Dear Dr. Faizal,

I am an East Indian woman, born and raised in Vancouver. My parents are arranging my marriage to a man from India. I like him and am not protesting this marriage, but from talking to him, it’s obvious he thinks I am a virgin. I am not. I’ve heard of some women who try to hide the truth. I also feel like hiding this from everyone by smearing fake blood on the sheets on my wedding night to ‘prove’ that I am still a virgin. I don’t want to lie to my fiancé, but if I tell him the truth he and his family may back out of this union.

– Dilemma

Dear Dilemma,

I truly empathize with you and appreciate your delicate issue. It is terrific marrying someone you want to wed, but it can be scary wondering if something may possibly break this union.

It is true that traditional East Indian (and other) families, primarily because of family honour, would like, and sometimes demand, that the new daughter-in-law be a virgin. They do not take kindly to a woman who “has a past,” as is the typical expression used.

Many women have tried to cover up the fact that they are not a virgin. Some have, on their wedding night, burst a capsule containing fake blood on the bed sheets to fool their groom, while some have even had their hymen surgically reconstructed before the wedding to appear more authentic.

If you “smear [] fake blood on the sheets on [your] wedding night to ‘prove’ that [you are] still a virgin,” you may fool your husband, but you will always know and have to live secretly with the truth.

Do you really want to begin your marriage, a sacred union between man and woman, with a lie? Can you truly share intimacy (open, honest communication) with your husband, knowing that you have been untruthful with him from the start?

The sense of guilt produced by hiding the truth, and then from having to maintain the lie, is a torturous cross to bear. This guilt is sometimes accompanied by feelings of self-resentment and sometimes manifests itself in depression.

Feelings aside, you must understand that the truth will inevitably come out. How it will come out is not important here. What is important is that once your secret is uncovered, how will you face your husband, possible children, and both extended families involved? The consequences of this one lie could have devastating effects on you and many of your loved ones.

I recommend that you be truthful to your fiancé. Let him know that just like some of the singles population in Canada, you also have dated and have been sexually active in the past. You do not have to apologize for your past actions. You have not committed a crime, nor have you consciously injured anyone.

Let him know that the past is the past; there’s nothing you can do to change it. But your present and future actions are within your control. He needs to know how much you want to marry him and how faithful you will be to him after becoming his wife.

After given some time to digest your revelation, if your fiancé is unable to accept you, let him know that it took courage for you to discuss this personal topic with him, and in return for your honesty, request that he not disclose this intimate detail of your life to anyone.

On the other hand, if your fiancé, realizing how much honesty and trust make the fabric of a marriage, accepts you as his future wife, both of you must discuss it if, and how much, you should tell the respective families. This decision must be mutual.

Of all the many factors (age, education, beauty, and so on) that determine the person we would like to marry, trust is pivotal. Without it, you are living in a glass house at the bottom of a rockslide; with it, you luxuriate in the moonlight, protected by the walls of the Taj Mahal.

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