A few months ago, someone in my husband’s family friended him on social media. It was someone my husband hasn’t had a chance to get to know well, so Bill was excited to be Facebook friends with the person. But then, a few hours after friending Bill, the person abruptly unfriended him with no explanation whatsoever.
Bill was non-plussed. What had he done to offend this person? Bill hardly ever posts on social media, although he has admittedly become a lot more politically and socially liberal than he used to be. He also makes no secret that he’s no longer a believer in organized religions, particularly Mormonism. That means he freely curses, drinks alcohol and coffee, and laughs at ribald humor. Did the person look at Bill’s page and decide it was too “raw” for him? He didn’t know.
Although Bill was a little bit sad that this person he’d wanted to know had unfriended him with no explanation, he eventually figured it wasn’t him with a problem; the person who’d unfriended him had the issue. Life went on, and he pretty much forgot about the incident until it was brought up again by a mutual relative.
The mutual relative said that the person had decided to unfriend Bill because of Ex. The person realized that by having a connection with Bill, Ex would possibly have a connection with us. So Bill was unfriended, not because he was “offensive”, but because the other person wanted to spare Bill from offense by keeping Ex out of our sphere. And I suspect, it was also because that person likewise didn’t want any trouble from Ex.
I appreciated hearing that explanation, although I wish the person had thought to send Bill a private message or an email to let him know that the unceremonious “unfriending” wasn’t because of something Bill had done. Bill is a kind, empathic, and thoughtful person, so the truth is, he is a bit sensitive about being liked by others and not wanting to upset or offend them. But then again, when it comes to social media, I guess a lot of people feel that no one really owes anyone else an explanation. That’s one aspect of social media that I don’t like very much. Many of the “friendships” aren’t very authentic, and a lot of them have replaced what used to be “real” relationships with other human beings.
I was recently unfriended by two people with whom I had once hoped to be offline friends. I wasn’t that surprised by their decision to delete me, although perhaps because I’ve spent over half my life dealing with people in person, it still stings a little when “unfriending” happens. I had a feeling the people who unfriended me found me annoying… and the truth is, I found them a little annoying, too. But I realize that in the long run, in very few cases do I end up truly missing the people who leave my Facebook realm. After the initial ego shock of seeing the friend count go down, life goes on and I forget about them.
The people I do tend to miss are those with whom I actually interact or have ever known offline. Failing social media relationships and inevitable “unfriending” is even harder with family members because, if I’m honest, it makes me think they don’t like me at all. And the more I lose touch with people in my family, the more I think the situation is personal, and will be permanent. Thanks to Facebook, I don’t even feel that comfortable thinking about going to the family homestead for a reunion anymore, mostly due to politics and religion and social media behavior. I just assume my family would rather not see me, which makes living in Germany very convenient.
Bill’s younger daughter recently told him that she’d wanted to invite him to her wedding a few years ago. I’m assuming she would have invited me, too, although I don’t know for sure. In the end, younger daughter didn’t invite Bill, because she wanted to avoid drama with her mother. Here it was, younger daughter’s wedding day. She should have felt free to invite whomever she pleased. It should have been her day. But she was more concerned about her narcissistic mother’s feelings and, ultimately, her mother’s behavior. So she excluded Bill, even though I can guarantee he would have been a better behaved guest at her nuptials.
I don’t fault younger daughter for doing that. I might have blamed her some years ago, before I got to know her better. But I don’t feel that way anymore, because we’ve learned more about what happened during the many years in which she and Bill were not allowed to communicate. Younger daughter grew up in an environment where she was compelled to either do what her mother wanted, or suffer dire consequences. It took a few years outside of that environment for her to relax a bit and make decisions for herself.
Younger daughter didn’t even initially tell her mother about her decision to talk to Bill. Even though younger daughter is a grown woman with children of her own, and her mother lives on the other side of the country, she knew there would be trouble. So, instead of telling her mother that, as an adult, younger daughter has the right to live her life as she pleases, she maintained the false reality for a bit longer.
I can relate to younger daughter’s angst on a much smaller and less personal scale. When Bill and I first moved into our current home after leaving the toxic and abusive environment of our last, it took me several months to be able to relax and enjoy the current, healthier living situation. I kept expecting our former landlady to come over and yell at me for something, or give me a look of disgust, disdain, or disapproval as to how I live my life. I was suffering from a mild form of PTSD that had warped my thinking and reality a bit.
The truth is, ex landlady was working for us. We were paying her a lot of money for the privilege of renting her house. I should have simply reminded her of that fact and demanded that she show me basic respect. But that’s easier said than done when you’re dealing with an immature, irrational, narcissistic person. Because, as you quickly find out, narcissists can out-drama most normal, healthy people, and there will be hell to pay if you don’t play their games. So innocent, decent, well-meaning people are “punished” and have to suffer in favor of the narcissist’s need to stay in control. One of the punishments I actually enjoyed, by the way, was ex landlady’s penchant for the silent treatment. Those were actually the best months of our time with her in our lives. Remember, it’s not a punishment to be shunned by an asshole. 😉
Bill and his daughter now talk somewhat regularly. She calls him “Dad” instead of “Bill”, and she lets him see his grandchildren on Skype. She didn’t give in to her mother’s demands that she forget about her father and accept a poor substitute in Ex’s third husband. Frankly, that’s more than Bill had ever expected or hoped for, after his disastrous attempts and failures to co-parent with his ex wife.
But when she speaks to her mother, younger daughter has to listen to Ex complain about how #3 (younger daughter’s stepfather) “misses” her and wants to see “his grandchildren”. Not once has younger daughter ever heard from her stepfather expressing these bereft feelings. Sure, we’ve seen #3 post the odd social media post about how he thinks of Ex’s brood of five as “his kids”, but in reality, it’s all a big facade. In reality, he doesn’t show a lot of regard for Bill’s daughters or former stepson. He’s clearly much more interested in his own kids with the Ex than he is with her other children.
It was the same thing back in 2006, when Ex tried to get Bill to sign legal papers so #3 could adopt Bill’s daughters. He heard from Ex that #3 “loved” Bill’s girls as his own and wanted them to legally be considered his children. Never once did #3 ever personally speak to Bill about the prospect of his legally adopting the girls, just as he’s never spoken to younger daughter about his so-called “love” and affection for younger daughter’s children and thinking of them as his grandchildren.
That’s all a bunch of wishful thinking/fantastical/bullshit that Ex continues to promote. It’s a false narrative of the truth. Unfortunately, it’s easier for the healthier people to continue to tolerate that crap from Ex, than call her on it. It’s easier for younger daughter to nod and smile than tell her mother, in no uncertain terms, that Bill is the father of younger daughter, and younger daughter’s children are Bill’s grandchildren, not #3’s.
Despite Ex’s best attempts to replace Bill with her third husband, her efforts have failed with at least one of Bill’s two daughters. I’m proud of younger daughter for refusing to give in to her mother’s demands that she forget about Bill, because Bill truly loves both of his children and never should have been denied access to them. Denying him access caused a lot of damage that could, and should, have been avoided. And if Ex were a decent person and a responsible parent, she’d understand that it’s wrong to hate her exes more than she loves and respects her children. But, unfortunately, she’s a very toxic person. She’s selfish, delusional, and disrespectful. And because of that, and her propensity to be “dramatic”, good people are punished.
Bill can’t have a social media connection with his own daughter or his son-in-law. Why not? Because it would cause drama with Ex. Either she would object to it, or she would try to exploit the connection somehow. So, even though Bill is by far the healthier parent, he has to be “punished” as a form of protection– both for younger daughter and her family, and for Bill and, to a lesser extent, me. (I’m sure Ex reads this blog, though… and I don’t actually care.)
I think younger daughter is, like me, a bit of a truth teller. Truth tellers are the ones who don’t buy into the fantasy. They don’t fall prey to cognitive dissonance. They see things more clearly than others do, and they tell the truth. That tendency can make them unpopular in a sick family system, particularly when it involves someone with narcissistic tendencies. A truth teller can be a “buzz kill”. Their demands to adhere to reality can really be a downer for someone who would rather fabricate more palatable (to them) lies.
Ex would like to pretend Bill never existed, or, at the very least, see him punished for not continuing to accept her abuse. She suffered an ego blow when Bill agreed to her divorce ultimatum. The ego blow worsened when he found someone else to love him and, clearly, lives a much better life now. She’d rather not face reality and take responsibility for her mistakes. She’d rather make Bill the bad guy and punish him, and she tries to make other people punish Bill, too. But younger daughter is a truth teller, and she doesn’t accept that false reality.
I’m waiting for younger daughter to get fed up with Ex’s demands and tell her mom the way things really are, and how they’re going to be, regarding her children. She may never do it. The reality is, it’s hard to give up on your own mom, even if she is toxic and crazy, and even though there are so many other people in the world who are healthier and kinder. Ex is still her mom, and she has a special place in younger daughter’s life. Plus, younger daughter truly is a lot like Bill. She’s legitimately kind, considerate, and decent.
I feel sad for her. I think she felt like she had to apologize to Bill for “dissing” him at her wedding because of what she knew her mom would do. The fact is, it was her wedding day, and she should have had the right to do whatever she wanted. It should have been entirely her choice as to whom to invite. But Bill completely understands why she felt she had to exclude him, and he can handle it. That’s why he’s the better parent, and he has to suffer for it.
I hope that someday, younger daughter realizes that she has every right to do what she wants and needs to do for herself and her family, even if it causes her mom to bring the drama. I hope that she gets to the point at which she realizes she doesn’t have to tolerate that abuse anymore. If Ex wants to be dramatic, she can do it without younger daughter in attendance. Younger daughter is a grown woman with allies… and she can choose to opt out of the drama. Once she realizes that, maybe she can stop “punishing” the good and healthy people in her life by excluding them.