When Francine married Rick Rivers, she did it without telling him her terrible secret.
They had known each other since fifth grade, but lost touch while attending different colleges. Later, Rick went into the Marine Corps. During those years, Francine got involved with a man and became pregnant. Frightened, and feeling she couldn't tell her parents, she did what was supposed to solve the problem, though it wasn't legal at the time: She had an abortion. Then she tried to get on with her life as if it had never happened.
Francine began to correspond with Rick while he was in Vietnam, and they married in 1969, a year after he came home. "Before we got married," he says, "we talked about honesty. We were going to base our marriage on truth." He told Francine about his not-so-sterling past, but she couldn't bring herself to tell Rick about the abortion.
"I was convinced Rick wouldn't marry me [if he knew]," Francine explains. "I'd grown up in a Christian home. Killing your own child ranked in my mind as the worst sin. I was ashamed into my bones. Since I thought God couldn't accept me anymore, I certainly didn't think a man could, either. So I convinced myself that I should have the right to reach out for happiness."
And the Riverses were happy, in many ways, those first few years. But even while she enjoyed the growing love and trust in her marriage, Francine couldn't forget the abortion. Sudden fits of grief would descend on her. The possibility of starting a family brought feelings of extreme guilt and unworthiness.
No longer willing to live a lie, she decided she could trust Rick with her secret. So after two years of marriage, Francine confessed. "I told him in the dark—literally," she recalls. "We were at my parents' house, lying in bed. I said, 'There's something I never told you.'"
Rick was stunned. "I'd known Francine practically all my life," he says, "and she was the most moral girl I knew. But what hurt most was that she didn't trust me from the beginning. I had always been honest [with her]. I think she told me at her folks' house because she figured if I walked out, at least she'd have a place to stay."
A Terrible Knowledge
After Francine's confession, the Riverses' relationship changed. "You can't drop that kind of bombshell and expect to go on the same," Rick says.