LILY Letter 144: How to Talk to Dating Partners About Your Past

January 11, 2024

Since the audience for this letter is primarily Latter-day Saint single adults, it is almost inevitable that some of you did things you are not proud of that contributed to a divorce. Such misdeeds could include an affair (either sexual or emotional or both), serious dishonesty with a former spouse, substance abuse issues, or the physical or emotional abuse of a former spouse.

You may have heard a variety of opinions about whether and when to reveal your history to future dating partners. There are undoubtedly some who believe that, once they have repented, the former misdeed is no longer relevant to anyone--including a future spouse.

We do believe in the doctrine that, "he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more" (D&C 59:42). While we testify that the Lord remembers the sins you have repented of "no more," other people do. Your former spouse remembers. Friends remember. Your former spouse's family and friends undoubtedly remember. You had a divorce, at least in part, based on the thing you may be tempted to keep secret.

How will a future spouse feel if they went to the altar with you and made promises not knowing the whole story of how your former marriage ended? How will your future spouse feel if you gave a long explanation of all of your former spouse's misdeeds that contributed to the divorce while you omitted your own? How would you feel in the same situation? If your future spouse finds out the truth from someone else, the loss of trust may be irreparable. Why would you ever take that chance?

Emphasizing the best and most impressive parts of our histories and minimizing our misdeeds and mistakes is natural. But the natural man is an enemy to God (Mosiah 3:19). When we omit our mistakes from the telling of our histories, we are wearing a mask and inducing someone else to fall in love with an incomplete picture of who we are and who we have been. We can never really and truly feel loved while we doubt the other person could accept the truth if they knew it. And, if you really didn't doubt whether the other person could accept you if they knew everything, you wouldn't have an inner struggle over whether to tell them everything. You would just tell them.

Telling someone you care about the truth is not an exercise in self-shaming. In fact, it is the opposite. Telling the truth is pushing past the shame and allowing the other person the agency to choose you even knowing the whole story. When you tell the whole truth and receive acceptance, you can genuinely feel loved. Until you tell the whole truth, you will never know for sure whether your partner could have accepted you knowing the whole truth.

Life can be painful and difficult. When we are in enough pain, we will do almost anything for a little relief. It is not persuasive to someone experiencing intense pain to say, "If you do this you will regret it in the long run." "The long run?" they might answer back. "I don't know how I'm going to get through the next 3 hours let alone the next 30 years." People commit suicide, engage in substance abuse, and do all kinds of other destructive things because they just want the pain to stop. Many people in the throes of a painful and unhealthy marriage have done things they deeply regret trying to cope with the pain or find a little happiness in the middle of their misery. While we do not condone these things, we understand that intense pain drives good people to do things they would never do otherwise. Do you believe you have to be perfect to be acceptable? Do you believe no one will accept you knowing the mistakes you have made? Our message to you is that we are human beings and our brokenness is our bond.

The important question is not where you have been, but where you are now and where you are headed. Mature disciples of Christ will understand that you have not lived a perfect life. Reformation is part of repentance. And if you have had a mighty change of heart and are doing the work to become a better and more conscious person, a good-hearted future partner will understand. So, we encourage telling your future partners the truth--sometime before you begin dating exclusively and they give up other opportunities in order to pursue things more deeply with you.

When you tell a partner about your mistakes, let them know sincerely the things you have done to change and to learn from the mistakes while you put them behind you. We reiterate that who you are now and the direction you are going are more important considerations than who you have been or what you have done in the past.

God bless you and give you courage for the difficult conversations.


Are you divorced because of a terrible mistake you made in the past and you're not sure how to move forward and find love again? Watch this video discussion about how to move on in ways that serve you and your future relationship.

LINK TO WATCH: Had an Affair that Led to Divorce? How to Talk to Dating Partners About Your Past


LILY Coaching is available to support you personally. Simply visit to schedule a FREE Consult with Jeff or Cathy. We will provide you with a roadmap to your desired destination!

To heal from relationship loss and create more love in your life in 2024, read Intentional Courtship (available on Amazon).

If you enjoy this letter, forward to a friend. Our goal is to support as many single adults and later-married couples as possible so please share this letter with those you love!

Love in Later Years © 2021
Privacy Policy