When I met my husband 40 years ago I knew he was ‘the one.’ He had firm opinions on sex before marriage (outdated even then) and was a virgin. As I got to know him, it became clear that he’d never consider marrying somebody with ‘history.’ He thought sex special and wouldn’t want to imagine his wife having it with others. But, by 22, I’d been having sex for four years. Madly in love and wanting him to marry me, I lied....This is one of the problems with men prone to pedestalization; it can be ugly indeed when the pedestal finally comes crashing down. It is not surprising that the advice columnist's instinct is to be irritated at the man's principled position, to find it "stupid", and to declare the very concept of virgin marriage to be outdated. But it is a little surprising that she nevertheless sees a modicum of substance to his position, as she writes: "I know no one who would discover that they had been lied to for 40 years, and think it didn’t matter."
We had two children and a very happy and successful marriage. But a few weeks ago, an old friend contacted me over the internet, and I invited her round. My husband left us to talk and went off to the garden. Inevitably we talked of the past. After she left, I found my husband looking devastated. He said he’d gone into the conservatory to read and heard everything.
He said he felt utterly betrayed, as he had a right to expect honesty, but our entire marriage had been based on a fundamental lie. I said we’d had a wonderful 40 years, so what could it matter what I did before I met him? He moved in to the spare room and avoided me. A week later he moved to a bedsit and told me he wanted a divorce.
And it's not so much the fact that the woman lied about her sexual history - I'm hardly the first man to observe that most, if not all, non-virgin women reflexively lie about N - but the fact that she knew perfectly well that this was a major matter of principle to him and she proceeded to purposefully deceive him about it anyhow. It was more than a deception meant to be justified by the eventual ends, it was also a total lack of respect for the man, for his principles, and a shameless manipulation meant to prevent him from being permitted to make a very important decision about his own life. Notice that even now, she still fails to respect his principles.
Does that deception, manipulation, and lack of respect justify walking away from four decades of marriage? I couldn't possibly say. Perhaps the marriage was considerably less happy than the wife imagines and the man is simply taking a convenient way out. Perhaps he is so disgusted by her past that he truly wants nothing to do with her. It's not for me to say, it's really not for any of us to say. I am confident that I would not react that way, but then, I was considerably less principled on the matter than this man. As Mises asserts, only acting man can assign motivations to his actions. On the other hand, I also know that any contract based on fraud is intrinsically invalid, and there is a perfectly reasonable case to be made that the marriage was never legitimate in the first place. The woman cannot appeal to forty years of something that did not, properly speaking, ever exist, especially in light of the Marriage 2.0 principle that unhappiness is an acceptable reason for unilaterally ending a marriage at any time.
However, I'm not really interested in hashing out what the ideal response to this situation is, my purpose is merely to point to this example in underlining the fact that one cannot assume that the passage of time will necessarily erase past deceptions and betrayals. It is hard, but it is always better to be honest and risk the possibility that the disclosure of one's health, one's debt, one's family, or one's sexual history will cause the other person to walk away than to attempt to deceive them into a long term relationship in the hopes that the deception will never come to light or will be overlooked in the future.