I have written many times about life with my alcoholic husband. I made a huge mistake marrying Rob the Great (Alcoholic). I was naïve about addiction and failed to see the signs that Rob was an alcoholic. I also made a huge mistake dating a guy when I was on a major rebound with my ex-boyfriend, “the one who got away”, Tom.
I should never have re-entered the dating pool at that point in my life, but I did. And, lastly, I should never have allowed Rob to set the speed of our dating. Before I knew it, Rob had asked for a commitment and I gave it to him in order to keep me strong in not going back to Tom.
Before I knew it, Rob and I purchased a home together and, since the damage was done, I went ahead and married him. After a total of six months. That is right– who gets remarried after just six months? That would be Stupid Dumb Idiotic Me.
So, it is my fault that I married Rob. But what obligation did Rob’s family owe me with a warning that he was an alcoholic? They all knew it. It had ended his first marriage and that was well known, too.
As parents, when our adult children have major character flaws, should we keep our mouths shut and let the adults work it out among themselves? Or are we morally obligated to speak up and save everyone more heartache?
Since I have my own opinion and experience, I decided to ask divorced women readers in a private forum. It is a most unscientific poll but it was 10 to 1 SPEAK UP. When there are minor children, it was more like 20 to 1 to speak up if there are major issues, like abuse, addiction or violence. I thought the comments were interesting and I think you will, too. I am posting them below with almost no editing, just for style and typos.
I think the bottom line is that, YES, please warn the new love interest if the relationship is getting serious and, especially, if it looks like they are headed to marriage or some kind of permanent commitment. Save everyone the trouble of dragging an ignorant person into a known mess and, especially, if children are involved, save the innocent young victims. As a parent, we are morally obligated to protect, and sometimes that means we must protect others from our own children. My husband’s family could have saved everyone a lot of pain and heartache if they had uttered a single word. Instead they watched me say “I do” to their alcoholic, abusive son. Shame on me. Shame on them. BIG SHAME ON THEM. They KNEW and remained silent.
Here are a few comments (not all– I got so many!) from other readers:
- Yes. I’m still pissed that I wasn’t warned about my ex-husband’s major issues.
- This is a hard one. This is another reason that five months to marriage is a bad idea. I feel like it would be hard to hide alcoholism if co-habitation happened first. Not an easy question, but a part of me feels like she should know.
- The fiancé needs to know. [She] may not believe it, but [she] needs the information. Being married to an addict often means disappearing money, emotional abuse, manipulation, and physical danger, not to mention any legal or financial ramifications for bad behavior that may arise.
- I say stay out of it. They are adults – let them make their own choices. It’s more important to be nice than right. Love both unconditionally!
- Could you talk to your son and say that if he doesn’t say something, you will? That way at least you’re not doing it sneakily.
- Definitely tell the other person. Why would you cause someone else to be blindsided by that later on when you know what’s coming? Marriage is such a huge commitment and possible trap. Don’t let them get stuck in a dangerous relationship because you don’t want to stir things up. The other person has a right to know. If nothing else you could suggest counseling to the couple to make sure they’ve discussed and worked through any major issues. I’m always in favor of full disclosure. Anything else is unfair to the other people involved.
- I am a big believer in autonomy but when there is an opportunity to warn someone of danger, autonomy takes a back seat for me. How many spouses exclaim that they wish they knew beforehand what they later learned too late? Too many. At least give your potential future in-law an opportunity to exercise informed consent.
- I think you should disclose it, you can tell the person you support their decision if they chose to stay, but think they should have all the info. I was engaged at 19, and my fiance’s mother told me I should leave her son, that he would not treat me the way I deserved due to his issues and addictions, and that it would probably ruin my life. She was right, and I appreciate her warning. I think most addicts will not “come clean” on their own, if you give them the heads up you are going to tell their secret they will find a way to poison their partner against you so you look like a liar or are just causing trouble.
- One of my friends in college was friends with a guy who had some mental problems to the point that she had no contact with him because he was emotionally abusive to her. Well later my roommate started dating him and eventually married him. I didn’t warn her at all because I didn’t think it was fair to him and I only knew my other friends side of the story. Down the road after they had a kid she divorced him because he was flat out crazy….threatening to kill himself in front of the kid, etc. that’s when I knew I should’ve given her a heads up. She may have not have believed it and she may have still married him, but at least that way she would’ve been aware and paid attention to the red flags earlier on.
- I honestly don’t know the answer. I’ve done both warning and not warning. I’m the type that would want to know. There are people that will ignore, not believe you, marry them anyway, hate you for telling them and warning them against the person they love (because love fixes everything- as we all here know too well), etc. In the end, it comes down to whom it is you are talking about and whom is involved (for me)- innocent children? Likely do it. Ex bf/fiancee/adults only? Likely stay out of it. That’s my current line of thinking. We are responsible for our own choices and actions and not everyone else’s; help others along the way but we have to draw a line too. Good luck with your decision.