In February 2010, DH decided it was finally time to have an honest conversation with his NM to present her with his Truths. It was a difficult decision that he came to after many heavy discussions between he and I. The two of us spent countless hours, days, and weeks talking about his mother's behaviors and all her lies. We framed our conclusion that we would have this serious conversation with NMIL around the idea that we were open to having multiple conversations with her. DH had hoped that NMIL might be reasonable enough to listen, that she might be willing to take at least some responsibility for her actions, that she might grow up enough to act like a mother, instead of a shitty friend. She had been a shitty friend to him his whole life and what he needed was a parent.
He wanted to tackle the issue of her dishonesty. It was a daunting task, Dear Reader, because in the Narcissist's world, lying is not just a problem, it's THE problem. Narcs suffer the worst kind of dishonesty, in that they lie to themselves. Their lives are a facade, an endless charade in which they fake their own perfection and it's everyone else who has the problems. Narcs believe their own lies, and perpetuate them, in order to appear sane and normal. Lying is first nature to them, and gets them through each and every day. A narc does not face the truth because she would either be destroyed by it, or else have to fully experience her own emptiness. NMIL is no different. She is like a tick, sucking the lives out of others by latching on to their essence and never letting go. She is so fat with lies that if you squished her, she would make an audible pop.
When she came to see our new house for the first time, a month after we moved in, I imagine that she was completely side-swiped by DH's first attempt at confronting her. Never before had he spoken to her with such honesty, with such passion, with such a desire to See. So he kicked off his Truth Campaign asking questions, in an attempt to understand where his mother came from. He asked NMIL what her childhood was like, what her parents were like, and why she never talked about it. But Dear Reader, NMIL would show us that she didn't want to be Seen, for behind the mask she is a disturbed and pitiful creature. She was on the defensive before she even opened her mouth to respond. She was standing by the front door, shrinking in to herself with each word that passed our lips, ready to run if she couldn't handle what was to come. She gave us vague answers that danced around DH's questions, and her tone of voice said she didn't want to tell us her secrets.
She said, "We didn't talk much in our house growing up. Our father didn't talk to us. We talked with our mother sometimes. She was very nice. She was a very nice person. She was very nice to us." She repeated the same words ad nauseum because she had been, most likely, trained to think that way about her mother. She told DH things about his grandfather that he already knew: he was an alcoholic, he yelled at his kids a lot, he couldn't communicate because he spoke Russian while her mother spoke Spanish. That was about it, Dear Reader. She offered up nothing new, and the information she did give us was conveyed with a sense that she thought we were up to something. We weren't, but in her world, everyone is out to win and she's not going to let them. DH wanted to know more about his NM, to recognize where she came from and why she turned out as she did. He was desperate to understand. She was desperate to keep it hidden.
When it became apparent to him that NMIL was not going to offer up her "secrets," that she would rather hold the ugliness close to her chest than share it with her son in order to develop a deeper relationship with him, there was only one place that conversation could go. DH's body language changed to that of a man ready to face the beast. He said, in a voice even stronger and more self-assured than I could have imagined, "Mother. We have something we need to talk to you about that you have been doing. I need to tell you that your lying is no longer acceptable. I need to tell you that the lies you tell will no longer be allowed. You must tell me the truth. You must be honest. We need that from you, in order to have a deep and healthy relationship with you."
In the face of DH's honesty, oh how NMIL cowered! She struck back with every manipulative defense she could pull out of her sleeve in the short time we were talking. She asked DH, "When? When have I lied to you?" in an attempt to trip him up by forcing him to recall specifics because for her the fact that he was saying it was not good enough.
DH reverted to the behaviors taught to him in his youth for a few minutes. He turned to me and whispered, "Help?" because he had convinced himself that she was right and he was wrong, and because the moment she questioned his sanity, he believed her.
I said, "You lied to us about how much we'd be paying to live in your apartment. You had ample opportunity to tell us the truth and you didn't. You chose not to. You chose to play games with our words and be sneaky and keep the truth from us."
She said, "I didn't lie to you. You misunderstood me."
I said, "No, we didn't. There were no misunderstandings."
She said, "You lied to me because you told me that you didn't have enough money to pay me more rent but then you bought a house. I remember everything from every conversation that anyone has ever had with me and you lied to me."
After I had my laugh over the absurdity of her words, I said, "That logic does not hold water. We did not have the money to pay what you would have been charging us to live there. We were not secretly holding out on you, as you were with us. And, months after you lied to us about the rent, we found ourselves in a different place financially, so that we could afford a house." I called bullshit and she didn't like it.
Then I said, "How about this, NMIL. For someone who claimed that the apartment dealings should have been kept private, you sure told an awful lot of people about it. You spoke with EFIL, and L, and Pig, and Naunt, and who knows how many others about what was going on at that time. What business was that of yours to do?"
She said, "Well I was only doing those things because I was concerned for DH."
"How's that?" I asked.
She replied, "Because he expressed to me in private, when we had a private conversation, that he didn't know what to do. He told me that you were being difficult." She paused and repeated it with a nod, as though to drive the point home, "Yes, difficult."
Dear Reader, I remember this moment so clearly, as though it was engraved in my memory. I remember realizing that I could see right through her. I could see that she was trying to make me jealous, with the knowledge that DH had gone to HER to discuss private matters. I could see that she was trying to get us to turn against each other. She wanted DH to stand alone, she wanted to cut the ties between us and attack us where we were joined. She wanted to cut me off and throw me out, so that she could be free, finally, to chip away DH's newborn defenses and get him back where she wanted him...under her thumb. Well it was a mistake on her part, Dear Reader, in fact, the biggest miscalculation she could have made. If she really believed that tactic would work, then she misread me completely. If she thought I would turn on my Dear Husband, then she had no idea that she'd already lost. She could have said that DH told her I was the biggest bitch he had ever met, and it could have even been true, and I still would have stood with him. Where she thought she would succeed in breaking our link, she only succeeded in making it stronger.
I told her that if he said that, it was of no consequence to me.
She said to DH, almost frantically, "Well haven't you lied to me before? Haven't you lied to Jonsi before? You tell lies!" She wanted him to turn on himself, to look inward and blame us for her lies. Her desperation was apparent. She was pathetic. She was like a child covering HER eyes and saying, "You can't see me!"
I thought, "Bitch, just because you can't see us doesn't mean we can't see you. Grow up. I CAN STILL SEE YOU."
DH looked beaten when he said, "Yes, I've lied before."
When NMIL nodded in her triumph, I said, "That may very well be true, but we aren't talking about DH's lies, NMIL. We're talking about yours." She deflated like a popped balloon.
DH gathered some more courage and said, "Mom you've been lying to me for seven years. When you cheated on my stepfather, you were lying. I was crushed when I found out. And we never talked about it."
NMIL said, "Well that was a very dark time in my life. I thought I had apologized for that. I thought we moved on."
DH said, "No, Mom, you never apologized."
She said, "Well, fine then, I'm sorry." It was the biggest, fattest, non-apology she could have ever spewed from her frothing mouth.
DH said, "Mom, that doesn't mean anything when I have to ask for it."
NMIL said, "I said I was sorry, what more do you want?"
DH didn't have an answer for that because it was obvious that no amount of explaining it would make her See. He pressed on, "Mom, what about Jonsi's baby shower? It hurt my feelings that it took so long for you to respond to the invitation. Why did you wait until three days before to respond that you were coming? You should have been the first to respond because you're my mother."
She said, "I don't remember."
I said, "Well, that's convenient."
She said, "That was mean."
"No," I replied, "It's the truth. Apparently, you remember things that you want to remember and forget all the things that you don't." I finger quoted "forget" to illustrate that I knew it was just an excuse. I continued, "NMIL, you have lied to me several times and I am not a stupid person. You have given us no reason to trust you."
She turned, again, to DH and said, "Why are you doing this to me?"
DH asked, "What, mom?"
She said, "Accusing me of lying? I love you. And I was a good mom. I fed you." She said that last with such affirmation that I knew she really believed it. She really thinks that all it takes to be a good mom is to make sure your children have something to eat.
DH said, "Mom, is that what you think I'm doing? You think I'm not loving you? I'm not saying I don't love you, I'm telling you the truth because I do love you, and I want to have a healthy relationship with you."
The whole time this conversation was going on, I think NMIL was too shocked to turn on her crocodile tears. She didn't weep until the very end, as she was preparing to leave. She threw in her first and last "offer" to help us with the wedding, as a means to guilt trip DH for what he had "just done to her." As she was turning to put her shoes on, she said, "Well, are you going to let me help you with the wedding?"
Once more, DH looked at me, knowing the answer, but afraid to speak it. I told her, "I'm sure if we need your help, DH will give you a call." Translation: No.
She nodded pitifully and reached for the doorknob. DH looked at me and mouthed "hug?" I tried to tell him with my eyes that he didn't have to ask me that, he didn't need my validation to give his mother a hug. I knew, at the time, he thought that hug was for him. But in reality, he was fulfilling the role she had created for him long ago - that of her caretaker, her protector, her parent. He believed he was hugging her for him, but it was really for her because she was childish and weak and insecure. How unfair, I remember thinking, that after all that, he still didn't get a mom. And nothing had changed.
She actually believed, with her entire existence, that he stopped loving her. She thought he didn't care. It must have been easier for her to believe in his "evilness," than to accept her own.
But hatred was never the point.
The moment she left and the door closed, DH crumpled into a ball on the ground and cried. It was the first time he had EVER been this punch-in-the-gut honest with her and the pain of her rejection and denial must have been completely overwhelming.
Looking back now, DH says, "I did it because I wanted to show her that I still loved her but it was difficult to do that when she was being dishonest with me." He wanted to convey to her that hatred was not the point and that he needed real love from her.
And there we have it, Dear Reader. His realizations speak volumes about the kind of love he did get his whole life, and whatever you might call it, it was not good enough. When we are faced with telling the truth, and our abusers don't want to hear it, then we must begin to face our own lies, long enough to realize that something's gotta change. Telling the truth is not usually a behavior we are using to hurt others, although sometimes pain is a byproduct. And in this case, especially, DH's honesty was about his need to have a healthy and meaningful relationship with his mother. In the end, any relationship that is not based on truth, and therefore reality, is not a healthy one, is not a happy one. Hell, it's just not a good one.