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