My brother is lying to his pregnant fianc

He's been married three times, but he wants to keep that a secret.

Published June 21, 2006 11:00AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

My brother is a happy-go-lucky guy, always the life of the party. He's been married and divorced three times, and before his third marriage he neglected to disclose both previous marriages to his wife. He did admit to having been married before. Now that we've met his likely fourth wife, we're very happy for him and we want the best for both him and his fiancée. The problem is that he's told our family not to reveal all three prior marriages to his prospective wife. Instead, he wants to pretend there was only one prior marriage. To complicate matters, No. 4 is now expecting his baby.

What is the best solution to the problem? We want to welcome his fiancée into our family with open arms, but I would feel awful not being truthful to her. My current solution is to recommend strongly to my father that he persuade my brother to come clean. If my father is unsuccessful in persuading him, though, how can I handle their upcoming visit to our state (including a possible two-day visit at our house)?

Part of me wants to distance myself from the whole affair, but she's a wonderful woman, and I'm worried that our distance would be misinterpreted as dislike for her. Should my partner and I attend their wedding? Admittedly, it's become a bit less momentous than most sibling weddings (taking into account all the prior marriages, that is), but we want to be supportive of both of them as they bring a new life into this world. I feel that I'd be betraying my brother by telling his fiancée the truth, and I'd betray my brother's fiancée by withholding it. Help!

Trying to Do the Right Thing in Texas

Dear Trying to Do the Right Thing,

Marriage is a public contract, and family members have a clear stake in its successful fulfillment. Families have a stake in the couple's staying together because children are involved; because the child's father is your brother, you will bear some responsibility toward this child, and will also probably feel some love and protectiveness toward the child. You will want this child to be well cared for because it will be a flesh and blood relative of yours. So you have a stake in the longevity of the marriage. It's not just a private matter between two private individuals.

The fact of his three previous marriages and, more important, his attempt to conceal them, says plainly: This marriage probably will not last.

His fiancée has a right to know that, so she can make alternate arrangements for the care of her child.

If your father can persuade your brother to level with his fiancée, that would be great. If not, I think you have to tell your brother that you cannot stand by and let him lie to her. Warn him that if he wants to come and stay at your place, he will have to tell his fiancée the truth, or you will.

Your duty is clear. This woman has a right to know. Somebody has to tell her.

If he decides to avoid you until the wedding day, you will be in a tough spot.

If the wedding day comes and still no one has told her, then when the ceremony gets to that part where the official says, "If there be anyone here having knowledge why these two should not be joined in holy matrimony, speak now or forever hold your peace..."

That's your cue. You're on.

I really don't see any choice. Yes, it is melodramatic. But there is too much at stake. If the family stands by and does nothing, then you're all helping to defraud an unsuspecting mother-to-be.

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