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Sociopaths … Manipulation And Gaslighting And Control, Oh My!

By O.N. Ward

Every week, a chapter of my book, “Husband, Liar, Sociopath: How He Lied, Why I Fell For It & The Painful Lessons Learned” (available via Amazon.com, just click on the title or book cover) will be published here on Lovefraud. To read prior chapters, please see the links at the bottom of the post.

Chapter 10: The Secret Wedding

By the time Paul and I got engaged, we had been living together and working in Minneapolis for six months. Still, virtually everything I knew about Paul was from our time at Yale. He was that busy at his new job. Chronically absent or exhausted from his grueling schedule, he rarely talked to me about his clients or assignments. He had no time to hear about my projects at work either. Couldn’t I see how tired he was?

Watching the Mets, the Giants, or the Rangers became the priority when he was home, because, more than anything, he just needed to decompress. To share his company, I started watching a lot of professional sports. The rich intellectual relationship we had shared came to a screeching halt. I was sure the loss was temporary. We were both overachievers at work and wanted to make great first impressions on our respective employers, and that took priority. We were just busy and tired. How could it be anything else?

Because it was a second marriage for both of us, we decided to keep our wedding simple and inexpensive. We did not want our parents to feel they needed to buy us anything, and we wanted to save our money for a house. Paul took things a step further by insisting that we keep our wedding plans private—that it be just the two of us. In fact, he made me promise to not even tell my family where we were getting married, only the date: May 1. He did not want anyone to show up and ruin our much-needed time together. It seemed an odd request, but since it was so important to Paul, and because we were not inviting friends and family anyway, it didn’t seem like a big deal to agree.

By mid-April, Paul was swamped at work, and he expected the demands of his job to overflow into May. He asked me to postpone our wedding so he could see an important project through to fruition.

Lisa, a friend from work, looked at me with surprise when I told her we had changed our wedding plans. “Onna,” she said, “who changes their wedding date?”

“But it’s just the two of us,” I replied, “so it doesn’t really matter.”

She didn’t give up. “Is everything okay? Changing your wedding date a few weeks before you’re supposed to get married seems really weird.”

“Of course. Things are great,” I said. “It’s just that Paul’s so busy and so important to the project he’s working on.”

“But it’s your wedding!” Lisa continued. “Most people would never do that.”

“Lisa,” I said, “I’ve already been through one failed marriage. All that matters is the kind of marriage we have, not the wedding date. Who cares if, years from now, we’re happily married and celebrate our anniversary on May first, twenty-first, or even June twenty-first?”

I called the inn nestled in California’s wine country and the justice of the peace we had booked to change our wedding date and then shifted my vacation time at work. Now we planned to get married on May 21. I should have realized that Paul’s desire to keep the wedding simple and private gave him total control over a very important date in our lives. If no one had booked a plane ticket to be with us, the wedding could be changed or even cancelled at the last minute—whatever he wanted, for whatever reason he wanted.

I’ll never know if Paul had legitimate reasons to change the wedding date or if it was an orchestrated performance for the partners at work. As Lisa correctly pointed out, who changes their wedding date? By doing so, he became an instant office legend. “Look! Paul not only logs long, hard hours, he is so committed to the firm he even changed his wedding for work. Now that’s dedication!”

On May 21, with no friends or family in attendance, Paul and I got married. Telegrams and flowers and cards from his family flooded in. None came from my family and friends, because I had respected Paul’s desire to keep the location private. When I asked Paul why he gave his family and friends information about our wedding but asked that I not divulge our plans, he looked shocked and claimed he did not know what I was talking about—that he had never made such a request. Paul chalked it up to a “misunderstanding” or “miscommunication.” What else could it be?

My mind searched for a clear memory about Paul’s request, but so much had been happening between both of our jobs and planning for our wedding that no memory was crystal clear. Had I misunderstood? Had I just assumed I should not tell anyone the location due to Paul’s desire to have a private ceremony? We had both been tired and working hard, hadn’t we? He would never have asked me not to tell my family where we were staying and getting married, all the while telling his family and friends. That didn’t make sense! It had to be me who had misunderstood.

A little voice in me should have been screaming, “Why would I make up the idea that I shouldn’t tell anyone where we were getting married? That’s crazy!” But now that Paul was saying he had never made such a request, the idea of such a request seemed beyond bizarre. What else could it be but a terrible misunderstanding?

How would it have possibly crossed my mind that I was being gaslighted by Paul, that this was a purposeful manipulation, one of thousands that lay ahead, to unsettle me, to make me doubt myself, to erode my self-confidence, and to test me just to see if he could get me to do it? This is how sociopaths operate. This is how Paul operated, each deception couched as a misunderstanding seeded with the suggestion that I was too sensitive, too controlling, too unreasonable, or had simply misunderstood or misremembered.

Start from the beginning:

Chapter 1

 

Go to previous chapter:

Chapter 9

 

Go to next chapter:

Chapter 11

 

Notes

Identifying names, places, events, characteristics, etc. that I discuss here and in my book have been altered to protect the identity of everyone involved.



10 Comments on "Sociopaths … Manipulation And Gaslighting And Control, Oh My!"

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  1. Bev says:

    Ah yes, the old gaslighting trick…



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  2. becomingstrong says:

    Thank you ON Ward. In this chapter we see that the days of Paul love bombing you are in the past. The intellectual conversations, the lies that he aspires to retire to a quaint hamlet in New England to live the quiet life of a professor etc…, are so over. Enters the football watching, wedding date changer, work alcoholic Paul. I recognize these particular characteristics. Indeed I do. The work hours are not only to impress his job but to abandon you, and later paint you as the greedy wife whom he has to work ungodly hours to keep you instyle-aka- elicit pity from women, and men, and foster dislike of you by these flying monkeys. It also positions him to cage you and saddle you with all the home and children duties and by extension makes your career not existent. Oh and the weeding date change I am sure is just the beginning of many disappointments, i.e.: cancelled/cut short vacations, birthdays missed… Watch out.



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    • satya says:

      Well said, becoming strong. Very insightful.

      I can’t help but wonder why, why they go through all this trouble. Is it to “win”, to have someone as a trophy and once gained, the thrill is gone? He had a job so it wasn’t for money or resources such as food and housing. Yes, I know they “think” differently. He could have watched sports on his own or with buddies, why create a relationship that he wasn’t actually into? If he was a typical spath, he was juggling several relationships at once, long hours at work is the typical excuse.



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      • becomingstrong says:

        Statya,

        You pose excellent questions Satya. My sister is friends with a spath who is reluctant to admit he’s a sociopath but admits to possessing the traits. In fact he will tell you he has all traits. She has asked him that question as to why he does what he does and he said he does it because he feels he has to survive and he does it for the attention and the thrill of the sport. He does say he’s always bored. He engages in unethical behavior in his career which in the last few years has resulted in lawsuits. Of course other people who trusted him get sucked in to the lawsuit. As to them he says he never meant to hurt them. So his game is to make lots of money, which is important for its power aspect. He doesn’t really care about money for money sake. And in fact regularly loses huge fortunes. With that said I think each spath is different and in my case I believe my husband is a sadist. I think he did what he did and does what he does to destroy me. I believe is ultimate goal was for me to commit suicide, be locked up behind bars, have no children who care for me, no money and lose my licenses-it was a sport for him. He is honed in on me and will only leave me alone when he completely destroyed me. In my case my spath set up a similar mosaic for me as Onna’s husband did. But Paul and my spath might be similar or they might different. The question is, is Paul a sadist?

        When you say “he had a job” I’m assuming you referring to Paul. He worked ungodly hours to set up a mosaic to serve his immediate and future purposes. What his purpose was just depends. On one hand Paul abandoned Onna and other hand he spent a lot of time effort abandoning Onna. What does that mean? My first thought was he wasn’t into his marriage but then they don’t see things the way we do. Maybe he was really into his marriage, and we know he was into his marriage because he spent so much time abandoning it and setting Onna up. It seems like he was laser focused on that effort.

        When you say they are snuggling several relationships at once, I agree. However, I am not sure what constituents a “relationship”? For example, my spath “fed” at work. He spent ungodly hours for years at work. It would have been extremely difficult to carry on a “relationship”. However, a broom closet liaison, yes that was possible. Some spaths know they are malignant and know that if anyone gets too close they will be discovered. And some spaths want to protect their work environment so just the cat and mouse game will suffice, flirting etc. And yes for those spaths who have actual mistresses the long work hours excuse work there too. I do think there are spaths who are workaholics. I for one was to married to one. I could verify his work hours in his pay check. It possible Paul was actually at work, at least in the beginning. It was to set things up so Onna knew her place. It also set things up for the reasons I stated in my previous comment. They are parasites they cannot survive without sucking the life out of someone else.

        As far as why they want the prey to watch their football games etc.., I think in part it is to condition the prey to doing things their way. It also works to make the prey crave the spath. On occasion the spath throw a bone and how luck the prey will feel with the little bone.



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  3. becomingstrong says:

    Also, this method of abandonment is to keep you starved, it creates and fosters a desire for you to spend time with him, you crave it, and when he throws you a bone you will ditch previous plans to spend any amount of time with him. This further isolates you from friends and family.



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  4. becomingstrong says:

    One more comment. This workaholic thing will later parlay into an image to those watching that your marriage is just one of convenience, that you are estranged, that you are concubine of sorts and the like so that when right mistress target comes around it won’t be a hard sell when he tells her “you” both are planning to divorce and stay together for the kids… Disgusting.



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  5. regretfullymine says:

    mine didn’t want a ‘secret’ wedding; I was the one who wanted a quiet courthouse wedding with a couple of friends or family members, and then on to our ‘forever’ life together. Oh, no, says he “we’re NOT SNEAKING OFF to get married, we’re going to have a church wedding with family present”. With no money help from my parents, the best I could do, was a small church chapel wedding, a home sewed wedding dress, 1 attendant for me and him and a very modest reception at the church hall afterwards. As with everything else I ever did, I did ALL of the work and most of the modest money to have a modest church wedding which was HIS idea; and HE got to be in front of relatives in a new suit, as the proud bridegroom! (it did cross my mind, as my dad took my arm to walk me down the aisle, to say “no I’m not ready for this”, but I wasn’t about to admit being a coward, and did it)



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  6. Calendula says:

    Oh, if I had nickel for every time I was set up, gas lighted, lied about, and humiliated! When I finally drew a line in the sand, I was suddenly of no more use. Plus, I had acquired a serious illness, making me unable to do everything plus work full time. By “do everything” I mean: all the housekeeping, laundry, shopping, cooking, vacation planning, auto maintenance…(he DID mow the lawn when it was out on control.)

    My ex wanted a full on traditional wedding, and wanted gifts and money even though we were in our late 30’s…I was shut down when trying to point out the inappropriateness of doing so.

    This is a insidious illness, and my mother had enmeshed and groomed me to do what other people want, “or no one will like you”. Even in her advanced age, she cannot/will not admit her part.



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  7. AnnettePK says:

    My ex Psychopath wanted a secret wedding, for us to more or less elope. This gives me some more insight as to why he wanted it that way, and corroborates my understanding of it in retrospect.



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