DEAR ZORA

A Case for Checking His Background Before Committing

If your partner refuses to perform this forensic deep dive into every aspect of their lives, run

Elisabeth Ovesen | NYT Bestselling Author
ZORA
Published in
5 min readFeb 21, 2022

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GIF: Inspector Gadget

I once married a man who was already married. For months, we planned our wedding, and for months, I asked him to present his divorce decree. We needed to know the date of his dissolution so we could add it to the marriage license application. So, we took the long, arduous trip downtown to the county courthouse, asked a stoic clerk for my fiance’s case files, and waited about 20 minutes before a stack of papers and folders bigger than both our heads combined was plopped in front of us. Sifting through the documents, we couldn’t find what we were looking for, but we did uncover all the ugliness of his divorce proceedings, ugliness he didn’t want to relive. So, just as soon as we opened his file, we closed it.

The clerk told us my fiance’s divorce decree would have been placed on the very top of the pile had his divorce been finalized, but it wasn’t there. Still, he insisted he and his ex were divorced several years prior. To back up his claim, he called his attorney later that afternoon and walked into another room as they discussed the particulars of the case. Close to an hour later, my fiance ended the call and walked back into the bedroom with shoulders shrugged. “My attorney says the divorce was finalized, so we should be good!” my intended insisted.

Still searching for certainty, I paid one dollar to access his court records online and came up with what I thought was proof his marriage legally ended — motion entered, the document read. I showed my fiance this supposed sliver of proof, and he agreed. He was definitely divorced. So, I jotted down the date, added it to the marriage license application, and just like that, my seventh fiance became my third husband.

That was January 2016, and by March, my alleged husband was out on his ass. Everything he ever told me was a fucking lie. Among other grievances and infractions, my new husband was still married. What I would’ve given to have the complete scoop on him before letting this Polygamist Player into my life. Sure, there were a million other red flags that I either ignored or explained away, but I certainly wouldn’t have married a man who was already married!

And the Polygamist Player wasn’t the only one. In my wake is a dumpster fire fueled by lying men — men who pretended to be good, who pretended to be single, men who pretended to be men. Shit, I recently ended a six-year relationship with a man who spent considerable time in psychiatric institutions on a regular basis and hid his time at Club Meds under the guise of, “Gonna go visit my mom.” I have been bamboozled more times than I care to admit, and all it’s left me with is two years of celibacy and the feminine urge to hire and private detective to investigate every man I meet.

GIF: Inspector Gadget

One of my coaching clients recently told me about a man she met online who, she eventually found out, works for the FBI. Although she uses a pseudonym while online dating, he started their very first phone conversation by calling her by her complete name — first, middle, and last. Needless to say, she never spoke to him again and continues feeling creeped out, knowing there’s a stranger who lives within five miles of her home who knows everything about her. Although I think it’s important to know as much as you possibly can about someone before you commit to being in a serious relationship with them, checking the background of someone you hardly know without their prior knowledge and consent is not the answer.

However, let’s consider for a moment the benefits of consensually digging into your significant other’s past before agreeing to make big life changes and decisions together. Imagine having carte blanche to their credit report, job, medical, mental health, criminal, and relationship history. Imagine you and your partner feeling absolutely sure it’s safe to buy property, have children, and be married to one another. Imagine being secure that, at the very least, his or your past won’t come back to bite either of you, that there are no secrets or detrimental surprises hiding in the woods, ready to pounce the moment you think your life has seen its last breakup or divorce. Imagine the two of you agreeing to individual and couple’s therapy and a complete personal, professional, and financial audit before taking your relationship to the next level.

Most of us have undergone background checks before working for corporations that need to be sure we’re not a liability, right? So, why should they be the only ones to know the truth about someone before committing? And sure, cyberstalking someone’s social media profiles may give you some information, but people who have something to hide don’t always hide it in plain sight. Sometimes, you have to dig a little deeper. So, how do you get the real deal deets on your lover before you move in together? Simple.

GIF: Inspector Gadget

Suggest that each of you order your own background checks, medical records, credit reports, and more. Then, sit down together, exchange reports, review, and ask questions right then and there. Or, make joint appointments with your accountants, bankers, doctors, and therapists to get the details straight from the experts. If you’re thinking about marrying someone, you need to know everything because once you tie the knot, their shit becomes your shit, and you don’t want to be on the hook for someone else’s fuckups, no matter how much you love them.

Would you consider this? If so, here’s a bit of information to get you started. Whatever you decide, be sure to include your partner. It’s never cool to go behind someone’s back to dig through their trash. We’re all grown-ups here, right? So, put on your big girl panties and broach the subject. To that end, if your partner flat out refuses to perform this forensic deep dive into every aspect of their lives, run. Don’t be like me. Don’t end up the star of your own Lifetime movie, married to a man who already has a wife. Trust me. It’s more dramatic in real life than it is on TV.

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Elisabeth Ovesen | NYT Bestselling Author
ZORA
Writer for

3x New York Times bestselling author, art enthusiast, and design girlie living between Los Angeles and New York City