Ex, mental health, narcissists, psychology, relationships

I am the “eye in the sky”…

Today’s mood music…

Back in 1982, a fantastic song by the Alan Parsons Project came out… and forty years later, it’s still relevant and cool. In fact, I never realized how prescient the lyrics for “Eye in the Sky” would be for me, personally. And the intro, “Sirius” just makes this an epic jam. “Sirius” is like the dramatic storm before the realization of what you’re facing. Listening to this live version, I can understand why Eric Woolfson did a lot of the singing for this band. Still… these lyrics are so meaningful when you’re dealing with a narcissist.

Don’t think sorry’s easily said
Don’t try turning tables instead
You’ve taken lots of Chances before
But I’m not gonna give anymore
Don’t ask me
That’s how it goes
Cause part of me knows what you’re thinkin’

Don’t say words you’re gonna regret
Don’t let the fire rush to your head
I’ve heard the accusation before
And I ain’t gonna take any more
Believe me
The sun in your Eyes
Made some of the lies worth believing

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind, I can read your mind

Don’t leave false illusions behind
Don’t cry cause I ain’t changing my mind

So find another fool like before
Cause I ain’t gonna live anymore believing
Some of the lies while all of the signs are deceiving

I am the eye in the sky
Looking at you
I can read your mind
I am the maker of rules
Dealing with fools
I can cheat you blind
And I don’t need to see any more
To know that
I can read your mind, I can read your mind

Sharing the official video, because this song just kicks ass.

I was an English major when I was in college. I wasn’t particularly good at being an English major, mainly because I didn’t enjoy analyzing fiction. A lot of the books we read didn’t interest me. I also didn’t want to be a teacher, and the program was really geared for English teachers. I probably should have changed majors. But, since I didn’t switch, I came out of college knowing something about looking at words and deciphering their meanings. One thing I learned is that you can make a strong case for a lot of things, even if your interpretation isn’t exactly what was meant by the person who did the writing. I think “Eye in the Sky” is one of those songs that can mean a lot of things to different people.

When I look at those lyrics, I think they mean that someone has either figured out how to manipulate someone else, or someone recognizes that they are being manipulated. Lately, I have been feeling a little bit like “the eye in the sky”, watching from afar what has been going on with my husband’s former wife and her sketchy dealings with his family. It turns out my instincts were correct. Ex went to see my husband’s stepmother because she was hoping to squeeze her for money.

Fortunately, it turns out that SMIL wasn’t as vulnerable as she might have seemed. My husband’s sister asked her mother about the visit, and she learned that yes, Ex did request financial help. SMIL wisely turned her down. But then Ex went out and bought a bunch of packing materials for SMIL and told her to use them to send her any items that she wanted to “pass down”. Naturally, this really hurt SMIL’s feelings. She was hurt that Ex so brazenly asked her to send her stuff, which, knowing Ex, would just end up being sold on eBay.

I admit that I was pretty upset with SMIL for trusting Ex and allowing her in her home, since she should have known full well what she’s about by now. I’m not close to SMIL at all, but I still don’t want to see her being taken advantage of, especially by my husband’s ex wife. I am very relieved that she didn’t give in… or, at least that’s what she says happened. I doubt she’s lying, though, since she admitted that Ex hurt her feelings by openly soliciting heirlooms from her ex husband’s family. Sheesh! The attitude of entitlement is just astonishing!

In any case, I’m not stupid enough to think we’re out of the woods. It concerns me that Ex was tweeting about her “mum”– a 71 year old woman who just visited the Golden Gate Bridge. That describes SMIL. And Ex was asking about how to buy a photograph to “send” to SMIL. I doubt she would actually send her anything, because Ex is very greedy. But, if by chance she ever did send her a gift like that, there would be an expectation of “reciprocity”.

Reciprocity is a concept I learned about when I was studying social work. It’s the idea that if someone gives you something or does something for you, you “owe” them something in return. Many people fall prey to this mindset, and people like Ex will exploit it to the hilt.

Don’t get me wrong. Reciprocity can be a very positive thing. It can help foster a sense of cooperation and community. Mutually beneficial relationships are at the heart of every successful collaboration where everybody wins. But– when someone toxic abuses that concept of reciprocity, it can be a very damaging thing. Suddenly, you might find yourself beholden to someone, even though you never asked them for “help”, or a gift, or anything else.

Narcissists can use reciprocity to get what they want. They extend a kindness and then, all of a sudden, they’re demanding a payback of some sort. You might hear things like “after all I’ve done for you” or “I gave you such and such; the least you could do is help me out with this”. Then there’s “negative reciprocity”, which is when someone “pays you back” with retribution of some sort. Ex is all about reciprocity, both the positive and negative types. Whenever someone has said “no” to her or held her accountable, her response is to do something damaging.

Take, for instance, Ex’s actions in 2006, after I sent her an angry email. She had gone on the warpath, having asked Bill to talk her son out of moving out of her house. She called up Bill and demanded that he withhold child support from former stepson. She didn’t want him to have the money, because he was planning to use it to move out of her realm of control. Bill refused, and then demanded to know what was happening with his daughters, since Ex had refused to allow him any contact with them. Ex’s response was to send a hateful email to Bill, along with all kinds of mean comments about me. At that point, I had only met the kids once– back in 2003 (and actually, to this day, that is the only time I was in their physical presence)– but she told Bill they hated me and thought I was a “bad influence”. Then she asked him not to tell me what she’d written, to “spare my feelings”.

Bill told me what Ex had written, so I wrote her back, and my email pointed out all of the toxic, horrible, abusive things she’s done. Ex’s response was to get her son to reconnect with his natural father. And actually, we weren’t that upset about that, since bio dad should have always had a connection to his son. But I think she was upset that this didn’t make Bill angry, so her next step was to get ex stepson to secretly reclaim his original surname, while he was getting child support from Bill (at age 21). I found out what was happening because, like I said, I am the “eye in the sky”. Bill busted the lad, whose response was to permanently cut off all communication. That was “payback” from Ex for not accepting her demands– negative reciprocity.

She is not above using positive reciprocity, though. Like, for instance, she will let SMIL see Bill’s long lost older daughter after years of no contact. But, in return, she expects to be treated like SMIL’s daughter. She expects SMIL to be loyal to her, instead of Bill, her stepson. She expects SMIL to give her money and heirlooms. And, if SMIL doesn’t comply, she will take Bill’s older daughter out of contact again. Older daughter, bless her heart, is at age 30, willingly going along with this. I suspect it’s because she knows that if she doesn’t, she will be cut off from her mom and Ex’s “severely autistic son”. And if older daughter isn’t there to look after her brother, who knows what might happen? Actually, I suspect that if older daughter ever leaves Ex, Ex will find a way to put him in some kind of permanent care. Sadly, that might actually be the best thing for him. Ex is just that toxic. Or maybe she’ll keep him at home and something terrible will happen. I suspect that Ex uses the fear of that to keep older daughter in line, even though her brother’s welfare is not her responsibility.

This situation could also be the beginning of Ex’s use of the “door in the face” technique, also known as “rejection-then-retreat” method. The “door in the face” technique is when a person makes an outrageous request that will almost certainly be turned down– say, asking for thousands of dollars for a new fence or a therapy dog– and then, after that, making a smaller, more reasonable request that might be granted, and that was the person’s actual target all along. Ex was rejected this time, but now that she’s given SMIL a taste of having older daughter back in touch, maybe she will weaken at some point and give Ex money or gifts. Or, it could be the beginning of the “foot in the door” technique, which is getting someone to agree with a moderate request (ie; allowing the visit), and then talking them into a larger request.

Personally, I think any exposure to Ex is dangerous for anyone who has ever given her supply. She is like an addict who is chasing a high. She’ll keep coming back for as long as she’s physically able. She doesn’t target Bill anymore, because she knows that he has me around to talk sense into him. Frankly, at this point, Bill would never help her again anyway, because his eyes have opened widely to who she really is. Even if I died or we got divorced, he’s DONE with Ex. He wants nothing to do with her. It wasn’t always like this. When we first married, Bill took pains to be kind to his ex wife. He wanted a civilized, amicable relationship with her. I remember him telling me on many occasions that he wished her no “ill will”. But then, as the years passed, and she treated him with contempt and did her best to ruin his relationships and sabotage his successes, he realized that their relationship was unsalvageable and could NEVER be amicable. And now that his younger daughter has told him what went on when she was growing up, that relationship is even more severed.

This morning, I read yet another AITA column on Reddit Ridiculousness. It was about a woman who had an affair, causing her to divorce. Her teenaged daughter was shattered by her mother’s infidelity. The woman married the man with whom she had an affair, then had a son with him. The daughter has been estranged for six years and has no desire to meet her brother or stepfather. She also shuns her mom, who has told her that she needs to meet her brother if she wants a relationship with her mom.

Yes… you are the asshole, Mom. Although I don’t think Daughter should hold Son accountable for their Mom’s actions. It’s not his fault Mom is an asshole.

Someone commented that she didn’t even need to read the responses, since her “narc” mom had done the same kind of thing with an ultimatum. Below is the comment she left, which really made my heart go out to her. Ex has the same “transactional” attitude, and is quite fond of the ultimatum– bartering valued family relationships for attention and supply, and money, of course.

I don’t even need to read this. My narc mother had a similar ultimatum with my whole family: they had to have a relationship with her in order to be allowed to have a relationship with us children. Everyone ended up having to choose not to know us kids anymore for their own safety. It caused me to have a HUGE extended family that I know nothing about, and now there are so many people that know and love me that I don’t feel like I can approach because even though they’re family and I know they’re great people, I just don’t know them.

I left the above poster a comment, and this was her response. It’s like these narcs have a fucking playbook! Tragic for her brother! Tragic for Bill’s older daughter, who is being held hostage and acts like a slave.

Yep. My dad lives across the country and we are slowly learning about each other every chance we get, and unfortunately my brother (who lives with mom in still another far corner of the country) hasn’t been able to make the choice to take any chances to try to do that.

Watching Bill reconnect with his long lost younger daughter has been a rewarding, yet heartbreaking, experience. Because she always had him… and if she was only allowed access to him, she could have had a very different life. Or, at least a very different childhood and adolescence. But, I am so heartened to see that younger daughter isn’t like her mom, and is determined not to be like her. She is stronger than Ex is. Ex used to complain about her adoptive mom using similarly damaging and abusive– transactional– tactics on her. But now, we see, she learned a lot from her mom. We also know this is learned behavior, as Ex was adopted. So, just because younger daughter has a narcissistic mother, she doesn’t have to follow in her footsteps. She has told Bill that she is not going to go that path. All I can say is BRAVO! Thank God she found better role models.

Well, once again, it’s time to bring this entry to a close. We have another lunch date today, and I need to get dressed. I am truly glad that Ex didn’t score any funding from SMIL, and I’m heartened to know that SIL is being vigilant. But I also know that Ex will try again. So I will continue to be the “eye in the sky”… although I would rather not be. Maybe it’s not my responsibility to be so vigilant… but I genuinely am concerned. Also, I genuinely despise Bill’s ex wife, and I want her to stay away from his family. If that makes me “mean” and “selfish”, so be it. I’m human, and I have personally had to pay for some of Ex’s bullshit myself, simply because I love her ex husband… a man who is, thankfully, very deserving.

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Duggars, ethics, law, musings

“If you want the rainbow, you’re going to have to put up with a lot of rain…”

Yesterday, I got the news that after last year’s sad miscarriage, Jill Dillard and her husband, Derick, are expecting another baby. The blessed event is set to happen in July. The happy news was announced on their official Web site. It looks they’re going to get their “rainbow baby”. In the pictures on their Web site, Jill looks radiant. Her bump is already pretty pronounced, at about halfway through her pregnancy.

I must say, Jill looks very beautiful these days. I’m happy for her, and I hope her pregnancy goes well. I also hope she doesn’t attempt another home birth, but I think she’s smart enough not to try that again. It’s not that I necessarily have anything against home births as a general rule. It’s just more that Jill’s first two pregnancies were pretty dramatic at the end, and she ended up having to go to the hospital on an emergency basis. It would not be smart for her to try to birth at home again, given her history.

I still don’t necessarily approve of the transphobic and homophobic comments Derick Dillard made a few years ago. I think part of that was an attempt to cause problems for the Duggar empire, since Derick was allegedly angry with Boob for not paying them for their work. However, knowing how religious Derick supposedly is, I also suspect that he really believes most of the awful stuff he said and wrote about Jazz Jennings. On the other hand, I respect Derick for not putting up with Jim Bob’s bullshit and for, evidently, being a good husband to Jill… and not forcing her to continue to live by Boob’s ridiculous fundie Christian rules.

Today’s post title comes from a little wisdom I picked up after watching Dawson’s Creek back in the late 90s. I was in my mid 20s at the time, living with my parents, and trying to get my shit together after my time in Armenia. It was during that time that the WB network still existed, and I got hooked on 7th Heaven and Dawson’s Creek. It amazes me to think of how long ago that was. The years have flown by so fast!

Anyway, I remember that the character, Jen, played by the amazing Michelle Williams (who does a mean Gwen Verdon impression), had a grandmother who regularly dispensed trite advice. I really only watched Dawson’s Creek during the first season. I was pretty busy at that time of my life, and didn’t have much time for TV. But I do remember the episode that quote came from… as “Grams” was talking to Dawson and said her comatose husband used to say that “If you want the rainbow, you have to put up with a lot of rain.” And then she said to Dawson, “From what I’ve seen of you so far, you better buy yourself a good umbrella.” Sage words indeed, Grams. Hopefully, Derick and Jill and their sons will have a healthy new family member this summer. I also hope Derick has a good job, especially since TLC presumably won’t be there to film the birth.

Tomorrow, Bill and I will be going to Stuttgart to see our dentist. I look forward to being done with that little pesky chore. Afterwards, we will drive just over the border into France and spend the weekend. The dogs will be at the Hunde Pension. Hopefully, they’ll be okay for four nights. I suspect Arran will be annoyed at having to stay there. He’d rather come with us. If it was just him, maybe we would bring him, although he doesn’t do so well by himself and we’re going to dine out. Noyzi takes up the entire back end of our Volvo, so it’s not so practical to travel with him. He loves trips, though.

I’m looking forward to getting out of here for a brief respite, especially since we’re going to France. We haven’t gone anywhere in months. The weather has vastly improved, too. It’s still a little windy and chilly, but the sun has been out a lot. The days are getting longer. Pretty soon, it’ll be time to reconnect the lawnmower and haul the outdoor furniture up from the basement, so we can sit outside.

Although there’s a conflict going on in Ukraine, and it’s very troubling and scary, I can’t help but feel somewhat hopeful and optimistic. I’m not sure why I feel this way. I should be more scared, I guess… but I think the past two years have tapped me out on being scared.

I was sitting in my bedroom yesterday, thinking about how totally awry my life has gone. I mean, I’m very comfortable, but all of the things I planned for myself kind of went out the window. But then, I couldn’t have foreseen all that has happened over the past twenty years or so. Things that were so important back then, don’t really amount to much today. And now that Putin is talking about nukes, maybe it won’t matter at all before too long. So I feel like I just want to enjoy things for now, for as long as I can. Getting too upset about stuff I can’t control is a waste of time and energy.

I did get a little triggered last night, though. I happened across a Reddit Ridiculousness post about a person who accidentally damaged a “friend’s” laptop and offered to pay for a brand new one. The friend with the damaged computer then demanded an extra $500, because she wanted to upgrade… Can you imagine the balls on that bitch? Have a look.

That post was very satisfying to read. The ending was perfect. I can’t abide people who have the stones to try to get over in such a way. I can’t even imagine having the nerve to demand that someone buy me a brand new, upgraded laptop computer, when I negligently put the computer on a surface where people sit down. Good for that judge for holding the computer owner responsible for her own stupidity and carelessness. She probably did that on purpose, hoping to scam someone into buying her a new computer. I’m glad the really kind original poster did not give in to the extortionate demands of the thieving computer bitch. Good on her for letting the bitch sue her, and then allowing the judge to hand the bitch her ass. Serves her right.

As I read that post last night, I was reminded of our ex landlady’s attempt to force us to buy her a brand new awning. I’ve written about that sordid affair a few times and you can read most of long version of the whole awful tale here. The short version is, I had asked the former landlady to have the awning repaired, because it was leaning very low and looked like it was going to fall. She had her husband do the job instead of hiring a professional.

One really hot day, the wind was high, and the heavy awning finally collapsed. I wasn’t outside when it fell, and I couldn’t predict the wind, so ex landlady immediately accused me of being “negligent”, completely ignoring that it was her responsibility to have the thing fixed. She was VERY lucky no one was hurt or killed that day. But she focused on the fact that I wasn’t sitting under the awning when it fell. She claimed that it had been a “stormy” day. If you click the link to my first post about this, you can see that the weather was sunny that day– at least when the awning initially fell. It did storm later, but that happened after the great collapse. In the photos I took right after the awning fell, it’s clearly bright and sunny, with no signs of rain.

The insurance settlement she got from our liability policy was only 300 euros. That wasn’t enough money for her, even though the awning was 17 years old and she hadn’t had it properly repaired. A little over a year later, when we moved out, she came up with a bullshit list of reasons to withhold our security deposit. She wanted 2800 euros to buy a brand new awning. I guarantee you, though, that if the situation had been reversed, and we were the landlords, there is no way in HELL she would have paid for a new awning. I think she knows damned well that’s not how insurance works. She was trying to take advantage of my husband’s good nature, and apparently thought we were both weak and stupid people. I strongly suspect that she’s done this before, to other people… and especially other tenants. In retrospect, we should have held her completely responsible from the beginning, and refused to file an insurance claim, given that she didn’t have a professional fix the awning.

When Bill pushed back and asked ex landlady for a list of bills proving that she’d spent 2500 euros of our deposit to fix the house, as well as proof that we were responsible for the damage, she got really nasty, insulting, and unprofessional. She sent a few bills, including a couple for things that weren’t our responsibility, but were just intended to make us feel guilty for how much money she was spending (on anal retentive things like washing the roof of the carport). She grudgingly gave back about 666 euros or so, out of 3200, and flat out REFUSED to give us more. She falsely accused us of theft, and completely ignored that she did some things very wrong as landlady, as she demanded perfection from us. It was pretty clear to me, at least, that she was determined to take our money, no matter what. So Bill sued her. It took a long time, thanks to COVID-19, but in the end, she had to pay us back 73 percent of what she illegally withheld, and she had to pay our lawyer, her lawyer, and court fees.

In the end, she probably spent over twice what she tried to rip off. She also got off easy, because she didn’t follow several proper landlord procedures, according to German law. If we had been very stubborn, vindictive people, we could have nailed her for a lot more money. But we just wanted to hold her accountable, because we suspect she has a habit of ripping people off. There’s a reason why she prefers American tenants. We wanted proof of her shady practices, so we could provide it to the military installation and have a prayer of sparing other Americans from having to deal with her. Moreover, I was on the receiving end of her verbal abuse for four years, and I figured she had it coming. In spite of that sweet victory, I’m still really pissed off at her. I know I shouldn’t be, but I am. I can’t abide narcissistic, abusive people, especially when they fuck with my husband.

Now, of course, we have a much better landlord, and a better house. And, for now, thanks to Putin, Bill has job security. Or, so it seems… I sometimes worry about the future, and where we’ll end up. I try to take steps to make sure we have an “umbrella” prepared for the rainstorms… and hope we’ll see rainbows. So far, we generally do get treated to better times when there are “storms”. But I know that’s now how life always works. I am a bit worried about the world’s problems… but I’m also looking forward to better times. Or, at least a time when problems will be beyond me, because I won’t be around for them. I have always been comforted by the idea that someday I’ll be dead, and I won’t have to care about anything anymore.

I don’t know how much writing I’ll be doing over the next few days. I’ll bring my laptop, making sure not to put it on a couch to be sat upon. But I hope we’ll have the chance to see a lot of stuff, eat some good French food, and enjoy the world a little bit more than we have been lately.

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