Hemorrhage and excruciating pain after first time: My Secret Marriage to Phil, Part 2–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–April 1994, Part 6

A bunch of us planned to go to a Choir (Christian alternative band) concert that evening.  I wanted to finally get my own copies of Pearl’s Choir CD’s.  My friends and I rode in a car to the place of the concert.  They were Pearl, Mike, probably Sharon, and probably Tara or Astrid.  They had no idea I was now a married woman.

The place was an hour and a half away.  When we got to the place, it was deserted: no concert, no sign that there ever was to be one!  We were confused, especially Pearl, who had read about the concert in her CCM magazine.  The others decided to go to a movie, rather than just coming out all that way for nothing.

I wasn’t entirely convinced that our marriage was real and not just playacting.  So in my heart I felt that if we were delayed that night, if I got back very, very late, it was a sign that God did not actually consider us married, that He was trying to keep us apart.

I believe I started to feel this way before we found out the concert wasn’t there.  Then I thought God most certainly did consider us married, because I would be back far sooner than I’d expected.

But then my friends decided to go to a movie.  All during the night I said nothing when they made plans, because I felt I should let the results of the test be whatever they were supposed to be, and not tamper with them.

I’d never heard of the movie The Paper and the movie poster didn’t interest me, but my friends wanted to see it.  I ended up loving it.  These are my impressions of it:

Yes, as they said in the beginning, the whole world can change in twenty-four hours.  After all, all of a sudden I was married!  I hadn’t expected that when I got up that morning.

I had no idea what the movie was about, especially when I saw the opening scene with two black teenagers finding horrors.  I feared it was one of those gross action films, but it was not.

I watched Henry and his wife Marty interact, and thought, They’re married, and now so am I!  And one day, we’ll be about to have a baby, too!

Alicia telling her extramarital lover that “This is the last time” reminded me of Shawn (see index below for his story), who said that often.

The movie was wonderfully loony, with “Let Marty talk to her husband,” Robin the green, fourteen-year-old photographer (I didn’t know that was legal), and “A bullet came out of the wall–why did the bullet come out of the wall?”  (Our group loved this and began reciting it.)

Pearl cried out in dismay and shock, which I also felt, when Marty found blood instead of water on the floor when she was near her time.  I wondered if Phil and I would ever be in that situation, with me nearly dying from hemorrhaging during a pregnancy, and how we would deal with it.

These thoughts and my own marriage made the movie both significant and special to me, yet Phil preferred to make light of it and pointed out a movie review that said it was bad.  We never did see it together.  But my friends and I all loved the movie.

On the way back to Roanoke, maybe an hour or two earlier than we’d originally expected, I sat on the right side of the car and watched the moon.  It was midnight blue behind the clouds.  It was so beautiful that night, the perfect end to a perfect day for a wedding.  I kept silent and thoughtful, thinking of my new, secret status as wife.

Rather than go directly to Roanoke, the others decided to go on to S– and have a snack at Country Kitchen.  I had something with hot fudge and ice cream, and maybe a Dew or Root Beer as well.

The others spoke of staying up all night and watching the sun come up.  I don’t remember if they actually did it, but I said I didn’t want to do that this time.  (I had a husband to get back to.)

It began to rain hard.  I don’t remember how long we stayed there, but we finished our snack and the time finally came for us to go back to Roanoke.

At Roanoke, I forget where exactly I found Phil, but he was standing outside–and soaked.  He was angry at me 1) for not coming home when I said I would, and 2) for not saying anything to the others to hurry them along.  But you can see my reasons for not doing that.

He was also mad at me for something that was his fault: that he’d been standing in the rain, waiting for me!  I couldn’t believe he had done this.

When I got back, I expected to find him warm and dry in either the Phi-Delt suite or Krueger.  If no one was in the Phi-Delt suite to let him in, he could have picked up the phone outside Krueger and called Clarissa to let him in.  He knew the number, and there was a directory by the phone in case he forgot.

Failing that, he could have waited in the minivan, maybe parking it near Krueger or the suites so he could see me get home.  By the time I got home Clarissa would certainly have been in the room, and she could hear the phone even when her hearing aid was out and she was in bed.  If she was in bed, she could have opened the door and had him sit in the lounge.

Or he could’ve gone in the suite laundry room, which had a door open to the outside 24/7, or stayed on the ground floor of the suite building, where the upper walkway made a huge frickin’ overhang.

But he did none of these things, and it’s hardly unusual for people to come home from a social event much later than planned, especially one with a long drive.  (Which seems odd now, because I noted above that we were way ahead of schedule.)

Yet he was mad at me as if it were my fault somehow!  Now I see it as yet more controlling behavior by an abuser, another red flag of abuse which I missed, an element of narcissism to blame you even for things that are beyond your control.

This was hardly the wedding night I had expected, or that I had always wanted.  Phil arguing with me when we had been married only several hours?  Once we got to his room, he also got mad about my test, saying I was “testing God.”

But “testing God” means to live a life of selfishness and sin and throw it up in His face.  I was just laying out a fleece, something my dad had taught me about, so I figured it was perfectly fine.  It was simply an indication of whether or not God considered us married.

It was late, and I wondered if that meant we weren’t really married, but Phil didn’t put any stock in that.  In fact, over the next several months, whenever I doubted our marriage was real in God’s eyes, he would tell me we were definitely truly married…only to change his tune completely in September when he wanted to break things off.

Looking back, the anger and the refusal to consider my concerns, were huge red flags that he wanted me in his control–listening to his guidance on whether or not we were truly married in God’s eyes, so that I would be his subservient wife and willing sex partner.

Somehow we got through the arguments, however, and got ready for bed….I don’t want to go into detail, but it was…awkward, didn’t go the way it was supposed to, because we didn’t know how (despite all his fancy sex-ed education).  I mean, we knew some basics, but neither of us knew the vagina was separate from the urethra, and no, I had never used a tampon…..

The morning after the wedding, Phil said to me as we lay in each other’s arms, “Good morning, Mrs. O’Hara” or “How does it feel to be Mrs. O’Hara?”  It felt wonderful.

The next night, we tried again, with a little more knowledge this time of how things were actually supposed to work.  But because we found the correct way, I was in intense pain the whole time, and couldn’t wait until he finished.  He felt bad about it, but nothing stopped the pain.

Some say that you only bleed a little bit, but when I went to the bathroom I found lots of blood.  I just got over my period on probably Sunday, yet had to wear pads again.

They say it only bleeds the first time and that you only have pain the first time, yet I bled and felt pain for days.  (I had just finished my period, so it wasn’t that.)

I could barely sit down, which made Advanced Writing the next morning particularly uncomfortable.  At least the seats there were cushioned!

After the pain went away a bit we tried again.  But for days or weeks afterward, sex hurt, and this was very scary.

But because the marriage was secret, and we didn’t want anyone to think we were having premarital sex, I had no one to talk to.  I really could have used a website like this, but we had no such thing back then.

Also, from what that site says, I should’ve seen a doctor for my excessive bleeding, but I don’t believe this ever occurred to us.  We didn’t know what was “normal.”

Ironically, months later at a party, the subject of first times was brought up; I asked, “What if after your first time you bleed for days?”  I didn’t tell them that was me.  Pearl laughed and said, “That sounds like hemorrhaging to me!”


After the marriage, I told Phil about a picture I once saw in a Bride magazine back when my brother married his first wife:

It was part of a black-and-white ad, and showed a newlywed couple lying in bed.  The husband had his arm around the wife, who nestled her head on his shoulder as they slept.

It was sweet; I waited years for that to be my future husband and me.  Phil did this to me, and nearly cried, since he was so happy to fulfill that dream for me.

Now, when he’d have arguments with his parents, probably over me sleeping over so much or him going home with me for the summer, he’d say to me, “You are my wife!”  He wanted to tell them I was his wife and didn’t deserve such remarks, but he couldn’t.

I’d look at the family pictures on the basement wall and think, “Now I’m a part of that family and married to him,” while looking at Phil’s childhood pictures.

I didn’t know until maybe a year or two later that Catherine wrote a poem one day when I came in late to class.  I believe she noticed me wearing the same clothes I had on the day before, or maybe it was just because I was late.  In the poem, she wondered what we had done the night before, and if we were just using each other.

I marked the date of the marriage and the date of the true consummation with hearts in my day planner.


I used the rhythm method for a while, not knowing much about natural family planning, and because Phil was Catholic and believed artificial birth control was a sin.  He did a paper in high school about natural family planning, and wrote that if done correctly, it’s about 99% effective.

I knew that a woman was supposed to be fertile around the 14th day of the month, but didn’t know that people with irregular periods, like mine, might be fertile on a different day.  But for the first month of our marriage, I didn’t get pregnant, so I must have been doing something right.

Starting in the second month, I knew about taking my temperature, so I avoided my fertile days and didn’t get pregnant.  Phil assured me once or twice that if I did get pregnant, we would push up the legal, public wedding.  However, I got very frustrated with the rhythm method, since I didn’t know what to do and had to abstain for five to ten days mid-cycle.

Probably around May 4, which I marked with a diamond (it was probably day 14), I got upset and told Phil I wanted to use birth control.  You would think he’d agree, since birth control is much safer than the rhythm method, but as a Catholic he said, “Then I wouldn’t be able to sleep with you.”

He said he would be too conscience-stricken, even if I used the Pill and was the only one using the birth control.  He would feel that he contributed to my sin–even though, as a Protestant, I didn’t believe birth control was a sin.

Eventually he said that he couldn’t force me not to use birth control, and that I could if I wanted.  I think he even said he would still sleep with me.  But I would have felt bad for putting his conscience in such a position, so I decided to stick with natural family planning.


Soon after the marriage, as we went through the Burger King drive-through (maybe getting French toast sticks for breakfast or something), I had misgivings: Is my money now his, too?  Have I lost my independence already?  Am I really ready to be married?  Yet it’s too late now to turn back: I already am married.

I told him not to call me “wifey,” like before he called me “fancy,” because somebody might overhear like before.  Phil wanted it kept secret from everyone, even my best friend back in Indiana.  He didn’t want somebody to tell our parents, and he feared she would tell mine.  He didn’t want our parents to find out and get angry, maybe even try to keep us apart.

I often doubted that we were really married in God’s eyes, but Phil would say that yes, I was his wife, and yes, we were married: He had no doubt of it, he said.

What we did was a type of marriage: We bound our hearts together and spoke the same vows legally married people speak.  Over the summer, we shared the same house and food.  Also, some people have secret, legal marriages and yet don’t live in the same house or share the same food, so that isn’t exactly a perfect way to tell whether or not two people are truly married.

One day, Phil asked if I wanted to do as the advice column advised and register our marriage at the courthouse.  It was tempting, but I finally said, “If we do, our parents might find out, and I don’t want mail for Nyssa O’Hara to be coming to our parents’ houses.”  I also may have feared problems on our official wedding day.

Basically, even though we would be legally married, we still wanted the marriage kept secret.  I don’t know if these were good reasons or not, but they were good enough to me at the time.

For one thing, I didn’t know that before you got mail addressed to your new name, you had to officially change your name with Social Security and many other places.  If I had known that, then maybe we would have actually gone to the courthouse and registered our marriage.

And maybe Phil would have taken the marriage as seriously in September as he did in April, and not divorced me.  And I would have been terribly unhappy as time revealed him to be a bad husband, an emotional and potentially physical abuser–and I would’ve had to go through the courts to divorce him.


The song “Don’t Turn Around” by Ace of Base came on around this time, and I’d listen to it as Phil and I sat at the computer at his house.  We often listened to WIXX while sitting at the computer and playing games or working on homework, and those were happy days.

Some of the lines were, “Don’t turn around–I don’t want you seeing me crying.”  It was about a woman whose boyfriend had just broken up with her, and though she was devastated, she didn’t want him to see what he’d done to her.

I’d hear this and their song “I Saw the Sign” (about a woman who finally realized her ex was not the one for her and she could find the one who was), and be glad that–since we were married before God–the song would never apply to me ever again as long as Phil and I both lived.

There was yet another Honors Convocation on Friday, April 29 at 6:30pm.  Phil and I were both honored in it because we were both in the Honors CORE program.  It was odd to be honored for something that basically amounted to being in one Studies class instead of another.

Tables were all set up and covered with cloths in Bossard, and our parents all came, taking this chance to meet each other.  Little Taylor came along as well.  We met them at the Campus Center at 5:50, and the banquet was at 6.

It was funny that our mothers had the same name.  Our parents seemed to get along really well.

And through it all, they didn’t know Phil and I were already married.  This must have been how Romeo and Juliet felt around their parents after their secret marriage.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: