Releasing the past in order to find myself

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Therapy Questions

So, I met with the therapist today.  I felt positive coming out the appointment.  I had been feeling anxious and overwhelmed about it.  I still left feeling overwhelmed, but I felt less anxious. 

I'm trying to decide if she is a good fit.  I felt she listened well.  I felt she was empathetic.  I felt validated by her.  I didn't feel patronized or like she was pandering to me.  She both let me lead, and led the conversation herself. 

For those of you who've been to a therapist, here are some questions for you:

How much is appropriate for a therapist to share about herself in the first meeting?  She discussed some of her training, her journey into therapy, and the models of treatment she uses.  I did ask her several questions that prompted some of what she said.  Some of it was spontaneous (like she explained to me that she was feeling jittery, excited, this morning due to just picking up a new truck with her husband and that she wanted to take a moment to settle and calm herself.  She took a deep breathe and did settle.  And for the record, I didn't find her to be jittery.  I would imagine new therapy is difficult for the therapist too?)

She also revealed that her son is a narcissist.  While I didn't consider this a red flag, it made me suck in my breathe.  For me, narcissists are begotten by narcissists.  She spoke little of her son's father, as she seemed to be a single mother who struggled both with her own past FOO issues (some of which she briefly touched on) and financial issues.    So, as the primary caretaker, I wondered if she felt she had an responsibility in "creating" a narcissist.  I used the word culpability.  She said that she did feel she had some responsibility.  She discussed that her father was a perfectionist and verbal abuser, who passed these traits onto her.  She said that when she began to realize the effects she was having on her child, she immediately went into therapy.  (And from there, began a college career in social work and counseling.)  She also said that her son's narcissistic (and more anti-social, if you ask me) began to crop up early, around 4. 

I felt her responses were appropriate regarding her son.  I felt she actually had worked to try and help him (she spoke of the many models of treatment they tried to help him.  He was a thief and had many legal issues).  Do you all think that a woman who has a narcissist for a son will be of help in my therapy?  Or do you think that she will be unable to understand my position?

I felt some of her observations of me were spot on, her ideas for treatments seemed appropriate and tailored to what I need (decrease of anxiety, ability to manage my emotions better, and to be able to stand up for myself, live authentically, and decrease the "shoulds" I put on myself. )

Any thoughts?  Any things you would consider important to a therapist?  I actually see many similarities between my story and that of this therapist, which I think is both a good and a bad thing.  I don't know,  I guess my head is just swirling a lot. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Changes with NM

So.  NM.  Was it better.  No, not particularly.   Did she get to me?  No, not particularly.

I'm getting to the point where I've pretty much emotionally detached from her.  I don't feel this aching need for her to get me or understand me or validate me.  I'm unwilling to accept any sort of "love" or "caring" from her, as I know it isn't real (or is fleeting).  She doesn't work me up (as much) emotionally.  Sure, she's still annoying as hell, but I'm don't get overworked and over raw around her.  I've learned to LEAVE the scene when I can't take anymore (I disappeared for chunks of time over the weekend.  She only came "looking" for me once.   I did not allow her to amp up the drama.)

It's interesting watching her from a much more distance, unemotional place.  She is. such. a. child.   It's amazing to me the many ways this woman can bring things back to herself.  I mention I'm not thrilled with my son's kindergarten teacher.  "OH!  Not like YOUR kindergarten teacher, huh!"  She seems to take personal responsibility for my teacher, like she GIFTED the woman to me.  She also did this with when I mentioned my sons doctors and how I was switching.  She completely MISSED the points I was trying to make and never asked WHY I was switching or felt uneasy with the teacher.   In the past, this would've made me feel invalidated and angry.  But this time, shrug.  I told her that I had little memory of either of these people, which annoyed her. 

Every conversation turns around to what she would do, how she did it, or what it was like when I was a kid (because, apparently, I can't remember how SHE did things as a mom).  Everything is said in a way that clues me in that she believes she's giving advice.  Propping herself up.  Patting herself on the back.  I rarely begin conversations at all because she doesn't listen and will tune into her phone or the kids.  This used to annoy me too, but now I just say "Are you listening?"  When she nods and "ummm hummm" I say "no you're not".   Then, I stop the conversation.  Even if she tells me to continue.  Nope, you had your chance.  It gets tiring listening to her was poetic about herself, disguising it as conversation. 

She also demands TONS of attention.  She gets pissy and complains if the kids spend too much time with her husband.  But then she gets pissy and complains when OS takes up "too much" of her attention.  Or puts demands on her.  Once, when the kids and I asked her to come outside and look at something, she purposely procrastinated.  In the past, I would've fumed.  This time, when OS complained that she wasn't coming, I said "Do you know the kids are waitng for you?" and then to my son "I guess she's not interested."  She likes to be asked to do things and then to stall.  I'll have to remember this in the future.  She keeps bringing up people no one cares about and making huge announcements about what is going on (her coworker's daughter was getting married and NM was very involved in the drama, texting for updates and then expecting our rapt attention as she discussed it.)  She kept bring up the same trivial bullshit over and over (SD!  I'm so worried about the weather and we may not be able to camp out next weekend.  She brought this up every day and stressed over the weather report.  She made us go shopping for camping equipment.  It would really be comical how she demands so much attention if it wasn't so annoying).

She's also profoundly negative.  How she describes things, even when not intending to be a bitch, comes out pissy.  For example, DH and stepdad were going to go somewhere and NM asked "Or will OS throw a fit because he can't go."  It's the "throw a fit" part that gets me.  It's an awful negative characterization by my standards.   When we were leaving for OS's game, she came up and started nagging Stepdad (SD) , saying "Do you still have to brush your teeth?!?  Well you better get going!!! We are leaving soon!!"  Then she stood there patting herself on the back (out loud) for "taking the reins".  She went on and on about how she had to lord over stepdad and keep him on track (which is untrue.  SD is very considerate and (mostly) thoughtful (he has been known to pout) and always is ready on time.  The whole situation was very emasculating for SD, in my opinion, and NM would not let it go.  She gets this gleeful expression when she does stuff like this and thinks she's being 'strong" and "in charge" and hides it behind the fact that "he's being rude and inconsiderate of Jessie and DH".  Lots and lots of shaming go on around her.  I've learned to ignore her when she does this or walk away.  Before she'd try and haul me into participating, but I ignore it.   Interestingly, since I've begun to stand up to NM, my relationship with SD has improved.  His much kinder, no longer snarks at me, and seems considerate and interested in me.  (Side note, my father and I's relationship has also improved once I removed myself from all of the drama with my sister.)  I assumed SD would attack me for taking on NM, but he seems to be grateful for it. 

I also notice that NM requires CONSTANT validation.  She forces people to agree with what she says.  For example "I also do such and such, don't I SD, don't I!"  It's not a question.  Poor SD always just nods.  It's like watching her use him as a mirror in real time.  She says something and then forces "the mirror" to reflect it back by agreeing with her.  I quit doing this too.  I either ignore her questions, or give a contrary opinion.  Not to piss her off, but because that's how I feel. 

She also is quite contradictory, speaking out of both sides of her ass.   In the midst of a conversation she said that she "likes having my kids grown and gone.  I like my life and having it to myself. I don't want to go back to parenting and take care of kids all of the time."  And then two seconds later she talked about how she would drop everything to care for her grandsons all of the time. 

After the soccer game, NM knew I was upset.  I decided to let her see how I was feeling.  (I know TW, don't kill me.)  I had no expectations of validation, gave no information that would make me vulnerable, but (factually) explained what bothers me and express the appropriate emotions with it.    I'm sick and tired of either hiding my emotions or pretending it's OK.   I know that this opens NM up with information, but I don't care.  She already had the information and could clearly see what was going on.  I expressed how ANGRY I was with MIL at the game.   I didn't allow NM to comfort me (I pushed off all hugs she tried to give me.  Fuck that.  And some hug from NM wasn't going to wipe away my emotions.  I actually think showing her my emotions bothers her.  Another reason I don't mind not hiding them from her.)

The first incident the following day came when she brought up a family reunion she wants to plan with her FOO.  This FOO of is VERY dysfunctional, not close and has rarely gotten together.  Plus, NM wants NSIS to be there.  She asked what I thought, all bubbly and excited.  I said "good luck with that.  Your family doesn't seem to be the "family reunion" type."  (Plus, she's already told me that they were struggling to agree on doing it.  No one wanted to take it on....because no one really wants to do it.  I'm sure they think it sounds as uncomfortable and fraught with tension as I do.)  This pissed NM off and she started arguing that my perceptions were wrong.  Well, so be it.  Then, she went on and on about the plans for it.  I ignored it and finally turned my back.  (I was making cupcakes at the time, and one batch came out completely wonky.  The first ones were good, but the last few I'd completely messed up.  I told DH you could see the evolution of the conversation in those cupcakes.)  This pissed her off more and she bustled outside to make a phone call.  I'm guessing to NSIS (who the fuck else would she call.  She has no friends and has no one she needed to call. )  She never said who she was talking to, but was out there for an half an hour (she also used to do this, calling me when frustrated while visiting NSIS, so it's a habit for her).   I'll admit, it pissed me off.  She also used to have a habit of calling NSIS the second BEFORE she would walk into my home to visit.  She would spend the first ten minutes of a visit with us describing me, my house, and everything to my sister before she would even greet me.  I hated this.  And you can't call her on it.  She just says "aren't I allowed "me" time?!"  When the kids complain she's on her phone instead of playing she says she's "tired".  I told her last time that she always says how much she doesn't get to spend time with the kids, that it seems a shame to waste time she IS with the kids on her phone. 

The next day, she cornered me as we all prepared to go out for a walk.  She does this often to force "alone time" on me.  She calls it "mother - daughter" time when my son asks where we were (almost implying my son is being obnoxious for asking it, like he's annoyed that I got NM's attention.  Which maybe he is, he's six and likes to be played with.  But she reacts as if he's doing something selfish and uncaring. Just another example of how she her reactions are skewed in a negative way that makes the other person feel shamed.)

She kept flitting around from topic to topic.  First asking about my grandmother who is dying.  I've avoided the topic in the past, but I know she knows now.  I gave her the information I have: she's dying, I don't know when, I don't know of what type of cancer, and I don't know how she is (this is a whole other story).  NM starts in on what my she told my sister to do.  Starts pestering me about questions about my dad.  I close off.  She flits to another topic: my dad.  Asks if he came to visit this year.  I say no.  She starts to give an opinion on my father, how he should take time off, how he should visit my sister (even though she visited him instead, the first time in SEVEN years.  But of course he is expected to dance around my sister too), blah, blah.  I've been down that road.  I say "yes, I wish he visited more.  But it's his loss and I can't force him to do more than he does."  I show no emotion, I state the facts, and then I quit responding.

She says some more crap.  Then she brings up her father, an alcoholic, asshole of a man who has is spoiled and has always expected his own way.  He was a horrible father and a piss poor grandfather (he wasn't mean to us, but could care less.  He's done some kind things for me in the past, but he's not, by any stretch, a good grandfather.  I have few feelings towards him except mild kindness and duty. Note: not obligation, but duty.)  She says that he brought up that he felt like a horrible dad.  NM gets up on her soap box again (I really don't know how to explain this.  She takes this odd, mature, superior tone where she acts as if she's schooling all of us.  It's sort of like a lecture.   I suppose with her family, she is imparting wisdom, but for me, it just seems ridiculous. )  She said she told grandfather "we got both good things from you and bad things dad.  It wasn't all bad...." blah, blah.  I appreciate that she's seeing him from a continuum, but I actually feel she's glossing over the bad things.  Like she's "balancing" things out.  I do not believe that good things, balance out bad.  I'm finally able to see that my childhood DID have good things in it, that I took lessons from both my mother and father, that she wasn't awful, all the time.  But I certainly wouldn't level it out and say that it was OK.  And it seemed she was saying this all to seem superior rather than any real understanding of what she was saying.  And I couldn't stop myself.  Matter of factually, I said "but he wasn't a good dad.  You maybe have gotten a good work ethic from him, but he was a horrible father."  She sputtered.  "And he was a piss poor grandfather."  She sputtered again, regrouped and started in on her lecture again about how to "properly view parents in good and bad light" and how my grandfather blames my grandmother for all the "bad" traits in the kids.  I kept all emotion out of my voice and again said "he was not a good grandfather and she was not a good grandmother."  She stopped and then, like a switch, agreed with me.  But not because she got it, but because it gave her a moment to vent about him.   I said "he is a spoiled, selfish man who only focuses on himself. "  And then there she was back to the childish NM, bitching about how awful he is, how horrible he was, how spoiled he is.  It was rather crazy to watch in real time. 

And then DH and SD and the kids came back.  She lost "her moment".  I felt SO DAMN PROUD OF MYSELF.  I dislike these moments of being trapped by her, but at least I am no longer afraid of them.  She can't drag me down.  I didn't respond emotionally and was able to think about things before I responded.  I also didn't allow her to feed me a lot of bullshit.  I spoke my truth.

Also, when I talked to her about MILs behavior at the party (NM FORCES me to drive with her.  She loads all of the party shit in her car before I have a chance, and when I, repeatedly tell her no, she argues.  Last time, I was able to get my way, this time I could care less.)  She told me that all the things I'd told her about MIL (I gave her very factual, concrete examples of her behavior.  In the past, I've fluttered around my feelings and have been unable to say WHY MIL bothers me so much.)  NM said "maybe I shouldn't be so nice to her tomorrow."  (I may have mentioned that NM and MIL like to pretend that they are going to be friends.)  In the car going to the party, she told me how much it bothered her to hear I'm treated like that.  (Which is crap, she's heard it all before.  And while it bothers her and she's said it bothered her before, she still makes 'nicey-nicey' with MIL.)  So, at first, NM goes on attack mode with them.  Purposely trying to be snarky to them.  Then, she tells me at one point MIL was annoying her and going off, so IN ORDER TO TRY AND DEFLECT THAT, NM pulled out her phone and started showing MIL pictures of an accomplishment in which she's being publically recognized (and lord, was I sick of hearing about that).   I thought it so messed up that NM's solution to MILs arrogance and intrusions and selfishness is just to talk about herself.  I guess she fights "fire" with "fire".    MIL, for her part, tolerates NM and politely nods and smiles her phony smile (I wish I could describe it.  It's a smile, but there is a hint of smirk in it, along with panic and anxiety and contempt).   

I find it interesting to watch how NMs reaction to them treating me badly is to talk about how it upsets HER.  But then when she can support me, she doesn't (I did tell MIL she was wrong about the theme of my son's party.  NM told MIL she had been calling it the same thing.  Thanks for the support NM!)  She kept trying to pull me in for a hug, which I resisted.    Her hugs feel like a cheap band aid and method for her to feel like she's doing something.  She said "it's OK to accept a hug."  Um, nope.  It's not, from you NM.  Because that puts me in a vulnerable position.  I can speak my truth, but I will not accept her compassion, as that puts me at risk of being hurt.  She offers no verbal support.  She offers no validation.  She offers lots of "you should just do this".   She clearly has no ability to really support someone.  I'm glad I did it.  I don't worry about retribution.  I didn't feel vulnerable to her.  Will she use this?  Most likely.  But I want her to know that she, NSIS, and everyone else aren't the only ones who are dealing with things and working through life.

Other than that, she pulled a couple messed up things with the kids.  She brings piles of presents.  And she always gives gifts of the "theme" (for example dinosaurs) to the kid who is less interested in that.  (So, for example, she'll give some dinosaur stuff to OS - who is very interested - and more to his brother.  She feels that "it's not fair for OS" to get all of that stuff -like he's "hogging" the interest or something.  Again, assigning negative intentions to harmless behaviors.)  This time, when my boys protested in front of her the unfairness (she also managed not to get right something I very specifically told her was necessary to get a specific toy.  She asks for tons of ideas but always fucks up one or two.  This isn't due to an accident.) I let them.  Before,  I would've stressed out about her thinking my kids are ungrateful.  She's going to think that regardless.  So, I let them say how they felt.  I reminded my kids later that "Grandma struggles with what is fair and doesn't understand that.  I would hope that you would express gratitude, but your feelings are valid and I understand why you would feel that way.  And you are always able to tell me how you feel."  It pisses me off she disguises these little jabs in presents. 

My OS also confronted her for calling him a brat.  He said (to DH and me) "Hey mom.  We were playing and (little brother) wanted something I didn't want to give him.  I heard grandma tell LB that I was being a brat, but she said she called me a (and damn, I can't remember what the word was but it was something that sounded like brat but was less innocuous).  NM immediately argued that she was right.  And then when she knew she'd been caught and I repeatedly told OS that that was NOT OK.  And that Grandma -and everyone -should refrain from calling names.  And that I understood why that would bother him.  Then she tried to tell me that "brat" wasn't a big deal (she and SD come from people that think calling kids "turds" "brats" "spoiled" or "babies" is OK.  MIL and FIL also feel that way.  I know some people feel it's not a big deal, but I DO.)  I immediately told her YES, it is, don't do it again.  I know it sucks -and some people will have judgement- that I allow her around my kids when she says/does this shit.  But I am proud that I've taught my sons to stand up, to confront, to call them on the bullshit and that I will support them in that.  That I will protect them from that as best I can.  (Also, NM is off babysitting duty.  She is rarely allowed alone around my kids.)  I'm trying to do the best I can (DH insists kids have access to their grandparents and that they will resent me for keeping them from their grandparents.  And OS actually really loves NM and likes her to come.   So, I sometimes feel stuck.  Plus, I can't protect them from every narcissist out there, so I hope this teaches them some tools.)  But maybe that's all rationalization and excuses.

So, that's why I called a therapist today.  I'm overwhelmed at talking to someone.  I feel afraid, for some reason.  I worry she will not believe me.  I spoke to her, briefly on the phone today.  When I said that both my mother and MIL are narcissists she, in disbelief said "BOTH of them?!"  I said yup.  She quickly regrouped and said "well, you know, that isn't actually that surprising.  I can see how that happened."  Is that a good sign or a bad sign?  I hyperventilated for an hour after making the appointment, pacing and teary-eyed.  I'm looking forward to having outside perspective, but I'm terrified of being told I'm wrong.  And that it is all me....

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


The weekend ended up being very loaded and I am very exhausted by it all.  NM was OK, or rather, I handled her OK.  I will write more about my interactions with her later.  But I struggled with my MIL.

On Saturday, they showed up at my son's game.  They had been told about it, but hadn't confirmed they were coming, so I figured they weren't.  No suck luck.  MIL bustled immediately next to DH, so close their chairs touched.  She then preceded her "interrogation".  Or at least that's what if felt like to me.  Question after question after question.  "Does DS have a woman teacher? Does he eat hot or cold lunch?  When does he get home?"  "What kind of party is DS having?  What decorations did you buy?  What is he having a cake or cupcakes?  What kind?"  Writing it down doesn't sound so bad, but it was just one question after another.  There was no "conversation" to the conversation.  She would ask a question and DH would answer.  And then another immediate question.  There was no open ended questions in which a conversation could be sparked.  She directed none of the questions at me.  DH believes that she is "just trying to make conversation" and "doesn't know what to say".   Maybe.  Her anxiety is palatable (which is so odd, because she isn't an "anxious" person in general.  DH believes that I make her anxious.  I also believe that my NM makes her anxious. ) 

When the woman walked up, I gave a half-assed wave (and I will admit, she makes my skin crawl.  I wish, with all I'm worth, that I didn't feel so anxious, angry, and irritated around her.  That I could just emotionally disconnect like I've learned to do with my NM.  I'm not sure why this is, but I believe it has something to do with her still having "hooks" in my DH and me feeling like she can still control me through him.)  I don't make more of an effort because I don't want to encourage her.  I am not interested in being her friend or having a relationship.  This bothers DH.  I am willing to tolerate her and be cordial, but I'm not interested in being friendly.  DH sees this as "contributing" to the problem.

But I will point out that MIL didn't say hi to me either.  She gave a general wave to the group.  Several times she asked questions or made comments that really should've been directed at me.  "Wow" she told DH "that's a nice camera you have".  I was holding the camera, the whole family knows that I take all the family photos, and she's seen my camera a DOZEN times or more, which made the "compliment" seem phony and bullshitty.   I will also say I was anxious about my son's game, tired, stressed from NM, and hadn't made conversation with anyone else either.  MIL also proceeded to tell DH who of his brothers were coming to the party the next day.  It annoyed me that none of them had bothered to call DH himself.   It is this sort of thing that makes me feel enmeshed and icky and like all information has to go through MIL.  She has to know EVERYTHING that is going on.  But no one else sees it like that.

Anyway, when we got home, DH and I were discussing it and he said he felt we "both contributed" and "both to blame" and that neither of us tried.  I suppose this is true, but I told him that I had purposely not made any effort to see what happened.   In my analysis of the situation, if I don't approach MIL, if I don't make myself available, then SHE gets all anxious and weird and closes off.  I pointed out that both MIL and BIL expect everyone to come to them.  And if they don't, then they just ignore you.  As MIL and BIL are not shy and are very outgoing people, I can only see this as a self-centered N trait. 

The next day at the party, ALL of my ILs came into the party, greeted the woman I was talking to and walked past me.  Granted, I had my back to them, but seriously.  They know it was me.  When I called "hello" to MIL as she skirted past me, she quickly turned, gave a phony smirk smile and then bustled past me.  I didn't see her again for awhile. 

A bit later, NM approached me and relayed a story in which FIL asked if my son would participate in a particular sport (not ironically, the sport my husband was a "star" in and that everyone associates DH with.  I am not fond of this sport for a number of reasons.   Some of which is that meets take all day and that you often spend most of your weekend at them, as opposed to say baseball where you spend a couple of hours one day.  I also think some of the things children are expected to do for this sport are not healthy.  And I don't want to push my kid to do something just because his dad did.   And my kid already does other sports.  Plus I want him in other activities BESIDES sports.)  Anyway, NM said "Jessie doesn't want him to."  FIL replied "so it's all about Jessie?"

I'll admit, this one crushed me.  I know they think I control my kids and DH.  I know they think I'm over cautious with my kids and uptight.  But it hurt to hear him say this about me.  I thought I, slightly, had an ally with FIL.  And the truth is, this sport is what FIL wants DS to do.  FIL also was very pushy in having DH do this sport.  In fact, FIL is often to wrapped into sports and I think it is his way of escaping reality.  He can talk sports with his kids and think he's connecting.  I've often seen him retreat into sports during family functions.  I even found him in the bar during my wedding reception watching a football game. 

In addition, I was giving several other bits of bad news.  And my girl, who keeps claiming she wants to be my friend, who I've confided in about my family issues, who knows these parties are hard for me, decided to DROP OFF HER DAUGHTER SO SHE COULD GO SHOPPING.  She could see I was visibly shaken when she stopped and still left. 

MIL approached me and my son later with some more of her interrogations.  She wonders why the kids don't have a relationship with her, but all she does is fire off questions.  She doesn't take time to really listen or ask them things so that THEY can talk and share with her.  During the party she stood between the two play areas.  This is typical for her. She doesn't bother to go in, play with the kids, or interact (all other parents do, except my FIL who, surprise, watches football).  She also approached me toward the end of the party and asked "Can I put the food away?"  I'd already put away most of it, but left out the snacks, as we had 20 more minutes.  It always drives me nuts how she only offers to help with very specific jobs.  She doesn't ask what she can do, but offers up what she wants to do.  And if you say yes, she doesn't ask how you'd like things (like where to put them) but just starts stuffing things wherever.  NM does the same thing.  I'm sure I'm being petty, but it doesn't feel like they are helping when they are steam rolling over me and not asking how I need things done. 

SIL spoke to me briefly.  BIL (MIL's GC) didn't say hi at all.  This is a game we play, as I rarely say hi to him because I (accidently) discovered that if I didn't approach him (over a year ago) he just ignored me.  For an entire year, I just didn't say hello first.  And he just ignored me.  When I did say hello, he would talk to me.  It's very, very strange.

I went home from the party shattered.  I was bummed I had such a horrible time and had ended up in a back room crying by myself.  I felt horrible that I couldn't enjoy my son's party.  I felt sad and guilty that I was having drama during his party.  I only hope that I pulled myself together enough and that he didn't notice.   I really tried to connect with the children (and a few adult friends) and stay out of the fray.    I didn't say anything to MIL, and she kept dancing around me, but I had no desire at that point.

DH was oblivious to all of this all.  When we got home, I left the kids to play with their toys and my stepdad and went to cry (again) in my walk in closet.  He came to find me and I could see he was visibly shaken when I told him what happened.  He was kind and consoling, but he didn't say that his father was wrong.   He said he was surprised his dad said that and was sure he was joking.  I said, even if he was joking, it wasn't very kind. 

DH didn't sleep at all that night.  He is so upset about this all.  I think he KNOWS how things are.  I mean, he can't deny that his parents don't make an effort to actually get to know his kid.  That just "being in the room" with them doesn't count.  That his brothers are horribly uncles who only pay attention to the kids when they want to.  That they don't make any effort to actually be involved with our kids.  He can't deny that the family has issues.

But he can NOT let go of the fact that he wants is family in his life.  The next day I told him that by making a big deal out of his parents or uncles throwing crumbs at our kids, he is teaching them that is all they are worth.  He said I'm teaching our kids that I can't have a decent relationship with ANYONE in the family (I pointed out later that this is a generalization and splitting and just not true).  I pointed out that I have just as good a relationship with most of them as he does.  I'm just not satisfied with surface-y relationships and relationships in which real love and support and affiliation is absent.  

I know this is killing DH.  I know he wants a big family, huge celebrations, love and support.  I get that.  But he can't get that he never had that BEFORE I pointed it out.  That, many years ago, when I DID TRY,  the relationship wasn't any better.  That NM and my sister (yes, he threw my sister at me) are impossible to have a family relationship with.  He knows that this is a particular vulnerable thing for me, to say it's just me, and saying that NM and my sister is my problem is just bullshit.   And he knows it too.  And frankly, I think I have been dealing with NM just fine, considering I haven't completely cut her off. 

I don't know where to go from here with him about this.  He seems stuck in the "put up with it" phase.  Or the denial phase.  Or somewhere in between.  He simultaneously tells me that my mother and sister are the craziest people he's every met, that he doesn't like either of them, but then tells me that I'm teaching my kids not to have relationships with immediate family.  I feel stuck, as what he says is technically true.  I am keeping my mother and sister at arm's length.  But that's due to THEM, not me. 

We've been going around this all for two days.  I get that he's feeling sad and depressed.  I've told him I'm not asking him to cut off his family, only to look at it realistically.  To quit putting more into it (and describing it) as more than it is.  To get rid of some of that baggage so we can make room for people who really do love us.  To try and help me work on healthy boundaries, healthy ways of interacting (with them and us) so that we can teach our kids that.  To set boundaries with his family.  To stick up and protect his wife and kids from their scapegoating and favoritism  (did I mention MIL blatantly favors my older son?  This is one of the things that has finally helped DS see the light.) 

I get how hard this is for him, the grieving, the denial, the wanting it to be different.  And I'm thankful he's not so anger and completely blaming me anymore.  I've seen his empathy for me and his commitment to our marriage and family grown.  I know he can look at our boys (whom everyone says are so smart, well behaved, sweet, and considerate) and see that, if I was the stingy bitch they think I am, the kids wouldn't be so great (a lot is just because I have great kids, but I have helped).  I just don't know how to move from here.  I don't know what to do.  I know that I'm ready to speak up, and fuck them if they don't like it.  I know that I'm going to try to focus on what I want and need and not feel guilty.  I just don't know if he can go there. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Burying the Hatchet

NM arrives today for the weekend (for kiddo's birthday party).  She'll be here an extra day this time.  I'm trying not to be anxious.

I'm feeling so much better about her coming.  Well, not about her coming, but I'm handling myself better.  Still, the thought of all weekend with NM (and sprinkles of MIL too.  Lucky me!) is dire.  I'm trying to remember that allowing them to suck all of the happiness and joy out of me is letting them control me.  That I am still allowing them to be the center of my attention and focus, even if it is for negative reasons.

I'm guessing too that NM will bring up my sister and I'm not looking forward to that.  I've been thinking a lot about my sister lately.  I saw a picture she posted of herself and NM, with the caption "love my mama!"  I think this is odd, as she didn't ever call her "mama".  NM posted photos a month back of her trip to see NSIS with the caption "with my baby!  Happy mama!"  This whole "mama/baby" crap made me want to vomit.  It was a very visual representation of the relationship they have with each other: a mom and her BABY.  Not her grown, adult, in her 30s daughter.  But her BABY.

Looking at the photo, I was struck by how much I DO NOT miss being in their relationships.  They are both snuggled up, giggling.  I remembered how silly, infantile, and gossipy their relationship is.  Goofy, and not in a good way.   I always felt so out-of-place making myself behave that way.  Sure, I can act silly, but I often felt like we were teenage girls instead of grown women.  I do not, can not, go back to being like that.

And the thing is, I do not miss my sister.  What would their be to miss?  The drama, the chaos?  The fear?  I remember very few times I had a good, relaxed time with my sister.  I always felt on edge.  Always worried she would blow.  Always concerned she would get angry and freak out.  And now that I have kids, I can not risk that anymore.  I can not risk her screaming at her boyfriend and having a huge fight in front of them (like she did the last time she was at my house).  I can't risk her screaming at me.  I can't risk her playing with them and then becoming "bored" and focusing on herself (like she did when my OS was an infant/small baby).   I tried so hard to convince myself I enjoyed her company.  But I rarely did.

And the thing is, NM just does not get that.  She continues to believe/tell herself/project that my sister and I just had a "spat".    She recently mentioned a family reunion next summer in which she hopes me and my sister would both go.   She had hoped my sister and I would both attend a "family photo shoot" this past summer.  I just don't get it.  How in the world does she think that will go?  That we will just show up, fall into each other's arms and all will be OK?  I know, for the photo shoot, she had some fantasy that we would come together "for her (NM)", put our "pettiness" aside for the "bigger picture" and all that b.s.   I wondered how she thought we could just show up, after not talking for two years, almost three, and suddenly stand in a photo together like one big happy photo.

After she mentioned the reunion, I was feeling panicked and pressured.   Sure, I'd like to see some of these relatives (although there isn't much "family" about this family.  It's all scattered, dysfunctional, and tense.  At my grandmother's funeral, everyone kept their distance and never got together afterward, just went off in separate directions.)  But I just couldn't fathom how I could be around my sister.  The odds of her flying off shift on me would be HUGE (I mean the powder keg of ammunition against me is huge.  Even if NSIS came with the intent to get along, I know how easily I could piss her off and she'd lose it.  I don't really feel like having a conversation about her estrangement amongst a bunch of relatives I hardly associate with.)  And I can't just go be "buddy-buddy" and pretend everything is OK.  Two summers ago, NM tried to push me into picking up my sister and her boyfriend and bringing them to another family reunion (and provide them a place to stay with us).  We hadn't talked in a year at that point.  I wondered WHY NM thought I had that responsibility or should accept it. 

I know NM thinks I need to "forgive and forget" and that "life is short" and every other platitude that glosses over the reality of it.  The fact is, I HAVE tried everything to have a relationship with my sister.  I forgave, forgot, forgave, forgot and forgave again.  Over and over and over.  For things that my sister never apologized for and never really felt remorse for.  Things she never even admitted doing: stealing from me, allowing others to steal from me, beating me up, sleeping with my boyfriends.  I excused and forgave her for all the times she directed the spotlight away from me: on my wedding, during the birth of my children, when I moved into my new home.  Every single time she created drama or a scene or somehow stole the spotlight and focused it back on her.  And I forgave her.  I used all of NM's excuses for NSIS: she's jealous and doesn't know how to express it, she feels left out, she doesn't understand, her life has been hard lately, she didn't MEAN to hurt you, it's hard for her to see you get all of these things and makes her feel badly about get the idea.  I excused her over and over and over.  I thought I could help her "get better" and then, if I could just tough it out, we'd finally have the relationship I hoped for.  Or any relationship other than the one we have.  At least one where NSIS seemed to give a shit about me.

I spent the better part of THREE decades "trying".  In all of this time, NSIS did very little to contribute to our relationship.  She continued to take whatever she could get off of me (that she felt entitled too, as I am supposed to "support" NSIS as I am her sister).  She allowed me to pay for a lot, called in the middle of the night (screw the fact that I had work the next day), called and bitched for hours but never once asked about me or my kids.  She would ignore my husband or kids whenever she felt threatened that they might take up some of my attention.   During times I could have used her support, she dangled it out there, but then yanked it back, saying it would be too much for her to take off work/spend money to visit/ call me.  And I let that go.  I accepted whatever crumbs my sister wanted to throw at me and called them a feast.  And in return I helped her whenever and however she needed me.  (Sure, I wasn't ALWAYS there like NSIS would claim I should've been, but I really tried as hard as I could to do everything I could.)

And, in the end, the relationship was the same as it always was.  Lopsided, off balance, and toxic.  I do not miss the stress and the drama.  I don't miss the fear of hoping she'll behave in front of my friends and family at important times in my life.  I am not sad she is not at my sons' birthdays.  She's mean and glares at people and can be intimidating.  She is Unfriendly.  I don't miss having to gloss over that and pretend she's not that way.  I don't want to go back to the fear that she will hurt me or verbally abuse me (especially in front of my kids).  I don't want to go back to my kiddos seeing me cry when I get off the phone.  I don't want to go back to hyperventilating every time she called, as I never knew what to expect (some new HUGE crisis, or a verbal tongue lashing, or a lengthy discussion about how hard her life is while I tried- in vain- to console her.)

NM just doesn't get that.  And I don't think she's every cared to ask me how I feel, what I need, or what my concerns are.  Her concerns have always been for NSIS and doing what I can to placate NSIS.  I think NM secretly fears NSIS going further off the deep end and expects me to help "anchor" NSIS....or at least, not provide provocation.  I'm tired of stuffing myself down in order to prop up NSIS.  And I don't want to do it anymore.   And there is no way to explain that to NM.  Sigh.