Know Who Your Fiance Is

How much do you really know about the man or woman you are about to marry? Have you dug deep? Have you ever snooped? Has he or she ever given you a reason to wonder?
03/22/2012 12:06 pm ET Updated May 21, 2012

How much do you really know about the man or woman you are about to marry? Have you dug deep? Have you ever snooped? Has he or she ever given you a reason to wonder?

If he's been married, have you seen the divorce decree? If he says he's annulled, you got proof of that? How about widowed? I know you're thinking that I am completely insane by now -- and maybe I am overly cautious about some things because my husband was a police captain and SWAT team commander in Washington, DC for 30 years and I have heard some creepy stuff -- but I absolutely, positively believe that you must do some independent background investigation if you are in love with a man or woman whose past is shady ... or even slightly cloudy.

Some couples, hopefully most, don't have any secrets. But if you are in a relationship where somebody is lying to you, you'll know exactly what I mean: The more right you are, the sicker your gut feels even though you don't know what's wrong. You know you're in real trouble when you think he or she is lying to you about something other than cheating. But sometimes we are so in love that we ignore all the warning signs and plunge right off the cliff into disaster because NOBODY wants to ask hard questions.

If you haven't met many of their friends and family, you need to start making those trips and doing those introductions. Who cares if he hates his hometown, insist on going with him next time he goes. Even if his mom is living in a trailer with 16 cats, you should know about it before you sign on for life. I'm not saying don't marry him because one of his parents is different. I'm simply saying you should know what you are getting yourself into. Believe me, more than one of my girlfriends has married into a family where her father-in-law had made a pass at her prior to the engagement. Sometimes it happens. Doesn't mean that they didn't marry their intended, just means they always lock the door to the bathroom when they shower.

The same warnings should be heeded for relationships spawned online. Sometimes, after 500 hours of "chatting," your brain starts to believe that you actually know this person you've been talking to so much and you feel like you're falling in love with them (remember, you've never met this person). Just think of "You've Got Mail" or "Sleepless in Seattle." For God's sake, Meg, why can't you fall in love with somebody you've met??? For all she knew, Tom Hanks might have been an ax murderer.

There are predators out there, both men and women, who have whole alternate lives they lie about for years (read: spouses, children, debt, obligations, criminal records). I had one girlfriend who had a long-term boyfriend that her friends caught cheating. His excuse? He told her the "cheater" was actually his identical twin but had never mentioned the twin because they weren't close. Turns out, it wasn't true. Go figure. Sometimes love isn't just blind, it's totally ignorant. And people marry these big fat liars. They sign over their assets, they give them their credit, and they merge everything. And then they find out that the government is about to seize everything, or that he's not actually divorced, or that everything you thought belonged to him actually belongs to his wife. Sorry, guys -- not picking on the men (I know what kind of comments you're gonna flame me with) -- it's all true for women too.

For the purposes of teaching a lesson, I'm going to out myself here and admit that I have encountered one of these such creeps. Years ago, when my would-be future husband and I were "taking a break," I decided to try out the newest dating medium -- online. I'm sure I didn't admit to anyone at the time that I was doing it, but much like honeymoon wedding registries, there's no longer a huge stigma attached to the practice. Anyway, the guy seemed great online, and then on the phone. He traveled a lot for work, but so did I. He was very respectful and interesting and we finally met for the perfect first date -- lunch on a park bench across from the White House followed by a stroll around Lafayette Square and the Ellipse before heading back to our respective offices. He was so sweet. Cute. Smart. Widowed -- so sad because his wife had died of ocular cancer at age 25 (I'd never even heard of eye cancer). The whole package was almost too good to be true. Oh wait, it was too good to be true.

Long story short, DC is a small world. We both went to prep schools in the DC area and that makes everything just a few degrees of separation, if that much. Didn't take long to figure out he was not employed by the three-letter agency he'd claimed -- in fact, he was not employed at all. Further research revealed he was not a widow ... because his wife was not dead (amazing what you can find out with Social Security records). After conducting surveillance with a girlfriend (she couldn't talk me out of it), we confirmed the obvious and went home to plot his demise with Captain Morgan. I don't know how far this guy would have taken things, but he was talking about a vacation together before I busted him. That's creepy. I'm blonde (this month) and I like Aruba. Imagine what could have happened.

The next day, the big liar received a visit from a member of yet another three-letter agency explaining that it is a federal crime to impersonate a federal agent. By the way, if you're gonna mess with a girl, don't mess with one whose ex-boyfriend is a cop who wants to get back together.

The moral of the story is that you should marry who you love, but make sure you know exactly who that person is. Don't take chances. I'm not suggesting you run out and hire a private detective. But do your homework, ask the hard questions and check the paperwork BEFORE you agree to a wedding date and tell everybody to buy their plane tickets.

Until next time, happy wedding planning from Weddings in Vieques and Weddings in Culebra!