Why Nikki Bella Hid Her First Marriage From John Cena, and How He Responded When He Found out

John Cena and Nikki Bella had been through a lot in their six-year relationship before calling off their engagement Sunday.

One of the biggest challenges they faced early on in their romance was the time Bella revealed that she had been married before meeting Cena, which was one of the biggest plot points of the E! reality series Total Divas season two, which aired in 2014.

The couple at that point had been dating for two years, and they were even living together, having signed his 75-page cohabitation agreement forcing her to move out all her belongings "as soon as possible" upon their separation.

But Bella was still hiding her past marriage, and not just from Cena.

During an emotional meeting with her family, Bella told mom Kathy Colace, brother JJ Garcia and twin sister Brie (among others) that she was ashamed of the decision she made when she was so young.

"I got married when I was 20. And got divorced at 23, to my high school sweetheart," Bella said. "Basically we got married by Elvis. We drove to Vegas, did it."

Bella regretted tying the knot from the beginning. "Even when I started walking down the aisle, I knew this was a huge mistake and how can I get out of it and I couldn't," she recalled. "I tried to forget about it but now it's starting to come up, and I figured you guys have to hear from me before you hear from anyone else. It's crazy 'cause John doesn't even know and here we talk about marriage and we never bring it up."

Colace was not happy with her daughter's decision, especially because she wished Bella would have come to her, but Garcia was the one who exploded the most.

"John's gonna be pissed. I'd be pissed for him if you hadn't told him. 'Cause you talk about marriage all the time with him, don't expect it to be easy," Garcia said. "[These things] really don't just happen. You don't just run off and get married and not tell your family for 10 years. That doesn't just happen. You do what you got to do and I hope you figure it all out with John."

Garcia ended up spilling the beans accidentally to Cena, mentioning it at Brie's 2014 wedding to husband Daniel Bryan.

"I heard you're handling everything awesome," he told Cena. "For her to tell you that she's been married before and you had no problem with it, I have to give you kudos man.

Cena look shocked but kept the conversation moving.

Finally, Bella finally got the courage to break the news to her beau herself.

Luckily, having gone through a divorce to ex-wife Elizabeth Huberdeau in 2012, Cena was very understanding of his girlfriend. The two had been fighting about marriage — with Cena reluctant to tie the knot again — but he regardless encouraged Bella to be more honest with him.

"When the focus of most of our problems has to do with that particular topic, maybe I should know that stuff," he told Bella. "I know how you feel. You're a human being, so I know you want certain things. But I would especially know how you feel about it because you had a bad experience."

"I don't care," Cena added. "What you did before you met me is what you did before you met me, I don't need to know everything about you. It's just when you can tell other people and I kind of would like to be on that totem pole somewhere — I don't have to be at the top … I just would like to be on it."

While Bella look relieved, she said she did "feel bad" she didn't tell Cena.

"I've realized that I need to start having confidence in my relationship with John and that he accepts me for all my faults," she told the camera. "I am so relieved that John and I have made up and I'm just happy to be here with my family… honestly, nothing can go wrong now. Everything is perfect."

Cena and Bella announced Sunday that they called off their engagement, just a year after he proposed during WrestleMania 33.

The couple, who were together for six years, were planning to marry May 5 during a destination wedding.

An insider previously told PEOPLE Bella was the one who finally ended the relationship.


"John acted more and more like he was doing her a favor by somehow conceding to go ahead and marry her," the insider said. "[Nikki] doesn't need a pity proposal, a pity wedding, a pity husband. She's a phenomenal, tremendous woman."

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