Releasing the past in order to find myself

Friday, July 6, 2012

NM's Reward for her Long Suffering

Reading through the blogs, so many repressed memories have come back, slamming me in the face.  So many things that I've just set aside and moved past.  Buried way back inside my head and heart.  But a few days ago, I read lifesizevision's post about discovering his mother's affair, and so many things came back to me.

I really hadn't thought about my mother's affair in a long time.  It had been so totally eclipsed by so many other hurts, abuses, and layers of pain, that it had faded into the background.  In reading lifesizevision's post I  was reminded about how much it had hurt me at the time.  How betrayed I felt.  And I struggled with why I had dismissed this offense and now, hardly even thought about it.

Mom and I had gone to pick up my little sister from a school function.  It was dark, the rain poured down, and my sister was expected at any minute.  And mom dropped the bomb shell.  The next day, my dad would be looking for an apartment.  He'd be moving out.  They were divorcing.  She didn't even have the decency to tell me this face to face, in a place I could process it.  She ambushed me, knowing NSis would be arriving shortly.  Knowing that I'd never let on, as I wouldn't want to upset her.  She offered no explanation, no excuses, no reasons.  Offered me no comfort.

I remember being devasted and scared and confused.  I sat in my room for a long time, probably a month.  I took my Dad's old T.V. from his room.  I came out of my room only to shower and eat dinner.  I remember my Dad checking on me once.  I remember, that for the most part, they left me alone.  No one came for me. I remember Dad falling apart.  My stoic, unemotional, detached dad came apart at the seams.  This terrified me.  But where was my mother?  Absent, gone....

I don't remember how I found out about the affair.  I have some vague recollection that it was my father who told me.  It's shocking to me how much I've blocked out.  Like some war veteran who only has flashbacks.   He was a man my mother worked with.  It had been going on a long time.  There were lots of secrets.  My mother wouldn't answer any questions about what had happened.  We were "children" and didn't need to know what went on, too young to be exposed to that.  Ha.  The irony must have been lost on her that we "children" had already been exposed to it and that she had expected us to grow up and deal with it like adults as we took care of ourselves because she was out cavorting around.

My sister read my dad's journal at some point and told me much later that mom had gone back and forth between this new man and my dad.  Played them against each other.  I always wondered what she had told the new man (now EStep-father, ESF).  I believe she lied and told him it was all over.  When his own daughter had an affair, and married the "new man", ESF disliked this new man greatly.  I wondered how he reconciled that with his own behavior, or how much mom had lied to him to convince him he wasn't that man.

It was another surprise attack when mom introduced us to her new man.  She often left us on the weekends to go be with him and his family.  She never took us along, because it was too early.  So she left us, two broken, damaged teenagers to our own devices for the whole weekend.  She never thought about how much this would hurt us.  How abandoned we felt.  How it was clear she was choosing this "new family" over her own.  She was having a grand old time while we drowned in the mess she left.  I played mom to my little sister.  I fed her, watched her, got her out of trouble.  And my sister was a trainwreck at 14.  Drinking, sneaking out of the house, sleeping with boys, throwing parties at my house.  Problems that would be difficult for an adult to deal with.  But they were my problems now.

So, one day mom pranced into the TV room with new man and new man's kids.  They'd had a delightful weekend.  She gave us no warning.  We were laying around when they walked in.  I remember feeling embarrassed that she had introduced us while we were just relaxing.  She acted like a teenage girl with a crush.  All giddy and smiley and happy.  And she expected us to be too.

We had many arguments about new man.  She argued that I was a selfish, horrible brat.  That I had no right to be angry with him or not like him.  That I OWED HER to be nice to him, accept him as my family, be respectful.  I was not allowed to be angry, or hurt, or upset.  I wan't allowed to have any feelings about the situation that weren't positive.  She reasoned that she had put up with years of abuse from my father and that it was her turn to be happy now.  She had found her "soul mate".  She was finally happy and putting herself first.  And how dare I suggest that she didn't deserve this.  How dare I try to deny her this happiness.  She railed against me for my betrayal of her by not being happy about it.  I see the absurdity now.  She had destroyed my family, betrayed me, my father, and my sister, forced a new man into my life, and I was expected to be HAPPY ABOUT THE WHOLE FUCKING THING.  She never once admitted any wrong doing.  She never once apologized.  What did she have to be sorry about, she reasoned?  She'd done nothing wrong except finally put herself first.  She couldn't even separate out that while her commitment to my father and her betrayal of that was enough, that she had also made a commitment to us, as her kids.  That by abandoning us when we needed her most, selling us out for her new found happiness, abandoning all of her responsibilities as a mother was even more of a betrayal.

When she married the new man, we also were expected to smile, be happy, not rain on her parade.  How dare we have any negative emotions.  This is what made her happy.  She even bullied us into singing her and new husband's wedding song.  It made my stomach hurt.  Torture.  Abuse.  Horrific memories.  She and new hubby had a secret number that they used to use to sign all of their cards.  Some secret code number.  I know, even though she refused to tell me what it signified, that this was the hotel number of the room they would meet up in.  For years, they signed all of their cards with that number.  For years, she would get us rooms at this hotel when we stayed in town.  And I remember vividly how prominently it was displayed on her wedding cake.  I remember thinking at the time how stupid she must've thought me to be.  I remember thinking what a HUGE SLAP IN THE FACE it was.  How I choked on that damn cake.  How I wish now that she had choked on that damn cake.   What a horrible wretch of a person.  Who does that to her kids?  Who betrays them and then demands that they be happy about it?  Accuses them of disloyalty and feigns hurt if the kids dare to have some negative emotions about it?  Who places the blame on her kids for not doing everything they can to make her new marriage and family work out?  Who denies their kids any right to their feelings or reactions?  My fucked up mother, that's who.

Years later, as we continued to fight about it all, she would claim she did it all for me.  She would through it in my face that I was just angry about the divorce if I even disagreed with her.  Like it was some flaw on my part.  And yes, I was angry about it all still.  I'd never been allowed to process any of it.  Never been to therapy (mom would never have taken ME to therapy, what was there to need therapy about, this was a GOOD thing).  The fallout from this one event still rained down around me.  I was being forced to go back to the "way things were", not that they were that way to begin with.  She had no idea how badly she had betrayed my trust, destroyed any notions of what I thought our relationship was, destroyed our relationship period.  She just expected me to move on and get on with things.  And so, if I dared get angry with her, I could have no valid reason, other than the divorce, which I actually had no valid reason to be angry about either.  And then, in one fight, she blamed it on me.  My dad was a horrible man, she claimed.  Angry, no job at the time (he'd been laid off and was going back to college, and was working).  She wanted a "better" life for me and my sister.  New hubby would offer security (monetary).  I was in shock to think that she thought she could just trade out one man for a new man as my father like it was a new pair of shoes.  That she thought I could just disconnect and except the substitute and move on.  That, when backed into a corner, she'd somehow placed all the blame on me.


  1. My mother didn't explicitly say that me or my sister were to blame for her affair. In fact, she almost underhandedly that she didn't even really choose the affair because "love was everywhere" and oops, she just fell into a relationship with another married person. Your mother blaming you, my mother blaming happenstance. Both equally unjust. Vomit-inducing.

    I can't remember what it was like in the house from the time I found out about the affiar, until my mother "confronted" me and the few months following that. Soon though, everything was "back to normal" just as she wanted it.

    Something very telling you said: "Drinking, sneaking out of the house, sleeping with boys, throwing parties at my house." You used the phrase "MY HOUSE". You really did take ownership of the house and of the role your mother forcibly put you in. I also wonder if you knew you wrote that, if it was done intentionally, or if you were just writing and it slipped out. Do you still feel like a parent to your sister?

    1. "Both equally unjust" Yes, because neither could accept responsibility for their actions. And somehow dismissing that it was wrong at all.

      Isn't it weird how your mind just seems to pack those memories away? I've said before that my memory is impeccable, but all of that time is just one big blur. I can't even really remember what happened. Big, really horrible moments stick out, but the rest is gone. But it never went "back to normal".

      I did not write "my house" intentionally. It's funny, I remember having a mind glitch and re-looking at that word. But I hadn't thought about what it really meant until you pointed it out. Yes, it was MY house at the time. She was hardly there. I cleaned, I watched my sister, I sent the cops away and lied when they showed up. My mother put me in the role of "assistant parent" at a very early age. I was expected to tiptoe around my sister and baby her, as she had a volatile temper and my mother didn't like her unhappy. I was expected to watch out for her always and my mother had her attached to me. We dressed alike, were enrolled in the same classes (of which their were few) and got the same toys for holidays and birthdays, just in different colors. After school and weekends, she was MY responsibility. And I was held to high standards. NSis was a very stubborn, difficult child who often flew into rages and terrified me. She was difficult for my parents to control, but she expected me too. And I was punished if I couldn't and we "didn't get along." She would punish me for 'fighting' which usually meant my sister attacking me physically. When mom and dad divorced, I got upgraded from assistant parent to co-parent. She didn't have my dad to lean on so she inundated me with everything. All the horrible things my sister did and that had happened to her. She called for advice. She called to vent. She called to release on me. She raged against my dad for not "helping" (meaning he wouldn't do it her way.). She always steal expected me to put up with horrible abuse from her (physical violence, destroying and stealing my things, raging against me.) My first years of college were not about me at all, but helping mom deal with Nsis's baggage. Things continued to get worse for NSis. We hadn't talked a lot while we were in college (mother's triangulation tactics) but after college, we were able to see past a lot of that. So, then I had mom calling me about sister and NSis leaning on me in a way that she couldn't on my mother. My mom has always treated NSis like she needed rescuing and was incapable of taking care of herself. Consequently, NSis has absolutely no self confidence. So, she came to me to offer some "alternative" (read: healthy) support. At some point, it became too much for me. NSis's life was a train wreck of high levels of abuse, alcohol, drugs, and chaos. It was killing me. Lots of panic attacks and anxiety. I finally had to step down to save myself. It was one of my first steps at detaching. I could be there for my sister and I still try to offer support when I can, but I had to detach emotionally. To see her, like through glass (if that makes sense). And when I had my own kids, I knew that I couldn't parent them well, and take care of her. So I backed off even more. So, to answer your question with a very long answer, yes, at times I do still feel like a parent. I offer support when I can, a more "rational" unbiased opinion. But I'm detached and distant. And we definitely have never had a sister to sister relationship. It's always been more of adult and child.

    2. Sounds a bit like your mother wanted you to be her best friend/emotional confidant when it came to your sister. With all that venting to you and calling for advice, you became your mother's mother of sorts too, along with the other roles I just said. While my mother never called and asked for advice, I did become my sister's older male role model (i.e. her "father") and my mother's emotional spouse since my sister's father was completely dead inside too. I know nothing of his upbringing though, so I can't speak to why he was the way he was. My guess is: dysfunction that was never really dealt with. Anyway, emotional spouse, that's what I was. Not sure if that same role change can happen in a mother-daughter relationship, perhaps it's more of a best friend type change. My mother wanted to be friends with me too though, and all my friends, and my girlfriends through the years. I took away her youth you see, and she wanted to live vicariously through me. So she tried to be my friend. "I'm the cool mom" she'd proclaim, "I'm not only his mother, I'm his friend!". Wrong role you fool.

    3. She loved to tell me that I was like her own personal "therapist" when I was in college. I took it as a compliment then, as I was studying psychology. Now, it seems sick and wrong. And besides, you wouldn't LIE to your real therapist the way she did (does) me.
      My mom liked to hang out with me and my friends, but she always just sat back and "observed". It was always uncomfortable for me, because I knew she was just sitting there forming all her little judgements. But she always let me know she was THE mom, a title that held her in esteem far above me. I was her subject.
      But she's always used me as her sounding board. She loves to call EStepfather her "soul mate" but she can hardly talk to him about anything. They only communicate about real issues in pressure-built fits...of which she is "so proud" for standing up for herself. And she loves to criticize me and DH for discussing things too much. But it's never been a "best friend" relationship, as she's always maintained her air of superiority. More like personal assistant. That's what I'd describe it as.

    4. "And she loves to criticize me and DH for discussing things too much."

      Yeah, she's surely jealous of you and DH being able to discuss things.--quartz

  2. "She had no idea how badly she had betrayed my trust, destroyed any notions of what I thought our relationship was, destroyed our relationship period."

    Sure she knew, but did she care?

    It's painful when the memories come back but eventually it's liberating. Once you internalize that your NM truly doesn't care about anyone but herself, you'll realize you owe her absolutely nothing and you'll be free!

    1. Thanks for your thoughts. It is a long, painful process. I do think NM cares about me...the problem is she cares about me in order to maintain her narc supply. And finding out how to separate that out and come to grips with the fact that that really isn't care, has been hard for me.

      Did she care about our relationship dissolving? Yes, again, because she wanted her cake and to eat it too. She wanted the "happy" family in her mind. I played so many roles in her life, she didn't want to lose me. But it was all for HER needs, not every about how I felt. And also, if she acknowledged that she might have betrayed me, she would've had to admit guilt or that she'd maybe done something wrong. She never ever will, nor has she ever suggested she feels she did anything wrong. All the blame falls on me for moving away from HER.

    2. Right - she cares insofar as "how much can I use jessie and for how long"

  3. My NPs care about me like they care about an object. They don't see me as a human being with feelings, thoughts or needs of my own. In other words, they don't care!

    I understand now that their inability to love me is a reflection of THEIR dysfunction. Others have no problem loving and supporting me unconditionally.

    Any responsibility I felt toward them has been fulfilled many times over. Took me a while to get over a lifetime of conditioning but I simply don't care anymore.

  4. Man, I'm sorry. The selfishness is just mind-blowing. So she "finally put herself first," huh? Because she was SO unselfish before that, palming off her parental responsibilities on her kid, etc.

    1. I know, right? I couldn't believe that it wouldn't occur to her that this made me feel like a piece of crap. Worthless and undeserving of her attention. Like, her job was done, and what was I complaining about. And that she couldn't somehow be happy AND be my mom. I think that's what hurt the most. To be blamed for her sad, unhappy, pathetic life.

    2. Yeah, she "finally put herself first" and then tried to claim it was all for your benefit and how dare you not be ecstatic about it!

      Gosh, she and your father, neither of them helped you guys through that! --quartz

    3. Yeah, she blames you for feeling distressed about her crappy behavior! You're not supposed to feel that way as long as she is happy!

      I remember my mom calling us kids (preschool) into the living room and condescendingly instructing us not to be afraid of our father, because his bark was worse than his bite.

      I felt dismayed that our mother saw that we were afraid, and wasn't going to do anything about it, and we were going to be left alone with the problem that now had the added distress of feeling guilty for being afraid, and having to deal with her disapproval of us being afraid.

      I felt an awful emptiness in the pit of my stomach when she told us that, and I didn't dare say, "but we ARE afraid," because that would be wrong, because she had just told us not to be. --quartz

  5. They DEMAND nothing less than absolute veracity from us while they are living lives of deceit, selfishness and off-loading all their shit on us. Long before the days of ED commercials, back when I was about 8 Psychobitch confided in me that Dad was impotent. I had no CLUE what that meant and it was a tough word for a kid to look up. Eventually between the dictionary and the Merck Manuel I kind of figured it out. I remember slamming those books shut (they were balanced on my knees) and putting my face in my hands-I just didn't want to KNOW about this stuff. While it's not an affair it certainly is an example of her attempt to cultivate an emotionally incestuous relationship with her child. And I'm suppose to support her bitching about Dad's "performance" when he worked like a dog to support her "lifestyle" to which she felt entitled?!
    They live a sick "movie" in their heads and expect us to go along with the script when we never even received a copy. But we're "The Fixers" in their lives, expected to just dutifully take over the parental role-or ANY role they deem necessary while they damn well do what they pleased.
    I'm so sorry Jessie. I know what you mean about reading something and a memory long buried pops up. It's like an archeological dig with some "unexpected" finds. I was also the bane of Psychobitch's existence-when I wasn't "useful" for some agenda she had already planned and executed. She "executed" a chid, a kid in service of HER selfishness, willfulness and need for chronic drama.
    No, I'm not at all concerned with "forgiveness." I AM concerned with reality and calling it as it WAS, not as it WAS "Presented."

    1. Nm often expected, demanded, MY forgiveness. To just get over it already. But her forgiveness also meant like it never happened. I don't know if I've necessarily forgiven her, sometimes I think that word has fuzzy meaning. But I no longer harbor...well, I don't know what would be the word. I'm angry but not vengeful, still somewhat resentful but not deluded into thinking things will change or that it will ever be made up for. I've put down my ideas that it will she will ever extend herself to make reparations. I've given it all up to make room for something else in my life.
      Thank you for your support. I appreciate your thoughts and taking the time to offer your words.

  6. Do you have relatives in Dallas? Like your mother's sister?
    The thing I hated about my mother was that she dropped the facade when there was no one around but me. So I was inadvertently clued in on the magnitude of her lies to them all.
    The lies she told my father. The lies she told her main boyfriend. And the lies she used to keep her stable of lessor affair partners rotating in orbit around her.
    She even coached me to lie to my father. She would call a guys home to see who answered and after she heard who picked up she would shove the phone at me and have me ask for some one and then tell them sorry I guess I called the wrong number.
    Like TW. I didn't need or want to know anything about any of it.
    I wouldn't want to be involved with that kind of sleaze today.
    I am no prude but I would stop long before enlisting a child to help me grease the skids of all my illicit affairs.
    Other than my father and my soon to be step, I don't think there was a single guy around that wanted her for anything but sex.
    Excuse me. I am going to take a shower with a wire brush and an abrasive cleanser.

  7. Ouch, Q! Your last line brought back a charming memory of my NM. One year when my sunburn peeled she scrubbed the flaking skin off with steel wool and household cleanser.

    Why? She said I lied about washing myself properly because the patchy burn looked dirty!

    Please promise you'll just wash your mouth out with soap! But wait, my NM never did that! She just forced me to drink cod liver oil when I "lied".

    1. OK, my mouth dropped open (even more than usual while reading everyone's accounts of these things) and her scrubbing your sunburn that way comes across as deliberately sadistic. --quartz

  8. Mulderfan. You parents are still alive right? But like in their 90's?
    If she ends up on oxygen I would go over with a bottle of that oil and make her take some.
    She would fight it, but you could pinch the tube shut and when she finally had to open up to breath I would have a nice gravy ladle of it waiting.

  9. Yep, Q! NM is 90 and NF is 93 next month. Both pickled in their own special brand of hate juice.

    Your idea is really tempting but the NGC has let it be known, via my cousin, that he will not be letting me know when the end draws near. Aw, gee...promise?

    My daughter HAS promised that if I show the slightest hint of turning into a nasty old bugger, she'll put a bullet between my eyes!

  10. (If either of 'em ended up on O2 I'd find a smoker......preferably someone who had access to turn-out gear......and could run fast-that's an oxymoron, no?!)

    1. Well TW,the NGC smokes weed like a chimney, so without some oxy, I doubt the moron can run!

      My NPs give a whole new meaning to the old saying, "Only the good die young." I fully expect them to outlive all of their children, including me. My older brother is already dead and the NGC's addictions are in their final stages...kidneys and liver shutting down, seizures, blackouts and screaming paranoia!

      As long as my NFOO continues to stay the hell out of my life, they can all do as they bloody well please!

  11. Oh, TW, I figured Q was showing great restraint by not coming up with that, but then you couldn't resist! How many of us had that as our first thought?--quartz

  12. I guess all Narcs are the same. This "you owe it to your family and me to be happy all the time" thing is all too familiar. You don't have the right to feel. You don't have the right to be yourself. And it is not enough to smile, or to be nice to all the people she wants you to, you have to be GENUINELY HAPPY.

    And to sing for their wedding... how disgusting and painful must it have been...

    Like in George Orwell's 1984 where you have to honestly love Big Brother.

    And to blame all your unhappiness, abandonment and torture on you. Bah. It is never their fault.

    Keep in mind, there is nothing wrong with you!! It is only their gaslighting and emotional blackmail, and other nasty narc tactics. And it is your right to feel hurt about it.

    1. Thanks Scatha, I've actually come a long way in not feeling I am in the wrong. I just couldn't fight the feeling that I SHOULD be allowed to be upset by my parent's divorce. But it was like she was continually trying to sedate me with her B.S. and I had to keep shaking it off. And, luckily, I'd moved past a lot of that before I even found out about narcissism.
      What I couldn't get was how she thought I could just conjure up feelings of genuine happiness. How the hell was I supposed to do that? I guess it speaks to her pathology that she thinks you can just "will" feelings to be or not be.

    2. She probably expects others to just "will" feelings to be or not be (according to her wishes, of course), but would never expect it of herself, and would probably be enraged if anyone else were to expect it of her. --quartz