Nearing the end of June 2010, DH decided it was finally time to confront his NM. I supported him in this endeavor, although I was not holding out any hope that NMIL would change. I told DH that whatever he was able to say, whether or not she was willing to listen, would be considered a success in my book. I felt that, for a person who had been trained to avoid confrontation, going head-to-head with his NM had to have been the most daunting task he had ever faced. He crafted a letter, over the course of several days, that was poignant in it's meaning, and heartbreaking in it's honesty.
As with all written communications DH had with his family, I did not write that letter. I read it, offered my insights, and edited for grammatical purposes only. Together, we practiced reading it, as his plan was to read it aloud to his mother in a face-to-face meeting and he wanted to feel as prepared as possible.
Every time I read it, I cried. I could not read it aloud, or to myself, without feeling the incredible and intense emotion that DH poured into it as he wrote. I felt sad for the child DH, who did not feel loved. I felt anger for adult DH, who was not being heard. I felt weary for him because it was a battle he had unknowingly fought his entire life. Above all, I felt proud that he was taking a stand, and that he wanted to protect his FOC even if he wasn't entirely sure how to do it. I thought this was a great opportunity for him to speak his truth, although I was pretty sure NMIL would remain unwilling to hear it. I wanted to be a part of this confrontation, as his wife and life-partner, to show my support for him as well as my loyalty. I wanted to send the message, loud and crystal clear, to NMIL, that she wasn't going to ever get DH back under her thumb. It was my hope that my presence would strengthen DH's resolve, and that it might make it easier for him to speak his truths, knowing that I was on his team, no matter what. By being at DH's side, we were going to show NMIL that she couldn't have DH without me, and that there was no such thing as "Team NMIL & DH" with Jonsi on the side. When DH read his letter, the message would be this: You accept the both of us, or you get nothing. You listen to our truths, or we walk away. You change, and learn to be a part of our new family, or remain the same and lose us forever.
We were giving her the choice.
As with all Narc-situations, this one started out on a bad foot. DH asked NMIL, over the phone, if she would come to our house one evening at the end of June, so we could discuss some very important things with her. Over the phone, she agreed. But several days later (and shortly following the SIL Birthday Party Nonsense) she sent him the following email:
Fri, June 25, 2010
Hi [DH's name],
Couple of things… I was wondering if you got the card I gave you on your wedding day – not the one to the both of you, the extra one just for you.
Secondly, when I go there on Tuesday, is the goal to resolve things to move towards a healthier relationship? Or is it more for me to listen to what you have to say? I just want to know if it is an open forum, a discussion, or something different.
If you are an ACoN, Dear Reader, I know I don't have to explain this nonsense to you. For those of you who are not, I'll give you a quick rundown: This email is evidence of a setup, and of NMIL's extreme distance from reality. The card she was referring to was a card she handed to DH on our wedding day that was addressed to only DH. In it, she wrote the following, amidst a swirl of superficial verbiage: "Jonsi and DD are so lucky to have you" and "Gram always said you were her shining star, I hope someday you realize that" and "Someday I hope things can go back to the way they were before." and "I love you and I miss you." It was ironic that she asked about this particular card, because DH already addressed it in his letter...and he wasn't going to be saying nice things about it. She, on the other hand, obviously thought it was a good thing, in all of it's vomit-inducing bullshit. The reason why she brought it up in her email, prior to showing up for our meeting, was because she was hoping to re-establish any feelings of guilt she mistakenly assumed had been induced the first time around.
I also found it amusing, at best, that she set up her question about our meeting in such a way that the choices were either to resolve things to move towards a better relationship OR for her to listen to what DH had to say. And, as I pointed out to DH at the time, how odd for her to think that the two were not contingent upon each other. Somewhere in her warped reality, it made sense to say that listening to DH meant they wouldn't be resolving things. It's also very apparent that NMIL was under the impression that whatever she imagined DH was going to be saying would be resolvable in one meeting...without any work what-so-ever on her part. DH responded that had some things he wanted to tell her and afterwards, we could have a discussion.
She must not have liked the fact that he was holding his cards close to his chest.
She played for power at every opportunity.
The day before she was scheduled to come, she called DH and asked if she could meet with him somewhere first, before coming to our house. DH said no.
She called back and told DH that she was afraid of me. I wrapped that bit of information up and put it in my pocket for later. DH tried reasoning with her and told her that I wouldn't be saying much during the meeting. It wasn't until I pointed out to him her likely motives, that he realized he wasn't responsible for making her feel any differently. I told him that the only reason she admitted her fear of me was to illicit his guilt. The unspoken words were: What a terrible person and son you are, for making me go there and be with that person I'm so afraid of. I coached DH to stand his ground. If she was afraid of me, it was only because I had already slapped her in the face with my Truths, and she couldn't take it.
She tried, with one last attempt, to gain some power. She actually begged and pleaded with DH for him to allow her to bring some unknown entity to our meeting. When DH said no to that ridiculous request, she said, "What if they just sit in the car?" DH said no. Again, I know I don't have to point out the ridiculousness. But I will point out this: She was afraid. Very, very afraid. Every attempt she made was an effort to get DH away from me, his biggest supporter and strongest ally. She knew that I am DH's rock. His strength. His Eyes, while he is learning how to See with his own. And though I will always be his rock, she knew that one day, he'd have Eyes like mine, that could See right through her once and for all. Oh yes. She was afraid.
That is not to say that the meeting was easy.
She showed up an hour early with no random persons in tow. When I answered the door, having known it was a possibility that she might show up early in order to throw us off-balance, I calmly and assertively said, "Oh. I can see you are early." She wouldn't look at me. She said in her little girl voice, "Oh well, I thought DH said 6:30. That's what I thought he said on the phone. I thought he said 6:30."
I said, "No. You didn't. I heard DH say 7:30, very clearly, when he spoke to you on the phone." Then I lead her to the dining room and said, "You'll have to wait, as we were expecting you later." I went up to tell DH that his mother had arrived. He was in the shower. Then, I went back down, offered NMIL a glass of water, and proceeded to empty the dishwasher, while she sat, texting away, in the dining room. DH decided he wanted to get the meeting over with, and we began as soon as he came down from taking his shower. We had a moment in the kitchen when he looked at me and said with his eyes, "I just want to get this over with."
If I could have taken this particular bullet for DH, I would have. But this was not my battle to fight, and the only thing I could do was stand by his side, metaphorically arm-in-arm with him as he courageously laid everything out on the table. We hadn't known how NMIL was going to react, though we tried to mentally prepare for all the possible scenarios. I think she was so side-swiped by the content of his letter (since he had given no hint of it's contents prior to her arrival) that she simply couldn't react. I had been prepared for anger, crocodile tears, and stubborn accusations. But I did not expect the blank stare on her face as she listened to what DH read. Dear Readers, if ever mine eyes have seen emptiness, I saw it that night.
How could anyone with a heart listen to a letter like DH's and express no emotion regarding his pain? Regardless of whether she agreed with it or not, that woman should have felt something. But I saw nothing. No emotion, Dear Reader. No feelings of pain or sadness that her son had experienced such heart-breaking agony, and that he was continuing to feel it. There was no expression from her of pity, sorrow, or anguish at the thought that her child felt so deeply wounded. I mean, my god, I've wanted to cry at the slightest provocation when my children have been injured or hurt in some way, and the only thing that has prevented my own tears being shed is that I know they need ME to be the strong one so that they don't have to. It's my job to remain calm when they are hurt, because they are the children and I am the parent. And to think that they could ever suffer the depth of emotional pain that my husband has felt and continues to feel, would be a torture beyond belief for me. And if I caused it? That would be my greatest failure.
To see nothing from that woman as she listened to my dear husband, my love, pour out his aching soul to her, was as painful to me as having to imagine my children suffering. If ever I had a reason to hate that woman, that would have been the time for it.
I felt angry when she reached out to pat-pat his hand when he was done reading. That was the best she could do, Dear Reader, to console him. I felt angrier still, when she said, "Now I hope you can listen, with an open heart, to what I have to say." It was the single most invalidating and accusatory judgment she could have made. How dare she accuse my husband, who had just opened his heart to her, of revoking his willingness to listen. How dare she ignore everything he had just said and tell him that her thoughts and feelings were more valid than his.
She spent every moment of her time with us blaming, shaming, and pointing fingers at everyone but herself. She threw her daughter under the bus. She accused me of being mean, and DH of not loving her. She told DH, in not so many words, that he was a bad brother and a bad son, because he was no longer fulfilling the duties she had created for him. She told us that she was seeing a therapist, as though to invalidate DH's claims that she is unhealthy. She asked us if we were going to see a therapist. DH told her it was none of her business. Her commentary was oh-so-typical of a Narc Parent: I know you have a new family, but why are you forgetting about your old one? But what about me? What about your sister? Why don't you ever visit her anymore? Will you come to therapy with me some time? You didn't let me help you with the wedding. I offered, and you said you didn't want my help. My therapist said everything I wrote in that card I gave you on your wedding day was fine! Why don't you love me? I was a good mom. I feel like you don't care about us anymore. I feel like you don't care about me."
For such an empty person, I'm amazed at how little room she has in her. There is no room for anyone else to be right, no room for acceptance, and certainly there is no room for love. She's empty, and she always will be. I am heartbroken for the little boy in my DH who never knew his mother's love, because she never had any to give.