Posts Tagged With: manipulative

and the momma lioness roars

No sooner than my post about cookies published, did I received a text from Thing 1 apologizing for causing drama.

I hate that because I expressed my frustration, my daughter apologized for starting drama.
The truth is that’s drama I started by writing about it.
She shouldn’t feel responsible for it.
I reassured her she did nothing wrong. That her comment was innocent and she was not at all responsible for any of it.
She said she shouldn’t have said anything about Christmas, and she was OK with me staying here with YBW for Christmas if that’s what I decided.

I told her I was angry at the mother being manipulative, and at Thing C for not being honest.
She agreed. She wondered how YBW was feeling about it, how he would choose to deal with it.
She said: It just sucks because nobody is fair to him.
She said: I can’t help feeling bad. I should have kept my mouth shut.
I replied: Your comment was innocent. The information was abused.

She said something that surprised me, the truth of it I mean.
She said: She’s almost as bad as dad

And that’s why she pushes my buttons.
She is so manipulative. She does it with such skill those she’s manipulating don’t even realize it.
Because I’ve lived with this type of behavior the majority of my life, I’m acutely aware of it.

She asked if Thing G would be alone on Christmas.
She designed her message specifically to push YBW’s buttons. She saw an opportunity to have her sons with her on Christmas day and used her words to manipulate the situation.
Neither YBW or I would leave the kid alone for Christmas. I mean, come on.

She invited YBW to come to her parents house for Christmas.
Now, to the casual observer, that seems kind and welcoming.
But with all passive aggressive, manipulative behavior each word is chosen with purpose.
She used those words to appear inclusive.
If questioned, the manipulative person can say, See! I said ‘this’, to be interpreted as appropriate. Knowing full well they were manipulating the situation to get what they want.
She wants what she wants and is capitalizing on an opportunity made clear to her by one simple sentence written by my daughter.

Is there drama because she creates it?
Is there drama because I’m overreacting to it?
In all honesty, it could be both.

I don’t want to feel the urge to protect my husband and my daughter from this woman.
I know they’re capable. I know they don’t need to be protected.
But I feel protective of them.
When my husband is being manipulated, and when my girl apologizes for starting drama, it triggers something deeply protective in me.

Categories: me, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

my defining moment as a frog in cold water

Acute stress feels like it will crush you where you stand.
I promise you it won’t. Your fight or flight instinct will kick in and save you. Acute stress feels overwhelming and most of us would do anything to get away from it. But, acute stress won’t kill, no matter how much you believe it might.
Chronic stress is what will kill you.
Chronic stress is like putting a frog in a pot of cold water and then slowly turning up the heat. The frog doesn’t realize what’s happening until it’s already boiling! That’s when one of two things happens. Fight or flight kicks in to save you, or you just die.

I’m an expert in chronic stress. I’m that frog in the pot of water. I was lucky enough that my instinct for flight is so strong. It saved my life.
I spent seventeen years with a man who emotionally abused me.
His sabotage so subtle, his manipulation so nuanced, it was poetry of pure unadulterated evil. He brought passive aggression to new and frightening depths. For the most part I was unaware on a conscious level. I went about my daily life feeling anxious without actually realizing it.
Sometimes I would wonder…Why did I require so much sleep? Why did I turn so much of my focus to my children? Why did I feel nauseous when he would come home? But never for long because there would be some sudden kindness and I would smile and believe him when he told me everything was lovely.

But on some level, I did know what was going on. I did know that something was amiss. I focused on my children to be a buffer between him and them so he couldn’t treat them the way he treated me. I presented the picture of the perfect little family to the rest of the world so no one would realize that he was not what he seemed.
I was scared of him. And scared isn’t a big enough word, but I’m honestly too lazy to thesaurus right now. He frightened every fiber of my being. Somehow I knew he’d never lay hands on me. I wasn’t worried about that. I didn’t realize the internal wounds could occasionally be worse.

He used to tell me that I was crazy. That I was certifiable. That they would put me in a straight jacket in the padded cell and that was where I belonged. He told me no judge in his right mind would give the girls to me. I had nothing and I was crazy. He told me that he would take the girls and I would never see them again.
I would have done and would still do anything for my girls. So I stayed with this man.
He read my journals. He read my email.
He even tried to sabotage my friendships…he had to do that carefully because he didn’t want to show his true colors. I was lucky that most of my friendships were strong enough to withstand his tricks.

I was trapped in a hell I helped create.
Every single day of my life I was scared.
Every single day of my life I was anxious.
Every single day of my life I was angry.
I was miserable. My girls were miserable. I was failing at being a mother. I was failing at being a person.
I was the frog in the pot of water suddenly aware that I was boiling!

This was the defining moment.
Would I die in that pot of boiling water?
No! I would save my own life!

The chronic stress was literally killing me. I was dying. I had to do something to preserve my own life.
I told him that I was done. I told him that I was empty and dead inside. I told him that I had nothing left to give. I told him I was leaving because I knew he would never leave.
When I finally left, he acted as though he was surprised. As though I’d never expressed any of my concerns. I didn’t even argue. I just walked away.
That’s when he turned on my girls. He manipulated them. He used them as weapons to hurt me.
That’s the only thing I regret about leaving him…what he did to my babies. You want to hurt me? Come at me directly.
My poor babies had to suffer for me to live.
That doesn’t seem right. But it was how it was.
A dying person is a desperate person.
I had to save my own life.
They’ve moved through that part of their lives. Will they ever heal? I honestly don’t know.
I know the only one who came out unscathed was their father. He has no clue what he’s done…or he doesn’t care. How’s that for crazy?

I was told by friends and family that I was strong. That I was brave. I felt neither. I felt as frightened as I’d ever been. I did what I had to do to stay alive.
It was the hardest thing I ever did, saving my own life. I only wish I’d been strong enough to do it sooner. Of course, the frog doesn’t realize what’s happening until the water comes to a boil…

I’m writing about this because of a conversation I had with my friend Nora last night, and a conversation I had with my sister in law today. Nora and I talked of relationships and life and celebs and sports stars we’d like to have our way with. We talked of previous lives and choices we make. We discussed “winning” at divorce. (When your life is better than it was before AND better than your ex’s current life.) We talked about being mothers. We ate pasta and drank a goodly bit of wine. We were “just girls” together, but we talked of important topics.
She’s actually the one who verbalized the frog in water analogy.

This afternoon I had a distressing conversation with my sister in law about her relationship with her children’s father. Apparently their state of chronic stress has escalated to acute and he’s announced he’s leaving. Knowing him as long as I have, I think he’s having a bit of a temper tantrum and it will blow over and they’ll go back to their life of chronic stress.
It is killing my sister in law. Now, there is a fairly decent amount of her stress that has little or nothing to do with him. She has some of her own shit to sort.
I told I knew what she was capable of. I suggested she tap into that deeply rooted power and make a better life for herself.
She expressed her fear.
Fear can ride shotgun, get it out of the driver’s seat. Fear will never drive me again. But it sure as hell likes to go along for the ride. I was scared half to death to make that huge change. Especially considering what impact it had on my children.
She’s not ready to do that hard work. She will eventually have to decide to save her own life or she will die.

I can’t run other people’s lives.
Some days I can barely run my own life. Seems that way lately.
I have stress in my life. But it’s acute stress. It causes an immediate reaction. And though my flight instinct is the strongest, I’m learning to fight. Fight the good fight. Fight for what’s right.

I fought the good fight by flying all those years ago. The fight to save my life. Because I tell you, I was dying. Not metaphorically dying. Actually. Physically. Emotionally. I was actively dying.
I learned the most important lesson about myself by saving my own life.
I learned that I can do anything.

Categories: divorce, loss, me, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

why am I always surprised?

I’m always surprised. You’d think after 26 years I would have figured it out…but no, every single time, I’m surprised.

My former husband called me Friday and said: happy Easter. (Aww, that was kind…did I mention I should have known better than to think is was sincere?)
After a brief time of catching up, he asks if I know what Thing 1 did.
Uh…no.
Well it seems she went to the emergency room and the bill showed up at his house as that’s the one listed on her driver’s license. So he wants to know what I’m going to do about the bill.
Pardon?

I suggest we have a mini discussion about it with Thing 1, see if we can come up with a plan all together. (I mean if she’s off shacked up with this guy, why are we still financially responsible for her?)

Then he begins to talk about Thing 2 and how bad her anxiety has become.
I suggest he take her to the doctor. He has no idea what that means…no idea where to start. I suggest he take her to the family practitioner and go from there…and when he hems and haws I remind him that he’s the parent and he has to be responsible for her. Which kind of turns into a bigger discussion than he’s interested in so he hustles off the phone but not before he says he’ll call me back. (He doesn’t.)

Saturday morning I get a call from Thing 1, guns a’ blazing. She’s all bent because, “Daddy told me you said send the bill to me. How am I supposed to pay it?”
Whoa there sister.
I do a little damage control and move on.

I call her father (who conveniently doesn’t answer) and leave a message.
When he finally calls me back, I’m like, what’s your deal?
He says: Well I was mad at you so I called Thing 1. (You stupid, passive aggressive, manipulative jackass!)
I stop him right there and say, “You have got to get it together! Be a grown up, be a man! If you are angry with me, you talk to ME! Not our children! You’re up my ass about money but can’t be bothered to discuss what’s going on with Thing 2. You’ve made a huge mess down there and you are going to have to clean it up.”
He is quiet, then he makes excuses, then he apologizes. (The apology is meaningless, he just says it out of habit, to end the conversation.)

I honestly don’t understand. Any of it really. Starting with the fact I thought he was a grown up all those long years ago and ending with how I continue to ask myself, why did I choose to remain blind for so long?

I made a promise to remain hands off in the fall when he and Thing 2 decided she didn’t need a mommy in her life.
I made that promise to myself. I vowed not to clean up whatever mess they made. It has made for some harrowing moments for me…but I am sticking to it.
The problem is they’ve made a bigger mess than I could have ever imagined. Thing 2 will suffer for it, but she is choosing to…
He has no idea how to be a parent other than to provide food and shelter…that’s all he’s ever done.
The thing that frustrates me the most is the fact he won’t admit he’s cocked it up. He would rather let it all burn than admit he’s made a mess and try and figure out how to clean it up…or ask for help cleaning it up.

He called me under the guise of happy Easter, my beloved Easter. And I was surprised when it went down the rabbit hole. (Shame on me.)
When will I stop being surprised? Why do I continue to give the benefit of the doubt?

I am so much better off away from that toxicity.
I’ve thrown my baby a life raft, she’s choosing not to take it.
It’s time to sink or swim.
My friend and mentor has told me I built her foundation and she’ll be successful in spite of all this…I trust that.

I’m so disappointed in myself for believing so long that he is something he’s not…I believed the facade I helped create.

Categories: divorce, me, on being a mom | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

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