Getting married marks a commitment to share everything about yourself with your loved one – for better and for worse.
And most of us, by the time we walk up the aisle, like to think we can be fairly confident we know everything important there is to know about our partner, and they about us.
But what if you had a secret so big you couldn’t bear to share it, even with the love of your life?
Here, we talk to five women who didn’t tell their husbands their biggest secrets – from bankruptcy to plastic surgery jobs – until after they’d tied the knot. So what did their other halves have to say?
EX-HUSBAND’S DEATHS CAUSED MY ANXIETY
Beautician Jackie Walker, 50, is married to David, 48, an electrician. They live in Leeds.
Jackie says: I began suffering from panic attacks eight years ago. I had split from my second husband in 2010, and two years later, sadly, he committed suicide. Five months later, my first husband, the father of my three children, also died – from natural causes.
Afterwards, I had a nervous breakdown.
I couldn’t bear to be home alone. I had this awful sensation of being unable to breathe, as though I was drowning. I couldn’t watch TV or even make a cup of tea and had to keep the windows and doors open. I tried to ‘fix’ the problem by walking the dog or seeing friends, but nothing helped.
My GP prescribed anti-depressants. But eventually, I decided to come off them and overhaul my life. I was determined to conquer the panic attacks, and so I learned to meditate.
When I met David, he was so calming to be around, completely different to my former husbands.
He proposed three months after our first date. When he got down on one knee in a restaurant, I didn’t think to explain my mental health issues. I couldn’t ruin the moment by telling him that my previous husbands had both died a year earlier.
We married in 2014. It was a wonderful day. But a year later I decided to tell him about my panic attacks and that I suffered from them because my exes had died. I had no choice – not knowing meant David couldn’t understand when I was having “down days”.
Now he’s very supportive, although there was a “you’re the black widow” joke at one point in an attempt to lighten the mood!I still get panic attacks, but I recognise them now. Mentally and emotionally, I’m in a much better place to deal with them, too.
Having told David makes everything easier. He’s very reassuring and gives me the support I need.
David says: When I found out about Jackie’s anxiety attacks I took it in my stride. I wasn’t shocked that she hadn’t told me her two former husbands were dead; I just wanted to help her. She meditates when she has an episode and this helps her control them.
If I’d known about her mental health issues, I would still have gone into the relationship. I have no regrets.
I SENSE FAIRIES AND DEAD LOVED ONES
Spiritual PR company owner and Reiki master Sarah Lloyd, 42, is married to Karl, 40, a CAD draughtsman. They live in Farnborough, Hampshire, with their daughters Lucy, five, and Amy, three.
Sarah says: I became aware I had psychic abilities aged six. I felt a constant presence – like there was someone in the room with me.
My gift meant I never fitted in. I always knew when something was wrong with one of my friends – I’d get this “feeling”. But I was teased for being “weird”, so I tried to suppress my gift. And, eventually, it went away altogether.
Karl and I met in 2009 at a mutual friend’s wedding, and married in 2014. We were clear from the outset about not hiding things from each other. But as my gift was firmly “off”, I didn’t think to mention it.
When my younger daughter was born a year later I was exhausted. At my lowest point, I was surviving on three hours’ sleep.
One night, an angel appeared and wrapped me in his wings. I was scared and intrigued. It was like the real me was coming through again but there was still some blockage.
By 2016, I’d gone back to work at a large technology firm and was taking antidepressants to cope. I knew the absence of my gift was the reason my life wasn’t going the way I’d envisaged, so I saw an energy healer who helped me see another path.
It was as though she had turned a light on inside me.
In 2017, I booked a retreat in Glastonbury to tune my skills and decided to reveal my secret to Karl.
At first he was astounded, and asked what on earth was going on. I confessed this was my calling, but I’d been too frightened to tell him. After the initial shock wore off, he took it well.
The retreat marked a turning point for me. I could share things I knew wouldn’t be laughed at, such as seeing Archangel Michael standing over me with a flaming sword, or picking up the scent of a dead loved one.
Afterwards, I left my corporate job. I’m now an energy worker and use my “gift” in my PR business.
Today, I hone my abilities through daily meditation. I connect with fairies in the woods nearby and call in my guides every evening to help clear negative energy. I can’t imagine ever burying my abilities again. I’m finally my true self and I’ve never been happier.
Karl says: When we first met, Sarah never truly seemed content; she was clearly searching for fulfilment.
At the time, I suspected there was more going on than met the eye, although I couldn’t understand why she felt the need to visit psychics.
When she told me the truth about her abilities, though, I was surprised.
I think I handled it well – by then, I knew Sarah well enough to know she was somewhat quirky. If anything, this explained a lot.
Today I’m happy that Sarah’s happy. In her old job she was stressed and dissatisfied. Being her true self means she has more time and patience for the family. I’m extremely proud of her – it takes huge courage to do what she has done.
I HID MY TWO NOSE JOBS FOR 11 YEARS
Architect Farnaz Ebrahimi, 36, is married to Darius, 38, a car bodyworker. They live in North London with their sons, Nicholas, two, and four-month-old Alexander.
Farnaz says: I was born with a large Roman nose that dominated my face. As a child, I’d spend hours applying make-up in an attempt to make it appear smaller. I had incredibly low self-esteem; just glancing at my profile would get me down.
At 17, I decided to have a nose job. However, because my body was still developing, the surgeon was very cautious, and the nose he gave me just wasn’t small enough.
At 19, I underwent a second procedure. I’ve easily spent £5,000 ($9,553) on my face. It was incredibly painful, but my face was transformed and finally I blossomed. By the time I met Darius, when I was 21, I was a confident, outgoing woman. I never told him about the procedures – it just didn’t come up. When we got married in 2007, I didn’t even think to mention it.
A few years later, we were visiting my older sister when she took out her wedding album.
And there I was in the photographs with my pre-surgery nose.
When Darius saw the pictures, he was utterly confused – he insisted it couldn’t be me. That’s when I told him.
To say he wasn’t happy that I’d kept it secret for 11 years was an understatement. He screamed at me in front of my family and stormed out of the house. My sister and I then had a huge row.
Darius and I didn’t speak for almost three weeks. He was fuming and felt he’d been duped.
Though I understood why he was annoyed, I was really hurt at how shocked and angry he was. It was such a difficult time, I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I thought I might have lost him.
It makes me think that had Darius met me before I had my nose job, he wouldn’t have fallen in love with me.
Darius says: My wife is an attractive woman, but when I saw those teenage photos, I was shocked to discover how different her face was.
It took a while to come to terms with her decision not to tell me. You can’t help but wonder what else you don’t know about. I would have preferred to know. When I first met her, my reaction was: ‘Wow, she’s gorgeous!’ I even told my parents I’d found the mother of my children.
It’s too early to tell whether our children have inherited her large nose. I’ll admit I worry about it; when our sons were born, the first thing I did was peer at their faces to see whose nose they have.
Everyone thinks I’m being awful, but it’s important to me. At least we have sons – having a large nose is much worse for a girl.
I HAD TO ADMIT I’D HAD THREE TERMINATIONS
Early years practitioner Mimi Petrova, 38, is married to Alex, 33, a painter. They have a two-year-old son, Martin, and they live in Ilford, Essex.
Mimi says: Throughout my 20s, I had no intention of settling down, and went from one relationship to another. But when I met Alex in 2012, I knew he was The One.
We’ve never been curious about each other’s relationship history. We were looking to our future, not our past.
That’s why I didn’t mention the three abortions I had aged 21, 23 and 28. Each of the pregnancies was an accident. On two occasions we didn’t use protection and on the third the condom split.
Looking back, I was young and naive. Ironically, I was studying childcare. But I wasn’t ready for a child of my own, financially or emotionally, and the guys weren’t serious either. Alex and I got married in 2013, and I knew he wanted a family.
He was so looking forward to us becoming parents that I didn’t want to put him off by revealing my past.
I walked down the aisle with zero regrets. There was no need to tell Alex – or so I thought.
Then we tried for a baby for a year. But nothing happened. As each month passed, I became more and more frightened by my past actions.
Our GP suggested we undergo medical tests and that’s when I knew I had to confess.
I cooked a meal and after we’d drunk the best part of a bottle of wine, I told Alex the truth. I knew it was a risk; that if I couldn’t give him a family it was likely to be a deal-breaker. He was stunned, but supported me. I’d worried that he’d be angry or judgmental, but he wasn’t.
Then, luckily, the medical team reassured him there was no reason I shouldn’t get pregnant. A year later I found out I was expecting. Now, it’s something we never talk about. But sometimes I wonder whether we’d still be together if I hadn’t fallen pregnant.
Alex says: Mimi is a really together person, so it’s hard to imagine her not being careful when it comes to contraception.
I understand why she didn’t tell me about the abortions – people do make mistakes. None of us is perfect. Her previous pregnancies happened when she was still in full-time education and enjoying life. Bringing a child into the world with no means to support it isn’t a good idea.
That’s why I didn’t want to dwell on why we hadn’t discussed it before, although I was hurt at first that she’d hidden it from me.
Now we’ve got our son and we hope to have more children.
LOAN TROUBLES LEFT ME BANKRUPT
Nursing assistant Hayley Garbutt, 51, is married to Maurice, 53, an engineer. She has three children and they live in Hunmanby, North Yorkshire.
Hayley says: During my first marriage, my husband and I were juggling two businesses – a stationery shop and an after-school club. We also had two kids and a mortgage to pay. It was a struggle.
By the time the 2008 recession hit, it was clear both businesses were failing. We closed the after-school club so I could find paid work. In the end, I took on three jobs, working 70 hours a week while my husband ran the shop.
I agreed to be a guarantor for a £38,000 ($72,603) loan. Meanwhile, the money I earned was paying the mortgage, the loan repayments and running our home.
A year later, our marriage was at breaking point and, to cut a long story short, I had no option but to declare myself bankrupt.
I started dating Maurice, an old school friend, the following year. He thought it was odd that I had left my marriage without a penny to my name, and did grill me about it. But I simply said the bank had taken everything when the business failed, and that was that.
Maurice only found out the truth after we married in 2014.
As soon as we were man and wife, he wanted to put my name on the house deeds. I didn’t want the bankruptcy to impact on him – I feared it could affect his credit rating – so I told him not to and explained why.
He was more than surprised; cross is the word that sums it up. Just thinking about it now makes me feel ill.
Today, Maurice is keen for me to share responsibility for our money. He trusts me, but I don’t trust myself. The experience scared me so much I don’t want any form of debt in my name.
Maurice says: When Hayley and I started seeing each other, I noticed she had a pay-as-you-go phone and didn’t have any credit cards either. Looking back, all the signs were there.
It’s a horrible situation for her to have found herself in and I understand why she didn’t tell me.
But I wish I had known from the start, if only because I could have helped her financially. I firmly believe that couples shouldn’t have secrets from one another.