Monday, July 2, 2012

Lip Service

I very recently stumbled across another blog, Releasing Jessie, where ACoN Jessie has been writing about her memories, struggles, and revelations in regards to her narcissistic mother, mother-in-law, and various other interpersonal relationships in her life. For the record, Jessie is brilliant: her writing is poignant and will likely speak to countless other ACoNs, no matter where they are in the process of recovery. Jessie is another beautiful soul, just like so many others I have been lucky enough to find here in the blogosphere, and I recommend that, if you haven't found her blog yet, you go take a look at some of her posts. Though heartbreaking in their truth, they are also refreshing: Jessie is further proof that we can break the chains of dysfunction by doing the hard work, by refusing to give in to the abuse, by creating healthy boundaries and learning how to rework old learned behaviors.

Recently, something Jessie brought up in response to one of my comments on her blog reminded me of a topic I'd like to discuss in length here. Jessie wrote, "My other favorite that my mom uses is 'Your family will always be there for you.' Ha, they've never been there when I really needed them before, why would I expect it in the future?" This comment about her NM's use of that phrase, reminded me that narcissistic parents are ripe with many such familial cliches that they use to demand their children get in line, or else. These particular phrases always have a flavor of guilt to them, that likely lingers in the back of an ACoNs mind, reminding him that his FOO is supposed to come first. And, not only is his FOO supposed to come first, but his intense loyalty to them should come at the expense of his FOC. This concept gets tricky though, because the people who pushed that particular idea on him started doing so from the get-go without ever having really grasped what the idea of "family" truly means. Narcissists are famous for preaching concepts that often sound good in theory, but that they don't understand, or care to understand, the true underlying meaning of.

I've come up with a list of other commonly used cliches used by narcissistic or otherwise abusive parents meant to induce a sense of familial loyalty in the target (*I invite others to offer examples that I can add to the list*):

-I/We miss you
-I/We love you
-I/We still love you 
-Blood is thicker than water
-Family is forever
-Family is important
-I/We just want you to be happy
-I'm/We're just doing this for you 
-I'm/We/re doing this for your own good
-I/We just want what's best for you
-I/We/Your family will always be there for you (Releasing Jessie)
- I worry that you will regret how you've treated me (Releasing Jessie)
-He/She's your brother/sister
-I'm your Mother/Father 
-Let's go to family therapy, just you and me 
-[Loved one who has passed away] always thought you were special/smart/loyal/etc
-I/We thought you were better than this
-You'll be sorry when we're gone (Mulderfan)
-We don't have much longer (Mulderfan)
-I won't be around much longer (DD)
-Why do you need a therapist when you have us? (Vicarious Rising)
-You'll regret not playing/being nice to your mother/father (Vicarious Rising)
-I don't want YOU to have any regrets (DD)
-Man up and defend your family! (DD)
-Who are you going to have after you push everyone away?  (So My Life/Free To Be Me)
-When you are able to move on and forgive, we will be here waiting for you! (So My Life/Free To Be Me)
-Why do you hate me so much?  (So My Life/Free To Be Me)
-I/We don't ask you for much

Oftentimes, ACoNs suffer (for lack of a better word) a sense of misplaced loyalty to their narc-parents, as a result of hearing phrases like this over the course of a lifetime. According to Wikipedia, misplaced loyalty is loyalty placed in other persons or organizations where that loyalty is not acknowledged or respected; is betrayed or taken advantage of. It can also mean loyalty to a malignant or misguided cause. On that note, I think it's safe to say that a narcissist is definitely a malignant or misguided cause. When dealing with narcissists, one must always consider the source of such trite turns of phrases. Coming from anyone else, some of these ideas do not necessarily mean that you are being hoodwinked. Coming from a narcissist, these types of phrases mean certain death.

DH has had many of the above statements lobbed at him in the past three years, as a result of his attempts to break away from his FOO, establish healthy boundaries with his FOO, and call them out on their generally subtle manipulations. I have always been annoyed and disturbed by DH's NPs' use of these common phrases because it's been so obvious to me that his ONLY role in their life is one of a slave, servant, scapegoat, or black sheep. They push the idea that he owes them by mere fact that he is biologically their child, but don't believe that they owe him by mere fact that they are biologically his parents. In their world, the door don't swing both ways.

As Jessie pointed out, narco-parents push their agenda of what it means to be family without honoring the words they throw at their children and adult children. They claim that familial bonds are sacred but they never practice what they preach. The one in particular that really got under my skin was the "I/We miss you" line that DH got (and continues to get) in every email, letter, card, or other form of correspondence. Why? Because it doesn't make any logical sense and it's only purpose is to invoke DH's sense of misplaced loyalty. Take NMIL's use of that phrase: she always used it at completely inappropriate times. When is it appropriate to use the phrase, "I miss you?" Generally, when you haven't seen someone for a long time, like when they move away or go on a prolonged vacation. Technically speaking, NMIL did not interact with DH nearly as often as she had interacted with him prior to Jonsi coming along; but not only was that normal given the fact that DH was starting his own life away from NMIL, but there did not have to be a reason for her to miss him on the level she was implying.

In the card she gave DH on our wedding day (which was inappropriate enough, even if she had genuine loving things to say in it) she ended on the note that she loved him and missed him and just wanted things to get back to the way they were before. In any type of greeting card, that type of language, and in fact that type of sentiment is completely inappropriate. But in a wedding card, it's downright perverted and speaks to her evil intentions. And that certainly wasn't the first or last time we saw that kind of attitude. In nearly every email Naunt sent, she concluded that she "missed" DH. Often, when EFIL left voicemails on DH's cell phone, he also indicated how much he "missed" DH. Childhood friends bimbos always wrote or indicated how much they "missed" DH on their blogs or twitter accounts. NMIL's friends who no longer had a connection with DH, save for the fact that he grew up in their presence, would say they "missed" him. And the list goes on and on. And every time the phrase "I miss you" or "We miss you" was used, I had a sense that it was completely and utterly disingenuous. I called phony-balogney and told DH so.

They didn't "miss" him the same way a loving, genuine person would "miss" him. I mean, there isn't anything wrong with missing a person you don't see as often as you used to, but when you continually use that phrase as an accusation in order to get that person to abandon his new life and family, it all just starts to sound preposterous. Is it possible that they miss him on some level? Yes. But again, not in the same way a loving, genuine person would miss a loved one. If EFIL and NMIL and the rest of their fucked up gang have any sense of "missing" my DH, it's because they're holding on to an idea of him that disappeared the day he met me. Perhaps not entirely, or all at once, but the DH they knew is gone. He can not be the [DH's childhood nickname] that they expected him to be. He had to grow up and abandon their unhealthy cause. In order to truly leave them behind, he must work every day for the rest of his life to change his old thought-patterns and behaviors to ones that are healthier for him, for me, and for his children. DH's NPs only miss seeing the image of themselves they saw reflected in his eyes. They miss the control they had over him. They miss the DH who would let them walk all over him. They do not miss HIM because they don't really know him and never will.

Beyond that, I find it pathetic that they claim to miss a person who gave them multiple opportunities to stop missing him. You don't have to miss someone who willingly offers you the chance to change. You don't have to miss someone who tells you precisely what he needs from you in order to be a part of his life. You don't have to miss someone who lives less than an hour away. You don't have to miss someone who is still here. He's here. He's always been here. They just never saw him.

In the end, all they manage to do is pay lip service to concepts that they will never understand, respect, or honor.


  1. Jonsie,
    What an incredible post and how right you are. I have e-mails, letters, phone calls (up until I went no contact) with every tactic listed above and then some. When those didn't work, then the verbal abuse and mindgames would was a non-stop merry-go-round ride except I wanted off and it stopped being fun years and years ago! They NM, NS's and enabling father...all think I am the crazy one - NOPE, I just finally decided I had enough toxicity to last me two lifetimes and said goodbye! They never will see themselves as the problem, it is far easier for every single one of them to point the finger at you because you are different from their warped sense of view and perspective!

  2. NF's faves these days: "You'll be sorry when we're gone." and "We don't have much longer."

    Considering that both his son and twin brother were killed in the blink of an eye while driving, he must realize even any of us may be gone soon.

    Will HE be sorry when I'm gone? I doubt it!

    None of their trite little catch phrases work both ways!

    1. I always want to say that to my NM too MF! "Will YOU be SORRY if I die?" I almost did die in childbirth, do you think it changed her behavior? Hell no, only made her more focused on herself. I think this statement only proves how selfish and one sided their thought processes are.

  3. My dad tells me I will regret not playing nice with my mother. He also loves the "family is always there for you." Yah, like a dark shadow.

    He also liked telling me that I didn't need to talk to a therapist, a STRANGER, when I could talk to my family about my problems.

    Oh, that one gave me a helluva laugh.

  4. Jonsi,

    I've been reading your posts for some time now and can relate to so much of what you write about. I also have a NMIL. She's 75 and fought colon cancer and won in the last few years. Sadly, not even cancer could put her priorities in order and cause her to realize what's really important in life.

    Her favorite sayings are "I won't be around much longer" and "I don't want YOU to have any regrets." She also told DH at one point to "Man up and defend your family!" (meaning aginst me, his wife). She's seriously delusional. At the time, he was defending his FOC. She's a certifiable lunatic.


    1. DD,

      Thank you for adding your voice here. I'm sad for you, as I'm sad for all of us having to deal with this on any level, whether it's our own parents, or our inlaws, brothers and sisters, spouses, whatever.

      I know all about the tactics you just mentioned. I'm honored that you've chosen to comment and share them with us. I'm sorry you've EVER had to hear them.

  5. I posted earlier as (SoMyLife) but like others, I need to find a name that represents my journey and finally, I feel like I am "Free To Be Me" and what an accomplishment it was and is just to be able to say that to all of you!! Anyway, my NM, NSIS's and enabling father would repeatedly tell me "who are you going to have after you push everyone away?" (meaning my husband, children and friends didn't count because they should be the ONLY people in my life). Or to keep the blame game going (because when you are narcissistic it can never be your fault)..."when you are able to move on and forgive, we will be here waiting for you!" As if they did nothing wrong and I am the one just sitting back harboring years and years of ill-feelings for the heck of it!! This is a story just to get off of my chest. During one of my many pleas with NM (trying to explain my many hurts, etc. but always falling on deaf ears), she decided she had heard enough and hung up on me....yes, my mother hung-up on me and didn't bother to reach out again for a couple of weeks. When she did, it was to tell me I was cruel, a bad mother and how I should leave my poor NSIS alone because she was having a hard time....are you kidding me??? Needless to say, I had had enough!! We don't speak again for several months when I get a letter that rips me a new one (for lack of a better phrase). She proceeds to tell me now that I am not only cruel but now mean and heartless, materialistic, ungrateful and after those "lovely" words for me, wants to know why I hate her so much??? I decided to call her and mommy dearest wants me to apologize to her for making her hang-up on me several months earlier...I knew then I was dealing with someone who would never be sane or rational muchless my mother again! Thanks for listening!!

    1. Free To Be Me, I am so familiar with all the tactics you've just mentioned. "who are you going to have after you push everyone away?" That one, in particular, stands out to me because DH's EF used that one at least once. It was the "If you continue doing this, you'll be alone" comment he made when we wouldn't visit him for Christmas because I was due to have a baby the week after.

      It makes your husband out to be chopped liver, that's for sure. You'll just wind up all alone, because your FOC doesn't "count." It US you really need.

      And, like I've always said about the hate thing - we know it's not you who's really doing the hating. These people just like to rain on your parade and then claim that it's YOU who's releasing the flood of water. It's all part of their big lie.

      My heart is with you.

    2. My NM always made it perfectly clear that NF was #1 in her life, even when he was physically abusing my older brother.

      "After you kids are gone he'll be all I have left." was her excuse for never once saying, even in private, NF was wrong.

      Fast forward to me getting a DH. Did the same rule apply? Not on your life! I was always expected to put the needs of my NPs ahead of both my DH and THEIR grandchild.

      I'll still never forget how utterly and completely NM outed herself when I phoned to tell her DH had unexpectedly died: "Good! Now you can see us more often." Thereby she blew off both my grief and the man who had been in my life for 35 years, 28 of which we were married.

      Three months later I was forbidden by my NM to talk about him and told to "get over it."

      Our spouses and possibly our children mean absolutely nothing to these people. My NM has come right out and told me she is bored when I talk about activities I've shared with my friends or volunteer work I do.

      Thanks, mum!

  6. When I met my NM at a cafe for what I call "The Confrontation", before I began speaking so told me "No matter what you say I'll still love you" or something like that. Then, probably less than five minutes into things, threw her money down to pay her share of the bill, food and drink untouched, and walked out while I was still speaking!

    I hate those "I'll always love" you lines and their variations. Bull-fucking-shit. The server and the woman sitting nearby who heard it all consoled me and treated me better that day than she did. Complete strangers treated me better than my own mother. My experiences do NOT include a mother who always loves me no matter what, that's how she experiences herself, with no regard for MY experience.

    I will NEVER forget her words and behavior on that day.

  7. You, my dear, are also brilliant. This is a wonderfully, thoughtful post that expressed my initial thought, but added, in amazing layers, to what I hadn't been able to express myself. Thank you also for your kind words, they mean a lot to me.

    I love how you explained the "miss you" comment. It is one of those things that you can't put your finger on, can't really explain. But you did. It IS a commandment. It isn't about missing the person. It's about missing what they got from the person. And I can't remember how many times I thought, FOO and the in-laws don't know me at all.
    And why are they so scared of change? Because it messes up their little plans. As a mom, I love to watch my kids grow and change. Do I miss the stage we just left? Hell, yes. But they need to grow and change and be. It's not my life. It's theirs. And I love each new stage too. I can't spend my life looking behind me, always wishing for what was, or I'd miss what is. And your husband's FOO (and my families) is missing what is. How sad for them. How sad when they've been giving so much to be a part of now. And all they can do is look in the rear view mirror.
    My DH's mother always seemed to be afraid of him changing too. I couldn't shake the feeling that it terrified her. My NM just refuses to believe, or see, that I've changed.
    I also hate the damn "you'll be sorry, comment. I worry that YOU will regret how you've treated me." Like it has anything to do with me. Like they really are concerned with how I'll deal with it. And then guilting me into thinking that my grandkids/kids will also betray me. I lived with that fear for a long time. But I've realized that won't happen, as I don't chain my children too me. They've always had freedom, so why would they run from me as an adult? And if, god forbid that happens, I'll know I don't live with regrets. That I parented out of respect for my kids and a desire to teach them as best I can and with honesty and integrity. I can't have any regrets (aside from the normal ones) if I live in that path.

  8. Very timely post for me. I recently received the "miss you and always love you" bomb. It reminds me of something you'd read in a dime store melodrama romance novel. How lame!
    Tried and true