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 12: What Just Happened?
Paul and I arrived back in Minneapolis late on a Saturday and spent a leisurely Sunday together. Both of us needed to return to work on Monday morning. I had not worked the entire vacation or even checked in with the office. My co-workers and team leader knew I was on my honeymoon and that I would not be in touch. Still, before I left, I had been working with an out-of-town client headquartered in Cincinnati. Some weeks we were with the client in Cincinnati, others we worked out of the Minneapolis office. I had to know where I was supposed to be on Monday morning and if I needed to book a flight to Cincinnati.
I delayed checking in with my colleagues until early Sunday evening. If I could not get in touch with someone on my team, I might wind up in the wrong location the next morning—a potentially suicidal career blunder. Why had I waited so long?
So as not to disturb Paul, who was watching TV in the living room, I made the call from our makeshift home office (no email in those days). Luckily, Brad, one of my co-workers, picked up right away. He said the team would not be travelling that week. Concern about my close call with career suicide faded. I could relax and enjoy the final evening of my honeymoon.
When I got up to head back to the living room, Paul was standing in the doorway.
“Who was that?” he snapped, face red, shoulders tensed.
“Just Brad, from work,” I replied, taken aback by Paul’s anger.
His face grew tighter. “Why are you calling Brad? Who’s Brad to you?”
“Our honeymoon’s over, and I just needed to know where to be for work tomorrow. You’ve met Brad. He’s just a colleague. I already waited too long to call. I was getting worried.”
“Our honeymoon isn’t over!” Paul said, his jaw tight and his piercing eyes trapping me like a predator immobilizing its prey. “Our honeymoon isn’t over until I say it’s over!”
I flinched. My pulse quickened. Carol, my friend from Yale, would have known what to do—look for an opportunity to leave quietly the next day, stay with a friend, and have the marriage annulled. But I did not understand what had just happened. All I knew was that I wanted Paul’s anger to go away.
“I’m sooo sorry,” I said. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I don’t need to make any more calls tonight. Let’s just make the rest of the night special.”
“You’ve already ruined it,” Paul said and then left the room.
My head felt light, and my heart pounded. I returned to the living room, where Paul was watching TV. His eyes never looked away from the screen. His tight face and closed body language made it clear I was not to join him on the couch. Clearly unwelcome, I returned to the office.
My thoughts racing, my pulse pounding, an automatic attempt to resolve the cognitive dissonance between my perceptions of Paul’s behavior and my beliefs about Paul ensued. To hold onto the assumption that my new husband was a great guy, I had to conclude there was a good reason he was upset. Maybe he’s stressed about returning to work tomorrow. Maybe he’s sad our honeymoon is over. Maybe I was inconsiderate to call then. Maybe. Maybe. Maybe. Still, I could not shake the upsetting interaction. That night, there was an icy distance between us in our bed. I slept fitfully.
The next morning, as is common to sociopaths, Paul acted as if our tense exchange the night before had never happened. Not wanting to bring up an upsetting topic before we both returned to work, I tabled the subject until the end of the day.
“You’re so silly,” Paul said, his tone soft, gentle, even playful when I broached the subject after dinner that evening. “Especially when you’re tired, you can make a mountain out of a molehill. It was nothing. I haven’t given it a second thought. I wasn’t angry. I don’t know what made you think so.”
“But you said, ‘Our honeymoon isn’t over until I say it’s over,’ and it really upset me,” I said.
“I’d never say something like that,” Paul replied.
“Paul, it really upset me.”
He looked at me. “Do you really think I would say that?”
“You just sounded really angry with me for making that call.”
“What do you think I said?” Paul asked.
“Something like, ‘Our honeymoon isn’t over ‘til I say it’s over,” I replied.
“Onna,” Paul continued with the softest, smoothest, most caring voice, “I don’t remember saying that, and if I had said anything like that, I could only have been kidding.”
“It didn’t seem like that,” I replied.
“Why are you giving me such a hard time?” Paul asked. “You were clearly over sensitive last night. But now you’re getting me upset. It seems you’re calling me a liar. ”
That stopped me in my tracks. I started to doubt myself. Had I been tired? Had I been too sensitive? What did Paul actually say? Maybe he was right. I replayed the evening in my head. My recollection did not match Paul’s at all, but he was so confident and calm in his retelling of events, his recall unwavering. The clarity of the interaction the previous night receded. What had actually happened? I anchored on what was clear to me—the Paul I knew, the man I married, could never have said anything hurtful like that on purpose. It must have been me.
“I’m so sorry, Paul,” I said, anxious that I had gotten Paul upset with me. “I don’t know why I was so bothered last night. I guess I was just tired and disappointed that our honeymoon was over.”
“It’s okay,” Paul said, his silky voice returning. “I love you. Don’t worry. It’s no big deal.”
He leaned over and gave me a gentle, lingering kiss on my forehead.
I sighed. “Thanks for being so understanding. I love you, too.”
With the conflict between Paul and me officially over, I was flooded with emotions—befuddled about what had just happened, confused about my recollection of the previous evening, and embarrassed that I had been upset to begin with. But, I also felt “off”—a low-lying sense of anxiety that I could not attribute to anything specific. Paul and I had had a misunderstanding. We had talked about it. We had resolved it. I loved Paul, and Paul loved me. Everything seemed fine, but the not-so-subtle feedback from my emotions signaled that everything was not right, that something was terribly wrong.
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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.