He lied about everything, and even used his own father to cover his tracks.
In the fall of 2006, I sat down at my parents' kitchen table and stared at the packet of paperwork before me. It was at least 10 pages deep and filled with questions that would investigate down to the last fiber, the seven-year marriage that I had just ended. Although it started out with simple questions of who I was, where I met my ex-husband, and the events that surrounded our courtship, the words that I wrote in response chronicled the dysfunction and decline of our relationship and, ultimately, the end of our marriage.
I was completely exposed and humiliated, which left me feeling vulnerable. For someone so smart, I could not believe that I had been so stupid. Once you put it all on paper and read it for yourself, you see so many signs that were ignored. I was completely color blind to the red flags flying high above.
I had decided that I was going to sit down and complete the packet in one sitting. I had no idea that it would take me 10 hours. Ten hours of remembering, reliving and dissecting my failed marriage. After I put the last word down on the last page to the last question of the annulment questionnaire, I read my story. It felt like an Inquisition to me. I tell them about my love life and they tell me how I went wrong and then tell me on what grounds my marriage (in my childhood church in front of my family and friends) would be struck null and void. Even though I knew that the marriage that I ended was over and that it was a good thing that it was, I felt like being divorced and getting an annulment meant something. And in 2006, as I put the pen down on my parents table, I was sure that the something that was lacking was something in me.
I was done. I was exhausted. I needed a drink. A friend. A hug. Something. I was 30 years old and I was a failure at marriage. Now, I was looking for it to be annulled. Erased forever.
The Marriage And The Red Flags
I remember walking down the aisle toward the man that I thought would be with me for the rest of my life. I was 22 years old and like most people my age, I thought that I had it all figured out. I had a college degree in Nursing, I was working full-time on the unit that I loved and in my mind, I was rounding out my dream by marrying the man I thought was made for me. We had plans to live life to the fullest. Work, vacations, building a family… we had it all laid out in our minds. So, one foot in front of the other, I walked. To me, on that day, I was walking towards my life. But what I actually walked towards that October morning was nothing that I could have imagined or prepared myself for.
The first red flag that I missed was that very little was his fault. Every bad thing that occurred happened TO him. His poor relationship with his parents (namely his mother) was the fault of her history of mental illness and his father's inability to understand him.
His inability to finish college after four years and finish the ONE language class that would give him a degree in Political Science was because he couldn't work and go to school at the same time or find time to study.
His inability to get or keep jobs was always someone or something else's fault. It was too hard for him to be in another state from his family and friends… his work environment was too hostile… they hated men… or the job was beneath him. The list went on and on.
Our inability to keep up with our bills later in our marriage was because I wasn't working enough, not because he was never employed. Never, not once was his unwillingness to provide, at all, for us the reason that we were losing our house or that I was filing for bankruptcy. Since he had no work history, the house and the car were in my name. So, I was the one who went to court and lost it all. All that while working in excess of 100-hour paychecks.
The next red flag that I failed to see was that he had a flawless ability to lie. No hesitation. No remorse. The first lie he told me was that he had been in the Marines. A sniper in fact. That was the reason that he was a 22 year-old freshman at the college that we attended together and that he had recurrent nightmares. The reason that his parents never talked about his time in the military or had pictures around during his time in the military? According to him, they didn't want him to enlist in the first place and with his mother's history of severe anxiety and depression, they "just pretended it never happened".
Should I Haved Listened To My Gut? Probably
My gut told me that this was very weird but I kept my mouth shut. I also kept my mouth shut for four years after we married, remembering that his mother not only refused to talk with him for weeks after he told her that we wanted to get married after college but had a panic attack at the sight of my engagement ring. She cried throughout the post-graduation dinner that both of our families shared. With this in mind, I thought that I could understand why mention of his military career would cause such a disturbance if the normal, functional thing for a child to do in falling in love and getting married caused her to hyperventilate, sob, and ignore her only child.
I found out that he lied to me, to my parents, to our college friends about his so called Military career about four years into our marriage. I was having a casual conversation with his mother one night during a visit. She was talking about how he used to be in better shape and hoped that he would lose weight. I responded that I too was surprised that he let himself go after his time in the Military.
I could hardly breath as I listened to his mother tell me that her son was not only never a Sniper, but that he never was in the Military. That the closest he had ever been to Military service was his one semester at a Military College that ended after he was apparently hazed so bad that it ended up with a confidential legal settlement. I could not believe what I was hearing. One of the things that I loved about him was his willingness to defend our country. But he didn't. Ever. When I confronted him that very night, he begged me to stay with him. He stated that it started as a simple misunderstanding during his freshman year that he never corrected. That it just got out of hand. I forgave him and stayed. Marriage is about forgiveness, right?
More Of His Famous Lies
Another one of his famous lies was that he was not online trying to pick up women and watching endless hours of porn. But he was online trying to pick up women. Many times over many years. I was just not aware of it. A college friend that heard we had separated and called me. She said that a couple of months after we wed, that he asked her about a threesome and told her that I was on board with it. Years later, a coworker came to me the night before my fifth anniversary trip to tell me that he solicited her on his AOL account and tried to pick her up. She showed me the copy of their conversation that she printed out for me as proof. In their online conversation, he stated that he was single, an accountant, looking for provocative pictures to be exchanged, and up for a one night stand.
Once I saw him, I confronted him about it. He denied it. Said it was not him and that he would find out how it happened. He vowed to find the culprit. Days later, he said that his AOL account and subsequently our home computer had been hacked. I later found out that he went as far as to delete hundreds of our pictures that were stored on our computer to solidify his story. I lost pictures of family holidays, vacations, weddings. The memories lost to that makes me upset to even think about it today.
It wasn't just the lies about these monumental things. It was his lies about every day, simple things that I would find out about right after they happened. Those things that shouldn't need to be lied about. He lied about whether or not he took out the trash or washed the dishes. I would come home after another 12-hour shift at the hospital and find the trash bags on our apartment deck that he said he put in the dumpster or the dishes still piled up from three days ago when he first said he'd wash them. It never ended.
The Lie That Changed It All
The final lie that led to me kick him out was his lie that he was no longer online watching porn and soliciting women. The issue was never whether or not he was watching porn. It was his continued lie about it and the lengths at which he went to hide it and make me believe it. I checked and he had our computer dump the internet history every day.
And with my continued sleuthing that afternoon, I found out that when he was online, he was using his father's AOL username on the multiple porn sites in his account registration. He willfully and purposely put his father's good name at risk.
I was enraged. I had had enough.
This occurred on Saturday, October 15, 2005. In an instant, my life was changing. I decided to pack some things and that the next morning when I got home from work that I would tell him what I found on the computer and that he needed to leave. I had it all sorted in my mind and for once in the last seven years, I actually felt peace and calm. I wasn't crying. I didn't feel weak. I felt empowered and almost giddy with hope.
I officially told my husband to leave during a night shift when I was at work. What amazed me was that he was sad and begging me to reconsider until he saw that I wouldn't change my mind. He then threatened me that "When I changed my mind that I would have to move to where he was because he was never coming back to Maryland and I had to prove to him that I was serious."
I laughed at him and told him that I would never leave a job to move to another city when I had no guarantee that he would ever truly stop lying. That leaving a job I've had for years would be just plain stupid. I told him that HE had everything to prove. Not me.
My Life After Leaving
I accomplished so many things in the first 30 days of our separation even though it was a highly emotional time for me. I was able to call all of our creditors and make solid payment plans since I was the only one controlling the flow of money. I was able to go to work every day that I was scheduled because I was miraculously no longer experiencing the debilitating IBS symptoms that plagued me for years and caused me to miss a great deal of work. (If it weren’t for the FMLA protection, I would have been fired years before that.)
The months that followed proved taxing with all the legal hurdles that come with the separation and divorce process. I know that I was lucky because he moved back to his home state of NJ and we had no children to keep us tied to each other in the years to come. In a perverse way, it was like he died. One day I was married and traveling down a path that literally was making me physically, mentally, and emotionally ill. The next, I was separated and in control of my money, my health, and my life.
In 2006, being divorced and looking to have that marriage annulled meant something sad and lonely. I thought that it meant that I was lacking in what it took to find happiness and love that would stand up to what life brings. I was just too strapped down by all of the ugliness that surrounded the demise of my marriage to see that not all things that end signal the end.
How I Finally Got An Annulment ... And My Life Back
Because my ex-husband lied about his past during our courtship, engagement, and marriage, the Tribunal granted me an Annulment on the basis of "Lack of Full Disclosure". They stated that I was unable to make a fully informed choice to marry him because I was led to believe he was different than he actually was. He made up so many stories to who he had been, who he was, who he wasn't, and who he would be to me and for me in our future together.
I see now that for years, I allowed myself to be trapped in a relationship that left me with nothing to give. Not to my family, not to my friends, not to my job, and certainly nothing to give back to myself. I was barely surviving the day-to-day and thus not strong enough to get out at that point. As horrible as it was, I was in such survival mode that the years just flew on by until I realized that I was 29 and my husband of seven years was still unemployed and still hadn't finished the one class to get his degree that he should have gotten back in 1998 with me. I was still the only one with a job. What he was doing was living the life of Riley while I dragged myself though each day.
In 2014, I am a vastly different person than in 2006. I remarried in 2010 to a man that I can honestly say is my best friend. I have a strong bond with my family that I was not experiencing before. I no longer miss work for stress related illnesses. I have moved onto a position in administration that still allows me to do bedside patient care when necessary. I have a life rich with friends and experiences that take my breath away. I take risks and sometimes they pay off. Sometimes they don't. I was not aware that I was such a goof, that my friends would cry at my antics.
Is life perfect? Absolutely not. Life is not a fairy tale, nor do I want it to be. I have experienced loss and pain and know that there will be more in the future. That is real. What I have now are some of the tools needed to carry on and know that a few decisions do not make or break you. I am not a failure because my first marriage, my "Practice Marriage" as I have come to call it, did not succeed. I was at fault for MY part. He was at fault for HIS part.
The Annulment process and years since then have helped me see that and heal. Without it and the years of reflection that followed, I'd never have realized that my struggle was necessary for me to come fully into myself. The struggle was beauty in and of itself. The reward was too. Me.