will be upset, judgemental or refuse to give him a chance because of his serious convictions.
But as things get stronger over the years we are discussing if we should tell them about his past. We need advice on what I should do.
Mary replies: I salute your partner both for overcoming his addiction and for being totally honest with you about his past.
We have all done things that we are not proud of, but some of these things are far more serious than others, and no doubt he feels that he falls into the latter category.
You have already told your friends the full story and they have embraced him into their company.
As a result, people know your story, and so if you were to keep it secret from your family I am sure that at some point, inadvertently or otherwise, the facts about his past would become known.
So I don't think you have any option but to tell your family the full story.
However bear in mind that they already know him as a person, and will already have formed their opinion of him, and hopefully it is a good one.
So they will be pre-disposed to think well of him, particularly when they see that he makes you so happy.
Start by telling a family member to whom you are particularly close and discuss with them how they feel the other members will react.
There is no need to go into enormous detail but be prepared to answer their questions truthfully as that way you will have nothing to hide.
It is a very long time since all of this happened and they can all see that he has made a success of his life ever since his release.
There is no way that he should continue to be punished for past offences.
After all, he served his time and has paid quite a price already.
Be sure to explain to your family that you have already made your decision and will be staying with him, and also tell them that you have known his complete story from the start.
I hope you have a very long and happy future together.