narcissists, overly helpful people, psychology

“Spanx” for the psyche– when your friends and family members don psychological shapewear…

Almost a month ago, I wrote a blog post about manipulators who insist that they’re straightforward and honest. In that post, I wrote about how I’d seen a meme on social media that really spoke to me. I saved it, and three days later, was presented with a real life situation that pretty much described the wisdom of that truism someone shared on Facebook. I will repost it below for those who don’t want to read the older post.

So true…

Bill and I were talking about this subject again this morning over breakfast. It’s Veteran’s Day, and he’s a veteran, so he’s at home. I asked him if, looking back on his experiences with people who turned out to be toxic and manipulative, if they had started off trying to look like they were “above reproach.” He said they mostly had… and in fact, thought of a few people in my life who had acted that way at first, and then turned out to be controlling, manipulative, deceptive, and underhanded. It’s as if someone designed Spanx for the psyche, put them on, and then tried to sell it to the unsure.

You know what Spanx are, right? Spanx are foundation garments designed to make people appear to be thinner and more shapely than they actually are. While Spanx may make a person look more attractive by compressing and smoothing out those trouble spots, people who wear them are basically hiding their true selves. Just as today’s featured photo implies, that’s all well and good until it’s time to get more intimate. Then, the truth comes out, and you find out if your partner only loves you for the illusion of your “perfect” body instead of your personality.

I don’t think shapewear can help me. I am who I am, like it or not. Have you ever noticed that the people who model shapewear don’t actually need to wear it? I think they should get someone who looks like me to model their products. But I don’t want to do it myself… love me, love my fat rolls.

To be clear, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with a person covering up their physical flaws if it makes them feel more comfortable with themselves. I do, however, think trouble starts when a person hides their authentic selves with “shapewear for the psyche”. That’s when a person behaves like someone they’re not for the purpose of shaping or manipulating your opinion of them. Then, when you realize who they really are, you find out you were duped. It’s like the person wore psychological Spanx to hide their unsightly ego bulges, sagging virtue, and flabby morals. The next thing you know, you’re wondering if you’re crazy or stupid. Surely this person is as good as they first seemed. You wonder if you’re the problem. But nope… they were just hiding their true selves in psychological shapewear, designed to trick people with an illusion.

This type of behavior is a form of “gaslighting“. According to Medical News Today:

Gaslighting is a form of psychological abuse where a person or group makes someone question their sanity, perception of reality, or memories. People experiencing gaslighting often feel confused, anxious, and unable to trust themselves.

A person who comes on strong, and tries hard to make a great first impression on you, is trying to shape your opinion of them. Then, when the behavior changes for the worse, as it always does, you will think back to that initial strong and positive first impression and be more likely to give them the benefit of the doubt. You will wonder if they’re just having a bad day. You will assume that someday, they’ll be that person with the warm, winsome personality who insisted that they are above reproach, and would never lie, cheat, steal, or do anything that isn’t for someone other than themselves. The reality is, they were never that person. They just wanted you to think they were. They want you to second guess yourself as you start to realize that they deceived you.

These folks are the ones who take it upon themselves to set a good example for others to follow. To give a recent and relevant example, there’s a woman I know casually who, when the pandemic was first in the news, made a point of posting pictures of herself wearing face masks while she was hanging out with her friends. She added a “PSA” of sorts about how important face masks are and– oh look!– she’s wearing one! Obviously, she was putting it out there that she’s a “caring” person, and you should try to emulate her. She sacrificed wearing lipstick so we could see her taking one for the team, dutifully wearing her face mask and being an example to all.

Later, I noticed that she deviated somewhat from that initial caring for the masses message she put out on her Facebook page. I got a taste of her control issues and the underhanded ways she tries to rope people in to doing her bidding. I realized that the first impression I got of her was just a facade. The reality is, she was wearing “Spanx for the psyche” and I had bought into that initial false image of her. I don’t think she’s a bad person, per se. I just think she tries to put forth an image that isn’t quite authentic or accurate. I find myself being more careful in my dealings with her.

Looking back, I can think of other people who made dynamite first impressions on me. I came away from meeting them thinking they were amazing. They were cordial, witty, charming, funny, and entertaining. Then, after awhile, the mask slipped, and I realized the first impression was just their version of a sales pitch. They were just trying to sell a false version of themselves so that when their real personality inevitably came out, I might cut them more of a break.

This phenomenon reminds me of that old joke about the man who visited Heaven and Hell to see where he’d like to spend eternity. Heaven is quiet, serene, beautiful, and comfortable. Hell looks like a raucous party, with sexy people having a blast with endless games. The man likes how Heaven looks, but ultimately chooses Hell, because it looks like it would be more fun. Then, when he shows up on this first day of eternity, he sees how miserable and awful Hell really is. He asks the demon who is showing him around what happened to the fun version of Hell he’d seen. The demon says, “Yesterday, we were recruiting you. Today, you’re committed.”

It’s easier in hindsight to acknowledge that sometimes people cover up who they really are. When you’re actually meeting them for the first time, it may not occur to you that they would be deceptive about their real selves. Most of us want to give people a chance, and try to see at least some good in others, especially when we first meet them. That’s kind of what our culture teaches us. If we let a negative impression cross our minds, we might hear the stern reproaches of someone from the past, chastising us for being “prejudicial”. However, I have found that that initial gut impression is often correct. There have been many times when I’ve regretted not heeding that impression. Because, once the more “intimate” part of a relationship begins, and the “Spanx for the psyche” is peeled off, the real ugliness sets in… and the person tries to sell that fake version of themselves again. I’m left wondering if I’m crazy or they’re just lying to me.

I’ve often discovered that people who need “psychological Spanx” also tend to be surface acquaintances. They aren’t interested in getting to know other people as much as they want some dirt on them so they can use it to their advantage at some point. Most of the fake people I’ve known are much more concerned about their reputations and images than they are in forming solid and honest relationships with other people. They’re more worried about how they look to others than they are in caring for friends and loved ones who have already committed to them. They don’t value deep relationships; they just want people to submit to their control tactics. Once someone is on the hook as a supporter, they aren’t going to go to the effort of covering up their flaws anymore. And if that’s not acceptable to you, the person who was duped, they’ll make it painful for you to object.

It’s kind of like when we first met our ex landlady. She tried hard to present herself as caring, understanding, and decent. But there were a number of signs that she was being deceptive. We chose to ignore them, even though I know I picked up on the signals from the first meeting. Her words and actions weren’t congruent. And later, after we heard many assurances from her about what a good and responsible person she is, she became the worst landlady we’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with. Over the course of our relationship with her, she made a number of external improvements to the house, but they were mostly cosmetic and meant to make the house more appealing to people on the street. She couldn’t have cared less about the comfort and convenience of the people who actually lived in the house and paid rent to her. That’s why she replaced the driveway and put up a flimsy fence instead of replacing the weird toilet that repeatedly backed up and required her husband to give me a tutorial. That’s also why she didn’t get rid of the disgusting carpet that reeked of cat piss. People on the street can’t see those things and don’t have to deal with them. But tenants have a contract, and are subjected to seeing her as she really is when things go wrong.

I have also seen how these types of people, when they have a commitment with others in their lives, feel free to mistreat them. I always pity people who are born to manipulative liars. It’s much easier to get away from someone who is a not a close blood relative. When it’s your parent or sibling, the stakes are much higher, and people tend to tolerate their bad behavior for longer. Then, when they can’t take it anymore, other people judge them for escaping the clutches of their tormentors. More often than not, the judgmental folks have only seen the charming, appealing, “psychological Spanx” wearing versions of the relative who is being abusive. They haven’t see them when the Spanx come off and the person lets everything unattractive about their true selves hang out.

Now… I’m not saying that it’s wrong for a person to try to make a good first impression. To some extent, most of us try to do that. What I am saying is that when a person tries too hard, or, when you first meet them, they insist that they’re “good, honest people” who never have problems with others, that’s a red flag. Nine times out of ten, they’re going to turn out to be the opposite of what they claimed to be. Or, at the very least, you’re going to find out that they aren’t authentic.

Authentic people don’t have to tell you how good they are. It shows in the honest way they behave and how they relate to other people. They don’t need “psychological Spanx”, because their personalities are naturally attractive. It’s possible to meet someone who is lovely and that’s who they really are. Usually, those types of people don’t give you a bad feeling. You don’t have that little voice in your head, warning you. The authentically good people don’t need to bowl you over with charm. They have no need to impress. They’re just good people who are real. No psychological Spanx or shapewear required.

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musings

Facebook is a lonely place…

Ever since this social isolation stuff began, I’ve noticed people are hanging out even more on social media. I run a Facebook group for food and wine and we’ve had a surge of new members. Why? Because people are sitting at home, drinking a lot… cooking a lot… and probably gaining weight.

For the most part, it’s been alright to hang out on Facebook even more than usual. I have noticed, though, that some people may think of Facebook friends as appearing closer than they actually are. Sometimes social media turns into a substitute for actual friendships.

Don’t get me wrong. There are people I have “met” online that I consider real friends. Hell, I was friends with Bill for 18 months, having met him online. He truly was a friend to me during a time when I needed a friend… and he needed a friend. We chatted every day and got to be very close, even though we hadn’t met offline. I never thought I’d ever meet him, though, let alone marry him. And then there are people I have met offline and been friends with on Facebook who turn out to be people who fade away…

I did read a rather sad comment from someone this morning, though, which has inspired today’s post. This guy decided to go to the grocery store on his bike, and announced it on his Facebook page. He asked his friends for prayers. No one responded. He came back from the store and wrote:

Nobody responded to my bike post yesterday — and I literally almost died. Thank you so much for your concern…

I sense a bit of sadness and disgust in that post. I suspect this dude is kind of lonely. I have never met him before. He’s someone Bill knows from his adolescent days. In fact, this guy was someone who knew Bill when he got run over by his “friend’s” Subaru Brat. I’ve written this story before, but because I don’t have anything else to do and some readers might be curious, here’s what happened…

When Bill was sixteen years old, he was hanging out with some buddies. They were all drinking beer. One of his friends had a girlfriend who was doing that usual teen angst shit that teenaged girls are so good at. She stormed off, and her boyfriend, who owned a Subaru Brat (basically an ugly car with a bed like that of a pickup truck), got behind the wheel. Bill had gotten a ride with them, so he went to clamber into the back of the car. His friend didn’t see him, and started backing up as Bill was trying to mount. Bill lost his footing in the gravel and slipped under the car. His friend backed over him. The rear tire went right over Bill’s chest.

After a week in the hospital with a collapsed lung and extremely bloody eyes, Bill was released relatively unscathed. He does have a bit of arthritis in the area that was injured. A couple of his discs were crushed. He also says he had a near death experience. I believe him when he tells me that, because Bill is an unusually empathetic person. He’s very much in touch with God.

Oh nooooo!

Anyway… ever since then, people have called him Mr. Bill… including me. Even people who don’t know what happened to him try to be clever by sharing a picture of Mr. Bill on social media. This was a thing on Saturday Night Live. He kind of sounds like Towelie on South Park. It’s kind of funny to watch this. The world was a lot more dangerous back in the 70s and 80s. Interestingly enough, Mr. Bill was created by a guy who responded for a request from Saturday Night Live to send in home movies.

Walter Williams got a job writing for SNL after this.

So anyway… where was I. I got sidetracked by Mr. Bill…

Facebook offers a facade of closeness that doesn’t actually exist. Because so many people use it, you may find yourself connecting with people you’d never meet… or ever even want to meet. And people think they know you, but they don’t. So sometimes, you might feel slighted when you reach out on social media, hoping for prayers or whatever, and no one responds. The fact is, without social media, you might not have a connection anyway. I doubt I’d know Bill’s former classmate if he hadn’t decided to friend me on Facebook.

And while I don’t wish Bill’s friend ill, I don’t actually know him well enough to care about whether or not he goes to the store. I don’t think I ever even saw his post, but if I had, I probably wouldn’t have prayed for him. I don’t pray for most people. It’s not something I do. I completely missed that he posted this, though…

Good morning all!
Later on this morning I am going to get on my 18 speed mountain bike (which I haven’t done for about 10 years) and ride over to the grocery with back-pack and mental list! I have been told I should wear a mask — thing is I look odd as it is! Will you guys lift up a prayer for my safety, please? Thanks & God bless.

I can tell he was disappointed that no one responded. Sometimes, I’ve been disappointed in responses from other people, too. I try to remind myself that most of them are strangers. It hurts more when people I actually know or am related to ignore me. Then I realize that they have lives, just like I do. Most of my stuff just isn’t as interesting to other people as it is to me. And social media is, by and large, a facade. The real stuff happens offline. But then… maybe for some people, being online is less painful than dealing with reality offline.

On the other hand, I’ve been watching Desperate Housewives again. It’s a very entertaining show. I’m still on season one. Felicity Huffman’s character, Lynette Scavo, wants to get her kids into a private school and she mentions paying $15,000 as a “donation” to up her chances. That episode was from 2004 or 2005… interesting how art imitates real life sometimes. Years later, Huffman “donated” $15,000 to improve her daughter’s SAT scores. She ended up doing time in a federal prison.

Maybe this social isolation is getting to me. Hopefully, it won’t last too much longer, although my next door neighbor seems to be ignoring it. She’s had people over for the past three nights.

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Ex, LDS, religion

Mormonism… complicating lives since the 19th century

I haven’t been writing much about Mormonism lately. I haven’t had a need to, since my husband’s daughters have become adults and their whackadoodle mother is no longer interfering in our lives. But today, I need to write about the “so called church” once more.

Regular readers may know that my husband, Bill, was once a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, otherwise known as “The Mormons”. When I met him twenty years ago, he still attended church and obeyed its tenets. At the time, he assured me he believed in the church with all his heart. As I got to know him better, it became very clear to me that Bill was going through the motions. His belief was basically a facade. He’d put it on in an attempt to keep his family together and his first marriage intact.

Bill and his ex wife converted to Mormonism in 1997, when Ex’s son was nine or ten years old and Bill’s two daughters were three and six. At the time, Bill believed the church might help fix his marriage, which had been fraught with problems from the beginning. At first, the church gave Bill a place to direct his attention besides his disastrous homelife. The church provided him with positive regard that comes from the initial “lovebombing” church members heap on potential new members. There were things to do, people to get to know, and places to spend what little free time Bill had in those days. Lovebombing usually wanes once a person is firmly entrenched. Like most everything else in the church, it’s basically a facade designed to influence people to join up and stay put. It’s not unlike the intoxicating lure narcissists use to get their supply. It wasn’t long before Bill noticed the lovebombing was ending, and shit was getting real.

Two years later, Bill and Ex separated, and by June 2000, they were divorced. Bill resigned from the church in 2006, and eventually lost contact with his daughters for years. They treated him with contempt for divorcing their mother and turning his back on “the one true church”. Some readers may recall that in November 2016, Bill’s younger daughter popped back on the radar when she showed up as a “person Bill might know” on Facebook. At the time, I was livid, because she had been so mean to him and assured him that she wanted nothing to do with him. But in the wake of that situation, Bill and his daughter started chatting, emailing, and Skyping. He still hasn’t seen her in person since 2004, but they now speak regularly. Older daughter is now 28 years old and still lives with her mother.

Last night, Bill Skyped with his younger daughter, who is now the mother of two very young children. Her husband, who grew up in a very Mormon family, is currently searching for a job. Like a whole lot of people, he’s interviewed at many places. He scored a job offer that turned out to be based on lies. The company that hired him couldn’t pay him, and expected him to do things other than what they hired him to do. So, though he’d moved his family to a new city for the job, that opportunity disappeared after just one day.

Meanwhile, he’s got a son who’s not quite two years old and a six week old daughter to support. He only graduated college a couple of months ago and doesn’t have enough experience to land a job that will pay enough to support his family. They’ve only just moved into an apartment, but now it looks like they’ll need to move again, since the city they just moved to doesn’t have the job opportunities they need to get her husband launched into a job that pays enough to support the family. Younger daughter found someone to take their apartment, but they’ll probably lose their security deposit. They really need that money.

In the course of their conversation, younger daughter described to Bill what it was like growing up with Ex, who basically kept everything chaotic. She would have done that whether or not they were LDS, but the church certainly kept things more complicated. Because along with having to keep up with family responsibilities, job requirements, and basic life stuff, they were also having to keep up with church crap, including tithing. Although the church promised that it would make life better, the reality was, it made things all the more complicated and expensive. Younger daughter found comfort in the church that she didn’t get from her family. But it’s come at a price.

Last night, I listened to Bill try to talk to his daughter. He’s still afraid to be totally straightforward with her, because he’s afraid of alienating her and doesn’t want to lose their newly established connection. She’s still a believer in the church, and even I will admit that there have been times when the church has been helpful to her. For instance, going on a LDS mission helped younger daughter escape her mother’s toxic household, the same way the military helped Bill escape it. But any help the church extends comes with strings attached.

Yes, the church has social welfare programs for its members, but members who use it are expected to “pay back” the church by doing time consuming work for no pay. And anyone who is taking help is expected to tithe on whatever money they do have. So here you have a church that is wealthy enough to pay for everything in cash, but won’t pay members to do necessary work like cleaning its churches. Imagine that… the church could hire custodians again– people whose job it is to see that the church is clean and might actually have an incentive to care about doing the work properly. They’d be earning an actual paycheck, rather than needing the church’s assistance and tithing on their welfare, or whatever. But instead of hiring people, they expect members to clean the meetinghouses for free as “service” to the church. People who need assistance are at the top of the list of those expected to work for free, even though they should be spending their time looking for work that pays.

Younger daughter says her husband can go work for Deseret Industries, a church owned business. But it won’t pay enough, and working there will no doubt come with expectations and commitments beyond simply earning a paycheck. While in the short term, working there would bring in much needed money, in the long run, it may turn into a situation that will keep them impoverished.

As Bill was telling me about this, I read an article in Deseret News about Ed Smart, father of Elizabeth Smart. At age 64, Ed Smart has come out as gay. He wrote a letter explaining things. He says he’s going to divorce his wife, Lois, and perhaps leave the LDS church, which he says doesn’t have a place for people who are LGBTQ. Ed Smart is the father of Elizabeth Smart, who has famously parlayed personal tragedy into a career.

In 2002, Elizabeth Smart, then 14 years old, was abducted from her home. She spent nine months being repeatedly raped and abused by her captors before she was finally found. Now 31 years old, married, and the mother of three, Elizabeth Smart is an activist. But when Elizabeth was missing, her dad, Ed, was front and center. For a time, he was a very visible representative of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He and his wife, Lois, seemed to be perfect. They had six beautiful children, money, prestige, and a seemingly blessed life. I’m sure a lot of people looked at the Smart family and held them up as an example as to why Mormonism “works”. Some people may have even joined the church because of this attractive, high profile family. The Smarts certainly did their part in promoting the church, even though Elizabeth’s kidnapping might have even been directly related to Mormonism, given that her abductor used Mormon beliefs to justify his actions and get Elizabeth to be compliant.

A couple of years after Elizabeth was reunited with her family, Ed and Lois Smart wrote a book called Bringing Elizabeth Home. I read the book when it was first published. It was full of LDS church quotes which supposedly helped the Smart family get through their ordeal. A couple of years after I read that book, I purchased a DVD about the fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (FLDS) called Banking on Heaven. Ed Smart appears on that DVD basically excusing fundamentalist Mormons, reminding everyone that he is descended from polygamists. He was still selling Mormon bullshit to the masses, even as he privately realized that he was gay and that gay people have no place in Mormonism. Even then, he must have realized that he was promoting lies that ultimately would complicate lives for other people.

As I read about Ed Smart’s decision to come clean about his sexual orientation, it occurred to me that his wife, Lois, is now in a pickle. Because in the LDS church, a woman needs a man to take her to the highest echelon of Heaven, the Celestial Kingdom. To reach that level in the afterlife, Mormons have to be temple married, and women have to be married and “sealed” to men who are “worthy”. Marriage in the temple is supposed to be for eternity. Marriages that do not take place in the temple are only for “time” (meaning time on earth).

According to Mormon beliefs, Ed Smart isn’t worthy anymore. So where does that leave Lois, who presumably now must get a “temple divorce” and find some other guy to take her to the CK? At her age, finding a worthy LDS man who hasn’t already been married will be difficult. It would likely mean that after death, she’d be in a polygamist relationship, if the man was already married and sealed to another woman. Because, in the eyes of the LDS church, sealing is forever, unless one gets a temple divorce.

Resigning from the church or excommunication or even getting a divorce doesn’t necessarily cancel sealings. There has to be a temple worthy man waiting in the wings, ready to take on the responsibility of taking the woman to the Celestial Kingdom. If there isn’t one, a temple divorce won’t be granted. Although Bill never got one himself, I have heard and read stories of people who have. It’s not easy, particularly for women. A man can be sealed to as many women as they want, as long as his tithing is paid. A woman can only be sealed to one man, and he has to be temple worthy.

Even if the man quits the church, the church will ask the ex husband for dirt in the form of a letter asking if the wife has done anything that would make her ineligible to be sealed. And also, any children resulting from the marriage would also belong to whichever man to whom the wife is sealed, particularly if the ex husband left the church. An ex wife would also get a letter if her husband wanted to be sealed to another woman, but church officials seem to care less about what the woman says, even if she’s still a faithful member. Because again, men can be sealed to multiple women. I must state right here that I don’t actually believe any of this nonsense. What’s important is that church members do, and they go through incredible trauma because of it. I know that this issue can cause huge emotional wreckage to those who divorce and remarry, not just to the divorcing couple and their families, but also to the people they marry and their families.

Lois Smart probably won’t have any issues… or at least not the issues that less famous members would experience. She’s wealthy, attractive, well-known, and well-respected. I would not be surprised if she remarries and even gets sealed to someone else. But, I write about this to illustrate how complicated church shit can make things. Divorce is hard enough when there is no religious bullshit involved. If you’re a believer in Mormonism, you have a whole ‘nother set of commitments to deal with… and that complicates things a lot. Not only do you have to deal with the emotional pain of it and the expense, you also have to deal with the involvement of a lot of unrelated people… church leaders and members who are in your business and folks who want to make sure the proper procedures are followed so that Heavenly Father won’t be pissed off. It’s totally ridiculous, yet people tolerate it, and things are made much harder than they need to be.

As far as I know, Bill is still considered “sealed” to his ex wife, even though he’s resigned, she’s remarried, and her husband joined the church. The reason I think this is because, based on the experiences of others who have been divorced and resigned from the church, I know that when a previously sealed woman wants to be sealed to another man, the church typically sends the ex a letter asking them if there is any reason why the member shouldn’t be allowed to be sealed to someone else. LDS church folks are very good at tracking people down, so even though we’ve moved a bunch of times, I would expect them to be able to find Bill and send him the letter. He’s never gotten one, and I suspect that Ex uses the prospect of who will be sealed to her as a means of keeping her current husband in line. Of course, by now, maybe neither of them cares anymore. Maybe they both know it’s all a crock of shit and makes life harder than it needs to be. In fact, maybe Ex’s current husband even looks forward to being free of Ex in the afterlife. Who knows?

It’s likely that Mormonism no longer serves a purpose to Ex and she’s abandoned it. Meanwhile, her daughter is still mired in it… and it’s complicating things for her, because she’s been pressured to get married and have babies. She doesn’t have a job; her husband is newly graduated and doesn’t have a job. But they have themselves and two small children to take care of. Ex has also insinuated that maybe older daughter could also come out there and live with them, an idea that younger daughter has wisely vetoed. (Ex is a big fan of foisting needy family members on each other, or glomming on herself… again, making shit much more complicated than it ought to be.)

On the up side, this situation isn’t as dire as it could be. Younger daughter is 25 years old, not 18. She has some college education, although she hasn’t yet finished her degree. She’s bright enough to realize her mother is crazy and has reached out to more competent and “together” people for help. She has skills and talents that she can easily use, and she’s already proven that she’s resilient and competent. But she and her husband married and had a baby before either of them finished school. They now have a baby girl who has some health issues. Her husband is out of work and under tremendous pressure, and younger daughter, who hasn’t yet had a chance to graduate school or launch, can’t help him with creating a financial situation more conducive to having a family. Meanwhile, in addition to all of the stresses that come from having a young family and needing work, there are church commitments that must be considered as well. Younger daughter and her husband don’t have the status, money, and connections that Ed and Lois Smart have.

When Bill and I visited London in 2009, we saw a bus with this on it… The older I get, the more it rings true.

My head hurts as I consider all of this, and I’m not even LDS. To Bill’s credit, he did gently suggest to his daughter not to do what her mother is famous for doing; that is, she shouldn’t expect that Heavenly Father will work things out for her. She needs a plan. She needs to put on her own oxygen mask before considering the needs of the church. To younger daughter’s credit, she is clearly cognizant that her mother is nuts, and she’s ready to reject any “big ideas” her mother has for getting out of the situation she and her husband are in right now. She’s reached out to Bill, who is ready and willing to help her. But my lord, it seems to me that this situation could have been a lot less complicated without the church. I’m sure they’ll get through it… but it could have been easier if they’d just waited to finish school and launch careers before leaping into marriage and parenthood. And maybe they would have done that if religion hadn’t gotten in the way, reminding them of their “duty” to procreate and make more tithe paying members for the church.

I’m not quite an atheist myself. I think I have a belief in a higher power. However, as my good friend Dave once put it, “Having religion in your life is like driving with bugs on the windshield.” As I ponder the life choices inspired by religion that have led people to make decisions that needlessly complicate their lives, I think he may be right.

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Ex

“All my kids”…

For years, I had Ex’s husband blocked from my social media accounts. I also had Ex’s children blocked. It was mainly because I didn’t want them screwing with us and collecting information. Then, sometime last year, I unblocked most of them. I didn’t actively go looking for information on anyone, mainly because I wasn’t interested anymore. Bill’s daughters are grown now, and one of them speaks to him willingly. It turns out she’s not as toxic as her mother is. I’m not as sure about Ex’s third husband. Is he toxic, or does he actually believe her bullshit?

Ex’s husband has a fairly common first and last name, but somehow he was still easy enough to find. It doesn’t appear that he spends a lot of time on Facebook anymore. From what I could see, back in 2012, he was very active and had a lot of public posts. A few were about Mormonism. Ex made him convert when they married. He had quotes from Mormon leaders and clips of church talks. There was a closeup of his face, which reminded me that the quality of Ex’s three husbands are like a bell curve. He had a lot of posts about video games, which doesn’t surprise me. When the kids did speak to Bill, they mentioned that he spent most of his time playing video games. For the first few years of his marriage to Ex, she was the sole breadwinner… well, with help from the $2550 a month Bill was sending her.

Then, there were a few pictures of the children… Bill’s two daughters, and Ex’s other three kids. They all sat together, all escapees from the same womb, fertilized by three different men.

Ex’s husband was referring to Bill’s daughters and Ex’s oldest son as “his kids”, when in fact, two other men fathered those children and both had wanted to raise them. In 2012, Ex’s husband posted public pictures of them. In one photo, all five of Ex’s kids, along with her oldest son’s wife, were sitting at a table. It looked like the picture was taken after Bill’s older daughter got some kind of diploma. He’d captioned it “All my kids.”

In another photo, there was a picture of Bill’s younger daughter with some Mormon guy. She was dressed as if she was attending a fancy dance. I’m pretty sure it was a church function, since Ex made the girls quit public school and “homeschooled” them. The caption for that photo said something along the lines of “the name change will be final soon”. 2012 was when Ex managed to get Bill’s daughters to legally change their names to their stepfather’s, although she did not get them legally adopted by him, as she’d promised she would.

I couldn’t help but think these photos were made public intentionally. Ex was probably hoping we’d see them back then and be wounded by her actions. We knew what she was up to, although we both thought the name change stupidity was a waste of time and money. She did the same thing with her oldest son, changing his name to Bill’s. Later, he had it legally changed back to his original surname.

Just a few years after that “ceremony”, younger daughter married. Not long after her wedding, she and her real father– my husband Bill– started talking again. She calls Bill “Dad” and even speaks to his mother– her grandmother– a delightful woman whose company she’s been denied for most of her life because Ex hates Bill’s mom.

Now that Bill and his daughter are speaking to each other, we’re learning the truth about the facade that was put out there. It was a facade we’d mostly missed when it was relevant. Now we know that what was put on Facebook for us to see– and the reality of the situation– were two totally different things.

A lot of people think I’m the crazy one. I’ve posted about this situation for many years, mainly because it is crazy. Writing about this– and most other things that upset me– helps me process. I’ve had a lot of people who don’t understand the full spectrum of the situation tell me that I’m “unhealthy” or hateful for putting this stuff in print. I don’t think these people realize just how awful it is when people try to silence you from speaking your truth on your space. Even if they think my truth isn’t the whole truth– or they think they know better, when they don’t even know the people involved– they try to tell me what I should write about or talk about, or how long it should take me to “get over” something. They assume the people in this story are perfectly normal people– people who think it’s okay to lie to their children about their past, their other parent and his family, and to the public.

One thing I noticed on Ex’s husband’s page is that he doesn’t have a single public picture posted of Ex. There are pictures of his two kids, their backs turned to the camera. There are several pictures of Bill’s daughters– the ones whose diapers Bill changed, who were held, protected, and fed by Bill when they were tiny, who were supported by Bill’s timely child support payments for years… Those pictures were likely put out there for Bill to see and be wounded by. It wasn’t enough that Ex kept Bill’s daughters from him and talked him into having surgery that would prevent him from having another family with me. She had to get her husband to publicly gloat about stealing Bill’s children from him.

How funny it is that the joke is now on her. Her oldest children know their mother is crazy. Two out of three of them have done their best to get far away from her. One has stayed behind to help raise the youngest child, whom Ex and her husband are apparently neglecting. We learned from younger daughter that she showed up to college with nothing… nothing from her so-called “dad” who referred to her as one of his children. Nothing from her so-called doting mother, who let her daughter go all the way across the country with nothing more than the clothes on her back, so that she had to get help from the LDS church. Not even a phone number for her real father or her grandparents, who cared very much about her and would have helped if they’d only known she needed them.

Ex gets very angry when her children do things she doesn’t like. In 2006, her eldest son started talking to Bill again, looking for support. She became determined to ruin the relationship. The connection lasted three years, until Ex found a way to sabotage it. Bill hasn’t spoken to his ex stepson– the boy he’d once called his own son and paid child support for– since 2009. We’ve heard that he’s now contrite about the way he treated Bill. He realizes it was wrong. I don’t know if they’ll ever reconnect, which is a real pity.

Younger daughter said her mother found out she was talking to Bill and threw a fit. She berated her for being disloyal and connecting with Bill, whom she’d claimed had “really hurt her”. How? Because when she asked for a divorce, he consented to granting it? That response wasn’t in the script. He was supposed to grovel. So, instead of manning up and working with Bill so that the children would be spared some pain, she did her usual thing… forcing her children to split from Bill, too. It was a case of “if I can’t have you, you can’t have the children.” Bill’s kids were part of a package deal. Bill wasn’t in a position to force her to cooperate with him, and it probably would have been a waste of time and money to try, anyway.

Ex had nothing to say for her repeated abuses of Bill… the scars of which he still physically bears. I guess she thinks she gets a pass. She has nothing to say for the way her abuse has affected so many people, some of whom have never even met her. I am among those people. So are her children’s significant others and their children, and other extended family members.

I’ve been affected by this toxicity myself. I can’t take abuse anymore. I am saturated when it comes to abusive people. I’ve come to hate people who mistreat me or Bill, even though I realize that a lot of people who are abusive were once abused themselves. I am capable of forgiving people and getting over things, but it takes me a lot longer than it used to. I am a lot less inclined to let things slide than I was before I encountered Ex. When someone screws with me, I remember it and hang onto it, no matter how many times I get told I should “let it go”. I’m like a dog who gets slapped one too many times and starts biting back. That’s where I am now.

It won’t be too much longer before Bill has a new granddaughter. I hope he’ll get to see her at some point. I hope she’ll be spared her grandmother’s wickedness. Life is hard enough without having someone in it who goes out of her way to fuck things up for everyone.

This post is more serious than I meant it to be. I saw those photos yesterday, not really feeling angry or sad at the time. I’d say I felt more “bemused” by how things have turned out. I have been angry about this stuff for years, but I knew there would be a reconnect at some point. I just wasn’t expecting it to be as gentle as it’s been. It still makes me heartsick to know that my wonderful husband who is a fantastic father has missed 15 years of his daughters’ lives, all because he had them with the wrong person. I wish like hell he’d had them with me, instead.

I wasn’t expecting younger daughter to be so much like Bill is. She didn’t show those tendencies when she was younger. If she really is like him, that’s a comfort. There will still be a part of him out there when he’s gone someday. I wish I could say the same for me… then again, maybe not. At least my distinctive laugh won’t be passed on to some poor descendant.

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