Friday, April 22, 2011

What's the Big Deal?

Let me start this post with a charming email conversation between DH, who had only just begun to open his eyes, and NMIL. Let me know, Dear Reader, if you can pick up the not-so-subtle resentment this woman was spewing in my general direction:

Fri, Jun 5, 2009
12:03 PM

Hi [DH's childhood nickname]

Naunt just called. [Naunt's son] just got suspended and she is extremely upset right now – [Naunt's husband] is on his way back with [Naunt's son] from school right now. I know you have been going back and forth with her about some things which she [sic] has been concerning her quite a bit. Please give her some space -this is not a time for her to deal with any of the “Jonsi wants this or Jonsi wants that stuff, ” which has become terribly upsetting for her. I know she has expressed her concerns to you, and I hope they have not fallen on deaf ears. If I had to make some recommendations, I would say don’t paint right now and you will absolutely hate the brown. Save your money – Jonsi should understand that budget is important. I am hoping your remember the word “partnership” in the coming days, weeks and months as it appears very one-sided and it doesn’t have to be that way. I am worried about you and I love you very much and I am hoping you will find balance.

I want you to be happy and secure and I just hope you are not creating an environment of anxiety that won’t bring you happiness.



Friday, June 05, 2009
12:25 PM
From: DH

[Naunt' son] was suspended? Good grief, I hope it wasn't something serious.

Stop worrying about me.

I helped pick the brown. I do like it. Stop telling me what I will and will not like.

I will suggest to Jonsi that we talk to Auntie at a later date. We already bought the paint.

I am hoping you remember that this is my relationship. Let me make my own choices about it. And yes it about what Jonsi wants right now, because she is going to be with the baby everyday whereas I will be working. She wants it to be as homey as possible, and you know what, I am perfectly happy with that.

Fri, Jun 5, 2009
1:53 PM
From: NMIL

It’s about you too [DH's childhood nickname], not just her.

Fri, Jun 5, 2009
2:00 PM
From: DH

I get that thank you

Now, the following is a vignette of what I call the Naunt Apartment Fiasco. No, one fiasco wasn't good enough. DH's FOO just had to do it twice, and preface it with all of that lovely banter you just read. Did you pick up on the barely-concealed accusations that DH must be an uncaring and inconsiderate jerk because he hasn't "backed off" of Auntie in her time of "great distress?" Or, how about this woman's apparent feeling of authority, as though she has a right to insert her opinions wherever she chooses to stick them? Did you spot the "shoulds," both spoken and unspoken, where NMIL imposes her control? And the sticky-sweet proclamations of "love" and "respect" that follow all of her covert passive-aggressive bullshit? And, Dear Reader, it gets worse, because Naunt and NMIL are cut from the same cloth. They play the same games. Please, allow me to show you:

"What do you mean she said we can't put up any shelves in the apartment? What does she think we're going to do? Bust gaping holes in the walls?" I asked. I was picturing tap-tap-tapping my hammer innocently on a nail and the sheetrock suddenly exploding into ridiculous chunks into the room next door. It made me giggle.

He shrugged. "I don't know."

I was bewildered - DH and I were going to be having a baby. We were trying to figure out a way to squeeze the three of us into a one bedroom apartment by creating as much extra space as possible. We had figured that using wall space and moving furniture around would be a really good place to start.  I was at a total loss, we weren't going to be renting from just any landlord, she was DH's aunt. She had seemed so excited a few weeks before that I was going to be moving in with him. She told us it was great that we'd be right next door because we'd be just be thirty seconds away and we could bring the baby over to visit all the time. She even added some story about how excited her 8 year old daughter was about me moving in.  I also remember his "Auntie" bragging about how she knew so much about babies and how she could help me if I needed anything. She had this know-it-all attitude about breastfeeding and infant sleeping habits. I had felt a bit awkward when she asked me, "Are you planning on breastfeeding?" I didn't feel like it was any of her business, but at the time, I had just chalked it up to her desire to help.  Her denial of our request to put up shelving seemed a bit off from the way she had been acting toward me before. I shrugged and said, "Well, let's just go over and talk to her about it. We'll figure it out, there must be some reason why she's so upset about this." I really thought we'd just use logic and it would all work out.

DH looked uncomfortable. His brows were furrowed in apparent worry. He didn't say anything else and we made our way over to "Auntie's" kitchen, where she was baking chocolate chip cookies. The house smelled delicious, but there was something unpleasant in the air. Something I couldn't quite put my finger on. It turned my stomach sour.

"Oh hello DH!" She said with her Betty Crocker smile.

She barely glanced at me, as she thrust a plate in my direction, "Have a cookie."

I took one, but I didn't really want it. My mouth was very dry and I felt a bit nauseous.

DH took several cookies and stuffed them into his mouth. "Auntie," he said. "Can we talk to you about some of that apartment stuff now?"

"Why don't we sit down?" She asked. "I think it would be a good idea to stop assuming things now. You remember that lease I had you sign when you first moved in back in January, honey?" She moved to the cabinet behind us and pulled out a white piece of paper, presenting it to DH. It seemed to me that she was avoiding turning her gaze in my general direction, instead focusing only on her nephew, as though he were the only one in the room. She sat down across from me, next to DH and said, "Well, I figured you could re-sign it and I'll write in there all the stuff about you painting and all that. You can repaint, that's fine, as long as you paint it back to white before you move out. Actually, you can keep the bedroom blue, if you like, I always liked that color."

"No, it's not really about the paint, Auntie. Well, that's part of what we wanted to talk to you about too, but there are some other things that I brought up the other day. Jonsi wanted to come and talk to you about" he paused and it looked painful, "some of that stuff." I couldn't help but think that he wanted me to do the hard part. He wanted me to bring up the "stuff" because he had a tickle in his brain that warned him this whole conversation was going to wind up in the shitter really quickly.

I took the cue and said, "I'm just wondering why you are so worried about allowing my cat to live in the apartment. She's declawed and-"

Auntie cut me off, "You never said anything about a cat whenever we talked about you moving in here. The first I heard about it was from my daughter. She told me that you said you were bringing your cat."

I talked slowly, as though I was convincing her not to jump, "I did. Because I have a cat. And if I live here than I would like her to be here too." I had come in with a whole slew of  logical reasons that I was realizing were going to be completely worthless. "DH said that your last tenant had a cat. And my cat is also declawed."

"Yes well, that cat did all sorts of damage to the apartment. It messed up the floors and everything." Auntie began to stutter. I couldn't tell if it was because she was lying, or she was getting flustered over my requests. "You can't have a cat here. The other litter box was in the corner...and it damaged the floors. You can't have a cat here."

I'm not sure how much of what she said was true - She knew I had obviously been in the apartment, so she couldn't have assumed that I wouldn't have noticed such apparent damage to the floors, walls, or furniture. I walked through the apartment in my mind and couldn't find any evidence of such. I thought, maybe she'd had the floors redone before we moved in and that was why I had never seen the damage she was speaking of. My gut was screaming not to give her the benefit of my doubts.  My empathetic nature however, was putting up less of a fight.

I was at a loss for words for a moment, I just didn't know what else to say. I felt confused and a bit side-swiped. Not a week before, this woman was telling me that we were all going to be so close and she would do anything, absolutely anything, to help us. But now she was making things really hard, because of a cat. It just didn't make sense, no matter how many times I flipped it over in my pregnant, hormone-ious brain. I couldn't get rid of the burning sensation in the pit of my stomach. It was my body's way of saying, "Something is really fucking wrong here. This woman must be bat-shit crazy...Hello? Um, Hello? Brain? Are you listening to me? I said, THIS WOMAN IS LOONY!"

I decided to switch topics instead of listening to my war-torn innards so that I could try and buy some time to get my thoughts together. The shelves, I figured. There was plenty of logic to discuss on that matter.

I didn't take my eyes off of Auntie. In my periphery, I could see DH, looking desperately back and forth between us. The aura in the room was rapidly becoming more ominous. The cookie I hadn't wanted to eat, but did anyway, was threatening to make a second appearance.

I said, "And what about the shelving issue? I don't understand - "

Again I was cut off as she said, "I don't like these demands you're making of me. I don't like you coming in here and telling me what you are going to do or not do. This is MY house." Her anger had come out of nowhere, like a switch was flicked. Last I checked, I hadn't been making demands. I wondered when asking questions in a polite tone of voice meant that a person was "making demands."  But before I could begin to organize my thoughts on the matter of her anger, she switched tactics all together and started to cry. Not a raging-river-of-tears cry, but a voice-quivering, borderline-weeping, tears-brimming cry. It felt fake to me. DH seemed to be melting though, into a somewhat useless puddle of "oh-shit-what-the-hell-do-I-do-now" guilt. His body language was one of the defeat, not of the team-captain who had captured the flag.

My face started to get hot and I began to sweat. That's the way I always look physically when I'm involved in a verbal altercation. I hate that my body gives me away. When I'm nervous, my face gets unbearably hot and flushed, which just lets the bullies know that it bothers me when they call me names.

"What demands?" I asked. I was trying desperately to keep the quiver out of my voice. And I felt like crying....but I was pregnant damn it, everything makes a pregnant woman cry. I kept telling myself that because I couldn't believe, in that moment, that what was happening was really hurting me. I had to believe I was invincible in order to get through to the next moment.  "I'm not demanding anything. I have only made polite requests and nothing that you are saying is making any sense." 

DH looked back and forth between us, desperate to do something, but he was frozen.

"Uh, uh. Auntie? Jonsi isn't demanding anything, honestly. We're just trying to do everything we can to make the apartment into a home for when the baby is here." Bless his heart, he was trying. But I found myself wishing he wasn't so damn nice.

She began talking in a sickly sweet voice, the crocodile tears having been turned off. "Oh sweetie," she said. "You should know that it doesn't take things to make a house a home. I only want what's best for you. Please believe me, I really just want what's best for you. You just have to make the best of it with what you have."

I have always felt that anger was safer than tears. I had a brief moment of wishing I could be more like my mom, who wouldn't let any of this nonsense get to her before saying through clenched teeth, "You're not letting us make the best with what we have. We need to use wall space. We won't have enough room. We aren't going to damage anything by putting up a few shelves." 

"No, no shelves." She said.

I was growing increasingly frustrated every time she opened her mouth. "Why not," I asked.

Again, with the stuttering, she said, "Because there will be big holes in the walls that...we won' won't be able won't repair when you leave...and I have rent this place out...when you leave...and there will be holes in the walls...that...won't be fixable...and...the holes."

Oh, for fuck's sake, I thought. This woman didn't have a fucking clue what she was talking about. She was talking right out her ass in an attempt to get me to back down. I felt as though, every time I motioned to speak, she was holding her metaphorical hands over her ears and saying, "Nonny nonny poo poo. I don't have to listen to you."

I knew it was pointless, but I said, "We're not going to put holes in the walls that are huge or that can't be covered up." 

DH kindly added, "Yeah, Auntie, she lived in an apartment before and they let her put up shelving on the walls."

She said, "You're going to be having a baby soon. You need to think about...saving money...and doing the best with what you have. You'll just have some buckets for storage or something like that. Or, you know...babies are small, they don't need that much can't put up shelves." 

I felt like reaching out, grabbing the freshly-printed lease from her hands and ripping it into miniscule pieces, before sprinkling them into the sink and flicking on the garbage disposal.

DH tried, in vain, for civility, "We are trying to make the best of it, Auntie. But you're making things so difficult It almost seems you want us to leave or something."

It seemed like the moment she had been waiting for. She pounced. "Oh no, we don't want you to leave." She said slowly, for the first time looking directly at me. There was a brief pause, for effect, and then she turned back to DH and said, "Well...we don't want YOU to leave, [DH's childhood nickname.]"

And all of a sudden, I got it. This was not about a cat or shelving. This was about her wanting me GONE. This was about her not liking me. I had no idea why, of what I could possibly have done to make her feel that way, but it was this brief, defining moment that allowed me to pick up my truths, which had fallen somewhere on the floor and been kicked under the kitchen table, and re-pack my emotional suitcase. 

DH knew that it was time to go. There must have been something in the way I stood up, the way I held my head high, as I said, "WE are not re-signing your lease" that let him know it was time-to-fucking-go.

When we got inside his apartment and his front door closed, I burst into tears. 

"That was horrible." I said in the darkened stairwell.

I sobbed in anger and hurt and frustration. But mostly, I just felt fucking ready.

There is more to the story - most of it all drama. DH's mother got involved. She then called his father and his best friend in order to enlist their help in convincing him that he was doing something terrible.

The following day, I sent DH over to get our rent money back (as it was already paid only days prior in anticipation of the two of us living together) and she, not surprisingly, refused to give it back. Yeah sure, this was someone who really just wanted "what was best for us."

At one point, when DH went over to pick up his laundry, Naunt cornered him, crying and displaying her self-righteous anger, and told him that what I did was wrong and implied that he was such a bad boy to let me talk to her so disrespectfully.  Then, when he was melted into another puddle of guilt, she changed tactics and said, "You know I love you. If it doesn't work out, I'll keep the apartment open for you." I remember feeling so angry when he told me she said that. There I was, scrubbing dishes furiously, raging inside about her veiled insult. DH looked at me and asked cautiously, "What's wrong with that? I thought it was nice?"

"No, DH, it was not nice," I said. "You know what she was really saying?? She was saying, "When it doesn't work out, you can come back....and the 'it' she was referring to was not about us finding another was our relationship."

I spent the whole day packing to leave. I knew I couldn't stay there. DH made the choice to leave with me, and lose the $700 we had already paid for that month's rent. I found it unfortunate that we'd lost the money, and annoying that I had already brought and unpacked most of my belongings in preparation of moving in, but in the end, I knew we had to get the fuck out of Dodge.

When we left the next day, to go live with my parents until we could find another apartment, my DH asked if I could write a thank you card. A thank you card? I was fuming. "Oh sure," I told him, "I'll write her a thank you card. It will read: Naunt, THANK YOU for your lies. THANK YOU for saying you care so much but then not giving us our rent money back. THANK YOU for your pettiness and immaturity. THANK YOU also for involving other people when they had no business being involved. THANK YOU...."

"I said a thank you card," DH said quietly, "Not a fuck you very much card."

To this day, I like that phrase. Fuck you very much.
I raise my metaphorical middle finger, in a solute to ALL Narcs who treat their "loved ones" this way.


  1. Fuck you very much indeed.

    The poison runs througheth to your DH! Where's the anti-venom!

    Dear Husband

  2. I'm guessing, Dear Husband, that your DW has some of the ingredients for your antidote.

  3. Wow, she f...d you guys very much. And actually expected you to sign another lease.

    I encountered a somewhat milder version of that when another nurse's aid said she would pay me to take over her private patient in the nursing home, so she could have a day off.

    She said she would mail me the check, it didn't come, I called her; she said she had just got it mailed the day before I called, I believed her, and it didn't come; I called her, she said it must have got lost and she would send another check, I believed her (she sounded so apologetic and concerned);

    It didn't come, I called several times, not able to catch her. I finally got her on the phone, while still being polite and believing there was some innocent explanation. She blew up at me and yelled angrily that I was hounding her and harassing her and being nasty to her, and she had been doing all she could to get me the $ and she was such a busy person with all kinds of burdens to deal with.

    Well, that turned the light bulb on for me, and I just calmly and politely said, in that case, you can bring the check to the nursing home, I'll be working there on such and such a day, and then I won't have to ask our supervisor to take it out of your paycheck. I got the check.

    I realize now that she probably badmouthed me behind my back after that, probably for 'not understanding,' though I had no inkling of such a possibility then.

  4. @anon - I definitely had some immediate red flags go up in this story! Sounds like your co-worker may be manipulative, or at least she was in that particular instance.

    You can almost See what it was she was thinking, if you look at the details. She asked you to take care of her private patient, right? So, how many other people had any idea that this agreement was going on? It sounds more like your co-worker was being sneaky, right from the start, and all because she wanted a day off and didn't want to have to deal with any hassles (perhaps from your boss, or from you?)

    Mailing the check - another bad sign. Why wouldn't she pay you up front, if she knew you'd be doing this favor for her? Or, at least bring you the check in person? But no, she said she'd mail the check - what a scam artist! It can be SO EASY to be fooled by people like this because it's really hard for a person with empathy to believe that there are people out there without it!

    But there are, as you've come to find out (the hard way). I think you handled the situation really well though, and your assertiveness paid off. I bet this difficult situation really taught you how to pick up on manipulation much quicker. I'm glad you were able to handle it.

  5. Yeah, it helped educate me further after my 3 years of college, though that was one of the very few times in my life when I knew the right thing to do. I was kind of amazed at myself at the time; I honestly was puzzled at how I knew what to say.

    And it had never occurred to me to wonder if anyone else knew of the arrangement--she told me she was paid directly by the family for that particular patient, which at the time didn't have any meaning for me. Now that you mention it...yeah, she was probably lying about that. At the time, I was a short term nurse's aid, and had no idea how their system worked, other than in relation to myself.

    Unfortunately, I wasn't catching on to the many subtle (subtle to me, anyway) kinds of emotional abuse in my foo, just the really obvious kinds (the really, really obvious kinds).

    Reading all the posts and comments on about 20 different narcis dynamics blogs in the last year and a half has finally answered, now that I'm 60, just about every question my wretched child self, and teen self, and young adult self, etc. has been asking, and searching for info about.

    I read lots and lots of self help books, starting in junior high (where all I could find was advice to be tactful, without any explanation of what that meant or how to do it, or any examples), and lots were useless, some worse than useless, a few helpful but still not the main issue, which I could not define and did not have the words for, and I was also in a lot of denial about the extent of the unhealthiness in my foo.

    Every one of these blogs, including yours, brings new insights about what was going on back then and continuing right up until I went no contact with them in Sept. 2009, which actually was just before I came across all the blogs.

    All I knew at that point, was that their own behavior had become too extreme to want to deal with them any more, and I just couldn't stand it any longer, even if I was wrong for going no contact; it was just too stressful and too shitty.

    And I just didn't know anything else to do or try or say, so I wasn't the one who was going to be able to get through to them.

    Only about a few years ago was I able to pin down a few behaviors of foo members and put words to them: like oblivious, dismissive, pompous, arrogant, sneering, contemptuous. Being able to finally put some words to them did help make some important issues clearer to me.

    I still can't believe I was in such a fog, in the sense of knowing there were behaviors that distressed me greatly, but I couldn't find the names for them, I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong. I didn't even know that distress was what I was feeling when I was treated that way.

    Now I realize that was because I grew up with those behaviors from my earliest days, so even though they distressed me, they felt normal to me. And my parents were certainly not supplying my brother and sister and I with the correct terms for our feelings or their own behaviors, since, unlike in healthy families, they didn't want their children understanding any dynamics other than blindly and bewilderedly responding submissively to undeserved guilt and shame and blame.

    Or maybe it would be more accurate to say, in their case, they themselves didn't have that understanding to pass on to us. It does seem that way to me. They seemed quite unaware, though they did sometimes seem to work hard at achieving unawareness.

    Well, after all, it does take hard work to dutifully keep one's head in the sand, like one has been trained to do, when one's butt is being kicked all the time. I'm pretty sure my mother was trained that way, and she sure tried hard to train us the same.

    With my father, it seems more like he was aware of feeling powerful and smug and satisfied when he berated us, but he seemed unaware of how inappropriate and out of touch with reality his behavior was.

  6. @Anon - I think the very fact that you were able to assert yourself against manipulation on any level, given your background, is a huge accomplishment! I have seen my DH's struggle when attempting to stand up for himself against people who treat him poorly. He was only ever taught how to "take it," rather than how to fight it. It's a very difficult skill to learn, how to demand respect for yourself.

    It sounds like you were also taught how to be taken advantage of, how to be bullied, how to be manipulated...and that just plain isn't fair.
    You said, "I still can't believe I was in such a fog, in the sense of knowing there were behaviors that distressed me greatly, but I couldn't find the names for them, I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong. I didn't even know that distress was what I was feeling when I was treated that way." I'm so sorry that you were in such a FOG! When this happens to adults, it is because they were not loved properly, or nurtured emotionally, as they should have been as children.

    But, things can get better and you can unlearn destructive behaviors. My DH is proof of this! I affirm you on your journey, anon!

  7. I can sooo relate to this! My N father put my FOC through a LOT of apartment drama.

    In the apartment that was LEGALLY MINE, we weren't allowed to stop the cuckoo clock or switch off the lamps and he came in using his key because the apartment was "his" as we were going to get the other one, legally his... eventually. So both were his and we had no privacy or right to move a thing!

    I'm feeling anxiety just reading about wanting to put in shelves in a Narc's apartment... or EXIST as a PERSON with an actual EXISTENCE in a NArc's apartment. I've been conditioned to know that this is too much to ask.

  8. I know this is an old post, but I'm setting here making my way through your ENTIRE BLOG marveling at how there is someone else out there living my life. I'm in awe. Every incident, every character is straight out of the last 12 years of putting up with my husband's (now estranged) family.

    1. Hi Anon!

      I'm sorry to have to welcome you into the club, but welcome you are. Believe it or not, it would seem there are quite a few of us out there...Evil DILs Unite!

      But in all seriousness, I'm truly sorry that you've had to deal with things of this nature. It's not fun, it's not pleasant, and it's not right.

      You can comment anywhere you like - I always leave comments open on my posts.

  9. And one more late comment on an old post---but wow....

    I think you & your H dodged a bullet, by not living

    Your every move would've been under scrutiny, and reported back to NMIL... *shudder*

    1. So right - it would have been hell in a hand basket living there