A few days after our wedding shower, EFIL would make his first move in the game. Prior to, he'd been just background noise, offering DH and I little more than obligatory visits, phone calls, and get-togethers. Not including the day I met EFIL and his wife or the day we told him we were pregnant, we saw EFIL a total of eight times in 2009, and less than once a month in 2010. Here's the thing: it's all about quality in my book, not quantity. And I felt that most of our visits with EFIL and L were made more out of obligation than they were out of a genuine desire to see us. I would have traded those eight visits for one really good one, where EFIL and DH got to have deep, meaningful conversation; where we all bonded and spent time learning about each other; where they made it clear to us that they had accepted our choices, our love, and our growing family. Instead, we got a couple of cleverly played visits where they just pretended that all was well. In reality, there was some toxic shit going on behind the scenes.
In spite of my feelings that EFIL was a bible-thumping hypocrite, and L a nosy manipulator, I still felt that they deserved a chance. I also thought that they were giving me one. They are in some ways generous people and not altogether unkind. The day I met them, they had dinner at their house with a "modest" gathering of 15 or so people. We played a game called "loaded questions," which ended up a perfect choice because it's set-up allows for the participants to really get acquainted. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and L even proclaimed her "approval" of me. I don't remember the words she used, but I distinctly remember thinking that she must have enjoyed my company. During another visit, some weeks after we told our pregnancy news, EFIL went outside to his garden and plucked a few flowers from it. When he returned to the house, he was cupping the bunch of blooms in his hands. He held them out to me and said quietly, "Here, Jonsi. I picked these for you." The tenderness of it made an impression on me, and to this day, in spite of all the shenanigans, I still think fondly of him in that moment. I thought that, perhaps, some of my DH's own tenderness originally sprouted from some tiny piece of EFIL, since it clearly didn't come from NMIL. And L once spent almost an entire visit trying to reassure us that they "wouldn't get involved" in whatever NMIL was trying to pull them into. During the Naunt Apartment Fiasco, NMIL had called EFIL and tried to convince him that his son was doing terrible things. EFIL and L may not have been convinced at the time, and L may have insisted that they weren't going to get involved, but it didn't take long, Dear Reader. L went from claiming complete non-involvement, to being part and parcel to the whole operation.
Unfortunately, EFIL would prove over and over again that he was uninterested in forming a healthy bond with his son, that he disapproved of his son's choices, and that he was mostly just selfish. I heard his affirmations many a time that he and DH could develop a deeper relationship. But he rarely, if ever, made good on those promises. DH tells me it was always that way, with EFIL promising him the world but never managing to give him much more than a handful of earth. And EFIL's biggest problem? He chose to listen to NMIL, rather than be his son's advocate. And to NMIL, he's nothing but a pawn. Like all her Flying Monkeys, EFIL believed he was acting of his own accord. In reality though, he was just a small part of her larger scheme - to get and keep DH at all costs.
But, this one requires a bit of back story. I'll start with the facts:
1. EFIL and NMIL married after they found out they were pregnant with DH. DH believes that his parents didn't really want him and decided to get together and make the best of it by trying to love him.
2. EFIL and NMIL have never been open, honest, or clear about when they got divorced, or under what circumstances. So, to the best of DH's knowledge, his parents divorced when he was three or four. Before DH met me and learned to ask questions, he was under the impression that they divorced shortly after he turned one. The details are up in the air, Dear Reader.
3. EFIL has told DH on multiple occasions, verbally as well as in writing, that he "wants their relationship to get better." I have heard the words myself, as EFIL has said them often in the time that I've known DH. He does very little to walk the walk and seems to think that just saying the words will make it happen.
4. EFIL married L a few years after divorcing NMIL. DH once again was not made privy to the details and has no recollection of being at the wedding. NMIL, on the other hand, married J when DH was four, and had SIL when he was nine.
5. EFIL and NMIL remained in close contact as DH was growing up, and continue on to this day, even though DH is an adult with a family of his own. Let me be clear, Dear Reader, that I know they are not talking about the weather when they phone each other.
6. EFIL was not invited to our wedding shower, and therefore could not claim first-hand knowledge of the event. Any information he gleaned about it had to come from either L, or NMIL. DH was present at the shower because he wanted to be a part of it. L and NMIL were there because DH felt obligated to invite them.
7. L treats everyone like a best friend, and NMIL is no exception. Any gatherings where EFIL, L, and NMIL were present, they always seemed to congregate together as though it's the most natural event for ex-spouses and new spouses to be super friendly with each other. But, where EFIL and L played it off like they were just being polite, there was really something much stranger going on. I'm all for adults behaving like adults, being polite, and using their manners. I just think there is something odd about a man's ex-wife and current wife being best friends. When everyone came to the hospital after DD was born, most of my family assumed that L was actually NMIL's sister. That's...a bit creepy.
Our wedding shower was mostly fun, delicious, and enjoyable. The majority of the guests were women from my side of the family who all genuinely supported us and our choice to get married. DH had only a handful of family members present, as he has never been close with his extended family, and we decided that it would not be appropriate to invite any of his old family friends (for reference, see Exhibit A). I probably don't have to tell you my thoughts on his family's approval rating for our decision to get married.
Like our baby shower, the wedding shower was held at my mom's house and she did a fantastic job decorating and making sure everyone was comfortable. We didn't play any dorky shower games, everyone just ate, chatted, and enjoyed each others company. DH's guests mostly behaved, without anyone throwing any apparent tantrums or making obscene hand gestures. They seemed to intentionally segregate themselves from the rest of the guests, and never really expressed interest in being there, but that was to be expected. NMIL stayed for the obligatory length of time before heading out so as not to appear the resentful future mother-in-law that she was.
I could be wrong, but nothing very out of the ordinary seemed to happen. I did not go out of my way to be rude to NMIL, and I attempted to treat her and the rest of DH's guests as I did my own. I thanked them for their gifts, I offered them drinks, and I even made pleasant chit-chat for a few moments. When NMIL showed up with a gift for DD, I graciously accepted it and thanked her. I had a short conversation with NMIL's best friend (whom DH and I mistakenly thought was important enough to invite to our wedding) in which I apologized to her for not sending a thank-you card after she thoughtfully sent DD a Christmas gift months before. My mom and dad made sure to greet and chat with all of their guests, and my best friend made a point of talking to NMIL, since she didn't want me to be worried that no one from my side would speak to her.
The only moment where I felt tense the entire time, was after DD woke from her nap and came down to join our festivities. Naturally, everyone wanted to hold her and "ooh and ahh" over her and her cute pink party dress. When it came time for L to hold her, she passed her instead to NMIL with the obnoxiously loud comment, "It's Grandma's turn to hold the baby!"
Nope, I thought, it's not. I saw the exchange of my five month old baby from L to NMIL and I began thinking immediately about how I'd snatch her away. I waited a few moments, just long enough to give her a legitimate chance to hold her, and then I turned to my mother, eyes wide, and mouthed, "The baby." I think my mom knew how panicked I felt, and she sprung to action. She's a bit like the dog whisperer, my mom, all assertive and calm. So she simply whipped herself over to where NMIL and her posse were corralled, and took DD away, with the statement, "I'd like to take some pictures of DD and Jonsi." No one dared stop her, although L seemed to be upset that NMIL didn't get to hold her longer. She kept saying, "But I think NMIL should get to hold the baby. She didn't get to hold the baby for very long." I'm pretty sure my mom just ignored her. I suppose some people might think she was being rude, but I saw it as just being matter-of-fact. Like my comment to NMIL that she couldn't see my wedding dress just because I said so, my mom was saying NMIL wouldn't be holding the baby any longer. No explanations needed. I've always felt so safe knowing that my mom had our backs.
That exchange lasted no more than perhaps five minutes, and it is the only aspect of our wedding shower that I think could possibly have caused the harboring of bad feelings. And really, in the scheme of things, it was pretty insignificant to me.
Apparently, not everyone felt that way. Shortly after the shower, EFIL contacted DH out of concern for NMIL's well-being. He told DH that he was upset because he had heard that "NMIL was treated poorly at Jonsi's wedding shower." He didn't explain the great terrible things that supposedly happened to her, nor did he go into detail about who supposedly had done them. DH told me, after he spoke with EFIL, that he felt his father might have been accusing HIM of treating his mother poorly, but he wasn't entirely sure. The rest of their conversation was centered around how DH "didn't have to go through with the wedding, if he didn't want to" and how EFIL was bothered by DH's anger towards his mother. EFIL repeated, over and over, that as DH's father, he had every right to speak with NMIL about DH's life. The saddest part of all this was that EFIL had gotten DH alone with him to have this conversation, under the guise that he wanted to "bond with him over a meal, just like they used to." Yeah, some bonding, Daddy Dearest.
When DH got home from dinner with his dear-old-dad, he seemed dejected, disappointed, and hurt. I was angry for him, for me, and for us when he told me what his dad had said to him. I expressed my own concerns: that EFIL had created sides and chosen which one he wanted to be on. It was my thought that Team NMIL had just gained not one, but two new players. I told DH that I was no longer in doubt that L and NMIL were in cahoots, and that L had her hand in convincing the easily swayed EFIL that his son was a bad person. I also told DH that EFIL was very easily manipulated, and it didn't surprise me that he had ever been married to NMIL, nor that he had failed to change much in the twenty something years since they divorced. I thought that, if EFIL thought he was helping DH, then he was sorely mistaken. EFIL proved that he was untrustworthy, no matter what his intentions were, and his intrusion on DH's life with me was unacceptable. I absolutely hated that he had lied to DH in order to get him alone and away from me. It made me uneasy to think that EFIL was capable of playing NMIL's games, and that L wasn't far behind.
If you'll stick with me, Dear Reader, you'll see that these particular Monkeys are very illusive, and therefore, difficult to catch in the act. But, you'll also see that DH and I are one resilient and determined team.