Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Pondering The Possibilities

I've been thinking quite a bit recently about EFIL and L, most likely because Easter is one of their big holidays and since it's right around the corner, I've been wondering whether they're going to use it to contact us again in spite of the NC order we sent them in the mail a few months ago. I just have no fucking clue. Last year they didn't send us anything for Easter, which I had mistakenly taken as a sign that they were maybe finally "getting" that we fucking wanted nothing to do with them and that they were going to stop with the constant shenanigans. I was wrong. But given that they decided to suddenly make a big deal about DD's birthday in November (by showing up, unwelcome, on our doorstep) and then sending our kids a plethora of unwanted mail over the holidays, I just have no fucking clue whether they'll be sending anything over the next couple of days. My best guess, seriously: Not a fucking clue.

So anyway, DH and I have been discussing what we'll do if they do end up sending some form of bullshit in the mail to our kids. I called our local police station today and got some reassuring news: that we can in fact call the police if anything shows up at our house and a police officer will come to our house and file a harassment report. So anyway, that's the plan if any shit goes down. That way, we can start getting this legal shit rolling for when EFIL and L decide to ramp up their efforts all over again.

So with EFIL and L in mind, I was perusing the interweb today and I came across this gem from Rev. Renee Pitelli's site, Luke173ministries.org. I think one of the things I love most about Rev. Renee is that she sees this whole mess from a Christian perspective, but sounds nothing like EFIL and L, who are about as ignorant, bigoted, and hypocritical as any other ignorant, bigoted, and hypocritical bible-thumpers out there. I think it's awesome that there can be such opposition in the religious community: that there are both intelligent, kind, and empathetic religious people as well as the asshole kind. Anywho, this article reminded me of EFIL and L, as it highlights most of their very apparent modus operandi:

After All I've Done For You:
Trotting Out The 'You Owe Me' Excuse
 by Rev. Renee

We’ve all heard it in one way or another. “After all I’ve Done For You…….,” it begins.  And then, “This is the thanks I get”, “How could you do this to me?’, “How can you say that to me?”,  “How dare you speak to me like that?”, “Have you no gratitude?”, “You should be ashamed of yourself”, “How could you even think such a thing?”, etc.,etc. 

Another version of this is the one they won’t say to our faces, but will use to badmouth us behind our backs.  It goes like this:  “After all I’ve done for her….” , followed by, “How could she think that about me?”,  “How could she be so ungrateful?”, “Doesn’t she know I only have her best interests at heart?”,  yada, yada, yada. 

Many times the topper will  be one of the two ultimate cry-me-a-river lines,   “What have I ever done to deserve this?” and “Where did I go wrong?”,  which occasionally, to add to the aura of sincerity, will be accompanied  by, “No, really tell me!  Was I wrong to do so much for her?  Did I spoil her?  Was I really such a bad parent?” 

Aaah, the  guilt.  So thick you could cut it with a knife.  Along with denial, and blaming someone or something else for their own bad behavior, trying to lay on a guilt trip is probably one of the most common responses an abuser will have when he is rebuked.   Guilt tactics are many and varied.  There are dozens, if not hundreds, of possibilities,  and abusive or controlling relatives usually have quite a repertoire. 

In this article, we will talk about one of the most popular- the “After All I’ve Done For You Excuse” for why an abuser thinks he should be allowed to continue unchallenged in his efforts to control, manipulate, interfere, or abuse.  The idea is to make you seem like an ingrate for even suggesting that something he’s doing is unrighteous and  hurtful, because, of course, he has nothing but the best of intentions, which he’s proven to you already because of All He’s Done For You.   You are supposed to feel ashamed of yourself and never bring up the subject again.  This defense , in itself, is a common  type of manipulation.

DOING YOU A FAVOR ENTITLES ME TO PRY, MAKE DEMANDS, AND RUN YOUR LIFE

Although any relative could be guilty of manipulating you and keeping score for the sole purpose of obligating you to them, the relative who uses this tactic the most is commonly a parent. No surprise there.  Parents are just so good at it.  I remember when I was a kid hearing one woman tell her child that the child owed her because of all she had done for him.  The child innocently asked his mother what she had done, and she replied that if it wasn’t for her, he wouldn’t have even been born.  I’m not sure if she was joking or serious.  It seems a strange response now, but since I was a child myself at the time, I couldn’t get a read on it.  But the boy had the perfect comeback.  He shrugged and replied, “I didn’t ask to be born!” 

As family members we ALL do favors for each other.  You don’t even have to be related to someone- even in friendships, we do favors for each other.  That’s what families are for, and that’s what friends are for.  Many kind folks do favors for strangers, as well.   BUT THAT DOES NOT ENTITLE ANY OF US TO HAVE A SAY IN THE OTHER PERSON’S LIFE. 

Many times, favors are unasked for by the adult child.  A parent offers, and the child accepts, not knowing that there are strings attached.  The price to pay may be allowing the parent control over the child’s choices, decisions, life, etc., giving the parent personal information, having to answer questions that the child may prefer to keep private or would rather not discuss, etc. 

Some parents feel that if they help their child out, that obligates the child to them.  Such favors are not out of love, but done for an ulterior motive- to allow the parent to remain in a controlling position. And parents can often be very pushy about insisting their child accept their help, whether she asked for it or not. 

THE BUSINESS DEAL WITH THE HIDDEN CLAUSES 

Such a situation is really not a loving  or caring thing, it is a business deal.  But it is a business deal in which one party has not been informed of the price she will have to pay, which is giving up her independence.  If this was laid out on the table openly and the parent was honest about the payback he expected, then the child would have the opportunity to turn down the deal.  She would be able to choose not to accept the favor from her parent and not to owe something in return.  But the parent wants to deprive the child of this opportunity to refuse the favor, so he does not let her know that there are strings attached.  He misrepresents his intentions.   What the parent leaves unsaid is the most important part of the bargain. He sets a trap, so to speak, which she will fall into without understanding what the consequences will be. By his deception, he takes away his adult child’s freedom of choice.

In some parents’ minds, if you accept their help, it just goes to prove what they have known about you all along- that you can’t really make it without them.  In their minds, if you need help from them, you are still a dependent child.  They will lose respect for you, assuming they ever had any to lose in the first place.  They will not see you as an equal.  Some families will help out and then feel they have the “right to protect their investment” in you by prying, making demands, or being controlling. 

Sometimes we innocently accept an offer of help, never thinking of it as something that will obligate us.  It never enters our heads that our relative expects something from us in return, because many of us are used to our families helping us out.  Still others of us are always helping out our families, or doing plenty of favors for our families in return.  We figure, well, we always do for them, how nice, now they’re doing something for us as well- one hand washes the other.  What we don’t realize is that somehow all of the nice things we’ve done for them will either be conveniently forgotten or just not count once they’ve done something for us.  The only way they will see it is that now WE OWE THEM.

This is not to say that all relatives consciously keep score, although some do.  But our willingness to accept help from a relative often subconsciously puts us in a one-down position of inferiority, in their minds and sometimes even in our own, keeps us dependent on them, and makes it imperative that we stay in their good graces, even if that means accepting abuse, control, or interference. 

FINANCIAL HELP- THE GIFT THAT KEEPS ON GIVING (AGGRAVATION, THAT IS) 

Monetary help in making large purchases is often misrepresented by the giver as a “gift”, and the recipient foolishly believes that and fails to realize that there are strings attached.  Parents who help foot the bill for their adult child’s wedding often expect to run the show, and the bride and groom suddenly find their wishes taking a back seat to those of a parent who now considers it to be “MY wedding”.

Many young adults have accepted parental financial help for the down payment on their first home, only to find that their parents then thought they had the right to tell them where to live or how to decorate, to supervise a remodeling, etc. etc.

I was a realtor for many years.  Many times, “helpful” parents came along to look at houses with their adult children, often dictating what town, school district, type of house, or even which exact house to buy.  They believed that contributing money gave them the right to choose the house FOR their child, or to nix the one their child liked but which they didn’t.  They believed they had bought the right to make this decision for their child, in the name of “protecting their investment”, and because, if the child wasn’t grown up enough to pay for it, then she obviously was too immature and incompetent to make a good choice for herself. Contributing to such a purchase gives some parents a sense of ownership or entitlement.  They view their child’s house as really being THEIRS, or at least partly theirs, because they helped buy it.

I found that parents who accompanied their adult children on real estate excursions often did all the talking, interrupted their children, spoke for their children, and wouldn’t even give the younger adult(s) a chance to have all of their questions answered.  Sometimes, the younger person caught on before the process went any further, and left mom and dad at home the next time she (or he, or they) went househunting.  But if she didn’t, the situation often deteriorated from there.

Other parents who have given their children a “gift” to help buy a house want even more control.  They insist on attending meetings with realtors, mortgage companies, attorneys, etc. and prying into their child’s and his or her spouses’  private financial situation until they have found out every personal detail.  Some have even gone so far as to attend the closing.  Their presence is awkward and intrusive and makes everyone else feel uncomfortable.

The personal information they manage to find out about their child and his or her spouse by intruding on these meetings is incredibly detailed, and includes exactly how much money their adult child and his or her spouse makes, how much they owe, how much they have saved (and- do the math- how much they must be spending, foolishly, of course), what the younger couple’s credit rating is, and other personal information that is none of their business.  One set of parents caused a scene at the closing after finding out about their son-in-law’s previous marriage, which their daughter had chosen not to reveal to them previously, precisely because she knew how they would react.

Another couple I know who accepted a financial “gift” for their down payment were devastated when the parents “withdrew” their gift because they would not use it to buy a house two doors down from the parents.  Apparently the gift only applied to that particular house, so that the parents could keep the kids under their thumbs and only two doors away, but this was not a requirement that had been mentioned up front.  The younger couple had to back out of a deal on the house they really wanted because they suddenly found themselves without the anticipated funds.

“HELPING WITH THE GRANDKIDS”

Another “favor” that often comes with an expected payback is “helping” with the grandkids.  Many grandparents think that babysitting their grandchildren automatically gives them the right to interfere in the grandchildren’s upbringing.  They think they have the right to feed the grandkids what they want them to eat, instead of what the parent says.  Or that they have the right to discipline, or spoil, their grandkids contrary to the parents’ wishes.  Some grandparents think that “helping out with the grandkids” entitles them to a say in who their child (the grandkids’ parent) dates, or where their child lives.

I know one set of grandparents who, without being asked to by their adult child, sold their house and moved to the same town where their child and her family lived, much to the horror of the child, who had moved away to escape her controlling parents.  To hear them tell it, these parents had “previously discussed” their move with their daughter, so they “couldn’t understand” why she now wasn’t happy about it.  But in reality, there was no “discussion”.  They had simply informed her of a decision they had already made.  This unasked for and totally unwelcome gesture was done under the guise of “being able to help out more with the grandchildren”.  But their REAL motive was being able to continue to interfere in their DAUGHTER”S life and exert inappropriate control, which the previous long distance had made difficult.

These grandparents continued to force themselves on their adult child, criticizing her decisions, disapproving of the men she dated, etc., and when the inevitable conflict occurred, the first thing they said was, “After all we’ve done for her…..helping her out, watching her kids…..why, we even moved so we could be closer to her in case she needed us….”

But the thing is, she didn’t need them.  She, and her children, were doing just fine and were perfectly happy without them.  Knowing their adult child was independent and competent was a blow to the egos of these controlling parents.  They went to the extreme of selling their house and MOVING to their daughter’s new town because they had to get themselves back in the picture.  Then they needed to make up an excuse to cover their true motives, so they USED their grandchildren for their own selfish purposes.

Grandparents like these are not interested in, or grateful for, the opportunity to develop a nice relationship with their grandchildren, which in itself is a great pay-off for truly loving and  considerate grandparents.  They do not genuinely care about what is best for the grandkids they pretend to love so much.  Instead, they are USING THEIR GRANDCHILDREN FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT and for their own selfish motivations- to maintain a toxic connection to their DAUGHTER, so they will be able to continue to control her and to interfere in her life.  The grandkids are just pawns in their game.

MALEVOLENT CONTROL IN A BENEVOLENT DISGUISE

Normal families rarely have these situations, but those of us from abusive families deal with them all the time.  Abusive people keep score and manipulate situations to their advantage.  They don’t do favors out of love.  They do favors because there is a benefit to THEM, and they expect a payback.  They don’t do things out of the goodness of their hearts- there is always an ulterior motive.  The challenge to us is figuring out what it is and what is really going on.

Many times this dynamic is able to occur because our eyes are veiled and we are blinded to the true nature of our relative.  In our lifelong quest for a family who really loves us, we are often in denial about these traits when they are present in someone we love.  We don’t want to think that our parent or sibling really isn’t trying to help us, but is actually setting us up.  It seems completely contradictory that a kindness, in actuality, has its roots in dishonesty and selfishness instead of love.

Unfortunately, our wishful thinking doesn’t change what is, and we need to take off the rose-colored glasses and see our relative as he is before we put ourselves in the position of being obligated to him.  If we think back, we will often recognize many past instances in our relative’s dealings with us, or with others, where this behavior was present.  The key is to learn from the past and not keep repeating history.

We may not care much about money, but we make a grave error in underestimating its importance to an abuser.  Money is ALWAYS a very significant commodity to a control-freak.  It is a very important issue to him, because he believes he can use it to “buy” you or others.  Especially if he has spent years mistreating you, he knows he has precious little else to offer that might get you to do what he wants.  Once you are grown, you are free from his direct control, so manipulation is now the order of the day.  As an adult, you are not likely to feel kindly and cooperative toward someone who has always behaved hatefully towards you.  He will need to “sweeten the pot” to buy your cooperation.  Money will often be all he can think of.  He will either use it directly, as a bribe, or indirectly, as in threatening to cut you out of the will.

My birth-father occasionally offered me token amounts of money in return for “doing something his way”.  Sometimes, he offered a small sum for no apparent reason, or tried to insist that I accept some other “favor” which I didn’t want and had never asked for.  But I knew his nature and I knew he never did anything for anyone without expecting something in return.  I didn’t want to be obligated to him.  I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of being able to say I “owed him” something.  I didn’t want to give him any control or rights over my life.  So, no matter how much I might have needed it, I never took a dime.

When I was a young adult, first out on my own, money was very tight, to say the least.  I could not afford health insurance, dentist or doctor’s visits, a reliable car, clothes, or even food,  sometimes.   But I would have slept in the streets before I would have taken anything from him.  It wouldn’t have been worth it- the price would have been just too high.

The interesting thing was, when I was really poverty-stricken, he never offered anything, and I was bound and determined not to ask.  Sadistic and self-righteous as he was, he liked seeing me suffer.  To him, I deserved it for trying to be independent.  He was just itching to see me “come crawling” to him, to prove to all that I couldn’t make it without him.  But there was no way that was going to happen.   I knew I would have never heard the end of it.   I refused to ask, and he didn’t offer.

But he did start offering his “bribes” after I had gotten on my feet, was doing well financially, and didn’t need them anymore.  His previous manipulations and attempts to control hadn’t worked, so he now figured he might as well bring out what he considered to be “the big guns”, and give money a try.  I have heard him say that “every man has his price”.  But the only thing he learned from his scheming is that I couldn’t be bought.  Every man might have his price, but I didn’t.  He wound up right back where he had started- with nothing to hold over my head.  I wound up with independence, self-respect, and dignity.  I was able to spend my adult life always being able to look him in the eye as an equal.  He knew he couldn’t get the better of me.  He resented it, but he also respected it.

CLARIFY THE TERMS OF THE DEAL BEFORE YOU SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE

When you accept a favor from a controller, you are “signing” an UNWRITTEN CONTRACT.  To an abuser, his “generosity” is his half of The Deal.  Now the question is, what is YOUR half of The Deal?  The best way to handle an offer of help is to ask right up front what will be expected of you in return.  Most manipulative relatives will deny that they expect any payback, and insist there are no strings attached and that they are doing it “because they love you” and “are only trying to help.”  They will act insulted and offended that you could even think such a thing.  At which point, you can apologize and accept their “kind” offer, “knowing” that it is free and clear.

Of course, in reality it probably isn’t, but then at least in the future, when they throw it in your face to make you feel guilty, you can remind them that you clarified what the deal was before accepting it, and they told you there were no strings attached.  If those are the circumstances under which you agreed to accept their offer, then you are free to choose whether to agree to or deny their future demands for “payback”, and your conscience can be perfectly clear.

You wouldn’t enter into any other business agreement without knowing what you were agreeing to, so don’t be shy about this one.  Be direct and clarify the terms.  Ask what conditions are on this offer.  Know what you’re getting into.  If the controller still chooses to be dishonest about his true motives and mislead you  by telling you that he wants nothing in return, then you have absolutely no reason to feel guilty in the future.  One party doesn’t have the unilateral right to change the terms weeks, months, or years after it’s a done deal.

EXPLODING THE MYTH OF THE LOVING ABUSER

Abusers and control-freaks NEVER do anything out of love.  There is simply no such thing.  This is because they do not love anyone but themselves.   They do not have love in their hearts to begin with, so they cannot act out of love.

Sometimes we confuse other traits, such as possessiveness, ownership, dominance, entitlement, enmeshment, etc., with love.  We may take such traits as a sign that an abuser really cares about us, but she does not.  We are misinterpreting what is really going on.           Abusers, controllers, and manipulators are accomplished liars.  They are not persons of honor or integrity, so it would be very foolish to take whatever they might say at face value.  They can be very convincing when they try to steamroll us into accepting their “offer of help”.  But no matter what she says, we are deluding ourselves if we think that an abusive, controlling relative really wants to help us because she loves us.

Abusers do not serve the Lord, and they do not live to help others.  The only person they are interested in helping is themselves.  They never do anything for anybody else without first calculating what is in it for them.  Those are the sorry facts, plain and simple.  Forewarned is forearmed. 

Although it is sad that we need to think first before accepting a favor from a loved one, unfortunately that is the case for many of us.  With some people, we do need to think first.  We need to avoid asking for favors.  We need to buy time if an offer is made and not give a quick answer.  We need to consider our relative’s personality and true nature.  We need to recall if this person has a history of trying to obligate others to him or putting them in the position of “owing him one”.  We need to think carefully about what strings are attached and whether accepting a favor from certain people is worth the price we are going to have to pay.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting this. You often seem to find and post something I needed to read, due to the circumstances I'm in.

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    1. I so often find that everything is connected; that there are these amazing zen moments where things seem to fit together in some crazy unexplainable way. I'm glad this post made sense to you right now, in this moment.

      Love,

      Jonsi

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  2. I love it! You are exactly right, a favor is a business deal in their mind, and they love to keep the details of the deal hidden. Great article!

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  3. I don't know where this whole apparently unquestioned societal myth that "Children NEED Grandparents" came from, but I wish it would be examined more closely and in light of the reality if the "Parent" was a Cluster B and predated on their own kids, they don't get a "Do-Over" with second-generation Supply. In a highly mobile society especially post WWII, many kids grew up without grandparents and didn't "miss" extended "ties that bind." Once the child reaches adulthood the parents need to back off and foster independence, not dependence. Sure, you may not like the decisions the AC has made; however, if their decision was ill-informed, the AC will figure it out themselves without any further assistance from their "Parent(s)." Natural Consequences will follow without any familial "input."
    I really enjoy Rev. R's site as well. Initially, I was somewhat leery in view of my own hx. of abuse secondary to Religion but that site is a great source for all of us.
    TW

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    1. I skip over the religious bits whenever I'm reading her stuff because I just don't find that part helpful, but the rest of it I absolutely do.

      TW, I'm so fed up with this garbage with these shitty people who call themselves "grandparents." Just so fed up. I'm done with it and I'm ready to take legal action when the time comes. I don't care if I have no one on my side, or just a few people on my side, when it's time to do battle with these monsters. I'm going to fight.

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  4. When it's the well-being of your own kids at stake, protecting them from Predators is the prime responsibility of being a parent. They'll be exposed to nastiness beyond our control as they get older but that in no way mitigates our responsibility to protect, to *not* invite Predators into their lives regardless of their label.
    TW

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    1. Perhaps one of the most ironic things about it is that so many people (the predators included, of course) don't think of these predators as such, and they desperately want to think that WE'RE the ones who are just overreacting or taking things personally or being too "harsh." Someone recently said to me, "Oh, it's too bad that [DH's parents] don't have a relationship with the kids because they are really missing out." And I replied, "No, it's really just too bad that they are big assholes." I don't feel bad that ASSHOLES don't have a relationship with my children. I don't feel bad about that at all.

      I can't protect them from everything, but I see this as my duty now: to protect them from what I can protect them from, while teaching them simultaneously how to protect themselves. That's my job.

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  5. I would NEVER have left Mike with my parents, alone. My mother took him to the movies once - Seabiscuit if I recollect correctly, but that was IT for alone time. Luckily, they were the type of narcs who ignored me, rather than engulfed me. I'd have had to kill my dad, and I say that with no humor, no joking. I'd gladly have gone to prison after killing him, if he had laid a hand on my kid.

    no shit.

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    1. What the hey? I just saw this comment now, like a week late. Sorry Gladys!

      I think DH's parents have swung both ways: sometimes ignoring, other times engulfing. Yay, he got the best of both worlds.

      I believe you about your intentions with your father, if he'd ever laid a hand on your baby. Hell fucking no. That's what I have to say. Hell fucking no.

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  6. Well, I just outed my physically abusive narcissist on the local t.v channel and I tell you...it is one of the most liberating experiences of my life! He can't stalk me any more because everyone knows who he is...his words were " you lied! you said you would keep our separation personal and private! and now everyone is judging me!" Yes...the narc just loves to hide and boy...outing one is a bit of a dramatic ordeal! but sweet relief for me...thank you Jonsi! you are an exceptional person and probably the most inspirational source of strength I have ever had! XOXOXOOXOXOXOOXOX

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    1. "you said you would keep our separation personal and private!"

      Abusers LOVE to use that line of logic - they like to say that YOU are the bad person for ever opening your mouth to talk about their abuses, they like to hide behind some code of chivalry that they themselves don't follow (we all know that it's an "honorable" thing to keep private matters private with those you most love and respect; it's another thing entirely when you're being abused and you're abuser expects you to keep silent about the abuses you are suffering AT THEIR HANDS.)

      Outted your abuser on tv, eh? Let us stain the walls red with our blood they have shed. Say it loud. Never stop.

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  7. "Grandparents like these are not interested in, or grateful for, the opportunity to develop a nice relationship with their grandchildren, which in itself is a great pay-off for truly loving and considerate grandparents. They do not genuinely care about what is best for the grandkids they pretend to love so much. Instead, they are USING THEIR GRANDCHILDREN FOR THEIR OWN BENEFIT and for their own selfish motivations- to maintain a toxic connection to their DAUGHTER, so they will be able to continue to control her and to interfere in her life. The grandkids are just pawns in their game."

    ouch. Right in the childhood- for me, anyway ;) Thanks for posting this! Your posts seem to always coincide somehow with what I'm going through as well. Wow- what a great article and quote, too. And so so true. Money is everything. I believe N's run on money and monkeys! This article is exactly the reason why DH has no college debt- because his parents paid for it all by taking out of the money pool for the younger siblings and now expecting DH to pay THEM back even though his debt is with his siblings IF indeed they choose to go to university which, honestly, they're too stupid to even get in- much less attend one! It's clear my in laws see the debt to THEM as priority. Even at the expense of reason and logic. It baffles me how much they think material worth matters to their ACoNs. Don't they realize we'd MUCH rather have the peace and quiet than ever get paid to deal with their demands ever again??? Their behavior is just so see-through with my son being born in a month or two. It's obvious they don't care- never did- and never will. It disgusts me that they probably only view him as prey in the game to get hubby back. Messing with the wrong Mama Bear! In the words of Bon Qui Qui ' I will cut ' them lol.

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