Duggars, law, mental health, money, narcissists, Reality TV, YouTube

No amount of money is worth your dignity and self-respect…

Happy hump day, y’all. I wasn’t planning to write about the Duggars again today, but I saw Katie Joy’s recent video about fallout in the Duggar Family over Jill Duggar’s book. You can read my review of Counting the Cost by clicking here. I wanted to add a few of my own thoughts about what allegedly went down in the Duggar compound regarding Jill’s “bombshell” book. But first, here’s a link to Katie Joy’s video, from her channel, Without a Crystal Ball.

I don’t know how much of this information is 100 percent accurate, although based on Jim Bob’s long established behaviors, I have a feeling there’s probably a lot of truth to this report…

Jim Bob Duggar has gone through quite a tough few years. Less than a decade ago, he was seemingly on top of the world, with a successful reality TV show and huge brood of camera ready children who were ripe for marriage and starting their own families. Yes, people criticized him, and his way of life. But he was making a lot of money on the show and the many rental properties it enabled him to buy, rent out, or fix up and sell.

Of course, it turned out Jim Bob’s seemingly squeaky clean Christian kingdom was built on a swamp full of the worst kinds of sins and lies. Once the stench from the swamp leaked out from under his Tinkertoy Mansion in Tontitown, the kingdom started to crumble. With every passing year since that day in May 2015, when the world learned about what Josh did in 2002, things seem to have gotten worse for Jim Bob. And now, if we’re to believe Katie Joy’s reporting– which I know some people don’t– it looks like Jim Bob is starting to panic. He’s allegedly resorting to threats and harassment to keep his massive family in line.

I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think Jim Bob is much of a Christian. I say that, even as I admit that I’m also not much of a Christian. Everything I ever learned about Christ painted him as an endlessly kind, humane, loving, gentle, decent, and service oriented person. Jesus Christ was not the type of person who aspired to be rich, powerful, or in control of anyone. He preached goodness, service, and kindness. And everything I’ve seen and read about Jim Bob makes me think that when he does do anything for anyone, it comes with many strings attached. Most of the “Christian” behavior I see from him is very much about image. It’s all surface oriented stuff designed to deceive.

I don’t know how accurate Katie Joy’s comments are regarding Jim Bob’s reactions to Jill’s book. However, based on what Jill wrote in her book– and I do believe her— I have a feeling that Jim Bob has threatened his children. According to Katie Joy’s video, posted above, Jim Bob has told his children that if any of them comment about Jill’s book or support it, he will disinherit them. And since Jill’s book dropped, there have been a couple of videos put out by Jessa Seewald and Joy Anna Forsyth, seemingly to distract the public from their sister’s book. They address some of the things Jill claimed in the book, such as the ban on dancing, the focus on the IBLP, and Jim Bob’s hoarding of monetary resources.

In the most recent videos by Joy Anna, her daughter, Evelyn, is shown dancing with joy with her brother, Gideon. She also said that she and her husband, and their children, are out of the IBLP. I don’t know if they are or not, although the IBLP is more of a belief system than a specific church. I also notice that they use music that has a drum beat. This was something Jill stated that was not allowed in their house when they were growing up. I see she has her kids in swimming lessons, and the older boy, Gideon, is swimming in normal trunks rather than “Wholesome Wear”. I like Joy Anna. She has a beautiful family, and she’s always seemed pretty normal to me, as Duggars go.

The day before Jill’s book came out, Jessa and Ben announced their fifth child is on the way. I like Jessa, too… She also has a beautiful family. At the end of their most recent video, they are shown on vacation in Florida, as they leave their kids with Michelle for a few days. I see Jessa and Jana are wearing pants, and Jessa is on the beach, not wearing a regular bathing suit, but not wearing Wholesome Wear, as they famously did when the reality show was on television.

So all of this seems to be making it seem like the Duggars are more “normal” now, and Jill’s book was exaggerating how things were when they were growing up. Except there’s a literal video history of how the Duggars did things. Yes, it was well edited, scripted, and whitewashed, but it’s still out there. And we’ve seen how Jim Bob acted when Josh was in court. He actually had the audacity to try to tell the judge what to do when he was testifying. According to the link:

According to People, when Jim Bob was asked to read the police report, he called it “tabloid information” and said to Judge Timothy L. Brooks, “I’m not going to allow it, are you going to allow for that?”

Apparently, the judge didn’t take too kindly to that, because he replied, “If there is [an] objection to be made, someone will make it but it won’t be you.”

That’s just one relatively recent example of Jim Bob trying to be in charge when it wasn’t appropriate for him to try to be in charge. And it’s pretty common knowledge that it comes to his children and grandchildren, Jim Bob believes that he is the Grand Poobah of all things. The idea of disinheriting one’s adult children when they behave in a displeasing way is certainly nothing new. I used to read a lot of “exMormon lit” and I’ve followed the Recovery from Mormonism message board for many years. I’ve read countless stories of people disinheriting and/or disowning their children over their decisions to leave the religion or do something that isn’t pleasing to their parents. So it certainly is within the realm of possibility that Jim Bob has told his children they’d better stay in line, or he’ll cut them off financially and disown them.

In fact, Jill even brings this up in her book:

Yes, we allotted, at different times, amounts to our children, for tax purposes, because each one of our children were benefiting from having all of their needs met (food, clothing, shelter, utilities, music lessons, education, travel, instruments, vehicles, phones, medical insurance, medical bills, etc.). Here are some low numbers of what was approximately spent on Jill in the last few years:

Apartment rate rent $750 x 24 months=$18,000

Utilities discounted $600 x 36=$21,600

Midwife education $5,000

Honda Pilot $9,000

Harp $15,000

Furniture $5,000 (If you don’t want the furniture, we will buy it back after 4 years of use for $3,000.)

Cell phone @ $50 x 120 months=$6,000

Car insurance $50 per month x 8 years=$4,800

Vehicle fuel (8 years) x $50/month= $4,800

Eating out $100/month with family debit card for 8 years=$9,600

Clothes & Goodwill on family debit cards $1,000 per year x 8 years=$8,000

Eating at home $3 per day x 12 years=$13,140

Gift to Dillard Family Ministries $10,000 (You paid yourself a salary from this, stated there was only $1,200 left when you closed it out, so you must have eventually received it. You can refund this ministry gift, and we will give it to you directly if you want us to.)

$129,940 is just the beginning of Jill’s expenses paid by Duggar family over the last several years. Most of this was made and spent on Jill before you two were married. Also, taking into account many other ways that we have spent money to help you all, for example, installing the AC in your home to El Salvador, the stove, the washing machine, etc. The total on Jill’s tax returns was $130,250. We would be willing to write a check for $20,000 to settle this once and for all.

Jill, when Mom and I pass on, you are set to receive 1/19th of everything we own that is set up in a trust for you kids.

If you attack us, probably your inheritance will be lowered significantly.

I love you, but I am grieved by the disrespect and the accusations that continue.

I have asked for forgiveness, and I hope that you will also, you have deeply offended your mother and I.

We love you and forgive you for the things you have said & done.

$20,000 is a one-time offer, take it or leave it, please let me know by Monday night, or the amount will be zero.

Love, Daddy Duggar

Duggar, Jill. Counting the Cost (pp. 218-219). Gallery Books. Kindle Edition.

The above passage is regarding Jill’s and Derick’s questions about the $130,000 Jim Bob reported that they were paid for being the reality show. They never saw any of that money, but it was reported to the IRS. So Jim Bob justifies what he did by saying that he paid for things on Jill’s behalf… including things that he was responsible for paying, since she was a minor at the time. Then he threatens to disown her, claiming that she’s been disrespectful to him and has “deeply offended” him and Michelle. Never once is it mentioned that Jill presented Jim Bob with a bill for all of the chores she did, to include practically raising several of her siblings, helping to build Jim Bob and Michelle’s house, cooking and cleaning, and the actual labor of being on a reality TV show.

This was when Jill and Derick hired a lawyer to represent their interests. That’s when the shit hit the fan:

Pops went ballistic.

First, he hit the phone. There were texts and voicemails and calls every day, but in none of them did he give the answers we requested. Instead he was calling for us to get things resolved, to move on and work things out. We told him that we wanted to do that too, and that all he had to do was communicate through our attorney, with the information requested.

He didn’t.

Then came the next wave, a consolidated effort from several of my siblings. They hit the phones, sending voicemails and texts all day long, each one pleading with us to get this resolved. When that didn’t work, some of my siblings started visiting. They’d want to spend hours talking it through, trying to figure out what our problem was and why we weren’t doing what Pops wanted. I felt obligated to at least hear them out and show them we cared by listening. I could just about cope with the daytime visits, but when they wanted to stay up until midnight talking with Derick and me, when Derick had law school exams the next day, we finally told them no.

“What? How come you won’t talk?” they’d say. “This is way more important than law school.”

Duggar, Jill. Counting the Cost (pp. 220-221). Gallery Books. Kindle Edition.

What I’d like to tell the Duggar children, though, is that no amount of money is worth your dignity and self-respect. Especially if you’re claiming to be a Christian and trying to influence other people to follow your example. Christ wasn’t about money at all.

Moreover, Jim Bob’s wealth is certainly not what it once was. The younger Duggars and their spouses are probably better off focusing on building their own wealth, rather than “counting on” (see what I did there?) inheriting a lot of money from “Daddy Duggar”. By the time he dies, there may not be much left. There are lots of legal bills to be paid, and not so many people are interested in hearing Ma and Pa Duggar speak anymore.

I think inheritances can be a real burden, anyway. I’m kind of glad I was born into a family where there isn’t a lot of money to go around. I’ve never felt like I had to live my life according to my parents’ wishes, at least not once I became an adult. Once I got married and established my own household, they mostly left me alone. Or, at least my mom did. I don’t have any expectation of inheriting anything, so I don’t feel burdened to try to kiss anyone’s ass. I’d much rather be free to do what I want to do with my life.

I guess the bigger deal, besides the money, is the prospect of being disowned. I realize that’s not an easy thing to ponder, either. My husband was temporarily disowned by one of his daughters, and has apparently been permanently disowned by his older daughter. As a result of their behaviors when Bill went to war in Iraq (in 2007), they are not currently named in our wills. When we eventually update the wills, younger daughter probably will inherit whatever we have. She has a relationship with us. Older daughter can inherit whatever Ex and #3 leave for her and her other siblings. But I don’t expect it to be a big deal anyway, because Bill and I don’t have a lot of money or property, and I don’t see that changing much.

Younger daughter has her own family and her own money. We don’t tell her how to live her life, and she doesn’t condemn us for her father’s divorce from her mother and his decision to leave Mormonism. She also understands that the divorce was absolutely necessary; I wasn’t the cause of it; and Bill never had any intention of being out of her life for so many years. The “disowning” was solely her mother’s idea. Jim Bob Duggar and Ex have a lot in common, actually… right down to controlling their children with threats, other family members, religion, and money. Trump is kind of the same way, too… I imagine the only reason Melania is still hanging around him is because she’s been threatened into compliance. This is a very common thing among narcissistic, hyper-controlling types. Once you’ve experienced it and escaped, it’s very easy to spot.

Bill and I can speak from vast personal experience that shitcanning toxic, controlling, narcissistic people is a pathway to peace and joy. We’ve been broke before, thanks to Ex. Eventually the broke time in our lives passed. She grows ever more pathetic, while we thrive and enjoy living lives on our own terms. It’s a beautiful thing!

What would happen if the Duggar adult kids en masse simply decided to REFUSE to comply? Would Jim Bob cut all of them off? Would he sue them all? What would that do to his image? I think Jim Bob needs his children much more than they need him. And while I certainly don’t cheer for family strife, I do applaud anyone who manages to break free from narcissistic abuse and control freakery and lives their lives on their own terms.

I’m sure Jim Bob is scared. He’s getting older and that kingdom he built is falling apart. A natural part of getting older is loss, and I sense that he fears losing… everything from money, influence, power, and even his own life or Michelle’s. So he’s trying hard to hang on to his power by threatening his children with disowning and disinheritance. It’s nasty, and not Christ-like behavior at all! So I am rooting for the children– at least the ones with a clue– to rebel and get out of that cult. Life is much better when you’re free to live it the way YOU want to live it. And that goes for anyone reading this.

/sermon is now over. 😀

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family, mental health, music, psychology

“It may be no big deal to you, but it’s a very big deal to me…”

Back in 2007, when Bill and I were about to move to Germany the first time, I picked up Lyle Lovett’s then new album, It’s Not Big, It’s Large. That album had a great song on it called “No Big Deal”. Although I haven’t listened to that great album recently, I am reminded of Lyle’s song, “No Big Deal”, as I write today’s post. Below are the lyrics, written by Mr. Lovett himself…

It’s Sunday morning, the club is on
That great cat’s still yawning
Because Saturday is gone

And I still feel the feeling
Of how you felt upon me
And it may be no big deal to you
But it’s a very big deal to me

You were down and dirty
And he was tall and twenty nine
And I’m only disconcerted
Because you said you knew I wouldn’t mind

But I still feel the feeling
Of how you telephone me
And it may be no big deal to you
But it’s a very big deal to me

But you can’t make a cool cat crazy
Like you can’t make a gray cat brown
And you can′t keep a wild cat
When she knows the wildest cat’s in town

So it′s Sunday morning
Yeah and I guess I had a coffee
Ooh ’cause I start recalling
A time I went astray

And I still feel the feeling
Of her last words of warning
She said, “Man, it may be no big deal to you
But it’s a very big deal to me
.”

She said, “Man, it may be no big deal to you
But it’s a very big deal to me
.”

Lyle says this is a morning song…

Lyle says he wrote this song years ago, while crashing on his friend Robert Keen’s couch in Nashville. I’m assuming he means Robert Earl Keen, the great songwriter. They’re about the same age. Anyway, Lyle is an earlier riser than Robert is, and he had this song in his head. I have a feeling someone in particular inspired it. Maybe Lyle was hurt by someone he thought was a better friend or lover to him than she actually was. And maybe he’s hurt someone who loved and trusted him, only to be betrayed.

This morning, I saw yet another AITA (Am I The Asshole) post that inspired me. This time, it was about two brothers who are no longer on speaking terms. Granted, I understand that a lot of these posts are made up, but I think this one is very plausible, because I hear about people doing this kind of shit all the time. Have a look:

This is a story about two brothers. Five years ago, the original poster (OP) had a girlfriend of three years. His older brother, Kevin, had an affair with her. The original poster found out about the betrayal and was very upset. He broke up with his girlfriend and moved back into his parents’ home. The post doesn’t mention if the two brothers were sharing a place, but my guess is that they must have been living together. Why else would the OP move?

The OP showed the proof of the affair to his parents, obviously expecting them to take his side. But, after a month, the parents started pressuring the OP to make amends with Kevin, who had started coming over to their house to apologize. The OP, still hurt and angry, rebuffed his brother, and was even more hurt and angry when their parents and his ex girlfriend tried to pressure him into getting over his pain on their timeline, and on their terms. The end result was that the OP decided to go “no contact” with his brother and his parents. Fair enough.

The OP stayed in touch with a cousin, who was keeping him apprised of his grandmother’s fragile health. She got very sick and was in the hospital, so the OP went to visit her. He ran into his brother, Kevin, at the hospital. Kevin tried to speak to him, and the OP acted like his formerly close older brother didn’t exist. The end result is that Kevin got so upset that he tried to overdose on pills.

Naturally, their parents were very concerned and they begged the OP to forgive Kevin, which he refused to do. The OP’s parents said they missed their family unit and desperately wanted their sons to reconcile. The OP claims he doesn’t care about them anymore, even though despite having gone “no contact”, he gets his parents’ messages to him. Then he asked if he was the asshole.

I was pretty triggered by this post.

(skip this if you’re only interested in the AITA post)…

Those of you who know me, might know that Bill has two daughters. For many years, both of them, plus his former stepson, were very estranged. When they were children, this estrangement was 100 percent Ex’s doing. She refused to let them have contact with Bill, because he dared to accept her divorce proposal. For this transgression, she believed he should lose everything, including his daughters and his parents.

Back in 2006, when older daughter was about 15 years old and younger daughter was 12, they wrote letters disowning Bill. The letters were obviously coached, and younger daughter later confirmed it. She said her mother stood over them and made them hand write the letters that she dictated. Then she photocopied the letters and sent them to Bill, along with adoption papers and several boxes of Bill’s belongings. All of this arrived just in time for Bill’s 42nd birthday.

I distinctly remember that older daughter demanded that Bill sign adoption papers so that #3 could adopt her and her sister. She explained that she wanted an “everyday daddy”, and warned that if Bill didn’t do as she demanded, she would never speak to him again. Both girls also addressed their natural father– the man who changed most of their diapers, took care of them when they were very young, and paid pretty much all of their bills– by his first name.

Seventeen years later, older daughter has been as good as her word. She doesn’t speak to Bill at all. Both she and younger daughter changed their surnames– again, at Ex’s behest. They probably got adopted, too, once younger daughter turned 18.

Younger daughter eventually came around and now she and Bill talk all the time. Bill hasn’t yet worked up the nerve to ask her if she’s been legally adopted. However, clearly, younger daughter thinks of Bill as her father, even if she is legally one of #3’s heirs. As for older daughter, who knows? She refuses to have anything to do with Bill.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I heard that when Bill’s father died in November 2020–older daughter’s beloved “Papa”– older daughter felt entitled to attend his funeral. She and Ex, who had hatched all this toxic bullshit in the first place, were sitting at their home, grieving over Bill’s father’s death, thinking they had a claim to publicly mourn him at the funeral. They wondered “what it would be” for them to get to attend the funeral.

Uh…FIL was in their lives because of Bill, who was his only son. Older daughter disowned Bill, changed her name, and probably got legally adopted. What the hell right does she have thinking she’s still in Bill’s family? Her paternal grandparents are now #3’s parents, not Bill’s parents. She voluntarily opted out of the family when she decided to disown her natural father. If she got adopted, then legally, the most she is to Bill’s family is a friend. That doesn’t automatically entitle her to be at family events, like funerals. Getting legally adopted by your mother’s third husband is a very serious thing, and it has very serious consequences.

As it turned out, my father-in-law’s funeral wasn’t well attended by anyone, because it happened during the worst of the pandemic. Not even Bill could attend his dad’s funeral, due to the lockdowns and travel restrictions. I’m pretty sure Bill’s awesome sister pretty much put the kibosh on Ex and older daughter being there, anyway.

Younger daughter told us that she tried to reason with her sister and said, “Why would you assume you’d be welcome at the funeral after the hostile way you’ve behaved toward them? You haven’t had a real relationship with them in years.”

But then in the spring of 2022, Ex showed up at Bill’s stepmother’s house in Tennessee with older daughter and her daughter with #3. SMIL, still grieving and lonely, welcomed them into her house. During that visit, Ex asked SMIL for money, and proposed that she move in with Ex up in New Hampshire. When SMIL demurred, Ex gave her some boxes and said she could use them to pack up anything she wanted to “pass down”.

Um… excuse me? YOU ARE NOT IN BILL’S FAMILY ANYMORE, EX. And that is 100 percent YOUR doing. Older daughter followed your lead, so she’s not in the family, either. She’s a 32 year old woman who is apparently smart enough to be in graduate school, studying in a mental health field, of all things. She’s old enough and intelligent enough to understand that when you go no contact and do extreme things like disowning people, changing your name, and getting adopted, the sword can cut both ways. You don’t get to dictate how people react when you take extreme measures against them. And no, you aren’t entitled to an inheritance– especially from the family you threw away!

Please don’t misunderstand me…

It’s not that I don’t think people have the right to go no contact, particularly if it means protecting their mental health. I absolutely agree that sometimes going no contact can be the healthiest thing a person can do. But if you’re going to go no contact for your health, I think you should really commit to it. That means that you don’t contact people who are close to those you’re ostracizing.

If older daughter is happier and healthier being #3’s daughter, so be it. But she has no business trying to connect with Bill’s family, if that’s really how she feels. That’s still Bill’s family, and he was there first. She was in that family in the first place because of Bill. Bill is the one who made “Papa” her grandfather. Moreover, cutting Bill off because he agreed to divorce a toxic, abusive, narcissist who actually PROPOSED the divorce in the in-laws’ home on Easter, does NOT make him the asshole!

Bill would love to talk to older daughter, and I would never try to stop him from doing so. But frankly, I wouldn’t blame him if he decided to counter going no contact with her. Keep in mind, though, that I’ve never been a parent, so I honestly don’t know what parental love and devotion feels like. I also have a much lower tolerance for abuse than Bill does.

Of course, the way I think “no contact” should work isn’t how it ends up working for a lot of people. Humans are complicated, and the majority of us form relationships with other people. Sometimes you can cut someone off completely and there won’t be any messiness. But when it’s a family member and you have any kind of connection with other family members, things can get very complicated in a hurry. Not everyone is going to agree with you that going “no contact” is the right approach, and they won’t all take your side and share in your extreme decision.

If you still have a connection with those people, you will continue to have a connection to the person with whom you’re trying to go no contact. So really, what you have is more of a toxic “low contact” scenario, which personally, I don’t think works very well. If you feel so negative about someone that they need to be completely cut out of your life, but then you hang around their relatives, you WILL still be in contact with them.

I think Ex is okay with that. She never lets anyone go, and never intended to leave Bill’s family or their marriage. She doesn’t want to be no contact with him, although she’d never lower herself to sincerely apologize for ALL of the things she did (Bill takes full responsibility for his part). She thinks his family is still her family, just as she thinks what belongs to other people belongs to her.

That’s why she felt entitled to invite herself–and US— to Bill’s dad’s house for Christmas, back in 2004. If I were to drop dead tomorrow and she heard about it, I bet she’d try to hoover Bill. She’d be quite shameless about it. I’ve seen her in action. She thinks he’s weak, and the only reason she can’t have him is because I control him. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Back to the post in question…

Based on the original post that prompted this entry, I get the sense that the “no contact” decision is fairly new (five years can pass in a flash, once you’re over 21). The OP has only fairly recently cut off his family. He has every right to be pissed at Kevin and his ex girlfriend. What they did was very hurtful. He also has a right to be angry about what happened with his parents, if that’s how he feels.

However, I also think the OP is being pretty self-centered. His parents weren’t the ones who slept with his girlfriend. Kevin is their son, too. Obviously, Kevin has mental health issues of some sort, which means they believe he needs their support, even if he’s “toxic”.

I don’t know if the suicidal gesture was a genuine attempt, or if it was just Kevin trying to be manipulative. While I think any suicide attempt should be taken very seriously, I also notice that Kevin used a less lethal method of making his attempt.

It sounds really morbid, and I’m sorry for that, but men have a tendency to use more violent means when they attempt suicide. Statistics show that women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are more likely to die from suicide. While people absolutely do die of overdoses, it usually takes some time for that to happen… time that would allow them to be discovered and taken to a hospital. Based on the AITA post, that’s what happened in Kevin’s case.

It’s certainly not the OP’s fault that Kevin overdosed. He’s not responsible for Kevin’s mental health or lack thereof. Not knowing the people involved, I can’t tell if this behavior is one of a long string of issues that made the OP finally decide he was done, or if this behavior is new. Sleeping with your brother’s girlfriend is pretty toxic stuff, although obviously, the girlfriend shares the blame in that decision. Maybe the OP dodged a bullet, thanks to his brother. Good that he didn’t marry the girlfriend. She probably would have been unfaithful.

It sounds like the overdose was, perhaps, Kevin’s way of forcing the OP to “rock bottom”– as a means of showing him what he was “throwing away”. That was another one of Ex’s tactics… and it was very shitty, manipulative, and totally disrespectful. She did it to Bill (not through a suicide attempt, but through deliberately causing huge problems), and later, she did it to younger daughter (that time it was an overdose– “suicide attempt”).

The concept of “rock bottom”, by the way, isn’t about causing catastrophic problems for the target. It’s about forcing them to deal with their “bad” behaviors without enabling them. So, if the OP or Bill were drug addicts, for instance, their friends and loved ones wouldn’t give them a place to stay, buy them food or clothes, or bail them out of jail. That would be helping them to reach “rock bottom”, where they might finally realize things are so bad that they have to change their lifestyles. Feigned suicide attempts and trying to get the family to ostracize or pressure the target are not what “rock bottom” is about. That’s just toxic manipulation.

The part I think the OP is missing is that his parents are stuck in the middle of this mess. They just want peace and harmony, and it’s hard to take sides, especially when it means choosing between sons. The OP is punishing his parents for loving Kevin, which is only the natural thing for normal parents to do. He’s their child, just as the OP is. It’s not fair to put them in a loyalty bind. In fact, the parents should stay out of this, as it’s not really their business. Moreover, the parents did let the OP move in with them, even though he was a grown man when this happened. He repaid them by demanding that they take his side in a situation that should have stayed between the actual people involved.

OP certainly has a right to his feelings and his responses to those feelings. However, he should realize that other people also have rights to their feelings and responses. If the OP wants to go no contact, that’s fair enough. But he shouldn’t be upset when he runs into his brother and parents, if he’s also going to stay in contact with cousins, grandparents, and other people in the family. That’s going to happen, particularly at family events like weddings and funerals or visiting someone in the hospital.

If the OP wants to go no contact for his mental health, he needs to be “all in” and really go no contact. Otherwise, he’s just as manipulative and toxic as they are, and this is just about him being vindictive and punishing his brother and his parents. Personally, I think it’s pretty sad to throw away a brother and two parents over a cheating girlfriend… but maybe it’s part of a larger pattern, in which case going no contact makes a lot more sense. If OP had been married to the woman, that would be more serious, in my view.

My verdict on this situation? Everyone sucks here. They all sound like they need to grow up. Unfortunately, in these kinds of family messes, ultimately fixing the issue usually isn’t up to just one person who suddenly decides to be mature. A group effort is necessary. On the other hand, someone does have to take the first step. I would hope it would be taken in a healthy way, and not in a manipulative, dramatic, dangerous way, like overdosing or staging “interventions” that blame the victim.

What Kevin and the girlfriend did may not have been a big deal to them, but it was a very big deal to the original poster. He’s not wrong to be angry about it… but he might want to reconsider if shitcanning his whole family is really the best response. Because if he really wants to be no contact, that’s what it’s going to take.

On a side note… when I typed in “men suicide attempts”, Google wanted my location.

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mental health, poor judgment, psychology

When manipulators INSIST they’re being straightforward and honest…

A few days ago, I saw today’s featured photo on my social media feed. I decided to share it myself, mainly because I wanted to write a blog post about this phenomenon manipulative people use when they’re trying to get their way. Manipulative people try to frame your impression of them before they engage in manipulative behavior.

When I think about the people in my life who have turned out to be manipulative, I realize that they all seem to follow a pattern. At first, they’re super nice and flattering. Then, often at the beginning of a relationship, they tell you how “honest” they are. I remember very clearly, early on in a business relationship Bill and I had, our former associate told us how they didn’t care about money and wouldn’t look for money until at least a couple of days had passed the due date. This person tried to play themselves off as unconcerned about money. Instead, they stressed to us that they wanted us to be “happy”. I also remember hearing a pretty speech from them about how important “trust” is…

Later, when we had an issue that required bills to be paid, the person put all of the responsibility on us, even though the responsibility was actually not ours. I remember being told that they’d “never had a problem” like the one we were experiencing. I was invited to call other people and hear it from them. Something tells me that if I’d actually requested to make those phone calls, the manipulator would have been insulted… and they would have ultimately refused to give me the information, or had me call someone I suspect was a “flying monkey” type who was in cahoots with them.

As time went on, it became obvious that this person we were doing business with was neither trusting nor honest. I was blamed, personally, for everything that went wrong, and they went to great lengths to pass all responsibility to me, personally. We were subjected to guilt trips, insults, and devaluation. I remember it to be a very uncomfortable situation. Sadly, it ended with a lengthy legal battle that ultimately ended in our favor, but only after a lot of psychic pain and inconvenience.

That’s just one example. There have been others. In fact, just this morning, someone tried to manipulate me into doing something with which I’m uncomfortable. I don’t want to get into specifics because, frankly, I’m still a bit pissed about it. Long story short, this young guy sent me a PM late last night, asking me for help with a “fundraiser”. I don’t know this guy personally; he lives in another country, and he doesn’t speak English very well. I know of him because he’s the one who rescued Noyzi.

A couple of months ago, he asked me to help him share information about his dog rescue. I told him I would, once he had a Web site set up. I didn’t hear from him for weeks and forgot all about it.

Now, he seems to be saying that he wants me to set up a fundraiser for him. When I replied that I wasn’t comfortable doing that, he basically tried to guilt me using insults. He accused me of “playing games” with him and scolded me for saying I would help him and then declining to help. He insists that he’s not asking me to do anything dishonest, even though warning bells are going off in my head.

I explained to him that I had donated a lot of money when I adopted Noyzi. I gave money to help with vet care and food. I didn’t mind doing that, and I thought he was asking me to share information. But I don’t want to be in charge of setting up a fundraiser, collecting money, and sending it to him. I’m just not comfortable with that. Aside from that, it’s now Sunday, and I don’t want to spend my day setting up a fundraiser for a person I’ve never met in the flesh.

What’s more, before I realized he wanted me to set up a fundraiser for him, he sent me some screenshots of the Web site he has prepared, but hasn’t launched. I noticed a couple of typos. I asked him to fix them. He said he doesn’t have the password to the program he used to make the Web site. Then he told me to just share it as it is– very directive. He’s insistent that this must be done right now. When I demurred, he tried to make me feel bad, and implied that I wasn’t being fair and was reneging on a promise. This statement was meant to put me on the defensive. I don’t remember promising anything. I said I would help, but I never promised– and I certainly never agreed to do what he seems to be proposing.

Of course I want to be kind and helpful. I always prefer to be nice when I can. But I just became aware of all of this twelve hours ago. Now he’s pressuring me to help him with what seems like a sketchy proposal… just a little while ago, he brings up using Western Union. I finally decided to mute the conversation, because I just don’t feel comfortable with it. I quite clearly and firmly said “no”, but he’s still insisting, and has engaged in several manipulative tactics to get me to do what he wants, along with implying that I’m being “shady” because I am questioning what he’s asked me to do (which is still not altogether clear). It’s definitely not something I want to deal with on a Sunday morning… especially when the only thing I would get out of it is feeling like I did someone I don’t know very well a favor.

I am very grateful that he rescued Noyzi and has helped so many dogs. I would like to help him. But he’s come to me with a mess, and has insulted me to boot. Even if what he’s proposing is totally above board, I’m just not comfortable with it. Getting involved in these kinds of things can lead to big trouble if one isn’t careful. Or, at the very least, it can become a real hassle.

It’s interesting that this situation came up last night. I saved today’s featured photo two or three days ago, with no idea that this morning, I would be reading it and realizing that I’d be dealing with manipulative tactics this morning. I think most of us are manipulative sometimes… it’s part of being human. Some people take it to an art form. I don’t know this person well enough to know if he’s a manipulator or not, but I didn’t like his tactics this morning.

I just read a great article about characteristics of manipulators. Many of the signs in that list are familiar. Follow the link to have a look for yourself.

Maybe now he thinks I’m a bitch. He wouldn’t be the first. This is just one more reason why I hate Facebook Messenger… it’s so often the source of angst.

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narcissists, psychology

Repost of a repost: Dealing with Manipulators

I originally posted this on a long defunct Web site I used to own. Then, back in 2010, I put it on the Blogspot version of The Overeducated Housewife. I’m sharing it again now, because it’s good stuff. The first paragraph is the introduction from my Blogspot post.

I’m shamelessly copying this entry from my Web site, which I’m thinking about taking down in a couple of months.  This page gets a lot of hits and I think it might be useful to my readers on this blog.  Bear in mind that I wrote this a few years ago, right before Christmas.

Dealing with manipulators…

The holidays are relentlessly approaching. As I write today, I’m reminded of the ghosts of holidays past, the ones where I eagerly awaited that special day and came away disappointed because I spent too much time with my dysfunctional family. I’m sure I’m not alone in being apprehensive about the holidays, especially Christmas, when families are expected to be together.

Not long ago, I figured out why I usually leave gatherings with my immediate family feeling a lot worse than I did before the “celebration”. It’s because in my family, there’s at least one manipulator. That’s a person who gets other people to do what they want by using guilt and sneaky, underhanded tactics. All the while, they somehow manage to come away looking completely innocent.

As I was trolling the Internet a couple of weeks ago, I came across an excellent piece about how to deal with manipulators. I mostly agree with the anonymous author’s advice. I want to include some of it here, expanded with my own observations. Since the dreaded Christmas holidays are approaching, I figure it’s appropriate. Of course, you may find this information useful every other day of the year, too.

How to handle manipulators

1. Try not to engage manipulators in the first place.

I know it can be hard to completely avoid dealing with manipulators, especially when they’re family members. The very nature of manipulative behavior is sneakiness, and family members, in particular, tend to know exactly which buttons to push. I’ve found that the best thing to do when someone I’m dealing with is employing obviously manipulative tactics is to excuse myself from the conversation or change the subject. Or, if I know ahead of time that the person is a manipulator, I try to limit my exposure to them.

2. Don’t allow manipulators to make requests by using underhanded tactics.

Manipulators are famous for making requests that don’t really seem like requests. Adults who want you to do something should learn to make their requests in an adult manner. That means they should make a direct request instead of using emotional blackmail, bribery, guilt, or other underhanded tactics. Here’s an example of what I mean:

Manipulative request: You know, your father’s getting older every year and he’s in such poor health. He’s so sad that he never gets to see you. He’s afraid he’s going to die before you get the chance to visit him again. Christmas is coming and he’s going to be so depressed if you’re not there.

Adult request: Your father would sure like to see you if you have time to visit. Would you please come celebrate Christmas with us?

Notice in the first example, the request is never actually made. Instead, the manipulator has disrespectfully dropped hints dripping with guilty accusations. In the second example, a clear, respectful request has been made. You can’t force someone to make an adult request of you, but you can learn to spot manipulation and avoid engaging by refusing to honor manipulative requests. That skill goes hand in hand with the next rule…

3. Learn to identify and ignore passive-aggressive behavior.

This is a tough one, but if you can learn to identify and ignore passive-aggressive behavior, it will make dealing with a manipulator easier. Manipulators are pros at passive-aggression, which is behavior that, on the surface, may seem innocent but actually isn’t. Manipulators employ passive aggressive behavior, which in turn, makes you angry. Then when you get angry, they retaliate by trying to make you look like the aggressor/screw up. Finally, they blame you for their retaliation. Meanwhile, manipulators loudly proclaim their innocence and the insignificance of their actions while you come off as unreasonable or uncooperative. It’s a maddening tactic and sometimes it’s impossible to ignore it. However, if you can learn to ignore the more minor digs, it will lessen a manipulator’s power.

4. Determine what your limits are; define them; and don’t be afraid to consistently enforce them.

Manipulators have an uncanny knack for getting their victims stuck between a rock and a hard place. Therefore, when you deal with the manipulators in your life, always try to have a way out of that tight spot. Make sure you have access to transportation, money, or whatever else you might need to rescue yourself from a bad situation. Don’t invite manipulators into your home unless you’re willing and able to make them leave. If they refuse to leave, make sure they know you’re going to call the police for help and then do it. Don’t threaten to call the police, however, unless you are actually going do it.

5. Forget trying to bluff a manipulator.

It’s impossible to set enforceable boundaries when you bluff. And if manipulators know there won’t be any actual consequences for their bad behavior, they won’t have any reason to change it. Besides, true manipulators are experts at the bluff and will always know when you’re bluffing. When it comes to enforcing your limits, say what you mean and mean what you say. If you make a threat or a promise, be sure to carry out that action promptly.

6. Spell out your expectations and try to leave nothing to chance.

Ambiguities give manipulators the leeway they need to engineer a situation that is advantageous only for them. If they are confronted, they will then try to feign innocence and insignificance. To avoid this, make sure both you and the manipulator are very clear about your mutual expectations during a meeting. Avoid vagueness at all costs. Sometimes, the manipulator will still get the upper hand, but having clear expectations will lessen their ability to pull a fast one.

7. Realize that some people will think you’re mean.

Manipulators are really good at making their victims look bad to other people. When they are in groups, manipulators will often try to come off as superior while making their victims look small. They’ll use subtle digs that will seem innocent to everyone but their victims. To combat this behavior, be prepared to look like a jerk for publicly defending your boundaries, especially when you call the manipulator on their rude behavior. Other people may initially see your reactions as excessive because they only know what they observe firsthand or hear from the manipulator. Understand that those other folks really don’t know the whole story. It’s really okay if other people temporarily think of you as a jerk. Chances are, they’ll eventually understand what’s happened, particularly if they too become ensnared in the manipulator’s trap. And if they don’t eventually understand, they’re probably not worth your time, anyway. Remove yourself from the situation if need be.

8. Do not owe a manipulator anything.

Manipulators love to employ guilt tactics and blackmail in their dealings with other people. That’s why it’s important never to borrow anything from or lend anything to a manipulator. If you must owe a manipulator, do everything you can to repay them as soon as possible. If a manipulator must owe you, make sure you have a signed and dated document that allows consistent repayment with all terms of the agreement detailed in writing. Remember that manipulators will use debts as a means of control, even if they’re the ones who owe you. Try not to let them have that power if you can possibly avoid it.

9. If you do lend something to a manipulator, be prepared to let go of it.

Sometimes being repaid is just not worth the hassle. If a manipulator borrows something from you, be prepared to never see it again. Then, if they ask to borrow from you again, remind them that you’ve made that mistake in the past and refuse to repeat it. If they protest or try to lay a guilt trip, tell them that you’ve decided not to lend to people who don’t repay their debts or return borrowed property. Then walk away from them or otherwise end the conversation.

10. Don’t let manipulators do you any favors.

Manipulators will often try to use kindness as a means of furthering their agenda and getting you to lower your guard. Remember that any kindness a true manipulator extends to you will eventually be used as a means of control in the future. It’s best to refuse favors extended by manipulators, especially if the nature of the favor lends itself to being extended for any length of time. Be especially wary of accepting help from a manipulator that makes you dependent on them for your livelihood or your home. It’s also good policy to avoid giving a manipulator any reason to take credit for your successes.

Manipulators will very often use kind deeds and favors as a means of accessing whatever you have that they want. Remember, do not owe a manipulator anything if you can help it. That includes favors.

11. Anything you say can and will be used against you.

Give the manipulators in your life information strictly on a “need to know” basis. Manipulators work most effectively off of information provided by their victims. The less information they have about you and your plans, the less control they can exert and the less chance they can use what you say against you. Try not to give them anything in writing unless you absolutely don’t care what they do with the information or you are entering a debt/debtor situation.

12. No means no…

Don’t waste time and energy justifying your actions to a manipulator. Manipulators are masters of using your own words against you. If you want to say “no” to a manipulator, say it and mean it. Don’t explain yourself and don’t make excuses. Just say no.

13. If you must, cut off relations with the manipulator in your life.

This is another tough one, especially when the manipulator is a member of your family or a close friend. Unfortunately, sometimes it’s better to remove toxic manipulators from your life rather than trying to deal with them. If you can’t completely cut especially toxic manipulators out of your life, do your best to limit your interactions with them to the bare minimum.

14. Understand that a true manipulator will probably never change.

Most people use manipulative behaviors ocasionally, but understand that those who have repeatedly used manipulative and controlling behaviors for the entire time you’ve known them are probably not going to change, unless it’s advantageous for them. Consequently, you will not be able to change them and they probably won’t change for your benefit. Moreover, their bad behavior is not your fault or responsibility. If you can’t cut an especially toxic manipulator out of your life completely, it’s best to limit your exposure to them and keep your relationship as superficial as possible.

Of course, what all of these steps ultimately boil down to is learning how to be assertive and sticking up for yourself. That can be a very difficult undertaking, especially when the manipulator in your life is someone who has real or imagined authority over you. Many people become victims of manipulators because they lack self-esteem and care too much about what other people think of them. A lack of self-esteem can be a difficult obstacle to overcome because it requires a person to change their own behaviors.

No one can be happy as another person’s doormat. Manipulators thrive on making other people their doormats. They count on their victims’ fears of how they look to other people and their reluctance to stand up to the manipulator’s bad behavior. Realize that you can’t control what other people think of you. You can only control your reactions to other peoples’ behavior. If the manipulator in your life is an adult, he or she is ultimately responsible for their own actions and reactions. You are only responsible for what you do. And no matter what, there are always going to be certain people who won’t like you or won’t approve of how you live your life. In my opinion, the best thing to do in a no win situation is whatever will ultimately make you the most comfortable and will cause the least amount of grief to innocent parties. I realize that sometimes that means giving in to a manipulator. But with practice, you can learn how to minimize the effects of a manipulator’s bad behavior on your life.

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psychology

Putting on the brakes: not getting on the bus to Abilene…

A couple of nights ago, Bill had a Skype session with his daughter. She told him that not long ago, she got a phone call from her mother, beseeching her to jump in her car and drive to a hospital a few hours from where she lives. Evidently, younger daughter’s cousin had been in a car accident and Ex felt that someone from the family should go to her. Younger daughter, in her infinite wisdom, declined to drive to the hospital. She’s pregnant, and has a toddler aged son. The hospital was a few hours away from where she lives, and she’s not particularly close to her cousin. She also had no idea what condition her cousin was in. She could have loaded up her toddler in the car, driven several hours, wasted precious gas and spent money she didn’t have, only to find that her cousin had only gotten bumps and bruises and was released. She had the courage to say no, but was apparently feeling a little guilty about it.

I listened to Bill explain to his daughter that sometimes her mother gets these ideas that something has to be done no matter what. She doesn’t stop and think about logistics, costs, or practicality. She just jumps in the car and goes… or she manipulates someone else to go in her stead. She reacts, rather than thoughtfully responds. I’m sure these kinds of reactions make her feel better in the short term, even if they turn out to be disastrous decisions. She feels like she has to do something. If she can’t do it, she’ll get someone else to do it, and that will make her feel better about herself. She’ll even take all the credit, even if she’s not the one who actually did anything.

I was instantly reminded of a similar situation I experienced back in 2010. Bill and I were living in Georgia. My dad was still alive, and was being hospitalized in North Carolina, near where my eldest sister lives. I got an email from another sister who lives in the Midwest. This sister was feeling guilty that our oldest sister was exclusively taking care of our parents. She felt like I should be doing more, so she took it upon herself to try to convince me to drive to North Carolina to visit our dad.

I remember the conversation started in an underhanded, manipulative way. She asked me how long it takes to drive from Georgia to North Carolina. I responded that it would take a few hours. Then she delivered the pitch. She wanted me to drive to North Carolina, split a hotel room with another sister who lives in Virginia, and visit our dad. She said she couldn’t do it herself because plane tickets were too expensive and she had work. She assumed that I could go in her stead and “help out”, even though the people directly involved hadn’t asked me for my help and were fully capable of asking. They are also not the type of people who wouldn’t ask for help if it was necessary. My mom is direct to a fault. She doesn’t keep quiet to spare other people’s feelings. It’s one of her best, and worst, qualities.

It so happened that I had just talked to our mother, and she had expressly told me she didn’t want me to visit. I hadn’t wanted to visit, nor had I suggested it, but she said things were hectic enough as it was. So, since I had just talked to our mom and she’d asked me not to add to the stress of the situation by visiting, I told my sister out in the Midwest, who was probably feeling guilty and helpless, that Mom had asked me not to go up there. Moreover, even though I don’t work outside of the home, I had other responsibilities. For one thing, I had dogs to take care of. I couldn’t just hop in the car and go, just because she suggested it. I would have to do something with them, since Bill works long hours and they aren’t used to being alone.

It takes discipline to do this, but in the long run, it will spare you a lot of grief.

I sent a calm response to my sister, indicating that our mom had specifically asked me not to visit and that I had other things going on. My sister proceeded to send me a pissy email full of guilt trips, which, of course, really annoyed me. Still, I managed to stay calm in my next response. I explained that I wasn’t going to just jump in the car and go up there on her say so, but I would call Mom and ask her if there was anything I could do for her. My sister seemed alright with that. She responded with a gushing, appreciative email, and added that I should email her to let her know how our parents were doing. I never did do that, and she never said anything about it. So much for her concern. Really, though, she was just feeling helpless and wanted to feel helpful. She figured she could bully me in to acting, which would make her feel better about herself, even if it was disrespectful toward me.

I called my mom, and she clarified that she wouldn’t be upset if I visited our dad, but that he was being transferred back to Virginia, so we might as well see him there. Then, she said she would like me to go to our house in Gloucester, which at that time she was trying to sell, and pick up the piano. I inherited my mom’s piano. It’s currently sitting in storage in Texas. It’s extremely heavy, and she needed it out of the house.

This situation happened to be going on over Memorial Day weekend, so Bill went to UHaul, got a tow bar put on our SUV, and we made the arrangements to board our dogs and go to Virginia to get the instrument. We drove up to Gloucester, got a UHaul, and picked up the piano. Then, we visited my Dad, who was in a physical rehab hospital.

My dad was not in his right mind. He called me by my sister’s name and complained that I’d gained weight (my sister has dark hair and is a size two, and I’m a blonde and… not a size two), then he completely ignored me and talked to Bill, who was just great with him. In my dad’s mind, he was still an officer in the Air Force. My dad was talking as if he was in a briefing. Bill caught on quickly and started speaking to my dad as if he was a general. Dad responded in the most uncanny way. He calmed down. Afterwards, Bill and I took my mom out for a drink. Just as we were about to get in the car to take Mom home, a nurse called and asked her to come back and sit with Dad, because he was agitated. Mom bitched out the nurse, which made me feel a little sorry for Dad’s caregivers. I remember her telling them that she didn’t have the stamina to sit with him all the time and it was their job to deal with him. I guess they were able to, since we left and Mom got to rest.

What would have happened if I had just done what my sister had demanded? I think it would have turned into a wild goose chase. If I had gone up to North Carolina, I probably would have missed seeing my dad. I would have wasted gas, and there’s no way I would have been able to do what my mom ultimately needed done, getting that heavy piano out of the house. I needed Bill to help with that. Maybe my sister would have been temporarily happy that I’d done as she demanded, but in the long run, doing her bidding wouldn’t have been very useful. She thought she knew better, though, and incorrectly assumed she could still order me around. News flash… I’m not eight years old anymore.

My sister wanted to do something, but wasn’t able to do it herself. She was feeling guilty and helpless. She figured I wasn’t busy, and decided to use manipulative tactics to try to spur me into action. When I demurred, she laid the guilt on even thicker and heavier. The end result is that she really pissed me off. I lost some respect for her when she resorted, yet again, to manipulation instead of making a respectful request of me. But then, this is something my sister has always done. Somehow, despite being raised by very direct and forthright parents, two of my sisters have learned that in order to get their way, they have to be manipulative. It’s a very common strategy. I no longer have much patience or tolerance for it. When people use fear, obligation, and guilt to try to get me to do something, I usually resist.

I think sometimes people who have grown up in abusive situations, or are surrounded by people who are manipulative and prone to employing guilt trips, are conditioned to do the bidding of others without ever questioning it. My husband calls this “getting on the bus to Abilene”, although I’m not sure he quite gets the euphemism right. Getting on the bus to Abilene suggests group think– people giving into a bad idea because they don’t want to be the person who resists, even though secretly, everyone is against the idea. The trip to Abilene is pointless and uncomfortable, but everyone goes along to get along and everyone suffers for it. And then it turns out no one wanted to go in the first place.

Maybe this anecdote isn’t helpful for everyone, but it’s helpful for me. There’s no reason why I can’t rely on my own good sense to make my own decisions. I don’t have to respond to people who use guilt tactics and manipulation to get me to do their bidding. In fact, it’s in my best interest to teach them NOT to approach me that way.

You’re not a marionette. You can dance to your own tune.

I did end up helping our mom, but I did it in a way that was doable for me and ultimately more helpful for her. I’m glad to hear that Bill’s daughter has similarly learned to say “no” to her mom when she pulls this kind of manipulative shit. If you’re an adult, and you’re functional, you don’t have to take manipulation from other people. Manipulation is, at its core, a kind of bullying. It’s unfair and disrespectful. It may seem easier to give in to manipulation, but in the long run, it only encourages more of the same behavior. Set boundaries and enforce them. If someone proposes a bad idea, you don’t have to go along with it. Do what works for you.

Back in 2010, I wrote about this incident as it was happening. I was unusually calm about it. I would have thought there would have been more ranting and swearing, but in 2010, I was more circumspect than I am now.

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