Bill, Ex, marriage, mental health, relationships

“Quick! Eat this before I give it to an animal!”

Here’s another life lesson, courtesy of the late, great George Carlin… Please keep in mind, this is just one way of looking at things, and it comes from my perspective. Your mileage may vary.

Years ago, when I was still in high school, I bought a bunch of cassette tapes by the late George Carlin. They were mostly his concerts from the 1970s and early 80s. I was a new fan, having been introduced to Carlin by HBO (Home Box Office), which I watched incessantly as a child. That probably explains a lot of the stuff I write about as an adult.

George had a funny routine he did back in 1981 called “Ice Box Man.” It was included on his album, A Place for My Stuff, which I listened to repeatedly on cassette as I drove from Gloucester, Virginia to Williamsburg, on one of my many work assignments there. In that routine, he talked about how it was his job to monitor the refrigerator and freezer. Naturally, that led to him making many nutty observations about humans and their relationship with the food they store in the fridge.

“Close that Goddamn door!”

I was reminded of Mr. Carlin this morning, as Bill and I were discussing a blog post I recently wrote titled “The latest big dream job“. It was yet another post about Ex, and her many elusive dreams. You know the old 80s song, “Don’t Fall in Love With A Dreamer?” Well, it’s sage advice, especially if you want to keep your sanity. Dreams can be a lot of fun, or they can be a distraction. Or, if someone is hellbent on following an unrealistic dream, they can quickly turn into a disastrous nightmare.

As we were talking about the prospect of Ex jetting off to an exotic place with the son she says has severe autism and runs away from home, Bill said he could only imagine what living with her is like these days. She has so many big ideas. Sometimes she tries to implement them, but they are almost always overcome by events, or somehow, her enthusiasm wanes and she loses interest. Often, when he was still married to her, that eventually meant being poorer, but not always wiser. If you’re the type of person who is responsible and likes a little stability in your life, that kind of shit gets old pretty quickly. It would be easy to be caught up in the dream at first… but then, hundreds or thousands of dollars and wasted hours later, when the dream falls apart, it’s not so much fun anymore.

So what has this story got to do with George Carlin and his “Ice Box Man” routine? I’m getting there.

Back in the late 80s, Bill was a young man who wasn’t very sure of himself. He doubted his appeal to women, and had this really low sense of self-worth. We have a few theories as to where this low self-esteem came from, but to make a long story short, it kind of made him a sitting duck for an abuser to exploit. Enter Ex. She spotted him, alone, in his mid 20s, reasonably handsome, and an Army officer. Her first husband was an enlisted guy, and for whatever reason, he wasn’t ringing her chimes anymore. I suspect she saw Bill as someone she could mold and manipulate, someone who would help her follow and achieve her dreams… someone with more earning power.

Well, I’ve written plenty about what happened after that. What I want to focus on today is the moment Bill decided to “eat food that someone was only going to throw away…” That’s where Carlin’s “Ice Box Man” comes into the story.

Carlin says:

...’Cause there’s a bigger responsibility. And that is getting into that refrigerator and deciding which things need to be thrown away. Most people will not take that responsibility. Most people will just go and get what they want, leave everything else alone and say, “Well, someone else wants that. Someone else will eat that” Meanwhile, the thing is getting smaller and smaller and smaller and is, in fact stuck to the rack. Well, I’ve got to go in there and decide when to throw things away.

“Chocolate pudding? Does anyone want this last chocolate pudding? I have just one chocolate pudding left. It’s only pulled away from the side of the dish about three inches all the way around. And there’s a huge fault running through the center of the pudding. Actually, it’s nothing but a ball of skin at this point. Does anyone want a ball of fault ridden chocolate pudding skin? I’m only going to throw it away.

A lot of us have experienced this, haven’t we? Especially those of us who hail from the United States, where we have big refrigerators, and parents or grandparents who lived through the Great Depression. People who have been deprived tend to be very averse to “wasting” things. It doesn’t just apply to food, either. It can apply to inanimate objects or even relationships. As Jim Bob Duggar liked to say, before his family fell from grace, “Buy used and save the difference!” If you have a shitload of kids and not that much money, it makes sense to buy things used, especially if there’s a lot of good use left in the item. It makes sense to eat what you have before buying more food. Or, even better, learning how to garden so you can grow your own food. Waste is not good, is it? Of course, you have to use up the item before it goes bad or falls into disrepair.

But a lot of us aren’t like this, and we pass up things when they are more appealing. As Carlin observes, “Well, someone else wants that. Someone else will eat that.” And no one ever eats it, but they don’t throw out the item that is wasting away in the fridge, shrinking from neglect, turning different colors, growing fur, or whatever. They don’t toss it, because they can’t bear losing the chance to “waste not, want not.” Even if passing on using the item would ultimately be better for them in the long run than trying to use it would be.

At one time, I’m sure that chocolate pudding Carlin speaks of was appetizing and delicious, smooth and creamy and sweet. But after weeks of neglect, it shriveled up into something ugly, unrecognizable, and in fact, potentially dangerous to one’s health. Ahh… but still, even when it’s clear that something is beyond its freshness or not particularly appealing or appetizing, a lot of us still won’t throw it away. Bill recently cleaned out one of our fridges, and he tossed an unopened jar of pickles that we bought when we still lived in Jettingen, four plus years ago! I have lots of over the counter drugs in the house that are two or more years beyond their expiration dates. Last night, I was looking at flea and tick meds for Arran that expired in January 2020. I didn’t use the meds, but I also didn’t throw them away! They’re still in the closet as I type this! I will be tossing them in a few minutes.

Over almost twenty years of marriage, I have often asked Bill what the hell he was thinking when he decided to pursue a relationship with his former wife. Don’t get me wrong. She’s probably the perfect mate for someone. But she was clearly not a good match for Bill, even if she was the most mentally stable person alive. They have very little in common, other than having gone to the same high school. They don’t have similar interests at all. He likes to go to nice restaurants, listen to alternative music, brew beer, read good books, and live within his means– but in style. He likes working for the Army and doesn’t mind the chaotic lifestyle that can come from that. Ex has a lot of interests, but none of them really aligned with Bill’s. Her big dreams never seemed to mesh with Bill’s reality and desire for stability.

According to Bill, once she had him hooked, Ex turned into a different person. Ex often made fun of Bill’s interests. She denigrated him in front of other people, and shamed him when he expressed goals and desires for his own life. She had completely different goals, and would not work with him. In fact, she often sabotaged his efforts to get ahead. Her idea was to be the Queen Bee, and he was expected to be a Worker Bee. So, in her mind, he had no right to make decisions for their life together. That was solely her job.

Some people would find this quality in Ex very attractive, as they don’t know what they want, and it can be comforting to be with someone who doesn’t mind being in charge of everything. But knowing Bill the way I do, I think that the chocolate pudding Ex promised quickly turned into a ball of pudding skin. Still, he held onto that shriveled up pudding skin for almost ten years before he finally decided to “throw it away”… He mistakenly believed she was the only person who would find him attractive. When they got together, he even saw himself as shriveled up chocolate pudding, waiting to be “thrown away”.

Carlin continues:

Do people do that with you? Offer you some food that if you don’t eat it, they’re only going to throw it away. Well, doesn’t that make you feel dandy? “Here’s something to eat, Dave. Hurry up, it’s spoiling!” “Something for you, Angela. Eat quickly, that green part is moving!” “Here, Bob. Eat this before I give it to an animal.”

There was a time in Bill’s life when he had very little confidence, especially around women. Although he’s always been a very pleasant, likable, attractive person, he somehow got the message that he wasn’t appealing to other people. He was shy, and reluctant to approach women. But, like a lot of people, Bill also hoped to marry someday, and have a family. Ex presented him with that possibility when she showed up on his doorstep in Germany with her toddler aged son. She was friendly and charming, and willing to relieve his loneliness. They knew each other from their high school years. In his mid 20s, Bill was watching his contemporaries get married and start families. Ex was offering him that chance, and he wouldn’t have to put himself out there to get it. She was pursuing him, which was flattering and deceptively made starting a family seem “easy”. And… he also felt kind of sorry for her. She told him horror stories (probably false or exaggerated) about her first husband that stimulated the “white knight” rescuing aspect of his personality.

So, even though they weren’t a very comfortable match, Bill decided to marry Ex. In retrospect, it seems kind of crazy–like taking a chance on eating that ball of shriveled up chocolate pudding skin and hoping it doesn’t make him sick or kill him. And yet, people do that all the time, don’t they? They take a chance on that questionable food from the fridge, some of which they may not even be able to identify anymore.

Carlin says:

…Perhaps the worst thing that can happen is to reach into the refrigerator and come out with something that you cannot identify at all. You literally do not know what it is. Could be meat, could be cake. Usually, at a time like that, I’ll bluff. “Honey, is this good?” “Well, what is it?” “I don’t know. I’ve never seen anything like it. It looks like…meatcake!” “Well, smell it.” (snort, sniff) “It has absolutely no smell whatsoever!” “It’s good! Put it back! Somebody is saving it. It’ll turn up in something.” That’s what frightens me. That someone will consider it a challenge and use it just because it’s in there.

“Honey, is this good?”

Then there’s the concept of “leftovers”. I think about how I wound up spending a year of dysfunction in college, because I needed a roommate. I found myself agreeing to live with a woman with whom I was completely incompatible. And, in fairness, she agreed to live with me, and she probably feels about me the same way as I do about her. Yet, we still agreed to be roommates. This wasn’t because we were “simpatico”, but because we both needed a warm body to occupy our dorm room.

It was quite a year. We survived, but not on particularly friendly terms. I guess you could call us “leftovers”. We were two people– not friends– who needed someone to share a room and hadn’t ended our first year of college with a buddy with whom we could bunk. It wasn’t a good match, and I’m sure we were both equally glad when the academic year was over and we didn’t ever have to see each other again. It’s one thing to do that when you temporarily need a roommate. Bill had his share of incompatible roomies, too. But it’s really not a good idea to start a marriage with that mindset, especially when children are in the mix. Marriages are supposed to last most of a lifetime, even if they often don’t.

Carlin says of the food in the fridge:

It’s a leftover. What a sad word that is. Leftover. How would you like to be…a leftover? Well, it wouldn’t be bad if they were taking people out to be shot. I might even volunteer. But, y’know, leftovers make you feel good twice. D’ja ever think about that? When you first put them away, you feel really intelligent- “I’m saving food!” And then, after a month, when hair is growing out of them and you throw them away you feel…really intelligent- “I’m saving my life!”

I have often pointed out to Bill that, while he definitely suffered, having married Ex when he didn’t really love her, Ex also suffered. Because who wants to be the charity project of someone who just feels sorry for them? Ex used to complain to Bill that he didn’t love her enough. Bill would try to show her that she was wrong. Of course that never worked, because she already knew what he didn’t want to admit. He hadn’t married her because he loved her and wanted to be with her. He married her because he’d pitied her, and himself… and he didn’t have enough self-respect to give himself the chance to find someone more compatible. He also didn’t have enough respect for Ex to give her the same opportunity, thus sparing themselves and their children a lot of pain.

Bill had made the mistake of regarding himself as a “leftover”. He also regarded Ex as a “leftover”. And he had decided, with her agreement, that they should try to make it work, even though there were many signs that it was not a good idea. Getting married to another warm body simply because someone is willing and available is not exactly a great way to start a family, is it? I mean, many people have done it… and some may have stayed together for many years. But how many people find happiness that way?

It works in the movies sometimes, but not so much in real life. Like having an ill fitting shoe, or a dental crown that doesn’t quite fit right. Maybe it functions, but it’s not comfortable or pleasing. You end up with blisters or inflammation that makes you miserable. Or maybe, to keep with the food theme, the leftovers take away your hunger and keep you from starving to death, but leave you with diarrhea or heartburn. Not all leftovers go together, you see. Who wants to mix cherry cheesecake with stinky cheese, roast beef, and peanut butter?

There’s more to Carlin’s brilliant “Ice Box Man” routine, and I highly recommend that you listen to it, especially if you haven’t heard it. Carlin was a wise, observant, and brilliant man, who was also very funny! I have learned a lot from him over the years.

As for Bill’s formerly “Ice Box Man” approach to marriage, I would say that not all is lost. He came away from that experience with a lot of wisdom and insight. He has a daughter who has come around after years of estrangement. He’s got three grandchildren. And he has the satisfaction of knowing that he was able to survive some pretty horrifying shit. Now, he’s thriving, and he’s found someone with whom he is very compatible… ME. 😉

God knows, I have often thought of myself of a leftover, too… so I am very happy to have found the right person against tremendous odds. Especially if you know how and where we actually met… but that’s a story for another day.

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Ex, LDS, narcissists, relationships

Carrots and sticks– Ex giveth, and she taketh away…

Today, I’m thinking about how it’s common for narcissists to give and take things away, especially when they are in an intimate relationship with someone. The old “carrot on a stick” is a common technique narcissists use to keep people in line. They make promises, and even provide things, in exchange for power and control. And then, once they get what they want, they take away what they gave. Or, they take away what they gave as soon as their victims assert themselves or don’t do what they’re ordered to do. Narcissists are extremely selfish people who want to appear respectable, so they will put up a facade that makes them look decent. Underneath it, though, there are a lot of people who suffer. Pity the children and spouse of a narcissist; they can never please them and are constantly trying to survive the ups and downs of life with a narcissist. All of the scrambling that comes with that life, ultimately leads to people who are just trying to keep their heads above water, let alone focusing on their wants and needs for their own lives.

Lately, I’ve been writing a lot about Ex. In fact, it seems like I write more about her now than I ever did. Why would I do such a thing, especially since she hasn’t been Bill’s wife since 2000? It’s because I’ve been coming to some conclusions. Maybe it’s hard for people to understand this, but it’s been quite strange to be a witness to my husband’s relationship with his two children, especially since, given the chance, Bill would have been a loving, involved, and devoted father to them. But, when he and his ex wife divorced, he was denied that chance, and he didn’t have the financial resources to fight in court with her. So, for that reason, he and younger daughter– the one who will speak to him– are having to get reacquainted from afar. Thankfully, technology makes that possible.

Bill and his daughter were physically kept apart for about fifteen years. They had no contact at all until late 2016 or so. They have only seen each other in person on one occasion, since Christmas 2004. Their last meeting was in March 2020, just before COVID shut down the world. They regularly Skype and send videos to each other. I’ve been watching them get to know each other again, hearing the stories of what life was like for younger daughter, growing up with no contact with her natural father. I often get really pissed off when I see the damage that was done, especially since #3 was obviously not a good replacement for Bill in his daughters’ lives. We also know that #3 treats his kids– probably his daughter, specifically– differently than he does Bill’s girls. He calls them his “daughters”, but obviously he doesn’t see them in the same way that he does his natural daughter with Ex (who has five children by three husbands).

Yesterday, Bill watched a video his younger daughter sent him. In the video, which she paused at least three times, due to having to tend to her very young children, she talked about a number of things and asked questions. She wanted to know what Bill’s favorite country was. Younger daughter has never had the chance to go abroad, at least not beyond Canada and Mexico. She’s always been a curious person. I remember when I met her in 2003, she told me she wanted to be a LDS missionary in Russia. Bill sent her language CDs for Christmas to encourage her. Naturally, Ex took them away, along with any pictures or other reminders of Bill.

Younger daughter is about to celebrate her sixth wedding anniversary. She has three children, all of whom are under five years old. She’s also a devout Mormon, having been brought to the church by Ex, who tried to use it as a means of controlling Bill and ostracizing him from his kids. The LDS church keeps its members very busy. I listened to younger daughter speak as she was making dinner for her family. I heard her kids squealing in the background. Then, the baby, who was born in late May, began to cry. As she tended to the baby, younger daughter talked about a musical performance she had been asked to do for church.

As a musical person myself, I realized it would be hard to prepare a song for church with everything younger daughter has going on. She said it would be a solo, and she doesn’t like to sing solos, because she gets really nervous and her voice cracks. Younger daughter never had the benefit of lessons. At one point, Ex had let her take piano lessons, but then she stopped them. Younger daughter learned more about piano from YouTube videos, but isn’t as trained as she would have been if she’d been allowed to keep taking lessons from an in person teacher. But that’s how Ex rolls. She gives… and then she takes away.

She said, “I don’t think I can sing as well as Jenny (that’s me) does.”

I told Bill, “There are some techniques she could learn that would help her with nervousness and the cracking voice. I could have taught her a few tricks myself.” But, like Bill, I was denied access to Bill’s daughters. Their mother saw me as too much of a threat. I guess, some might see that as a natural thing, given that I write so many negative posts about her. But, I wasn’t doing that when the kids were minors. I had respect for Ex’s role as their mom, even if I found her behavior reprehensible. Back then, I also didn’t know the extent of the abuse she perpetrated against Bill and their children.

Now that younger daughter is a grown, married woman, with children of her own, I can’t help but reflect. She is very bright, courageous, assertive, and naturally resourceful. I wonder what her life would have been like if she hadn’t been raised the way she was. I feel pretty certain that she would have earned a college degree or two. She would have been able to travel… to develop skills and talents beyond homemaking. She could have had someone teach her how to sing properly, and become proficient at playing piano, or any other area of study she wanted to explore. I also strongly doubt she would be LDS.

It’s not a secret to my regular readers that I don’t like the LDS church. However, since Bill and I have become reacquainted with younger daughter, my “anti-Mormon” views have softened somewhat, mainly because I’ve seen that younger daughter was able to escape her mother because of people in the church. I have always known there were good people in the church. It’s the institution itself, and many of its practices, that I don’t like. In the church, there is a popular saying “The gospel (or church) is perfect; the people aren’t.” My view is that the LDS church is, by no means, “perfect”.

There are a lot of problems with the LDS doctrine, as far as I’m concerned. I think it holds some people back from what they could achieve in life, mainly because they’re expected to give so much time and money to the organization. And yet, just like the Army gave Bill an escape, the church gave younger daughter an escape. So I can’t blame her for loving the church… but I also think there will come a day, maybe years from now, when her children are older and less needy, that she will realize all of the things she could have done as a young woman. Which isn’t to say that LDS women can’t or don’t do those things. But they usually have the benefit of supportive, loving, and non abusive parents to help them. Younger daughter, regrettably, didn’t have that. So now, she’s 28 years old, with no college degree, three very young children, and expectations to serve the church.

Not all is lost, though. Because she was able to escape Ex’s mini cult, she’s been able to reacquaint with Bill and his mom. Access to both were denied to Bill’s daughters when they were growing up. Older daughter, at age 31, still lives with Ex. According to Ex, they are a “single paycheck” household, which is earned by #3, who works in a field for which he is probably poorly suited. Older daughter, who is a talented artist with a college degree, is basically raising her “severely autistic” brother, who is going to be 16 this year. Ex, on the other hand, recently tweeted this:

Ex is praising this lady on Twitter, who apparently has a remarkably insightful seven year old child… (and my guess is that he didn’t actually say what she claims he said, but who knows?). She brags about her five children and “grandbabies”, and calls herself “nearly an expert”. But I happen to know that Bill did most of the hard work when his daughters were babies and toddlers. As they got older and he was devalued and discarded, their care was taken over by ex stepson. And then, when Ex had two more babies, Bill’s daughters basically took care of them, and did all of the housework. It still goes on today, as Ex’s youngest gets closer to physical adulthood. I recently looked at open posts on older daughter’s Facebook, where, in 2021. she had publicly posted a loving comment about her brother, to whom she’s obviously the “mommy”. She clearly inherited Bill’s kind heart, even though she can’t seem to extend it to Bill.

Steve, Joe, and Blue have brought so much light, love, and laughter to my family for many years.

Blue’s Clues brought me closer to my little brother.

We would watch Blue’s Clues every day, while drawing the many clues that filled the Handy Dandy Notebook. At first he would watch me draw each clue (over and over) until he memorized every one. If I messed up, he would take the paper away, show me the correct way to draw it, and then hand me a clean sheet of paper to draw the clue(s) again.

He’s 14 years old and has severe autism. He knows every clue (in order) by heart.

This afternoon, he drew three clues on our driveway; naming each one from the episode with the Treasure Hunt and Steve’s Grandma.

Blues Clues will forever hold a very special place in our hearts.

#bluesclues 25th Anniversary

I look at older daughter’s photos, and I can see that she looks a lot like Bill’s mother, a woman she barely knows exists. When she was about eleven or twelve, I spoke to her on the phone, and thought she sounded just like Bill’s mom. Bill’s mom could have given her so much… but her mother had to take that away from her. She was too selfish to let her have access to her loving father, and his side of the family. She’s too selfish to let her live her own life.

Sometimes I get angry with older daughter… but then I realize that being totally estranged from Bill is probably the only way she can stand to be in the situation she’s in. Because if she knew what she was missing now, and what she has missed for years, it would probably really hurt a lot. It might be unbearable. So I suppose she sticks with what she knows, because ignorance is bliss.

Which brings me to #3. This morning, I thought about what he’s doing for money. He works as a certified nursing assistant. I know that wasn’t what he had planned for his life. But life with Ex doesn’t allow for pursuing one’s own passions. Somebody has to bring home the money, and I know from Bill’s stories, the breadwinner is expected to give all for the family… or really, for Ex. It’s up to Ex to spend the money, you see. And we’ve seen what she spends it on… crappy boxes from Scotland, autographed books, and trinkets. Then she pressures other people in the family to give her things in their wills.

When Bill was married to Ex, he was an active duty Army officer. But then she pressured him to leave active duty, because he wasn’t doing well as an officer. It’s hard to do well as an officer when you have kids, and your wife sabotages you by going out alone, leaving you with the kids, and not coming back home in time for you to get to work on time. It tends to have a bad effect on one’s job evaluations. Never mind all of the hurtful comments she made, tearing down his self-esteem. The 1990s was a time when poorly performing officers were encouraged to leave the service, so Bill got off active duty, joined the National Guard and they moved to… ARKANSAS.

Here was a man who has a degree in International Relations from American University. He’s intelligent, kind, well read, and eager to work. He joined the Army, not just for the financial assistance, but because he had a desire to serve, and be part of something bigger than he is. But in the mid 90s, he found himself in po dunk Arkansas, working swing or third shift in a toy factory, where he made about $23,000 per year, with which he was expected to support seven people (Ex, himself, three kids, and Ex’s sister and daughter, who had moved in). He later got a better job at the Whirlpool factory, supervising guys making refrigerator doors all day. That paid about $40,000, which was better money obviously, but the job was pretty soul sucking and boring for a man who had studied International Relations at a good school. He was simply doing what he could to bring in money. I remember seeing his ID from Whirlpool. He looked about 20 years older in his photo than he was at the time. I would say that at his age now, he still looks younger than he did in that photo, taken when he was in his early 30s.

Ex promptly bought a house in poor condition, which she said reminded her of one she’d seen in a snow globe. Severe financial problems ensued, and Ex then decided to become a Mormon, where people are expected to pay 10% of their income, while they allow other people to dictate what kind of underwear they put on every day.

When I met Bill, he had just gone back on active duty, having figured out that he couldn’t continue living that life. But he was fresh from bankruptcy and foreclosure. He supported himself on $600 per month. Meanwhile, Ex was working on victim #3, whom she moved into that house Bill was paying for. She replaced Bill with #3. And #3 now works in a field in which he’s probably not particularly passionate, doing it for the money, not the joy of taking care of people. It’s an important job, but probably one for which he is wholly unsuitable. I mean, he did, years ago, reportedly kick the eye out of Ex’s father’s little poodle. Should he really be tending to the sick? I dunno.

If you read my blog, you know that Bill and I have a good lifestyle now. It took awhile to get where we are, but working together, we have managed to accomplish things he never could have done with Ex. We have minimal debt. Bill now has a well paid, challenging job, in a safe, interesting, and pleasant country. He’s earned two master’s degrees, and I’ve paid off the debts for my two master’s degrees. We travel, stay in beautiful hotels, drive nice cars, and don’t worry about supporting ourselves in this manner. I have no doubt that if Bill had had those girls with me, we would still be living like this, and they would be living life on their own terms. Younger daughter would have had music lessons, or access to whatever else interested her as a child. Older daughter would be making art instead of taking care of her brother. Both of them would have seen Europe, and even lived here for awhile.

As sad as this is, it’s not as sad as it could be. At least younger daughter has broken free. But I think that as her kids get older, and she has more time to think about things, she might get angry. Because she got a very raw deal. It was unfair. I wish we had done more about it during their childhoods, when it was happening, even as I know that she and her sister aren’t my kids. There was very little that I could do, personally… but still, it’s like I have a sense of survivor’s guilt. I had access to their dad, who is clearly the better, more adjusted, more qualified parent. I’m not sorry we’re together, because I know he’s happier with me, than without me. I just find it heartbreaking that he’s such a good man, and he got tangled up with Ex. At least he escaped, though, and was able to reclaim his life. #3, I fear, is probably not going to be as lucky. And if older daughter doesn’t wake up, she’s going to miss out on a lot… even more than she already has.

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Ex, mental health, narcissists, psychology, relationships

“To have good friends, you must BE a good friend…”

When I was a junior at Longwood College (now Longwood University), I had a really nice roommate named Angie. I went through many roommates when I was in college– I think seven, in all. Angie and I got along the best; she was a very considerate person. I remember telling her I was really glad we were such good friends. And I remember that Angie said, “To have good friends, you must BE a good friend.” I was honored that she ever thought of me in that way, although I think that a lot of bad people wind up with good people in their lives.

I wish I could report that Angie and I are still in touch, but she sort of dropped off the face of the earth at some point around 2007. I don’t think she ever bothered with social media, which makes her smarter than a lot of people, including yours truly. I sometimes think about her and wonder how she is. I hope she’s doing well. I’m thinking of Angie this morning as I ponder something I saw on Ex’s Twitter feed this morning.

Although I think that in a perfect world, Angie’s quote would work well, I know for a fact that a lot of good people are super attractive to narcissists. Because many good people are more empathic than other people are, a lot of really selfish, mean-spirited, exploitative people do end up with good people in their spheres. Since empathic people are so concerned about the welfare of others, they wind up trapped in toxic relationships with narcissists. Even when a good person recognizes that they are being victimized by someone with nefarious intentions, they often still get trapped in situations in which no one can win.

Narcissists are experts at DARVO– that is Deny, Attack, and Reverse Victim and Offender. When they get called out for doing something shitty, they frequently gaslight their victims. Most narcissists, especially ones as old as Ex is, are very practiced at turning around an accusation so that the person being wronged and having the courage to speak up, ends up being the one who is demonized.

A couple of days ago, I posted about how narcissists will take revenge on those who hold them accountable. I wrote about how I think that the Sussexes may try to get even with the British Royal Family by becoming estranged and withholding access to the young Sussex children. That may or may not happen– as the British Royal Family is pretty powerful. However, I have also seen this dynamic happen in less famous and powerful families. One parent in a narcissistic family system feels entitled to weaponize the children and keep them from the other parent, or the opposing parent’s extended family. This is a means of temporarily maintaining control.

Of course, that happened to Bill, and when he tried to confront Ex about it, she accused him of being a terrible person who horribly abused her and their children. The reality is, he simply couldn’t take Ex’s abuse anymore. He didn’t want to live in poverty, do low-paid, second and third shift assembly line work in factories, and have his life completely controlled by a woman whose personality seemed to change by the hour. He didn’t want to deal with a woman who treated him like a sexual predator, when he couldn’t be further from being an abuser. In fact, the opposite was true. Most of all, he didn’t want to be married to someone who didn’t love and accept him for who he is. Ex wanted someone else, and she was constantly trying to get Bill to change who he was to suit her whims. Even when he did something different, Ex wasn’t satisfied. She would accuse him of trying to be cool, or something like that. Above all, her shit never stinks. It’s always someone else’s fault when something isn’t right.

My old friend, Ken Turetzky, has a great song about the “her shit don’t stink” phenomenon.

So, as you can see, Ex isn’t a good friend. And, it appears that she doesn’t have any good friends, either. This was what she lamented about on Twitter today.

It IS sad… and she’s right that she doesn’t trust people. But aside from that, in order to have good friends, you have to BE a good friend.

To be a good friend, you have to have good intentions. You can’t look at people and determine their worth only in terms of what they can do for you, or how they might influence other people. A quality friendship is based on mutual respect and admiration, honesty, and genuine regard and concern. There must be give and take, fairness, and consideration for the other person. I know for a fact, Ex isn’t a good friend. She doesn’t have consideration for other people. She is good enough at FAKING concern, but only toward people who don’t know her. Those who do get into her “inner circle” are eventually abused. And when they’ve had enough abuse and try to back away from the relationship, she accuses THEM of being abusive.

Unfortunately, if a person has been trapped in an abusive system like that long enough, their thinking can get distorted and they can experience “trauma bonding”. That is, the victim can attach to their abuser, not because the abuser is good to them, but because they are chasing the “high” of the good times, and they think they either “deserve” the abuse, or they can’t live without the abuser. Narcissistic abusers can be very charismatic and charming, and they can be convincing as they make the case that they’re victims. They are also very good at being threatening and foreboding. A narcissist won’t hesitate to tell a victim that if they leave the relationship, they’ll be left with nothing.

When I first met Bill, he made many alarming statements about his relationship with Ex. She had him believing that he was dangerous, and that he’d profoundly harmed her. He believed that the divorce was his fault, and he was sure that I would see the situation in the same way Ex presented it. But the more I got to know him, the more I realized that he is not an abuser at all. He’s an empath, and a very good friend to those who will allow him to be a friend. Although we do have occasional spats, they’re usually caused because he doesn’t want to be assertive and explicitly define his needs, not because he’s a mean, abusive person. And now that Bill talks to his daughter, we can see that he never was the whole problem. Ex treats her children– who are in her inner circle, at least for a time– just as badly as she treats her husbands. And I’m sure that if she ever has had a friend who got close, that friend was treated similarly badly. Ex keeps her relationships superficial for good reason. Because beneath the surface, it’s really ugly.

Hell, I have even experienced trauma bonding myself. A few years ago, I actually was against moving out of the house we rented from a very high-conflict landlady, because I worried that the next landlord could be even worse than she was. At least I knew what to expect from her, right? Of course, now I know that my thinking was skewed by four years of psychofuckery, and dealing with this very intrusive, manipulative, and controlling person whose dealings with us were dishonest and exploitative. Our current landlord is nowhere near as disrespectful and unfair as she was. Yes, we pay much more rent, but it’s totally worth it, because it’s a much nicer house, and we get to maintain our dignity and privacy. But I still marvel at how I had initially balked at moving because I was scared. That’s a form of trauma bonding.

The same “trauma bonding” dynamic happens in abusive friendships, marriages, employment, and romantic relationships. Narcissistic abusers can’t risk letting anyone get close, because then they will see the mess that lurks under the facade. It would be one thing if Ex was open to allowing someone to help her clean up the mess, but she can’t do that. She doesn’t trust anyone, and is fixated on a false reality that she’s created, because reality, to her, is simply too painful to acknowledge.

Likewise, now, when I look back on the four year period in which we rented a home from a high-conflict landlady, I realize that just like Ex, our former landlady was very focused on the external. Every project she undertook was about curb appeal and surface image. She never did anything, at least while we were living there, that would improve the actual experience of living in that house. We weren’t important, because we were already in the “inner circle”, and ripe for abuse. She wanted to attract new victims for when we were discarded. So all upgrading projects that were done while we were living in that house were done for cosmetic appeal or the landlady’s convenience. Moreover, it didn’t matter to her if we were inconvenienced as she completed these projects. I did read that after we left, and before she got new tenants, she updated a few things in the house– probably using the money that she illegally tried to rip off from us. But I’m sure those upgrades were minimal and mostly cosmetic. I doubt, for instance, that she bothered to put in a modern toilet that didn’t backup all the time. Instead, she got a new dishwasher. Dishwashers are great, but toilets are essential, and I think that having a toilet that doesn’t take two or three flushes to clear would be better than having a spiffy new dishwasher.

So anyway, I don’t think that Ex is a good friend, even on a casual basis. She isn’t capable of being a good friend, because she is much too fixated on herself. She’s not a good partner or a good parent, either, for the same reason. She was never able to psychologically mature beyond early adolescence. It’s really sad, actually. I would almost feel sorry for her, except that I know she has hurt people I love. Aside from that, I actually think that it’s rare to have a lot of extremely true friends who are very loyal. Those types of relationships are very special, and they have to be nurtured. That’s why I tend to hang out with dogs. 😉

Noyzi is a pretty good friend.
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communication, language, lessons learned, love, marriage, relationships

It’s very important to use your words when you have needs…

I woke up this morning feeling oddly quiet. I felt like I just needed to shut up for awhile. And, for the past hour or so, I’ve been staring at the computer screen, wondering what I should write about today. I didn’t really want to write about the topic I’m about to tackle. But then I remember what Bill said to me as he was about to leave for work. He said, “You’ll write about it. It’ll help you process.” Then he gave me one of his meltingly sweet smiles, which never fails to win me over and warm my heart.

Bill and I had a little spat last night. It was kind of a sudden thing, not unlike the brief but intense storm that briefly provided us with a rainbow as the sun was about to set. You can see the rainbow in today’s featured photo, which I took as the rain was falling, but the sun came out. It reminds me of the spat we had last night, and how I feel today.

I didn’t say much to Bill today, when we were getting up. After he got dressed, he came into our bedroom and sincerely apologized to me. I told him I knew he was sorry, and I was sorry for getting so upset with him. I love him very much, and truly don’t want him to feel distressed. He works very hard, and really is one of the good guys. Nobody’s perfect, though.

Bill and I don’t have spats very often because neither of us likes to fight or argue, and we’re usually very compatible about most things. We have tons of chemistry, and seem to get each other remarkably well, even if no one else understands us. But every so often, an issue comes up, and we have a disagreement. There’s a spat– kind of like a storm, or a chemical reaction. And usually, our spats occur in the evening, as Bill is wanting to go to bed, but refuses to just go. He wants me to give him permission, or something.

My husband is very much a day person. He functions best early in the morning. When the sun goes down, so does his brain. Sometimes, he’s much too polite and non confrontational for his own good, and that can cause him to temporarily be a jerk. He doesn’t mean to be a jerk, and sometimes I “overreact”, by many people’s standards. I try not to do that, but sometimes I fail.

Last night, when Bill came home, he casually mentioned to me he needed to write up his dreams for his weekly appointment with Jungian therapist. He also needed to complete his time card for his job. That information went into one ear and out the other, since he always does those tasks without announcing them to me. Consequently, I didn’t realize this was something that was pressing in its importance, nor did I know how long those tasks would take. I’m also not a mindreader.

Most nights, Bill does online German lessons using Duolingo. I used to do those lessons myself, years ago. I quit doing them after a year or so, even though it would do me good to keep studying German. Nevertheless, Bill very diligently does his homework. He’s diligent about most things without input from me. I forgot about what he’d said about the things he needed to do. I assumed he’d already done them.

So, as the evening was winding down, I noticed that Bill was tired. I asked him why he didn’t just go to bed, if he was tired. I’ve told him many times that I hate it when he’s obviously exhausted and continues to sit there at the table, as if I’m obliging him to do so. I find it to be kind of passive-aggressive behavior. He could just get up and go to bed, right? But he insisted on waiting for me to finish my drink, and go upstairs with him. I guess I was taking too long, and talking about some subject that wasn’t interesting to him. Finally, he got up and was turning off lights and edging toward the stairs, backing away from me with a smirk, but still not saying outright that he has things he needs to do, or wants to go to bed. It’s left up to me to officially “call it a night”, as he was non-verbally “calling it a night”.

I said, “What are you doing?”

Bill said, kind of sheepishly, “I told you, I have to write up my dreams and do my time card.”

“Well, why didn’t you just say so?!” I exploded. Much to my surprise, I found myself getting really upset. Like… I actually felt like crying, because my feelings were hurt. And then I said, “This makes me not even want to go on the trip next weekend. I think I’d rather just stay home alone!”

I know that was a hurtful and kind of crazy thing to say, because Bill has planned my birthday trip to Antwerp, and we’ve been looking forward to it, even if it does mean I’m turning 50. But I honestly didn’t want to go anywhere with him for a few minutes last night. I just felt really injured and bewildered… like I was being rejected by someone I never thought would reject me. I know that’s kind of an irrational reaction, but I was honestly triggered by that look on his face, and his non-verbal communication. I legitimately felt disrespected.

I felt like he should feel alright about point blank telling me when he has needs, or wants to excuse himself. I’ve been his wife for about twenty years. I’m not going to be offended. And over the years, I’ve seen so many people giving me that “smirky” look he gave me last night… people who aren’t my husband… people who don’t like me, for whatever reason, and wish I would just shut up and go away. It honestly wounded me to see that look on Bill’s face. So, I got really pissed, and felt like rejecting him in kind. Impulsively telling him I didn’t want to go to Belgium with him was a quick way to do that.

Bill immediately looked extremely sorry as he explained that he had just wanted to avoid confrontation. And then when I asked him why he didn’t just tell me, he said he’d told me he’d mentioned it earlier. But he’d kind of said it in passing, in a matter of fact way. I didn’t realize the urgency of the situation, and for some reason, he couldn’t just use his words to reiterate his needs.

Seeing that pained look on his face upset me even more, because once again, I upset someone for simply being myself. At the same time, I had compassion for him, because I love him, and I’m not a mean person. I don’t like seeing him looking distressed, especially when it’s me who caused the distress. I was still feeling angry, though, so I said that maybe when he got home from work, I’d just stay in our room and watch videos instead of talking to him, since he has so many pressing things to do.

Again… I was hurt, because I really do look forward to talking to him at night. I don’t have people to talk to during the day. I don’t have local friends or family, and at this point, I’m not really inclined to try to make friends with people, because trying to be friendly with people usually ends in disappointment. I have a weird personality and inappropriate sense of humor that not everyone appreciates. Besides, around here, almost everyone’s German, so there’s sometimes a language barrier.

Bill said he didn’t want me to stay in our room and watch videos. He wanted to talk to me. He’d just had a couple of tasks he needed to complete before bedtime. So, again, I said, “Then why didn’t you just excuse yourself? You can tell me that you have stuff to do. I’m not a complete jerk, and I’m not a mindreader. What do I do every morning before you go to work, and I need to take a dump?”

Bill nodded and said, “That’s true. You do expressly tell me when you need a minute.”

Just as an aside… my body is remarkably efficient when it comes to necessary functions. Bill has remarked on it a lot, and has even told me he’s jealous. Most mornings, as he’s about to leave for his job, I have to say goodbye a few minutes early and take care of necessary business. Bill understands this and is fine with it; he doesn’t feel spurned because I have to go to the bathroom. However, for some reason, he doesn’t feel like he can say something similar to me. And I don’t understand why he doesn’t realize that I know he has things he has to do sometimes. Why can’t he simply tell me, his wife, that he needs time to get things done? Doesn’t he trust me, after almost twenty years?

I usually do notice when he’s trying to do something. When I see him with his computer, I don’t intrude. When he’s talking to his online therapist, I give him privacy. But last night, we were just there at the kitchen table, having a chat, and he suddenly gets up and backs away, looking awkward. I mean, if you need to excuse yourself, excuse yourself. Don’t give me that look. It’s not necessary. Just tell me what you need.

This is very much like my husband. He sometimes lacks assertiveness, is exceedingly polite and considerate, and wants to leave decisions up to me. But I don’t always want or need to make every decision, and sometimes I just don’t know what he needs, and I can’t read his mind. At the same time, he doesn’t want to offend or make ripples… and in the process, sometimes he offends and makes ripples. He never means to do that. He always wants me to be happy, sometimes at the expense of his own happiness. And when his needs are about to intrude on my wants or wishes, he’d rather be covert than just come out and tell me what’s going on.

This situation is kind of similar to one we ran into last year, when we were in Switzerland. Bill had expressly wanted to visit Carl Jung’s house and museum. This was the one non-negotiable activity on our agenda. On the other hand, I get very cranky and irritable when I’m hungry. Bill knows this, too. He has a habit of wanting to lead things, but then he gets “wishy washy”. We needed to have lunch, but Bill was focused on us going to the museum, since we had an appointment. And even though this was what HE had wanted to do, he hadn’t even decided if we would be driving or taking a boat, since the museum is on Lake Zurich. He had wanted to leave that decision up to me. But the problem was, I wasn’t prepared to make a decision, because I was just along for the ride. The whole Jung museum thing was his bag, not mine. I needed to eat before we went to the museum, and I didn’t want a hot dog at the dock. But that’s what we ended up having, because there weren’t any firm plans made so that everybody’s needs could be met.

And again, last fall when we visited Slovenia, on the way to Lake Bohinj, I had wanted to eat lunch earlier than Bill did. We kept going, and sure enough, I got hangry, and there weren’t any open restaurants. Bill ended up getting me a chocolate bar, because I desperately needed to boost my blood sugar. That put me in a foul mood, too. He’d wanted to lead, but then kind of failed… and then I had a candy bar for lunch, instead of something that was somewhat better for me.

Anyway, we were able to mend the conflict, and sure enough, I’m writing about it, even though I’d rather write about something else. We had a spat, and it’s over now.

Insightful stuff here… It’s not always a bad thing to be “triggered”.

I saw a really good video yesterday by Kati Morton, who is a licensed marriage and family therapist. It’s not so much about last night’s issue, but it does sort of address my feeling guilty for being “triggered” and overreacting. If I wasn’t triggered, I wouldn’t have told Bill what was on my mind. And as wonderful as he is, he did need to hear what I said. Sometimes, Bill is too nice, takes too much responsibility for other people, is too much of a people pleaser, and needs to assertively express his own needs verbally, instead of being passive-aggressive. These are things that I think would help him across the board, not just in his dealings with his old ball and chain wife. 😉

But then, based on the trauma he went through with his ex wife, I guess I can see why he hesitates. I’ve spent a lot of years trying to teach him that we’re not all like her. It’s an ongoing process that I don’t think will ever end. He’s been scarred by her abuse, much like Noyzi the rescue dog is scarred by his traumatic experiences in Kosovo, before he came to live with us. Noyzi gets better every day, but I think he’ll always have some remnants from that time in his psyche. The same goes for Bill… and the same goes for me. So we’ll keep trying.

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love, marriage, narcissists, relationships

Short answer? Yes, you would be the asshole, but thanks for the warning!

This came up on Reddit Ridiculousness last night. I was a bit taken aback by it. Sounds like this lady is only interested in a fair weather marriage.

And I hope your man runs… because wanting to put something like that in your wedding vows is quite a red flag, in my opinion. You’re better off staying single, and hoping you never get seriously ill yourself.

I don’t have much time to opine about this at length, since I need to get dressed… but we did have a lively discussion about this scenario last night. I think, if someone gets so ill that taking care of them is untenable or dangerous or something like that, then okay… get a divorce. But to pre-emptively put that kind of a disclaimer in your wedding vows just makes you look like a narcissistic jerk. It’s a huge red flag. I hope her significant other is paying attention.

I think if someone is self-centered enough to want to tell all of her wedding guests that she only wants a healthy, happy husband, that’s a clue that divorce is down the road. We can see if from miles away, just like the Griswolds should have seen the Grand Canyon before they drove into it. My advice to the prospective asshole? Stay off that doomed road and find a safer path.

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