Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In My Back Pocket

Prior to one of the sessions in which DH attempted to discuss NMIL's unacceptable behaviors with her, NMIL had tried to get my husband to meet with her alone, rather than with me. Although he had not told her what we would be discussing at the meeting, I'm sure that the woman had the sense to know that it wasn't going to be just another phoney-balogney visit, as others had been in the past. With that knowledge under her belt, she pulled every trick she knew in order to guilt DH into seeing her by himself, instead of with me: his greatest and most loyal supporter. She first asked him to meet with her after work one day, in the town where he worked. She followed that up with the lie that, after they met alone, then she would come to our house. DH and I knew that was a blatant lie, and we were very aware of the fact that she was trying to get the meeting to take place under her terms, instead of ours. We knew, given the topics of discussion, that if she were given the opportunity to sit with my husband alone, not only would she be less likely to listen to him without interrupting, but she would be more likely to get away with certain manipulations that she absolutely could not get away with in my presence, and that she would NEVER follow up such a conversation with a visit to our home.

My husband knew, even then, that his defense mechanisms were not yet up-to-par when it came to being able to recognize her tactics of manipulation for what they were. So, not only did he want me with him for support, but he wanted my "expertise" in the realm of manipulation-spotting. And I wanted to be there in the hopes that my presence would give him the extra courage he needed, and that it would scare the shit out of her.

And my moment of serenity came when NMIL admitted to DH that she was "afraid of Jonsi." Now, we all know that Narcissists rarely tell the truth and that nearly every word out of their mouth is carefully chosen to elicit a certain emotional response in their victim. Now, while I do believe that her admittance of fear was a tactic, (How could you do this to me son? How could you be so mean and cruel by making me see/talk to/engage with/be seen by someone I'm afraid of? How could you make me be in the presence of someone as scary and mean as your wife?) I also know that it was a rare moment of truth. People like NMIL are genuinely afraid of people like me because they see the Jonsies of the world as being more powerful than they are. They are afraid of people who possess a strong sense of self because they know that their tactics of manipulation and control won't work. They are afraid of people like me, because my genuine love and devotion to my husband gives him strength, knowledge, and a reason to fight. They are afraid of people like me because I won't stand for the nonsense they bring to the table, and I offer my husband an unbending loyalty that they themselves could never offer.

EFIL has continued to threaten my husband with the notion that, if he throws away his FOO, he'll be lonely and will die alone. What is truly sad is that I think EFIL really believes that: He thinks, somewhere in his ignorant mind, that I don't love his son and that my presence in his life is hurting him. EFIL and NMIL could never see the love my husband and I have for each other because they don't possess the ability to love and therefore can not fathom it's existence in others.

As my husband has said, he will never die alone, for he HAS surrounded himself by people who genuinely love and care about him: Me, his children, and my own FOO. Though I know that my parents can not replace the idea of having his own loving parents, they can come awfully close to providing DH with the love he always deserved but never received. My parents, siblings, and extended family have gone above merely accepting DH; they have embraced him. And what's not to love? My husband is kind and considerate, polite and warm. His ability to adapt and to love far surpass his parents' own abilities in the same measure. All the good in him just comes from him - not from his NM, or from his EF - much as they have tried to convince him that he owes his "good nature" to them. He doesn't. His inherent goodness came in spite of them, not because of them.

And they will forever fear and hate me because I believe in this man, and that is something they would never do. I have asked my husband to look within himself and discover all the best that he can be, because I know it's in there, because I can see past the dysfunctions, because I fell in love with a diamond in the rough. This man who came from filth is neither a result nor a reflection of his earlier surroundings: he is a miracle, a phenomenon, a marvel. He is my miracle. He is what I always hoped for.

So I sit here, with that knowledge in my back pocket, and I feel resolute in all that we are doing. We'll be okay. We'll be better than okay. Hell, we're kicking ass and taking names.

The article that got me thinking about all this is from Rev. Renee over at Luke 17:3 Ministries. I wanted to share some of the bits that jumped out at me with you. Highlighting for emphasis mine:

The Preemptive Strike: Kissing Up to Your Spouse...Or Getting Rid of Him
by Rev. Renee

When you begin seriously dating someone, announce your engagement, or walk down the aisle, you are likely to start seeing a reaction of some kind from your abusive birth-family. Having an “outsider” enter the inner sanctum of a toxic family throws things out-of-kilter. For example, it is very common for a narcissistic sister to become hysterically jealous that her sister is getting married before her, or that her brother has a girlfriend, and to cause nothing but drama from then on.

Abusive parents will also display behavior that at first appears irrational, but in reality, is quite rational- and calculated to counter the effect your new love’s presence is bound to have on their ability to maintain control. Depending on what they actually do, you might be amused or confused by their reactions. But they are not at all amused, or confused. Their seemingly strange or out-of-character behavior is an investment in the future- a preemptive strike in the battle for YOU. It is a cunning manipulation put into effect as quickly and unexpectedly as possible, before your new relationship can get enough of a foothold to affect the dysfunctional status quo which they strive to maintain. It is deliberately premeditated to allow them to stay in power in the years to come, and hopefully for the rest of your life.

Many of us are familiar with the stereotypical possessive mother, who thinks that no girl is good enough for her son, or the intimidating father, who tries to scare off every man who shows an interest in his daughter. No matter how old their children get, these parents view every potential mate as a threat to them and their control. Abusers know that having someone to support and encourage them gives victims courage. Once you have someone else in your life who cares for you and loves you, they know that you will be less likely to put up with their abuse for fear of being alone, because you won’t be alone anymore if they disown you. If your spouse is protective of you, they will have to start controlling their behavior, or risk a confrontation with someone who is not their child and who doesn’t have a history of tolerating their baloney.

Many abusive parents look at new spouses as competition. They don't want us to have anyone on our side, or anyone else in our lives besides them. If we have a spouse to support and love us, then we need them less and eventually might not need them at all, which would make it easier for us to stand up to them or dump them, because they would no longer be the only family we had. When a potential mate appears on the scene to threaten their sovereignty, abusers must quickly gather their forces and launch a pre-emptive strike to prevent him from supporting and being loyal to their victim. They must neutralize him somehow. There are two ways to make sure that we continue to have nobody on our side:

1. Get rid of anyone who looks like they might be getting serious about us.


2. Turn him against us and win him over to their side.

Trying to Get Rid of Your Spouse:

Selfish and exploitative as always, the abusive parents’ goal is to keep their child all to themselves, and definitely not to share her with a boyfriend, husband, husband’s family, or her own future children.

Why, if there was another person, much less his whole family, in the picture, it would mean a constant battle for their child’s undivided attention. She would not be available to cater to their every whim. It would be much more difficult to use and exploit her. There would be a clash at every holiday as they fight to monopolize their child’s time. Not to mention the endless phone calls, unannounced drop-ins, unreasonable demands, thoughtlessness, criticism, prying and interference that a spouse might put a stop to. Narcissistic parents do not want to compete with spouses, or spouses’ families, a battle they might very well lose, so they manage to “get off on the wrong foot” right from the very first meeting.

They might be cool and aloof, or downright condescending and insulting to any potential mate. They might be outright hostile and pick fights with him in an attempt to scare him off. If that doesn’t work, they will criticize him, trash him and express their disapproval of everything about him in their conversations with you. They will point out every flaw, including the imaginary ones, in an attempt to get you to question your judgment, second-guess your choices, and hopefully dump the loser before it goes any further. And there you’ll be, all alone again- except for your abusive relatives who can relax now that they have you totally dependent on them again. They don’t want you to be happy, and they sure don’t want you to have anyone else in your life. They like being the only family you have. Isolation is an abuser’s number one control tactic.

When my divorced, forty-something birth-sister moved in with her next husband-to-be and began to combine households and finances, our abusive birth-father placed a secret man-to-man call to her boyfriend, grilling him on what his intentions were, and telling him to keep the call “between us”. My future brother-in-law refused to keep secret this obvious attempt to warn him off and told all to his wife-to-be, who, not surprisingly if you know the characters involved, was okay with it because her daddy was “just trying to protect her”. (see “Spin Control- Making Abuse Look Like A GOOD Thing” on our site).

But if Daddy Darling had succeeded in angering future hubby enough to break them up, he would have gotten exactly what he was aiming for- continued sole control of sis. He also would have been sole heir on her will, and beneficiary on her life insurance, or at least that’s what he thought. The intention was to stake out his territory as alpha male and head of the family, and hopefully get rid of the competition for my birth-sister’s money and attention. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t work out that way, because future hubby was smart enough to see through his devious little plan and expose him.

[I have not included the portion of the article about "kissing up to your spouse" because this never really occurred in my relation-shits with either NMIL or EFIL. I have included the link, above, if you are interested in reading the article in it's entirety]

When World's Collide:

Every now and then I actually learned something useful from my abusive bully of a birth-father, and one of his favorite pearls of wisdom was “The best defense is a good offense.” This is a gigantic hint on how to handle many abusers, right from the horse’s mouth.

What Daddy Darling was saying is that the best way to protect yourself is to strike the first blow. Abusers are very much aware of this battle strategy. That’s why while we’re “taking the high road”, protecting them with our silence, keeping our “family business” private, and not telling anyone about their behavior, they’re taking advantage of our hesitation and running around like crazy lying about us to anyone who will listen. The way to combat our abuser’s tactic of eliminating or befriending our spouse is to pre-empt her preemptive strike. We need to use her own strategy against her, and give her a dose of her own medicine. You snooze, you lose.

And the way we do that is to beat her to the punch. Tell our prospective spouse all about her, no holds barred, before she can get to him. Tell him that her nasty criticism and interference is intended to get rid of him, and reassure him that you love him, and will never allow her to come between you, even if you have to break off contact with her to protect your marriage. Warn him that her sugary sweetness is just an act designed to hide her true nature so that later on, when she is abusing you, he won’t believe anything you say. Point out that, just as much as she might trash you to him, she will also be trashing him to you, and anyone else who will listen. He is not immune to her slings and arrows. Once she is done using him, she will lie about him just like she lies about you.

Tell him that no matter what picture she tries to present to him, you know her better than he ever will. Ask point-bank for his loyalty, understanding, and a promise that he will believe you and support you. Ask him to respect you enough to allow you to make the decisions about your future relationship with her and not to try to sway you if you need to divorce her.

And be prepared to do just that if you feel that your relationship with her will negatively affect your marriage and future family. This is a boundary you must have. You, your husband, and your children must be a unit, a sacrosanct little family that no outsider is allowed to interfere with or cause problems in. Troublemaking relatives need to be kept at arm’s length, or eliminated completely, if need be. Don’t wait for the situation to get out-of-hand. Keep your past and present worlds separate, right from the beginning. The earlier in your marriage that you do this, the easier it will be to build a happy life together, free of evil people who will try to come between you and destroy your relationship.


  1. People who don't deal with N's really don't "get" this refusing to go one-on-one with them. I can hear them saying, "It's only dinner. What's the big deal?" My NM and EF decided they would have dinner with each of the children every month, to keep in touch. I never responded, and won't respond. I live in the same house with them, and they don't know what's going on in my life because I choose to not tell them. Taking me to dinner will not change that. Dinner out is an opportunity to make me a captive audience, unless I want to make more of a scene than they are.

    And the kiss up is probably what I had to deal with when I used to date. It was creepy watching my NM flirt with the guys I brought home, and unnerving having them give their blessing to every guy I dated. The tug-of-war is crazy. So I chose not to play anymore.

    Thanks for the insightful post.

  2. Oh how I can relate to this. My NM pulled the kiss-up tactic with my DH. I knew he was the one on our first date, but he did not meet my family until we dated almost a year. I warned him about my NM and he saw her pull some crap, but from a distance. He came from a healthy family, so he could spot a manipulator like her a mile away. He knew NM was trouble but it really hit home for him about 15 years into our marriage. We hit a bump in the road and separated for about 6 months. Of course NM blamed me and would call my DH up and completely trash me to him. Now bear in mind, DH and I were not on the best of terms, but even at that point in time he was absolutely horrified that she would turn on me like she did with such cruelty. He called her on her BS and told her not to call him anymore. He told me about this at one of our therapy sessions and I just knew she'd do something like that. It did not surprise me at all. When we reconciled, she freaked and accused DH of lying. We BOTH called her on that bit of BS and our relationship with her forever changed. We went LC and moved out of state. We made sure she was aware that we wanted not only the emotional distance, but the physical as well. It will come as no surprise to anyone that she never acknowledged her behavior was horrid, nor did she ever apologize.

  3. Judy - "I chose not to play anymore." This about sums up the answer to dealing with Narcissists. They won't ever play by anyone else's rules, and theirs are just too unhealthy and toxic for us to go along with. I also think that, unless you've done the work on yourself (when you've been manipulated by a narcissist for so long) it's a bad idea to go one-on-one with them. You basically need a support system with you at all times, both for yourself and as a signal to the narc to back off. I have confidence DH could do it now, but he's also come to realize that there is absolutely no point. Just like you, he's chosen not to play anymore.

    Cindi - The situation you've described about your NM badmouthing you to your husband is absolutely disgusting and not at all surprising. Boy does that scenario describe triangulation (and smear campaigns!) perfectly. And you're right, I'm not surprised that she never acknowledged her behavior to you or anyone else: she either didn't care that she was hurting you (and your husband) or she just didn't know. But either way, it's not good.

  4. Jonsi! This is another great post. I can't believe how much I can relate! My eyes are so wide open. I've started that memoir and it's just flowing out of me like poison. This is the BEST therapy! When it's complete I'd like to share it with you. You've helped me more than you will ever know and I am forever grateful!

  5. Untwistedsister - I would love to read anything you have written about your own experiences. I remember when I first stumbled upon this blogging community and I did the same thing. I had so many, "Oh wow" moments where all I could do was sit there with my jaw on the ground, thinking that what these bloggers were describing was ME, or my husband, or his parents. It still surprises me when I read all the people with similar stories.

    I was inspired to blog because of what I read in this community, and I'm feeling validated because I could "pay it forward." I can't wait to see what you've written, if you feel it's ever ready to be shared. :)