It's been quiet on the home-front in regards to DH's FOO for the past few weeks. I've been away from my blog for a couple days because there was so little drama to deal with concerning NMIL and her cult of followers that DH and I have had a lot of time to focus on other things, namely yard work and painting our house.
A couple days ago, I found myself thinking about an incident that occurred with NMIL that I had not previously discussed on my blog.
In late July of 2009, DH sent his NM an email letting her know his traveling schedule for work. His travels that year were very extensive, and he was away from home for several weeks, sometimes a couple times a month. In this particular instance, he informed her of the three weeks he'd be gone between August and September of that year.
Now, under "normal" circumstances, in which there is at least a relatively healthy respect of boundaries between mother/son, I wouldn't consider this sort of openness with information to be a dangerous undertaking. However, as we know, the relationship between my husband and his NM is anything but healthy and at the time I felt very uneasy that DH was so forthcoming with his mother concerning when he would be away from home. Looking back on it now, it wasn't so much the idea that he was telling her when he'd be gone (although that posed a problem as well because she would often try to contact him when I wasn't in the immediate vicinity since that was as close to 'getting him alone' as she could get) as it was the fact that he was opening up a dialog with her, in which there was great potential that she would abuse the privilege.
And abuse it, she did. As per usual, NMIL used the email exchange as an opportunity to employ tactics of triangulation while simultaneously attempting to undermine my authority.
When looking at these emails with rose-colored glasses, I know it can be difficult to see the malintent hidden beneath the words. I urge you to look a little deeper, Dear Reader, particularly after I have endowed you with more facts about this little exchange:
From: Dear Husband
Sent: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 @ 9:06 AM
So you know where I is:
Aug 2 - Aug 14 Town, MA
Aug 24 - Aug 28 Town, NY
Sept 7 - Sept 21 Town, MA
I don't like leaving this much!
That's all for now...I'm sure they'll stick with me something else soon. Bah humbug. Ha!
In essence, a mother who doesn't care about the well-being of her child should be on a need-to-know basis. And NMIL is one mother who doesn't need to know. That was how I felt at the time this email was sent, and that is how I still feel about it now.
Sent: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 @ 10:57 AM
To: Dear Husband
Subject: Re: Sched
That’s alottttttttttttt of traveling – please let me know if there is anything I can do for you or Jonsi.
Hey I know this is far ahead, but next year I got the big room for Timeshare (you know that whole stupid lottery thing – I did pretty well though) - maybe I can get J’s room for you and Jonsi and Baby! Wouldn’t that be fun for Baby Jonsi to hit the beach?
And so, Dear Reader, the trouble starts. First, my nitpicking won't let me overlook the typical use of extra letters that NMIL uses in nearly EVERY exchange of communication I have ever seen from her. There is something extremely juvenile and ridiculous about a grown woman speaking this way, both verbally or via the written word. Secondly, "Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you or Jonsi" is NMIL's way of paying lip-service to DH and his family. NMIL is famous for making promises she has no intention of keeping, and making offers that sound pretty without ever following through. Unfortunately, because DH grew up with a mother who lied to him all the time, he has had a difficult time understanding that merely making an offer to help does not mean a person has any real intentions to do so.
Finally, before we move on to DH's response, NMIL's initial vacation offer was a bold move in her game of triangulation. I'll say now, Dear Reader, other than hearing about it through my husband, these vacation offers were never ONCE mentioned to me from her directly, either in person, or via email.
What NMIL didn't yet know at this point in their email exchange, was that DH had already informed me of his NM's offer. I immediately started asking him questions about it. In general, I find it a practical rule of thumb to find out details before accepting an offer or promising someone my time in the future. In particular, dealing with someone like NMIL felt akin to how I imagined it would feel to deal with the devil. NMIL's offers come with a price, they come with loopholes and strings attached, they come with lies.
I wanted to read the fine print.
Unfortunately, since DH did not expect answers, his questions were neither specific, nor demanding. Also, given the fact that he had gone on these vacations with her every year prior to the start of our relationship, I can also understand his excitement about going, and his misjudgement of my response to the offer. I was, however, proud of the fact that he was trying to include me in the conversation, and that he had seen the importance of not abiding by his NM's unhealthy rules (which, more than likely, entailed keeping secrets from his wife, making the decision to go on the trip without consultation, and discussing the matter only with NMIL).
Sent: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 @ 11:00 AM
Subject: Re: Sched.
Sounds promising. I don't know if I can afford it though. How much a night is it?
The questions about price came from me. Left to his own devices, DH would not have asked. This is understandable, since as I mentioned, he'd been going on these vacations with his mother for years and never had to pay for them. But, although I wanted to know how much this "vacation" would potentially put us in the hole financially, I was much more concerned with the inevitable emotional price we'd have to pay for going on a trip with my Narcissistic mother-in-law. At the time, after having only known her for a few months, I already knew that NMIL was the kind of person who would use her vacation offer (and our acceptance of it) as evidence of her "love" for us. Similarly, if we rejected her offer and therefore her "love," she could claim that it was US who were behaving cruelly. After all, to ignorant outsiders, wouldn't it look just awful that DH and Jonsi could possibly turn down such a generous and thoughtful offer?
Sent: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 @ 11:08 AM
To: Dear Husband
Subject: Re: Sched.
My treat to get the family together. Baby needs to see the beach. I would work it out with J. Maybe I will buy his timeshare outright and that can be the “kids” timeshare. It would be fun to even have Pig and Pig's Wife come for a day or too - just a place to get everyone together.
Another thought would be to rent one of those big houses on the beach on the outerbanks or the cape – like one that sleeps 15 or something. Me and SIL were looking at those a few months ago and they are reasonable these days for a weeks stay.
When DH forwarded this email to me, I blanched at the phrase, "My treat." I loathed her demand that OUR baby NEEDED to see HER beach. I was angered by the implication that her more specific talk of costs would take place with her (adult) ex-husband, while her (child) son and daughter-in-law weren't privy to that kind of information. I detested her referring to DH as a "kid." And I detected her escape-clause in the fact that she mentioned how the vacation was a place to get the "family" together, but then indicated her interest in inviting DH's friends.
When she threw out the idea of staying in a giant house with a dozen other people, I knew the chance that I would accept such an offer was less than slim. It would have been bad enough spending one day, let alone a week with NMIL and SIL. And adding people such as Pig, Naunt, and Exhibit A (all of whom had joined NMIL on these vacations in the past) was way, WAY out of the question.
At the time, DH thought a week-long stay with his NM and Nsis was possible, even without being given the information he was asking for (like cost and guest list). He asked her for more information about the timeshare, and then followed up by saying, "If you get the dates down, I can try to schedule time off for that month. Which one are you trying to do, the timeshare or the house? Also, would it just be us up there? Me, you, SIL, Jonsi, Baby Jonsi?"
Sent: Tuesday, July 28, 2009 @ 11:21AM
To: Dear Husband
Subject: Re: Sched.
Well we bought the timeshares 10 years ago. So let’s say they cost us $10K each = $20K total. Every year we go to the Cape, if we rented a place it would cost us $1400 or $1500 per week plus beach fees. So after 7 years you break even. We had usually rented out the other one to family so sometimes we got money for it sometimes not, but that worked out fine. Am I explaining that well?
J rented out his timeshare this year as I did too. But next year I was thinking it would be nice to get back to a family vacation type thing – it such a great time on the beach and I have such fond memories of you and SIL learning about sand and the ocean and all that. So for sure next year I have the timeshare for this same time in July, but that doesn’t mean we have to use it. I haven’t looked into the house thing yet – but I think we should stick to end of July cuz it’s warm and fun.
I didn’t get as far as the invite list. Def the group you listed below and [her sleazy boyfriend]. maybe Naunt and family? Pig and Pig's wife? Thoughts on who else?
At this point, I explained to DH my many trepidations about NMIL's offer. I told him:
1. She was asking DH to accept what could prove to be a financially-straining and time-consuming offer a whole year in advance. Worse, she wasn't leaving him much room to say 'no,' with her talk about how our baby "needed" to see the beach.
2. Her offer was full of inconsistencies (Was this a family vacation only, or would friends be invited as well?) and vagueness (For shit's sake, how much does it cost to stay there for a week?)
3. We did not know where we would be in a year's time. Our DD wasn't even born yet, and by the time the "vacation" rolled around, she'd only be about six months old. Some babies still have trouble sleeping through the night at six months old. How could we be expected to sleep in one room, or stay in a timeshare (even with multiple rooms) with an infant, amidst a large group of (unfamiliar and unfriendly) people? Furthermore, I knew that I would not be comfortable breastfeeding my DD in front of ten+ people (specifically the people it looked like NMIL wanted to invite). I'm not shy about breastfeeding in public, and have always done so discreetly when I need to, but that was not something I felt comfortable doing.
4. The town we lived in contained several very nice beaches. We didn't need to go on vacation with NMIL and her pack of flesh-eating, brain-washed followers for our baby to enjoy the beach or the ocean.
5. I couldn't imagine spending more than a day with that woman, especially considering that (even that early on in our relationship with her) two hours was my threshold.
6. I could not see allowing anyone, even my own parents, to pay for our entire vacation. If she were REALLY serious about paying for it, she might have potentially covered the cost of traveling, food, entertainment, as well as room & board. Even if the woman had been up-front about what she planned on "treating" us to, and even if she did not display narcissistic tendencies, I still would not have accepted such an offer.
7. We didn't know where our relationship with NMIL would be, come July of 2010.
8. We didn't know what would be expected of DH concerning his job in July of 2010.
9. We didn't know where WE would be come July of 2010. (In hindsight: By July of 2010, we were pregnant with our second child and DH would need to use his vacation time at the end of the year for the time of my due date, we were married, we had bought a house, DH had more traveling to do for work. Those are all HUGE responsibilities that carried with them an unspoken stake on our time and finances.)
10. If we only got to have one family vacation a year, I wanted it to be with OUR family (me, DH, our babies) and not with NMIL.
11. The whole "offer" smacked of someone who was looking out for her own best interests instead of anyone else's. I didn't see someone who took into consideration that I might not want to go on a vacation with her, that her grandchild (who wasn't even born yet) probably wouldn't be old enough to actually enjoy a beach, that we might want to spend our first vacation (and subsequent ones) with each other instead of extended family, or that we might resent being treated like pions who didn't deserve the details. I believed (and still believe) that her expectation was that DH would say yes and fulfill his unspoken promises to her, when she didn't have to do the same.
DH responded to his mother, "Sounds fine. But again, you're going to have to let me know when you finalize plans...but that's still a year away I guess."
To that, she replied, "No we don’t have to pay to stay there. There is a yearly $250 charge or something like that."
That pretty much ended their talk about having a vacation in 2010 at that time.
From there, they went into a superficial discussion of DH's travel plans, in which NMIL made more promises that she had no intention of keeping. My favorite was this: "Tell me something that Jonsi likes to eat so I can make it whilst you are away...I will make [arroz valenciana] for [her] for sureeeeeeeeeee!" I'm sure you don't need me to confirm it, Dear Reader, but for sake of clarity, I will: No, NMIL never made any attempt to "help" me while DH was away. I never heard a peep out of her, never saw her face, never heard her voice on my answering machine. But we all know her pretend-promise to make me something to eat while DH was away wasn't for me.
At any rate, the whole vacation request thing went away for a couple months. The second and final time she asked about it was in another email to DH shortly after DD was born. Neither DH nor I saved the transcript of that email exchange, but I do remember that NMIL once again sent her offer only to DH (even though he had specifically asked her, several times, to send any important questions or discussions to the both of us). When she sent him the email and asked if we'd be interested in going on vacation with her, she tried to make it sound like she was "taking our needs into consideration." She said something like, "DH, you said you wouldn't be able to take a whole week off for a vacation, but what about a weekend?"
This time, when DH forwarded me her vacation offer, I wrote back. I did this intentionally. It was my way of showing her that I knew exactly what she was up to and that it was never going to work. I told her, once again, that we couldn't make a promise that we'd be able to join her on a vacation so far in advance and requested that she let us know when the time got closer so we could decide then. I also thanked her for the offer. I did not include in the email what I told DH in private: that, although I was not at all interested in going on such a vacation or spending much time with his NM, I would make the sacrifice when the time came, if he was still interested in going.
NMIL's response was some over-the-top, feigned-understanding type-deal, where she stated, "Of course! I'll let you know when it gets closer."
She never did. More-than-likely, that's because we didn't respond with the answer she wanted to see. Even more likely, she was pissed that her son's wife got involved in the plans, when she was hoping to write me out of them completely.
But NMIL doesn't get to write the rules.