Monday, October 24, 2011

Dissolution

I found the following entry today on Dr. Coleman's Forum for estranged parents. The author, who uses the pseudonym Whisper, titled his/her post "Resolution."

The whole point of adding this diary was that I had one already. Sadly, all of my entries are gone. In a way that is good though. Finally, I have a resolution to the estrangement with es. About three weeks ago, I left a birthday card with 20 dollars and a long letter for him. I asked that we all work to resolve our problems. What I received in return was a short letter in which he said that I had attacked his family, and that my long mean letter was proof of my need for counseling. He asked that I not come to see him anymore at work and that I leave his family alone and that as long as I talk to x, he won't talk to me. He wasn't talking to me when I wasn't talking to x anyway, which I had pointed out in the letter.It has taken me almost a year, but I have finally seen what a real mess my kid is. It has been hard because I always looked up to and respected him. He is now no longer anyone to look up to or respect. He is totally irrational and unable to communicate. He has become one of those people in which there is only one way, one truth, and one god…his way, his truth, and him. Whatever he does to me…screen my phone calls, hide if I drop in, stand me up for Christmas day, attack me in an absurd email, mail me a letter to stay away from him and his family, when I have done absolutely nothing, change his phone number. Of all those things he sees as justified, and dismisses my hurt as if it doesn't exist, but continues to attack and berate me for whatever small thing he can find. It has been a long fight for me, a struggle to give up on the kid I so cherished and believed in, and to see him for what he has truly become.I have no desire to go see him or try to talk to him anymore. He has a desperate need to blame mommy and will fabricate whatever he needs to so he can do that. I have honestly not met anyone so blatantly and unashamedly wrong who believes he is so right. He has become the person that his wife needs him to be in order to earn her respect. I hope he gets his reward for that one day.I think I'm now free.

I wanted to share this particular entry with you because, aside from the part about how she/he left a birthday card for his/her son three weeks ago, I entertained the idea that this could have been written by DH's enabling father. The similarities between the mentality of this anonymous poster and those of my husband's dear-old-dad are astounding.

About three weeks ago, I left a birthday card with 20 dollars and a long letter for him. I asked that we all work to resolve our problems. EFIL also sent DH a birthday card on his birthday, including in it a gift card with a small amount of money, the cryptic words, "Happy Birthday Son" written inside, and a very long letter. EFIL's letter was chock-full of blaming, excuses, and absolutely reeked of a "Can't you just get over this temper-tantrum you're having?" philosophy. Reading Whisper's message on the Coleman forum gave me the shivers. The phrase, "I asked that we all work to resolve our problems" reminded me that people like EFIL don't know what working to resolve problems really looks like. To them, "we all" means "you (the estranged son or daughter)". While "work to resolve" means "sweep everything under the rug and forget about it" and "our problems" really means "whatever issues you, the estranged son or daughter appear to be having with the way we've always treated you." That's not my idea of problem-solving. That's my idea of a toxic recipe for disaster.

What I received in return was a short letter in which he said that I had attacked his family, and that my long mean letter was proof of my need for counseling. First, I find it funny that Whisper just HAD to point out that his/her letter was long and his/her estranged son's was short. You know, because the length of the letters exchanged is supposed to show how obvious it is that the estranged son just isn't putting in the effort to fix things. I mean, he can't even be bothered to write as long a letter as his parent, right? Not only is that a juvenile argument to be making, but it only further proves to me that Whisper, like so many other estranged parents out there, will go to great lengths to prove that they aren't really the bad guy in all of this. (Who are you trying to convince?) I also find it intriguing that anyone would look down on the need for counseling, as Whisper seems to be doing. In my experience, the people who need counseling the most almost never end up getting it. Why? Because there seems to be a direct correlation between denial and refusal to seek outside help for dysfunctions within a family system. Have you ever noticed that the more dysfunctional the person, the least likely they are to talk about their problems with persons who could act as legitimate agents for change? And here's the kicker: Going to a therapist who tells you that everything is fine and you should just keep on the course you're going does not count as a legitimate agent for change. So no, writing about your estrangement woes on the Dr. Coleman forum, or reading his books, or writing your son a letter about what a jerk he's been, or seeking advice from people who tell you that there is nothing wrong with you, does not count as breaking free from your dysfunctional chains. You're just finding ways to justify your denial, and that's sure as hell not helping anybody. Insofar as DH's response to EFIL's long letter, he also spent a portion of his time, as our anonymous ES did, explaining that attacking his FOC was not acceptable.

And, I believe that it is perfectly reasonable to expect that a person who won't stop attacking your spouse, children, and loved ones, be extricated from your life. Apparently, Whisper's ES felt the same way: He asked that I not come to see him anymore at work and that I leave his family alone and that as long as I talk to x, he won't talk to me. None of these requests are unreasonable. I would go so far as to say that even if this estranged parent had not been breaking boundaries and abusing his/her son, these requests are still not unreasonable. And, if there is any truth to the implication that this ES has been attacked by his parents, emotionally, physically, or otherwise, then they are definitely not unreasonable. It is not okay, it is never okay to attack your child's spouse - either to their face or behind their back. It is not okay to attack your child's spouse through your child, either. When someone has to say, "Leave my family alone!" it implies that, whether accurate or not, that individual feels that their loved ones have been threatened in some way. The way I see it, this ES felt threatened by Whisper's behaviors and wanted to protect his FOC. As I've said before, even if Whisper has done nothing to warrant this kind of feeling in his/her son, there is still a very legitimate reason why he is feeling that way and it needs to be addressed, accepted, and resolved. In my opinion, Whisper's ES had no further recourse but to say, "leave my family alone!" There were no other options available to him because his parents didn't give him any.

...as long I talk to x, he won't talk to me. This one line really intrigues me; in part because DH also asked his EF to stop speaking with NMIL because he was betraying their father/son relationship while simultaneously aiding his NM in her tactics of control and manipulation, but also because Whisper, in particular, doesn't explain who the mysterious "x" is. I feel that that information is vital and it was left out on purpose. What is the identity of the mysterious "x?" Why has the relationship of this particular person not been identified? I think the answer has more to do with the nature of "x's" relationship with the estranged son then it does the estranged parent trying to avoid identifying a person who wishes to remain anonymous. Who is the "x" in this equation and why has Whisper gone to such great lengths not to expose him/her, when the same courtesy is not being extended to his/her own son? In my husband's case, "x" was solved for a long time ago.

It has taken me almost a year, but I have finally seen what a real mess my kid is. Common problem: blame the child. Of course, EFIL, it's not YOUR fault that you don't have a relationship with your son. You've tried all these years BUT he wouldn't accept your apologies...BUT he doesn't care about you and your feelings...BUT there must be something wrong with him...BUT it's all his wife's fault, she's taking him away from you and changed him...BUT he won't accept that you're just human and you make mistakes. Really, EFIL? Really Whisper? It's taken you a year to see what a mess your kid is? If you spent even a quarter of that time looking inward instead of blaming your son for the problems in your relationship, maybe you'd be in a different place right now. I find it appalling that people like EFIL & L, and NMIL all spend so much of their time coming up with ways to blame their sons and daughters instead of owning their own dysfunctions and dealing with them accordingly. BUT...we all know it's just that much easier to look at your kid and see a mess. After all, that's their problem isn't it? Not yours. Never yours.

It has been hard because I always looked up to and respected him. He is now no longer anyone to look up to or respect. Does anyone else find it strange that this person is talking about "looking up to" his/her child? The phrase "looking up to" is generally reserved for individuals older or wiser than you, not younger and less-versed in the ways of the world. And, while I have always believed that children can, in fact, be quite wise, I still think that it is an unfair burden to place on a child, to expect that they should be someone whom an adult (a parent, no less!) can "look up to." In a healthy parent/child relationship, children are supposed to look up to their parents as their parents guide them through all the sticky situations and tribulations that go hand-in-hand with youth. The reverse is not true: Children are not supposed to provide their parents with guidance, they are not supposed to be the moral compass for the adults in their lives. If the parents are not capable of guiding even themselves, then who is left to guide the children? In addition, just as EFIL has shown us many times over, parents of estranged sons/daughters seem to like pulling out the "I can't respect you anymore and it's all YOUR fault card." They say it as though they ever had respect for their children to begin with (EFIL didn't.) They say it as though they know what respect means (EFIL doesn't.) They say it as though they have to be allowed to show their children respect. Now that DH has decided to take a stand and ask that his FOC be treated kindly and with consideration, he is portrayed as someone undeserving of respect. In truth, his parents never offered him respect to begin with, now they're just making a big show of pretending they did, so that they can explain why they've "suddenly revoked it." Does all this talk of "respect" sound familiar? "I believe at 51 I have earned the right to draw respect as an adult and as your father that this shouldn’t happen. I should be able to take my son out for a bite by himself, not to say that I wouldn’t do it for the rest of your family. You and Jonsi have no right to judge ANYONE lest you be judged."

He is totally irrational and unable to communicate. I have my doubts that Whisper's ES is truly irrational or that he is unable to communicate. There is a big difference between "unable" and "unwilling" and I would bet my bottom dollar that his case is more the latter. Like DH, he has probably come to terms with the fact that it's actually his parents who are irrational and unable to communicate and he has made the conscious decision to stop engaging on their unhealthy level. My DH has never been more rational or better able to communicate - and his communication skills improve on a daily basis. He's working on honesty, on not keeping secrets, and on offering details where in the past, he would have offered none. He's learning that the way his FOO "communicated" was unhealthy and damaging. He works, everyday, at undoing the damage caused by his parents version of "communicating" and one of the ways he is doing that is by choosing NOT to engage with them. It's nearly impossible to learn how to communicate effectively when you are dealing with people who refuse to.

He has become one of those people in which there is only one way, one truth, and one god…his way, his truth, and him. The mention of god here is of particular interest to me because EFIL spent half of his letter trying to shove his god down my husband's throat. What Whisper seems to be saying is that his/her son thinks of himself as god - in other words, now that he is putting himself and his FOC first instead of his parents, he has committed the ultimate act of sin and betrayal. Sound familiar? "Have you ever been there for anyone? Have you pushed yourself out of your envelope to be there for someone else? You may have but I haven’t heard of any...After all the work I did for you and your family I call you and ask you, my only son, to come and help me and you say I’ll call you back. You call back and say you can’t because it interferes with the work at your house, knowing that I can’t do it because I hurt my shoulder...The bible says the tongue is like a double edge sword it can either give life or take it away. And 'Actions speak louder then words'...Like you say you love me but you won’t come over and help me when I’m in need even after I just helped you...GOD is the only one we are accountable to and the only one that can judge. If people live by the sword then the will die by the sword. Don’t be so hard; don’t be so quick to judge."

Whatever he does to me…screen my phone calls, hide if I drop in, stand me up for Christmas day, attack me in an absurd email, mail me a letter to stay away from him and his family, when I have done absolutely nothing, change his phone number. Aside from the accusation about being attacked in an email, these actions do not describe an aggressor, assailant, initiator, instigator, intruder, invader, provoker, raider, trespasser, as Whisper would have us believe. These actions describe a protector, defender, keeper, supervisor, watchdog, guardian, sentinel, ward, partisan. The person he/she is describing is not, however much Whisper wants to believe, doing something to him/her. This person is merely taking steps to protect himself and his FOC from his parents abuse, attacks, and disrespect. All of the things that Whisper has listed as offenses against him/her by his/her son are also things that DH has done, will do, or is in the planning process for.

Of all those things he sees as justified, and dismisses my hurt as if it doesn't exist, but continues to attack and berate me for whatever small thing he can find. When a person has to point out that "so-and-so sees x-behavior as being justified" it means that he/she does not agree. In the case of Whisper, and indeed with EFIL, we know this to be true: Neither party agrees that their estranged sons' actions are justifiable. The problem isn't in the disagreement, however, it's in the way the disagreement is handled. I find it funny that these parents are expecting their sons to acknowledge their every hurt when they won't acknowledge even one of their son's hurts. I find it funny that these parents expect their sons to stop demanding respect for themselves and their new families. I find it funny that these parents see their sons' new found courage and boundaries as a personal attack. I find it funny that these parents can be so petty in their grievances, so stunted in their growth, and so unwilling to see the truth. Sound familiar? "Do you know how bad it makes me feel that my own son won’t come help me when I’m in need...by the way [it] was very disrespectful of Jonsi to respond to L [the way she did in regards to DD's first birthday party invitation]...We ended up for the concert having to buy more tickets at a higher rate and seats that were way up in the nose bleed section. This was all to make you a priority...you say you love me but you won’t come over and help me when I’m in need even after I just helped you. Forget I’m hurt and can’t do it. I have given you forgiveness before you ask and my grace is sufficient for you."

It has been a long fight for me, a struggle to give up on the kid I so cherished and believed in, and to see him for what he has truly become.I have no desire to go see him or try to talk to him anymore. I'm going to go ahead and say that there is something seriously wrong with a person who has to fight "to give up on" their child. In other words, every day you wake up and tell yourself that you should be giving up on your son? I don't think this parent knows the definition of what it means to "fight" for something. There is a certain nobility associated with the act of fighting for a cause. I don't sense any nobility in what this parent, or others in a similar position, are doing. There is nothing honorable about it, nothing dignified. EFIL has fought, but he's only fought dirty. NMIL has fought too, and her tactics have been even more heinous. And someday soon, they too will give up, because they will come to recognize that their little [DH's childhood nickname] is gone and he won't be coming back. They are right when they say that he has changed. They are wrong in thinking that his changes are not for the better.

He has a desperate need to blame mommy and will fabricate whatever he needs to so he can do that. Sound familiar? "LSV I love you very much and I am sure that your mother and all your aunts and uncles and extended family do too...LSV you were raised with a lot of love, kindness and happiness...nobody has treated you badly, meanly, rejected you, or forced you into a life of demeaning slander or poverty...LSV in the end, I am not accountable to you, or Jonsi for my actions. Nor is L, your mom or anyone else."

I have honestly not met anyone so blatantly and unashamedly wrong who believes he is so right. Look in the mirror, asshole(s).

He has become the person that his wife needs him to be in order to earn her respect. Sound familiar? "There are people in this world that can control people and manipulate them for their own personal satisfaction, and they normally prey upon people that have a spirit of controllability. Those people control their own lives as well as the lives of others. As you were growing up that was not the case. But as for right now, I’m not so sure. Somewhere along the line I think that changed...I should be able to talk to my son man to man, father to son without having a third party scrutinize my words and intentions... [so] surround yourself with family and friends that love you and truly only want the best for you."

I hope he gets his reward for that one day. Sound familiar? "For as much grace and forgiveness you give to others it WILL be given back to you."

Are these people all looking at the same fucked-up coloring book for their answers on how to solve their estrangement problems? I think, perhaps scariest of all for me, is the way in which people like Whisper and EFIL find their "resolution." Whisper wrote, "Finally, I have a resolution to the estrangement with es [bullshit, bullshit, bullshit]...I hope he gets his reward for that one day. I think I'm now free." Their "resolution" comes in the form of their conviction that their estranged sons will receive punishment someday for the "wrongs" they have "committed." They feel relief in the belief that their sons will be hurt, punished, or tormented having made the choice to cut off their FOOs. Their "resolution" is in the form of relief over the dissolution of their relationships with their sons.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Losing Friends

I received the following comment on my post Bad Dreams and Manipulations that I wanted to take some time to address:

If you ever have the time I would like to ask you if you could write how you have dealt with losing friendships due to this people believing NMIL lies and manipulations and not wanting no longer associate with you because you are "the bad guy" I'm having a hard time with this, some of the friendships DH and I lost were people who we were friends for years and didn't even knew who was NMIL and NFIL until contact by them so how this happened? how can a heal? how can I find peace?

Anon, you have raised such great questions here and I feel honored that you have asked me for my opinions. I'm going to break down my answers into a couple parts because I think it might make for easier reading, and I'd like to tackle two key components to the issue: How I have handled friendship losses, and how my husband has handled friendship losses.

Here we go:

Q. How is it possible that NMIL has turned your own friends against you?

A. In every case, I can not come up with one single instance where the people who turned against us were ever really loyal to us to begin with. In essence, anyone who knew my husband and called him their "friend" but who turned around so easily to side with NMIL, was never, at any point, a real friend. I can not come up with one example of my husband's past relationships where the individuals in question did not automatically side with his FOO. I like to use Exhibit A often as a prime example of the "friend who was never really a friend."

First, a bit of background: Exhibit A had been present in DH's life from the time they were both young children. Their presence in each others' lives had been predetermined by their FOOs long before they had the power to make up their own minds about what kind of relationship they would have. Fine, this often happens with young children - parents simply get to make the choice about who their children associate with at a young age. So, DH and Exhibit A grew up together. They had no choice. They attended each others' social events, they had mutual acquaintances, their parents were "friends." Exhibit A was like many of the children that DH grew up with: female, superficial, and taught to be dependent on my husband, even as a child, for their emotional well-being. DH called her a "friend" because he didn't know what a real friend was. He didn't realize that he had a choice in the matter, and that this person (like so many others) had never truly been loyal to him or wanted him to be happy.

When DH met me and fell in love, the drama really started. All of the people in his past life stomped their feet and waved their arms, trying to get DH's attention back on them. They cried, they manipulated, they gossiped. They listened to NMIL's lies because they were already vapid and disloyal to begin with.

I can't say I ever officially "met" Exhibit A. We happened to be at the same party in the same house, but we were never introduced. The reason is this: Exhibit A knew her place. She is far too insignificant a person in my husband's life to have introduced herself to me, or for him to have introduced me to her. Simply put: Exhibit A was as unimportant to my husband as my husband was to her. The biggest difference is that my husband would never have gone out of his way to try to hurt her, slight her, or badmouth her behind her back. HE has more class than that.

The day after the party at which we were both present but not introduced, Exhibit A wrote a long rant on her blog (which I didn't find until about a year later, but trust me, I didn't need to ever find it to know these were the kinds of things being said) which included phrases like this: "I HATE YOUR GIRLFRIEND. SHE'S NASTY AND ANNOYING. AND CONTROLLING. AND NOT ATTRACTIVE. I can't believe you would get yourself into this." And this: "Your family and friends don't like her." And this, "You found the wrong girl." Sheesh, honey, insecure much? Jealous much? Hateful much? Disloyal much? And, not only did she not have the balls to say any of this to my husband directly, but she didn't possess the empathy necessary to come across as being someone who was acting out of anything other than her own personal selfish agenda.

I've pointed out to DH what is obvious to me in circumstances like this: People like Exhibit A are not, nor have they ever been, his real friends. Three days after the birth of our DD, Exhibit A wrote the following email to DH:

From: Exhibit A
To: DH
Sent: November 3, 2009
Subject: None


Heyy SIL told me the good news! Congrats to you and [my name spelled wrong]!! How are mom & baby doing? When are you going to be in town? I can't wait to meet your little baby girlll! :) Let me know if you need anything. :)

Vapid, I know. But can you see the switch? Can you see the obviously fake, over-the-top declaration of her "love" for my husband? This twit who just a few months back was declaring her hatred of the mother of his baby, and hoping for the end of their relationship, was turning around and professing her "care" and "concern" for them. DH fed into her lies unknowingly. He believed that just because she said she cared, it meant she actually did. He told her he "hoped she could meet DD soon" and that we'd be up her way in a few months, so maybe that would be a possibility.

On her blog, this is what she had to say just six days after that brief email exchange: "My best friend had a baby! Well, his fiance did. It's bittersweet though. She completely changed him. I haven't seen him since the Fourth of July because of her! Ugh she makes me so angry. I haven't even seen the baby since she was born...I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I just feel like she hates me, and I barely even know her. I think I've spoken once to her, and I said "Hello". DH and I spent a while trying to figure out what could have possibly gotten her panties all in a twist. The most likely thing we came up with is that a few days after this email was sent, DH emailed her again and politely requested that she remove the photo of our daughter that she had posted on her Facebook page without our knowledge or consent. So, like...was that her idea of her "best friend" being completely changed? Because before, he totally would have let her post pictures of him and his most private moments...or the most private moments of his loved ones...all over her Facebook page and not said anything about it? And now all of a sudden, he had the gall (the nerve!) to ask her to remove a photo of his infant daughter from the nosy eyes of the internet?

And it's funny, isn't it, Dear Reader, when you take a look at who it is that she's professing is doing all the "hating." Funny, also, that this person who was STILL calling my husband her "best friend" could really be saying these kinds of things. What kind of person did she think her "best friend" was, that he could be so "completely changed" so easily by someone else? How funny that she thought she was important enough to have met our infant daughter, just days after her birth. Let's face it, Dear Reader, the only people who are lucky enough to see a newborn are usually the immediate family and closest loved ones of the new parents. People who are less important don't get to see the baby in the hospital, or even at home in the weeks that follow baby's arrival. Having a baby is much too special a time to share with non-important, invasive, and obnoxiously vapid people.

So again, I'll point out the obvious: Exhibit A, like so many others, was no friend.

And there is more, Dear Reader. The following is something that I have not previously shared on my blog. On November 4, 2010, Exhibit A had a short interlude with a fellow blogger:

Exhibit A wrote:

he’s too weak to stick up for our 18 year “best friendship” for a year of knowing her...it sucks & i’m sorry someone else has to feel this kind of thing.

Exhibit A's Blogger Buddy:

wow! 18 years makes my 7 years look like nothing. It's a terrible feeling. You'd think that if two friends make it through at least few years together, anything that happens can be worked out. I was sad when he was just living 2 hours away because I couldn't see him like I used to. When I heard about everything that happened, I've felt...weird. Like, I cried the day I heard about it...and that's it. Kind of a numb feeling. It sucks, I'm sorry you had to go through it too!

Exhibit A:

yeah, when you hear things so out of character, it puts you back. i was stunned. this happened a little over a year & it’s still hard. we haven’t spoken, really, since he told me. it might take time to forgive, but if he’s honestly sorry, he’ll show it.


Before I go into my analysis of Exhibit A's ridiculousness, I first have to say that I briefly looked into her blogger buddy's story. Dear Reader, Exhibit A was comparing her own story to that of someone who wrote about losing a guy friend whom she had romantic inclinations toward because he chose a path of drugs and crime. Wow! I mean, what a comparison to make with the man who fell in love, got married, and had babies. Striking, the similarities there, eh?

Having said that, this commentary, in which Exhibit A claimed that my DH should be looking for her forgiveness, occurred almost a year to the day after the birth of our DD. This commentary begs the question: What is it she thinks he should be sorry for? Having a baby? Getting married? Choosing his wife over any of his past relationships? Choosing his wife over Exhibit A? Choosing his daughter over Exhibit A? Choosing the depth created by only one year of knowing his wife over the superficiality of knowing Exhibit A for eighteen years?

It's puzzling, Dear Reader, it truly is, that anyone who calls themselves a friend could claim, "this happened a little over a year & it’s still hard. we haven’t spoken, really, since he told me." What is the "this" she refers to, if not the birth of his daughter? It's bizarre, at best, lunacy at worst.

Again, Dear Reader, this is all evidence that Exhibit A was never really a friend. So, if the question is: How is it possible that NMIL has turned your own friends against you? Then the answer must be: They already were against you.

Q: Okay, but what about in instances that aren't as obvious as this? What about the friendships you had more faith in? How did those friends get to be so easily convinced that people like myself or anon were the "bad guys?"

A: This answer is kind of two-fold. First, I'd like to talk about my DH's so-called friendships with Pig and Double Agent. Both of these individuals were considered by my husband, at different times, his "best friend." Double Agent was the best man at our wedding. Pig was his best friend throughout most of high school and college. But let me ask you this, Dear Readers and Friends: Would a friend who was truly loyal to my husband, and who respected him, be okay with NMIL calling them up to vent about his new girlfriend? Would a friend who was truly loyal to my husband be okay with NMIL sending him secretive emails in which she discussed her "concerns" about DH marrying the woman he was in love with? Would a friend who truly knew my husband believe her when she said, "He doesn't really love her, she's just controlling him," or would he believe my husband who said, "I love her!" Would a friend who was truly loyal to my husband be okay with receiving a secret invitation to her holiday party, against my husband's knowledge? Would a friend who was truly loyal to my husband still want to attend that holiday party, even knowing that my husband would not be there? Would a friend who was truly loyal to my husband try to sabotage any relationship that truly made my husband happy? Would a friend who was truly loyal spend more time trying to convince him to make amends with his mother than he would listening to and feeling for my husband? The list goes on and on, Dear Reader, and the answer to all of these questions is one hundred percent NO. These behaviors don't describe a person worthy of being called "friend." How did my husband deal with the losses of these friendships? He fought it at first, unable to believe that the people he'd known since childhood did not have his best interests at heart, nor did they ever. Then, he mourned his losses, coming to realize that they were never fighting for him to begin with. Then, he cut his losses. Had he done anything else, he would have risked drowning.

He could not remain in contact with people who chose to believe so easily that his wife had "changed him." He could not remain in contact with people who continued to communicate with his NM, especially after he asked them to stop. He could not remain in contact with people, even those he once considered friends, who cared so little about his thoughts and feelings.

The second aspect of my answer is, of course, how I have handled my own loss of friendships. Now, unlike Anon, I had the "pleasure" of experiencing two manipulative relationships in my recent past: one with a long-term boyfriend, and one with a friend/roommate. I did not go into my relationship with NMIL or her pions, having any sort of disillusions that I could maintain healthy friendships with any of them. The only person I would have considered a "friend" would have been Double Agent's wife, whom I'll call Freckles.

Freckles and I got along well and I liked her. Had the circumstances been different - had her husband not been a cruel, holier-than-thou, pompous and arrogant jerk who maintained loyalties to NMIL, I could have been her friend. Freckles had been the one to inform me that NMIL had invited them to her holiday party that year. Her reason for telling me was because she wanted to know if DH and I were going to be attending. I told her no and gave her some of our reasons. Then I turned the tables and asked her if she found it strange at all that they might be attending a party of NMIL's without my husband being there. She said, "Yes, actually. It used to be that we'd go to the party and hang out with DH. Now, we'll be going to the party and hanging out with...NMIL...and her friends." I also asked her if she found it strange that their invitation to the party had been separate from the invitation NMIL had sent to my husband. She found that a little strange too.

But in the end, her loyalties were to her husband, who was determined to go to NMIL's party, with or without his supposed "best friend." They attended NMIL's holiday party, not just that year, but the next as well, without DH in attendance.

And in more recent months, when DH finally worked up the nerve to confront Double Agent about this behavior, Double Agent had this to say: When I was having serious relationship troubles with my mom (junior year of college) I didn't just write her off. I worked on the relationship and didn't try to destroy it further by ignoring her at holidays and important events. It's obvious that you're not interested in reconciliation...Do you think that avoiding important things like her Christmas party two years in a row is doing anything but demonstrating a resolve not to be reconciled?

In the meantime, I had to deal with the loss of my almost-but-not-quite-friendship with Freckles. We had the following email exchange:

From: Freckles
To: Jonsi
Sent: Tue, June 7, 2011 @ 5:22 PM
Subject: hi


Hey,

So I was trying to wait to talk to you till our husband's were talking in a friendly way since you didn't seem to want to talk if they weren't talking...but its been awhile and I'm wondering how you are doing...I'm little confused about what's going on with your DH and Double Agent - Double Agent doesn't think your DH needs anymore help than anyone else (I mean literally anyone) so I'm kinda confused why they're having problems- or maybe that's just an underlying issue of something I don't know. Double Agent really respects your DH and doesn't see him or anyone who has different beliefs about anything as less than anybody else. As you and I very much know, they aren't great communicators, and maybe Double Agent is just failing to communicate that his world view is that no one is perfect and that everyone (himself, me, the best people you know) still need some kind of help. That doesn't make one person less than another, it just means we're all equal in being imperfect. The other thing that confuses me is that Double Agent isn't trying to help your DH, your DH brought it up to begin with and I'm guessing it came from a conversation with you since you tend to have meaningful conversations, so that's why I don't understand his offense to my husband's answer. I'd hate to see them end a lifelong friendship over what seems to be a misunderstanding or miscommunication...if this is really even the issue to begin with. If I make no sense or am totally off base, its probably because Double Agent doesn't always make sense when he tells me stuff. Anyway, I've stayed out of it for awhile telling myself it's not my place to get involved, but the possibility of losing his best friend is hurting Double Agent, and I obviously care about him a lot. Maybe you could shed some light on it since I'm sure you and your DH have talked, or talk to your DH, or...some other kind of help...This e-mail wasn't supposed to be about them, I just thought of you today and wondered how you were.

Freckles

From: Jonsi
To: Freckles
Sent: Thu, June 9, 2011 @ 8:25:11 AM
Subject: re: hi


Hi Freckles,

I am really glad to hear that you are well - I've been thinking of you the past few weeks. I can tell you don't really understand what's going on and I'm genuinely sorry to say that I can't clarify it for you.

But I do want you to know that I really am sad things are working out this way. I don't want to hurt your feelings or make you think that I am choosing not to have a relationship with you because of something you have done. You have been a kind and thoughtful friend, and I haven't honestly had many of those in my life. I wish that things had worked out differently. From my heart, I wish you well.

Jonsi

From: Freckles
To: Jonsi
Sent: Tue, June 7, 2011 @ 5:22 PM
Subject: re: re: hi


Hi Jonsi,

Thanks for the nice e-mail :) I wish we could be friends :( Maybe the guys will get it figured out.

Yep, I am definitely confused, but so is Double Agent. First it was an out of the blue e-mail that said Double Agent needed to stop communicating with your DH's mom (a reasonable request but there hasn't been a single word exchanged since christmas anyway) with a threat that if he didn't your DH couldn't be friends with him. I figured your DH is just learning how to confront people so its gonna be a little rough in the beginning. Then it's this difference in religious beliefs thing and how Double Agent must therefore look down on your DH. It's like your DH is fishing for a good excuse to end their friendship and not telling Double Agent the real reason. I definitely understand not wanting to tell me what is going on, but maybe you could pass the message on to your DH that Double Agent respects him and is hurting over losing his best friend, especially without understanding what he did to deserve it...? I hope they get whatever is wrong worked out (or at least talk in person about it) and that things are going great for you.

Freckles


I explained my feelings about all of this to my dear, dear friend Upsi, in an email. I never responded to Freckles' last email to me. These were my thoughts, which I shared with Upsi:

DH and I discussed - he said Freckles' email didn't sit well with him and he couldn't put his finger on why. I think it's just more of the same - She seems to want ME to be the go between, and to act as the protector of HER HUSBAND'S honor. She told me to "pass the message on to my DH that Double Agent respects him and is hurting over losing his best friend, especially without understanding what he did to deserve it...?" In other words, She wants me to tell DH that Double Agent respects him (I don't believe that) and that he's hurting (He may be, but there isn't anything I can do about that; that's up to Double Agent to fix) and that my husband didn't do a good enough job explaining the problem.

I can see that she cares about her husband. Bully for them, I suppose. But this is not the way to go about helping anyone. I can't and won't convey any messages from them to my husband - besides the fact that it doesn't make any sense (and stinks of drama), I disagree with what they seem to want to tell my husband anyway. And, HELLO, if Double Agent had a problem with any of this, he should have said so, instead of emailing my husband in the past few weeks about video games and other inane topics. (DH did not respond to these emails when he received them). It's absolutely ridiculous for me to give my husband a message from Freckles, from Double Agent. Like, whoa holy-watered-down communication here, Batman!

There is a part of me that wants to say: Understanding is overrated. I wish things had turned out differently.

By the end of DH's talk with Double Agent, he was no longer asking for understanding because he wasn't going to get it. He was asking for Double Agent to respect his feelings and needs. It doesn't matter if Double Agent understands, it only matters that he does what my DH asked of him, which was perfectly reasonable. I like "I wish things had turned out differently" because, unlike the last time I used those words, it sounds much more final. I already told Freckles, twice now, that I'm not going to talk about this with her, and both times, she came back with, "Okay, I understand. BUT..." which means she doesn't really understand.


I felt Upsi's take on all of this was only the teensiest bit harsh. Mostly, it made me laugh, and I welcomed her honest opinions. It helped me get over the friendship that never was. (Upsi's commentary in blue):

Hi Jonsi,

Thanks for the nice e-mail :) [TRANSLATION: WOW I EXPECTED YOU TO BE A BIG BITCH, INSERT MEANINGLESS SMILEY FACE] I wish we could be friends :( [TRANSLATION: I WISH YOU WERE THE KIND OF WOMAN WHO WOULD TRASH TALK HER HUSBAND WITH ME, INSERT LAME FROWNY FACE]. Maybe the guys will get it figured out. [TRANSLATION: WITHOUT OUR HELP, THESE DUMBASS MEN ARE DOOMED]

Yep, I am definitely confused, but so is Double Agent. [TRANSLATION: IF DH HAD DONE A BETTER JOB EXPLAINING THIS, WE WOULD BE ABLE TO RESPECT HIS FEELINGS AND WISHES - WITHOUT AN EXPLANATION WE CAN ACCEPT, WE DO NOT RESPECT HIM] First it was an out of the blue e-mail that said Double Agent needed to stop communicating with DH's mom (a reasonable request but there hasn't been a single word exchanged since christmas anyway) with a threat that if he didn't DH couldn't be friends with him. [TRANSLATION: IF DH HAS SUCH A BIG PROBLEM, HE SHOULD HAVE SAID SOMETHING EARLIER THAN HIS EMAIL "OUT OF THE BLUE" - HE'S WRONG ABOUT Double Agent'S COMMUNICATIONS WITH NMIL AND HIS "THREAT" WAS UNFAIR] I figured DH is just learning how to confront people so its gonna be a little rough in the beginning. [TRANSLATION: DH IS AN EMOTIONAL CRIPPLE AND HE'S JUST LEARNING HOW TO DO THINGS NORMAL ADULTS DO, AND WE HAVE TO PAY THE PRICE - BUT WE'RE GOOD CHRISTIANS AND WE "UNDERSTAND"]. Then it's this difference in religious beliefs thing and how Double Agent must therefore look down on DH. [TRANSLATION: DOUBLE AGENT WOULD NEVER LOOK DOWN ON ANYONE, HE'S AN AMAZING PERSON WITH NOTHING BUT LOVE FOR DH (EYEROLL)] It's like DH is fishing for a good excuse to end their friendship and not telling Double Agent the real reason.[TRANSLATION: DH IS TOO WEAK AND PUSSIFIED TO COME RIGHT OUT AND SAY WHAT HE FEELS, SO HE MUST BE LOOKING FOR AN EXCUSE TO CUT US OFF WITHOUT HAVING TO DEAL WITH OUR FEELINGS ABOUT IT] I definitely understand not wanting to tell me what is going on [TRANSLATION: YOU SHOULD BE TELLING ME WHAT'S GOING ON], but maybe you could pass the message on to DH that Double Agent respects him and is hurting over losing his best friend, especially without understanding what he did to deserve it...? [TRANSLATION: WILL YOU ASSIST ME IN GAINING THE UPPER HAND IN THIS CONFLICT SO THAT WE DON'T FEEL BAD ANYMORE AND WE CAN REST EASY THAT IT'S ALL DH'S FAULT?] I hope they get whatever is wrong worked out (or at least talk in person about it) and that things are going great for you, [TRANSLATION: WHATEVER IS WRONG COULDN'T POSSIBLY BE A FUNDAMENTAL INCOMPATIBILITY BETWEEN THEM, SO LET'S GET THIS THING WRAPPED UP SO WE DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT IT ANYMORE - THEY SHOULD TALK IN PERSON BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT WE BELIEVE IS THE SOLUTION TO ALL THIS NONSENSE - OH BY THE WAY HOPE YOU'RE GREAT!! PHONY INSINCERE EXPRESSIONS OF GOODWILL ALWAYS WORK FOR ME IN SUGARCOATING MY SHITTY MESSAGES].

Freckles

I feel that your DH has ALREADY expressed his feelings, and Double Agent/Freckles don't give a fuck about them because they don't "understand" - i.e. cannot have empathy for their so-called friend. His explanation requires their approval, and if they don't understand (i.e. agree), then he's an asshole. Her email is laced with insults to DH, and paints Double Agent as an innocent victim of your DH's inability to deal with normal everyday conflicts between friends. Nothing could be further from the truth!

If Double Agent is so concerned, he shouldn't have been playing dumb sending emails about video games like nothing was wrong - and if he's going to be an arrogant Christian asshole, why should DH engage in further wrangling when it's clear that they aren't open for honest dialogue??????

That's it, NO MORE MR. NICE UPSI!

Anyway, that was the long-winded answer to the question: What about the friendships you had more faith in? How did those friends get to be so easily convinced that people like myself or anon were the "bad guys?" The short answer is: It didn't take much convincing because they were already convinced of it. No loyal friend who knows you well and has at least half a brain could be so easily fooled by any NMIL's ridiculous manipulations.

And finally, last question:

Q: How can you heal and find peace after NMIL has destroyed any of the relationships you had that she could have sunk her disgusting claws into?

A: Understand that anyone who could be so easily swayed by NMIL was never really loyal to you to begin with, and then find authentic, more meaningful relationships. Easier said than done, I know, particularly if you've not had many loyal friends over the years. But the truth of the matter is that narcs will destroy any relationships you have with any mutual party because anyone who chooses to be a "mutual party" with a narc is just drinking the Koolaide anyway. It's a harsh and sad truth, but it's the only way I know how to say it. A true friend would never betray you to your NMIL or any other manipulative person. My advice would be to start forging friendships with people who are genuine and bright enough to see the dangers of allying themselves with narcs. Living in reality and in Truth, is the only way I want to live. Period.

Anon, I'm sorry if I've bowled you over with my long-winded opinions. I share only what I know from my own personal experiences, and I would be particularly interested in hearing from anyone who has had experiences that differ from my own. I hope that I've answered all of your questions and that you might benefit, even in some small way from my insights. I was sorry to hear that you and your loved ones have been hurt by a narcissist, but I'm happy to know that you're out there seeking answers. Keep fighting the good fight, Anon.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Omissions That Speak Volumes

I am currently holding, in my hot little hands, one book entitled, "When Parents Hurt: Compassionate Strategies When You and Your Grown Child Don't Get Along" by Dr. Joshua Coleman. In that book is the original form letter, which I'm happy to share with you, notes from the author included.

Here is it, Dear Reader, for your viewing pleasure:

Even if you're moving toward accepting that your child doesn't want a relationship, you should pave the ground for potential contact in the future by writing him or her a letter that goes something like this:

Dear____________,
You are my child and I love you dearly. I know that I made terrible mistakes with you when you were growing up.

Or:

I know that you must be in a lot of pain to want to cut off contact with me.

Or:

I know that how I treated your mother/father when were were married (or after the divorce) was deeply upsetting to you.

Or:

You're own introductory line: "____________."

The letter would go on to say something like:

As you know, I carry regret about that. I have tried hard to make amends to you and am willing to continue talking about whatever is important to you about the past if it can move us closer together. I do want to hear what you feel and would always be open to a letter, a phone call, or a meeting with a family therapist if that would be helpful.

I really want you to be happy, and I am coming to accept that you don't want to have a relationship with me. It's heartbreaking, as your parent, to not be able to see you. At the same time, if you believe it's in your best interest, then I don't want you to feel guilty. You must have good reasons [note: even if you think they don't], and I can accept your decision if that's what you have to do. I want you to know that the door will be open for the rest of your life if you change your mind.

All my love,


Now, Dear Reader, just in case you've forgotten, here is NMIL's "letter of amends" to DH, which she wrote copied and sent to him at the beginning of August:

From: NMIL
To: DH
Sent: August 5, 2011
Subject: if you could please read this...


Dear DH,

You are my son and I love you dearly. I know I have made mistakes and for that I am so sorry. I am so sorry for the pain it must have caused. As you know, i carry regret about all that. I have tried hard to make ammends and will always be willing to start talking again about whatever is important to you about the past if it would move us closer together. I do want to hear what you feel and would always be open to a letter, a phone call or even a meeting with the therapist that we had tried to do.

I really want you to be happy,happy with [your wife], happy in your life, and I know you do not want to have a relationship with me. It's heartbreaking as your parent, to not be able to see you and your family. At the same time, if you believe it is in your best interest, then i respect that. You must have good reason and i accept that. I want you to know that the door will be open for the rest of your life if you change your mind.

All my love,

Mom


I took Coleman's book out of our library recently simply because I wanted to find the word-for-word document and share it with you. I know I don't have to point out the obvious to you, Dear Reader. There is only one simple discrepancy between the original and NMIL's copy: The following line of Dr. Coleman's suggestion read: "At the same time, if you believe it's in your best interest, then I don't want you to feel guilty." NMIL's version read, "At the same time, if you believe it is in your best interest, then i respect that." I find it so intriguing that the ONE line NMIL changed, was the part about not wanting her son to feel guilty. That leads me to believe that she had at least one very clear thought in her puny little brain while she was scheming her schemes: "I WANT him to feel guilty."

Believe you me, I wouldn't have believed the bitch, even if she kept that pretty little line in there. But still, I sat here and stroked my beard for a while, contemplating the fact that the one line she omitted from her fake apology, was the one in which she could have possibly shown any empathy for her "poor little son, who just couldn't possibly be happy without her in his life."

**Update: And seriously people? Only a moron would copy what is obviously a template apology letter and use it as their own. No wait, only an ignorant moron would copy what is obviously a template apology letter and use it as their own. No...wait, only an ignorant, dim-witted, lazy moron who is completely lacking in empathy would copy what is obviously a template apology letter and use it as their own. I mean, I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that clearly, the author did not intend for any of the estranged parents running loose out there to copy and paste his example letter of amends to their estranged sons and daughters. NMIL, when someone says, "you should pave the ground for potential contact in the future by writing him or her a letter that goes something like this" they are NOT saying, "You should pave the ground for potential contact in the future by copying and pasting the following letter because you lack both the empathy and originality to write your own damn letter of apology."

Clearly, that is not what the author was saying.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Wall of "I"

The stronger a person's "I" is,
the smaller his capacity to
become one with anybody.

The "I" is a wall in between;
it proclaims itself.
Its proclamation is :

"You are you and I am I.
There is a distance between
the two."

Then no matter how much
"I" love you, "I" may embrace
you to my bosom, still we are two.

No matter how closely we meet,
still there is a gap in between . . .

And as long as I am "I,"
the world around is "the other" -
separate and apart.

And as long as there is
separateness there can be no
experience of love.

-Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh

"I Knew It! I'm Surrounded By Assholes!"

Title credit: Spaceballs, the Movie

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What We Owe

The following dialog is from the 1967 film, Look Who's Coming to Dinner, starring Sydney Poitier, Spencer Tracy, and Katherine Hepburn. It's a story about a young, successful doctor (Sydney Poitier) who falls in love with a white woman. Both characters in the film must contend with their parents inability to accept their choices. I was struck by one particularly poignant scene between Poitier's character and his father, whose mindset so reminds me of all the narcissistic parents out there who use "you owe me" logic to get their adult sons and daughters to fall in line.

I can see EFIL, in particular, in the character of Poitier's father. Does anyone else see their parents in this dialog:

Father: Yeah, I know what you are and what you've made of yourself. But I worked my ass off to get the money to buy you all the chances you had! You know how far I carried that bag in years? Miles. And mowin' lawns in the dark so you wouldn't have to be stokin' furnaces...and could bear down on the books. There were things your mother should have had that she insisted go for you. And I don't mean fancy things. I mean a decent coat. A lousy coat! And you're gonna tell me that means nothin' to you....and you could break your mother's heart?

Poitier: You listen to me. You say you don't want to tell me how to live my life. So what do you think you've been doing? You tell me what rights I've got or haven't got, and what I owe to you for what you've done for me. Let me tell you something. I owe you nothing! If you carried that bag a million miles, you did what you're supposed to do! Because you brought me into this world. And from that day you owed me everything you could ever do for me like I will owe my son if I ever have another. But you don't own me! You can't tell me when or where I'm out of line, or try to get me to live my life according to your rules. You don't even know what I am, Dad, you don't know who I am. You don't know how I feel, what I think. And if I tried to explain it the rest of your life you will never understand.

Fake It 'Til You Make It - Revisited

Anonymous made some really good points in my post Fake It 'Til You Make It, which I wanted to address in a follow-up post. I think Anon made a good point in that my last post really came across as being all about physical beauty. What I failed to accurately convey was that, as cheesy as it may sound, outer and inner beauty go hand-in-hand. I really believe that one can not exist without the other.

For me, building up my self-esteem in terms of my physical appearance was merely the starting point for my long-term confidence goals. I felt that, where I lacked the most confidence, was in the realm of my physicality. In many other aspects of my life, I didn't suffer from a dip in self-esteem at all, and was actually quite self-assured. For example, though I suffered from no disillusions that I was a genius, I had always felt confident enough in my intelligence. And, while I knew I would never be a famous athlete, I felt confident in my athletic abilities. But the area of my being where I felt the least confident was in the way I looked. Perhaps its because there is only so much a person can do to change the way they look: Diet and exercise can certainly help. A little bit of make-up can go a long way to help cover-up imperfections. And we can be more careful about how we dress, so that we look somewhat more fashionable and appealing. But, short of plastic surgery (which may be able to fix some external "flaws" but will fall far short of the mark for fixing what may be wrong internally), human beings just have to learn to live with what they've got. And certainly, if you don't find some way to be happy with whatever you've got, then you're in for a long and bumpy road. Unlike athletic abilities or intelligence or artistic ability, we can't do very much to completely re-vamp our outward appearance.

So, for about as long as I can remember, up until a few years ago, I was truly unhappy with my physical being - that which could not truly be hidden from the world or changed to suit my ideal (or was it society's ideal) of beauty. I remember once having a very vivid dream where I had a magic mirror which had the ability to change whatever I wanted about my appearance. I was naked as I stood in front of the mirror, so of course I could see every one of my "hideous" flaws. In the dream, I giddily started to wish away my "ugliness." I started with my face, changing my nose, my eyebrows, my teeth. I changed my hair, my shoulders, my boobs, my thighs. I made myself thinner. I changed my knees. But what I started to notice was that no matter what I changed, no matter how many features I molded to my desires, I was still unhappy. I would change something and think, "This. This will do it. This will be the change that does it." But I would make the change and the elated feeling just wouldn't come, so I'd move on to something else. As I continued, I looked less and less like me and more and more like something unreal and fabricated. I awoke from the dream before I even finished all the changes I would have made, I think because it would have been impossible to accomplish what I was actually attempting: To love me, for me, rather than for the me I thought I wanted to be.

I remember being blown away by that dream. What had started out as a lack of confidence in my appearance had translated to a hatred of my Self. It didn't matter that I was confident in school, or in athletics. It didn't matter that I was a budding photographer or that I was great with children. It didn't matter how many people loved me or what kinds of talents I had. All that mattered was that I had developed such a detrimental complex that I couldn't even begin to appreciate myself. At the very least, my lack of self-confidence was annoying. And at it's worse, it crippled my ability to attract what I wanted most in life. I longed to be loved and accepted by others, but most of all, I think I longed to just accept myself. I mean, it gets fucking tiring beating the crap out of yourself all the time. I wanted to walk into a fucking room and feel confident, I wanted to be the beautiful person that everyone seemed to think I was; inside and out. I wanted to stop focusing on all the stupid, superficial aspects of my life that honestly did nothing to further my goals or help me attain greatness.

When I was in my late teens, and as it so happens, while I was dating my narcissistic ex-boyfriend, I became anorexic. I ate so little that I dropped two clothing sizes in a month. I could remember off the top of my head, everything that I had eaten in one month, the portions, and when. My clothes sagged off of me. My thighs were finally starting to reach the point where they didn't touch in the middle. That had been something I had wanted since puberty. During this period in my life, I was also suffering from (undiagnosed) depression. I became an insomniac, due to the stress of living with my abusive boyfriend. I don't think I slept much at all in the two years that he and I were together. I remember looking in the mirror once and thinking, "Maybe now he'll love me."

What I should have been more focused on, was loving myself. Because loving myself would have meant I would have woken up sooner and realized that I was worth so much more than what he could offer, and what I was willing to give myself. It took me a long time to get to the point where I fully accepted that I was engaged in an abusive and manipulative relationship and that what I was doing to myself was not healthy, nor was it ever going to make me happy.

When I left him, I had the briefest moment where I made the decision to do it, and I found the inner strength required to get myself out of that toxic situation. It was a moment that lasted long enough for me to leave, and to make the decision to seek therapy. It was a golden moment, and I'll never forget it, because it was in that moment that I started "faking it" before I even realized that theory had a name. My therapist helped me through much of the rest of the process, though I had to do the hardest work on my own.

In my original post, anon brought up a good point when s/he said: Eventually, looks fade. What then?

I have had to redefine the physicality of beauty many times over. Anon was absolutely right: looks do fade. And some people never really have "looks" to being with. Some of us are just ordinary folk, plain at best. Some people have suffered terrible life-changing disfigurements. We all age, we all change, not even the luckiest of us can stay youthful and "perfect" forever. So what then? I think the answer is in how we phrase the question. How do we redefine beauty so that it helps us, rather than hurts us? How do the blind see beauty? Surely, they must have some concept of what it means to be beautiful, even if their concept of beauty differs greatly from that of the rest of the public who use their eyes to see.

When I had a baby, I had to change the way I looked at myself. Things changed, as they inevitably do when women have babies. I carry extra weight in places I never carried it before. I have stretch marks. I had another baby: My body changed even more. I don't look the same as I did when I first made my realizations about my beauty. Yet, one thing has not changed: my confidence. I still feel beautiful because I have redefined what it means to be beautiful, and I have done so by taking into account the two perfect beings that this body of mine made. I have stretch marks because I made babies, and I wouldn't wish them away for anything.

I have learned that, simply by changing my outlook, I have gained so much. I kid you not, when I learned how to feel beautiful, things started to happen. I remember the day I told myself that things were going to change: everything was going to be different. I knew it because I told myself that and for the first time, I believed it. I wasn't just saying it, I felt it.

A month later, I met my husband.

Less than a year later, we had our first baby.

We bought our house.

We had another baby.

I attribute the beginnings of my path towards happiness to my development of self-esteem. I don't live in a fantasy world. I know the difference between reality and dreams, between what is real and what is imagined. I know that just because I think something, doesn't necessitate that it will become a reality. But I also know that "fake it 'til you make it" got me started on a path that helped me realize my internal beauty, much more so than I could have even imagined it would. Loving my appearance was just the starting point for loving myself. And I firmly believe that if we are confident, no one can knock us down - least of all those manipulative and abusive jerks out there (whether they are boyfriends, or parents, or friends), and most off all ourselves.

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Short Answer is No

I found the following article, written by Dr. Irene S. Levine, and thought I'd share it with you. I find the information to be particularly relevant to what I know about the kinds of relationships NMs sometimes try to pursue with their young daughters. I know that this article does not describe all relationships between narcissistic mothers and their daughters, but I have seen several where this is, or at least seems to be the case. Bolding for emphasis, mine.

Can A Mother Be a Daughter's Best Friend?
by Dr. Irene S. Levine

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chozick, How Parents Became Cool, describes the parental paradigm shift (as seen on TV) from loving but firm (think: The Brady Bunch) to best friends (think: Pretty Little Liars). We've all heard stories of (and some of us have witnessed up close) moms who are trying so desperately to be cool that they opt for the role of BFFs to their daughters instead of moms. It's an easy line to cross; after all, every woman wants another friend---and moms, especially, want to connect with their teens and tweens and not be thought of as old hags. But can a mother be a daughter's best friend?

Apropos of Mother's Day, I asked my colleagues, Linda Perlman Gordon and Susan Morris Shaffer, authors of Too Close for Comfort: Questioning the Intimacy of Today's Mother-Daughter Relationship (Berkley, 2009) to address that question in a guest post. Here is what Gordon and Shaffer had to say:

There is an old Chinese proverb that states "One Generation plants the trees; another gets the shade," and this is how it should be with mothers and daughters. The intimate nature of the relationship between a mother and daughter is sometimes confusing. If close, the relationship can simulate friendship through the familiar characteristics of empathy, listening, loyalty, and caring. However, the mother/daughter relationship has unique characteristics that distinguish it from a best friendship. These characteristics include a mother's role as primary emotional caretaker, a lack of reciprocity, and a hierarchy of responsibility. This hierarchy, combined with unconditional love, precludes mothers and daughters from being best friends.

Because the essential ingredient for friendship is equality and there is always an imbalance when one person in the twosome is the parent of the other, mothers and daughters naturally can't be best friends. Marina, 27 years old says, "I love spending time with my mom, but I wouldn't consider her my best friend. She's MY MOM. Best friends don't pay for the dress you covet in a trendy clothing store that you wouldn't pay for yourself. Best friends don't pay for your wedding. Best friends don't remind you how they carried you in their body and gave you life, and sometime gas! Best friends don't tell you how wise they are and trump your opinion because they have been alive at least 20 years longer than you. I love my mom, and I want her to remain a mom."

This doesn't mean that the mother/daughter relationship can't be very close and satisfying. While some adult relationships are still troubled, many find them to be extremely rewarding. So many moms spoke to us about how happy they are to be finished with the "eye rolling" and look from their adolescent daughters, a look that says, "You must come from a different evolutionary chain than me." Daughters also adopted the famous Mark Twain quote about aging, with some slight alterations, and their feelings about their mothers. Mark Twain said, "When I was a boy (girl) of 14, my father (mother) was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man (woman) around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man (woman) had learned in seven years."

This generation of mothers and adult daughters has a lot in common which increases the likelihood of shared companionship. Mothers and daughters have always shared the common experience of being homemakers, responsible for maintaining and passing on family values, traditions, and rituals. Today contemporary mothers and daughters also share the experience of the workforce, technology and lack of a generation gap, which may bring them even closer together.

Best friends may or may not continue to be best friends, but for better or worse, the mother and daughter relationship is permanent, even if for some unfortunate reason they aren't' speaking. The mother and child relationship is, therefore, more intimate and more intense than any other. As long as that hierarchy exists, it's not an equal relationship. Daughters should not feel responsible for their mother's emotional well-being. Not that they don't care deeply about their mothers, it's just that they shouldn't be burdened with their mother's well being. As one mother said to her daughter, "I would gladly dive under a bus for you and there is no way that I'm diving under a bus for my friends." Her daughter responded, "And I'd gladly let you dive under the bus to save me!"

The mother/daughter relationship is so much more comprehensive than a best friendship. It's a relationship that is not replaceable by any other. This unique bond doesn't mean that when daughters mature they can't assume more responsibilities and give back to their mothers, but it's never equal and it's not supposed to be. Mothers never stop being mothers, which includes frequently wanting to protect their daughters and often feeling responsible for their happiness. Mother always "trumps" friend.


Unfortunately, narcissistic mothers are not interested in, nor do they have the skills to maintain the sort of healthy emotional boundaries that this article describes. This article talks about what it's supposed to look like, not about how it often looks instead. And perhaps what bothers me most of all is the fact that in all parental narcissistic relationships, these mothers aren't even actually interested in being their daughter's best friends...they are merely interested in maintaining the appearance that they are. After all, acting as though they are a young daughter's best friend means they get attention, while simultaneously fulfilling their unhealthy and unrealistic desire to remain youthful. (We all know narcissists detest the process of aging and wish to remain forever young).

In the end, not only do narcissistic mothers fail at being mothers, but they fail at being friends too. They disregard and ignore even the most basic of requirements that are necessary for even a decent friendship to exist.

Dr. Levine has her own website, where she answers questions that readers send in regarding friendship issues. I found the following two lists to be particularly poignant in their illustration about why, precisely, a mother can not be her daughter's best friend. In the first list, it's easy enough to simply change a few words in each point to make the question apply to a parent/child relationship, rather than a friend/friend relationship.

Twenty Questions: Spotting a Toxic Friendship:

1. Does scheduling time to see your friend feel like an obligation rather than a pleasure?
2. Do you ever feel trapped when you are together?
3. Do you feel tense in her presence?
4. Does she often show off at your expense?
5. Is she never reliably there when you need her?
6. Is she self-centered, sneaky, deceitful, or disloyal?
7. Does she have habitually bad judgment?
8. Are you giving more than you’re getting?
9. Does the relationship feel out-of-sync?
10. Do you feel emotionally drained when you are with her?
11. Do you come away from her feeling depressed?
12. When you talk, does it feel like she isn’t listening or just doesn’t get it?
13. Do you dread her phone calls?
14. Do you hate when you see her screen name online when you look at your buddy list?
15. Are her emails too long to read?
16. Does she always choose to spend her time with men, over you, given the opportunity?
17. Has she flirted with the man in your life?
18. Has she done anything to undermine your position at work?
19. Can you trust her to keep your confidences?
20. Has she betrayed you?

In this second list, I was again struck by the fact that narcissistic mothers are not only bad at being parents, but they make for the shittiest types of friends. How many of you have a narcissistic parent that is, quite simply put, not a keeper?

25 Ways to Make Yourself a Keeper:

1. If you make a promise, live up to that promise.
2. Be punctual, dependable, and reliable.
3. Show up when she needs you.
4. Be yourself. Who else can you be?
5. Accept that you are human and make mistakes. Apologize if you have said or done something wrong.
6. Accept that she is human and may make mistakes. Offer forgiveness.
7. Try not to moan too much.
8. Don't be guilty of giving out too much information (TMI) about yourself too soon.
9. Be loyal and trustworthy. Resist the urge to gossip or spread rumors about your friend.
10. Be a good listener, tune in to what your friend is saying, and try not to interrupt.
11. Let your friend know you are interested in her and make sure everything isn't about you.
12. Give her enough space so she doesn't feel boxed in.
13. Accept that you won't always be on the same page because you are two different people.
14. Be willing to make sacrifices and compromise.
15. Be a comfort blanket but don't smother her.
16. Remember if she detests olives in her salad or anchovies on her pizza.
17. Resist saying "I told you so" even if you did.
18. If she has three sick kids, offer to help out.
19. Don't sleep with her boyfriend or be overly flirtatious with her husband.
20. Share her successes and find ways to celebrate them.
21. Don't brag too much when she's feeling down.
22. Don't let too much time elapse between get-togethers.
23. Don't be shy about letting her know when her behavior is endangering her health or is likely to have other adverse consequences.
24. Don't harp and constantly remind her of her bad habits.
25. Let her know how much you value her friendship.

So, can a narcissistic mother be her daughter's friend? I guess the short answer would be no.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Bad Dreams and Manipulations

Had a dream last night in which I got the mail one day and saw an envelope from NMIL. It was not sealed and the top was just flapping open. Instead of writing on the card inside, she wrote on the back of the envelope. She had written an entire paragraph in rather large handwriting but the only part I remember was a line that read, "For an early start in life." I remember being confused about who, precisely, she was sending a card to...one of my children? My husband? I wasn't sure. When I opened the card, there was a $200 gift card to Target and I just started laughing. I was like, "Really? An early start in life is $200 to Target?" Also inside the card was a stack of old photographs. Before I started flipping through them, I anticipated that they would be baby pictures of my husband, or pictures of his sister. But when I flipped through them, they were all pictures of strangers that neither of us knew. I kept going through them, trying to figure out why NMIL had sent them, but I just couldn't figure it out.

I think I had the dream because I've been wondering how NMIL and Co. are going to be handling the upcoming holidays. I'm already anticipating that we'll get nothing from NMIL. Actually, I'm betting that she'll send us some crappy card in the mail, with some sappy and superficial message inside like, "[DH's childhood nickname] and family, we miss you so so much and wish we could see you. It's so hard for us. We miss you and we love you." Blah blah blah. You know the drill. Our children never received any Christmas gifts from her last year, I doubt we'll be seeing anything for her this year. And for EFIL and L, I have no idea. A card with a $25 gift card maybe? I doubt they'll be spending their $600 on us this year, especially once they realize that not even the holidays could make us want to see them.

Onto other news: Last Friday morning, I got the strongest urge to change my husband's cell phone number. He and I had been discussing it for some time now, knowing that NMIL and EFIL still had access to it. I've been chalking up my urgent desire to change his cellphone number right now to some unusual sixth sense I must have. That morning, around 8:30 AM, I went online, wrote DH a quick email letting him know I was going to do it, and then I did.

As it turns out, I was one hour too late. Unbeknownst to me at that point, NMIL had called him and left a message on his voice mail that very morning. Her message was nonsense, of course, and DH only listened to thirty seconds of it before deleting it. She said, in her you-should-pity-me-because-I'm-suffering-so voice, "Hi [DH's childhood nickname]. I know I'm not supposed to call you and everything, but last night I had a bad dream about something bad happening to you and I wanted to call you and make sure you were all right." DH chuckled and deleted the message without listening to the rest of it. When he told me about it, the irony of the situation really struck me funny: If I had changed his number just one hour before, she would have gotten the following message when she tried to contact him with her more-than-likely fabricated story about having a bad dream: The number you dialed is not a working number. Please check the number and dial again.

Ha! Next time, Dear Reader, next time. I mean, we now know that this bitch thinks that a supposed bad dream (supposed because we can't assume that she was even telling the truth about having one) was a good enough excuse to break the No Contact rule and call him. We also know that she has directly broken the No Contact rule three times already (the first time with her emailed form letter to DH, the second time with her phony Hurricane Irene email to DH, and the phone call Friday morning), and it's only been roughly six months since DH sent the No Contact note. Therefore, we know she'll try it again.

Go ahead and try, bitch. You've already lost.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fucked

you faked the future
with your dishonesty
you fucked the future
when you lied to me

fuck you, future faker
fuck you

Gingerbread Mom


In March of 2010, I emailed DH about some nightmares that I had been having in regards to his FOO. I recently was re-reading these old emails and found them to be particularly poignant. This is what I said:

I told you about the dream I had where your mother was in it and she was a hag right? I knew it was your mother, even though it looked nothing like her in real life. But to me, that's how my subconscious sees her...as a bad person. You know, like the witch in sleeping beauty. The witch has this fake "beautiful" external shell, but her true appearance is revealed when she does the awful thing (giving the princess the poisoned apple)...and she's that ugly hag character. That's what your mom looked like in the dream....she was a nightmare

I had a dream about your family once that I told you about....your aunt was in it too. It was mostly about them trying to sell us a house that was bad...you know, peddling pond scum to us. And then there was a part where I was in a pool and your aunt was walking around the outside of it and I was trying to find a way out, but I couldn't because every time I got to a side where I thought it was safe, she was there so I'd have to keep swimming around and around. And there were dead bodies in the pool.