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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communication, complaints, rants

Back to the chum bucket with you…

We just arrived home a little while ago from our brief trip to the Schwarzwald. What should have been a relaxing break from Hesse turned into a bit of a shit show.

Before I get into the specifics of what happened, I will state upfront that this issue is partly my fault for not unplugging from social media. I really need to break the Facebook habit. It seems to bring me a lot of displeasure and discontent lately. I also need to quit caring about people and things that ultimately don’t matter.

Our trip began on Wednesday. The drama started a couple of days prior, and culminated into a trifecta of toxicity last night. I’ll try to keep it simple…

Last Monday, I got a private message from a woman who used to live in Stuttgart and moved back to the States a few years ago. She was very active in the community when she was here, ran several groups, and organized tours and such. Every year, she helped a vintner in Stuttgart with their harvest. This year, she says she got so busy that she forgot about the harvest. She asked me if I would mind helping her.

At first, I was pretty cool to the idea, because it sounded like I would have to be in Stuttgart. We live three hours away now. I have never met the people she’s been working with, and I don’t want to be expected to go to Stuttgart every weekend for three weeks. But then she said I didn’t have to actually be in Stuttgart to help pick the grapes or anything. So I told her I wouldn’t mind hearing what she had to say. She said we would have a video chat the next day. But then she never contacted me.

Off I went to Baiersbronn. Didn’t hear from the woman until Friday, as we were enjoying a fantastic lunch. She wanted to video chat. I said we were busy, so she rang off. Then last night, she contacted me again, wanting to video chat. I told her today would be better, since we still weren’t home. Then I told her that we had to go get our dogs between 6 and 7 our time, so 7:30pm would work best.

She asked which video chat program I preferred. I told her that I actually hate video chats, so I rarely use the programs. I get nervous on camera. But I have Skype and Zoom, and I didn’t say I wouldn’t do a video chat. I just said I don’t like doing them. She said there was no reason to be nervous… then she said maybe she should find someone else. I agreed with her.

Then she said this was their “livelihood”, so it was “serious business”. And that came off as a bit manipulative and passive aggressive, so it pissed me off. Especially since she came to me for a favor. But as I’m looking at the chat log now, I see she’s put in a bunch of smilies and stuff. Maybe she wasn’t trying to be manipulative and lay a guilt trip, but that’s how it came across. Bill thought so, too, when I showed him the chat.

Then I shared a wonderful article from the New York Times Magazine about Baiersbronn. We decided to visit it in 2018, after I read that piece. I shared it in the wine group I run. One of the members left an “angry” reaction and snapped, “I’m not paying for a subscription to read that!”

I responded that she didn’t have to subscribe. I don’t get commissions from the New York Times. It was just a nice article about the town and its many chefs. I thought it would be a good read for people in the group. But… then I got a comment from someone wanting to know the names of the restaurants… and someone else who linked to a vastly inferior blog post about Baiersbronn. Neither of the comments had anything to do with the article I posted.

Bill commented that people shouldn’t expect to read content for free. Then the woman came back and wrote that the New York Times isn’t a “credible” news source. Guess she’s a Trumper. Either way, though, all she had to do was scroll on, if the link wasn’t useful or interesting. Instead, she basically implied that she doesn’t like the source because of her politics. There wasn’t a fucking thing in that article about politics. It was written during the Obama era. I just thought it was an informative and interesting link…. and I was sharing information. Evidently, that wasn’t okay.

And then, I noticed a “like” from the formerly resident troublemaker. A couple of months ago, this chick, who is a sommelier or something, and runs her own wine group in Stuttgart, was pimping her group in my group. I slightly lost my temper with her and told her that pimping her group in my group was disrespectful. I finally implied that I was going to kick her out. She laid low for awhile, which was nice for me, but recently started posting again. She never posted her own stuff, though. She would just leave comments on my stuff, often in an attempt to make me look incompetent. Or, at least that is how it appeared to me.

A few days ago, I shared an ad from the Stuttgart Sky Beach about an event they’re having. I have no stake in the Sky Beach. I was just sharing information about an event. She posted a link to a competing event in the comment section, writing about why people shouldn’t choose the Sky Beach event. I suspect that she was getting kickbacks from selling tickets to that event. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that she’s hooked up with a bunch of wine sellers and is about making money.

I thanked her for sharing the information, then asked her to put it in a separate post. People can choose for themselves what activity they want to do. She ignored me.

This morning, she added her two cents to my New York Times link… a link to the Michelin site, for the woman who asked about the names of the restaurants. She helpfully added that the Michelin link is “free”.

Maybe I’m crazy… but it seemed to me, that once again, she was trying to make me look incompetent. She has asked me more than once to join her group. If I did that, my group would be redundant, and she would be in charge. I don’t care that she has her own group. I don’t care if people in my group are in her group. But I don’t want to be in a Stuttgart area group, because they tend to be toxic. Aside from that, I know that she promotes things that make her money. I don’t care about making money. I just want to have a group that is friendly and helpful and fun for everyone, including me. I don’t claim to be a wine or food expert. I just want to share information, and I want to do it without having someone posting after me, trying to undermine me.

It was getting to the point that I would cringe when I saw her name pop up. She literally made me feel sick to my stomach this morning. So I decided to kick her out of the group. The decision was a long time coming, and it brought me no pleasure to do it. But you know what they say– “too many cooks spoil the soup…” She wanted to be in charge of my group. She has her own group to run.

Bill pointed out that the toxic chick was acting a lot like Plankton on Spongebob Squarepants. He said I should send her back to the Chum Bucket. I agreed.

I didn’t send her a PM or address her in the group. I just quietly kicked her out and permanently banned her. Then… perhaps by coincidence, I got three new requests to join. I’m wondering if one or more were from her friends. I let two in. The other claimed to be living in Germany, but his profile indicated that he’s a chef who lives in Barcelona, Spain. My guess is that he’s someone she does business with. In any case, he can always join her group. He doesn’t need to be in mine.

I think this chick wanted to be in my group for ideas, new members to spam, and to irritate me to the point of closing the group. I came close to doing it a few weeks ago, but then decided not to when some people seemed to be enjoying the group. I found myself revisiting the idea this morning, as I choked down breakfast. That’s how “toxic” I feel about this woman. Her motives may be innocent, but my intuition tells me that she’s up to no good. I’m usually right about these things. She has her own group, though, and she can run it the way she wants to. And if everybody else wants to join her, that’s fine with me. I’m not trying to make money or be popular. I just want to share information.

Poor Bill had to listen to me complain most of the way home… all of this stuff comes from the neuroses I have from growing up with a very dysfunctional family. I really hate conflict. I don’t like dealing with manipulators. I can’t stand feeling like I have to confront people… especially people who ought to be adults. That woman who posted an angry reaction to a newspaper link got me a bit irritated. I was tempted to kick her out, too… But I know that doing such a thing would probably lead to a lot of high school styled drama.

I really don’t like feeling like a tyrant. I don’t think I act like one. But I think my instincts are right about these situations…

I probably should sign up for a Fuck It retreat in Italy. I need to learn not to engage with these people… and just say “fuck it” and delete the people who get under my skin.

As for the vintner lady looking for free labor, I calmly wished her luck in finding the right person to help her. I think it’s a tall order, but I’m sure someone out there would be more than happy to get involved in her project.

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Ex

Stuck in the selfish sandpit with Ex…

Special thanks to Wikipedia user, Andrew Dunn, who has allowed free use of his photo. It appears here unaltered.

I thought today, I’d take a break from reposts and rantings about current events. Sometimes, I just need an old fashioned venting session. This particular vent is, yet again, about Ex. It may get profane, so brace yourself or move along. And please, no shaming comments about how inappropriate it is for me to write about this. I’ll write about whatever I damned well please. I know the situation and the people involved. You, most likely, don’t.

July 4th is a big day in Bill’s family. Not only is it Independence Day, which is a big day for anyone in the military community; it’s also Bill’s older daughter’s birthday. Older daughter happens to share her birthday with younger daughter’s daughter– Bill’s granddaughter– who was born on a more recent July 4th. Bill was looking for a gift for his granddaughter, but not for his daughter. Older daughter is still estranged, thanks to her selfish, narcissistic, manipulative mother. He’s come to terms with it. She’s about to turn 30, and she has to make decisions for herself. But that doesn’t mean it’s not frustrating to watch from the sidelines.

What do we Americans usually do on birthdays? Most of us celebrate. Sometimes we go on trips, like Bill and I did last weekend for my birthday. We send gifts or have parties… or send a card.

Recently, younger daughter told Bill that she would like to send her sister something for her upcoming 30th birthday. Unfortunately, older daughter still lives with Ex, which makes it hard for younger daughter to communicate with her without interference from their mother. Ex evidently monitors older daughter’s phone and mail. I don’t agree with this policy, but it’s not my life. For some reason, older daughter tolerates the invasion of privacy, even though multiple people– including Bill– would love to help her move out of her mother’s house and live life more on her own terms. What can I say? You get what you settle for.

In any case, younger daughter said that she doesn’t think she can send her sister a birthday present or card. Why not? Because she says it would cause more drama for her sister than is worthwhile. Here are a few potential scenarios that could occur if younger daughter sends her sister anything for her birthday…

Older daughter: Look! My sister sent me a birthday gift!

Ex: How nice for you. She didn’t bother to acknowledge my birthday.

Or…

Ex: That looks pretty cheap. I bet she didn’t spend more than ten minutes picking it out. She doesn’t know what you like, does she?

Or…

Ex: That gift is so inappropriate. It’s not the right size, color, style, etc… (you get the idea) Nice that she can send you a gift, but completely ignore me on MY birthday.

Younger daughter has lived with Ex long enough that she knows what happens when someone other than her has a “special” day. Ex has a very long history of ruining holidays and special days. I have written many posts about how she regularly fucks up major religious holidays like Christmas and Easter…. although the last Easter she ruined turned out to be a wonderful blessing, since it meant the resurrection of Bill’s life. She once ruined Bill’s birthday by sending him many boxes of his possessions that she’d held onto for six years after their divorce, along with hateful letters from his daughters AND adoption papers to allow him to let #3 adopt them. She can’t stand for other people to be happy, get rewarded, or otherwise enjoy connections with other people. She regularly shits on other people’s joy and tries to sabotage their successes.

Now… this isn’t really my business at all. I only know about it because Bill told me. I have a lot of empathy for younger daughter, who was always close to her older sister. I know she’d like to be closer to her now, especially since they live in separate states. But she can’t even send texts or call her without interference from Ex. She says Ex will access older daughter’s phone and read what’s on it. When younger daughter calls her sister, Ex will demand to know who’s on the phone. And she just acts like she owns the three kids who still live in her house. This is her way of maintaining control. It’s pure narcissism, and it sucks.

I am comforted in realizing, though, that Ex can’t live forever. Hopefully the ones still at home will eventually break away from her toxic bullshit and live their own lives… although she does have a child who has severe autism and will probably always need help. That’s supposedly one reason why older daughter still lives at home. Ex doesn’t take proper care of her youngest child, so older daughter, who is also reportedly on the spectrum, does it for her.

I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, it’s not a huge deal that two adult sisters feel like they can’t wish each other a happy birthday without interference from their twatbag mother… (sorry, I know name calling is childish, but this shit really pisses me off). Both of Bill’s daughters are grown women and more than capable of telling their mother to fuck off. Of course, they won’t put it in those terms, since they’re LDS and don’t like to curse. Or, younger daughter is still LDS. I’m not sure about older daughter.

Apparently, now that the church is no longer an effective parental alienation tool, Ex doesn’t attend anymore. I’m sure older daughter stays home, too, especially since church members apparently tried to help her in the same way they helped younger daughter break away from her toxic mother’s influence. Some might say the church’s influence is also toxic, but I honestly don’t think it’s worse than Ex is.

I’m experienced enough to know that this problem is one that Bill’s daughters have to solve by themselves. It’s going to take them growing a backbone and insisting that their mother stay out of their business. That’s hard to do, though, when one of them still lives under Ex’s roof. It’s like older daughter is stuck in quicksand, with many people standing around the sandpit with life rings, just waiting for her to grab one and get pulled out of the toxic mire. But she won’t grab the ring.

It could be that older daughter doesn’t mind the craziness. Maybe she’s afraid of the unknown, or worries that she can’t survive on the outside. I know younger daughter told Bill that she didn’t contact him for a long time because she was afraid. She’d been told so many lies… and she worried about everything from potential abuse to a cold reception. Of course, now she’s found out that she could have always reached out to him for help, and life is soooo much better on her own terms. But it can be hard to convince people still entrenched in Ex’s private pseudo-cult that escape is possible and life is good on the outside.

I just think it’s sad– and rantworthy– that my husband’s daughters can’t trade birthday greetings without a bunch of drama from their mother… or even just the perception of potential drama. Obviously, this is something that happens a lot in Ex’s house. When younger daughter explained her apprehensiveness about sending a gift, Bill knew exactly what she meant. He remembers his days living with his ex wife, trying to do something good, kind, or nice, and somehow, she would manage to fuck it up or ruin it. She is a master at sabotaging other people’s joy and satisfaction.

I remember, after their divorce, Bill would agonize over gifts and cards he’d send to his daughters when they were kids. Of course, Ex probably never gave them the things he sent… or she’d throw them away or sell them… or somehow discount them with disparaging words about what a loser she thinks Bill is (even though she made two daughters with him and asked him to raise her older son). Apparently, she makes babies with “losers”. She’s either got terrible taste in men or she’s a fucking liar. I’m going with liar. She doesn’t appreciate decent people. In fact, the nicer and kinder a person is, the more disrespect she seems to hurl at them. Especially, if they’re men.

Anyway… I know it’s not my business or my problem. I just think it’s terribly sad, and wanted to vent about it. I don’t have a very close relationship with my three sisters, but they all managed to wish me a happy birthday last week. It was good to hear from them. It makes me sad that younger daughter now knows a little bit about the tremendous pain Bill went through in the many years he was kept exiled from his children. They can commiserate over this shared bad treatment they received from someone who should have been loving and kind to them. Every day, I wish to God he’d had those kids with me, instead of his ex wife.

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family, funny stories, memories, mental health, music, nostalgia, psychology

“Go with the flow”…

A few days ago, I wrote about a conversation I had with one of my relatives, who quipped in passing that she thinks that she and I are both empaths. I didn’t contradict her at the time because I had a feeling that if I did, we might end up fighting. So I let the comment pass, but I was definitely shaking my head about it. I guess I had decided to “go with the flow” and “sweep it under the rug”, which sometimes is a good idea. On the other hand, sometimes, it’s not.

Last night, we were chatting again. This relative has been interested in my musical pursuits, which includes my attempts to learn guitar. After I wrote yesterday’s post about “musical flu”, which was inspired by watching an online concert by the jazz ensemble at my alma mater, Longwood University, I actually sat down and learned a new song. I not only learned it; I played it– shakily– on the guitar. No, I don’t play particularly well, but I did manage to play a song yesterday as well as sing the vocals. Fair disclosure, I did the vocals before the guitar part. I’m not quite ready to do them both at the same time. Still working on that pesky F chord, too.

This is a cover of an old song done by Linda Ronstadt with Dolly Parton doing harmony…

I don’t actually relate to the lyrics of “I Never Will Marry”. I just think the harmonies are pretty. I wanted to see if I could replicate them. And, with the help of Chordify and a capo, I was able to play it somewhat. I literally learned the song and the guitar part and recorded it in a few hours. And, because I was feeling tired and bitchy after that effort, I used a clip of my dog, Noyzi, as the video part. The video doesn’t really matter that much to me, anyway. I’m about the music.

A year ago, I could not have done what I did yesterday, even if my efforts from yesterday are imperfect. This was a pretty big achievement for me. I have a long way to go before I’m ready for busking on the street corner, but I felt pretty accomplished.

My relative listened to the song, praised it, but then said she didn’t like the song itself. She said she thought the lyrics were self-pitying. I don’t disagree, but I still think the harmonies are lovely. My relative went on to explain that she doesn’t like “whiney” songs, and that reminded me of a funny story from my past. I proceeded to relate a short version of the story to my relative, but she completely missed the point in a non-empathic way. Since I’m not drunk on wine right now, have nothing better to do, and I’m writing with a clear head, here’s a longer version of the story for all of you dear readers.

When I was a freshman at Longwood College (now Longwood University), I was forced to move out of my dorm after the first week of school. I ended up in what was considered the “worst” hall on campus. Well… it wasn’t really the “worst”. It was just a single-sex dorm with hall bathrooms. And, unlike the dorm I had moved from, it didn’t have air conditioning, which really sucked during the late August Virginia summer heat. I imagine the heat lasts longer these days than it did in 1990.

Anyway, the hall below us was an all men’s floor for freshmen. At the time, it was the only all men’s hall that wasn’t used by a fraternity. The women on the second floor and the men on the first floor all hung out together, and most of them attended a mandatory class called Longwood Seminar. It was a special class for incoming freshmen, designed to teach them about how to survive in college. The sections were divided by dorms, which back in the 90s, were still where most Longwood students were living. There wasn’t a lot of off campus housing then, nor did people tend to commute a lot.

I was not in the same Seminar class as my new hallmates were, since I was still in the group I was put in with my original dorm. Because I was not in the same Seminar group, I missed the incident that led up to the invention of the word “brently”, coined by my old friend, Chris.

Back in 1990, Longwood instituted a new rule that freshman dorms were to be “dry”. That meant that alcohol was forbidden on the halls dedicated to freshmen students. Of course, even though there was a rule against booze in freshmen areas, that doesn’t mean people obeyed. One day, early in the semester of our first year, the Longwood Seminar professor talked about avoiding alcohol. And a guy named Brent stood up and said, “If Longwood is so serious about preventing underage drinking, how come half my hall was drunk last weekend?”

Naturally, that confrontation did not put Brent in good stead with his peers. Brent also had an unfortunate habit of being a bit “whiney” and “self-pitying”, much like the song my relative said she didn’t like. Brent would go around saying things like, “Basically, I’m just fucked up the rectum…” as he cringed and complained that he’d just shit his pants because he had amoebic dysentery. I swear… I am not making this shit up. 🙂

Brent also got a lot of people upset because he was involved in an interracial relationship. I’m sorry to say that despite its many progressions lately, Virginia is still a southern state, and even in 1990, some people had issues with the races mixing. Personally, I didn’t really know Brent or his girlfriend that well, and I didn’t care who he was dating. But people supposedly said something to him about his girlfriend and Brent’s response was, “I can have any white woman I want,” which I think we all know is patently untrue. No one can have “any person they want”, no matter who they are. Anyway, the general consensus was that Brent was an arrogant asshole who was very uncool. And he also bore a slight resemblance to Ronald McDonald, except he used to bike shirtless around campus.

Well, people were upset with Brent for busting them in Longwood Seminar class, so my friend Chris decided to play a prank on Brent. He knew Brent had an illegal sword collection in his dorm room. Chris was an English major, so he knew how to draft professional letters. At Longwood, we had a student run Honor Board and a Judicial Board. So Chris wrote a letter to Brent, ostensibly from the Honor Board, inviting him to a “hearing” about his illegal sword collection. Brent, lacking situational awareness, quickly panicked and started searching frantically for the R.A., a guy named Jack.

Chris felt sorry for Brent, so he said, “Brent, man, it was just a joke. Calm down.”

Brent then seized Chris, threw him up against the wall, and snarled, “Oh… so you think it’s funny, huh?” And then he kneed Chris right in the balls.

Chris said, “No Brently… I just feel… SICK.” as he crumpled to the ground. I still laugh when I think about this part of the story.

From that day on, whenever someone said or did anything victim-esque, my friend Chris would say, “Brently!” And we all knew it meant the person was being a martyr or acting like a victim. To this day, I still think of the made up word “brently” when someone is self-pitying or pathetic. Bill’s ex wife is a prime example of someone who is “brently”.

I thought I was just sharing a funny story from my college days. But my relative, the non-empath, immediately calls me (and my friends) out for “bullying” Brent, just because of his looks. She said Chris deserved to be kneed in the nuts, because “karma is a bitch”.

I said, “Wait a minute. People weren’t bullying Brent because of his looks. It was his behavior that did it, although his looks didn’t help. Aside from that, this was thirty years ago. I haven’t seen or talked to Brent since the early 90s. And when I did know him, I wasn’t involved in these incidents at all. I was not mean to Brent, nor am I routinely mean to anyone, unless they ask for it.”

My relative continued on about how she felt sorry for Brent, being “bullied” by us… and she basically lectured me as if I was still a child, even though I’m almost menopausal.

So I said, “I don’t have any pity for Brent. He brought that treatment on himself. Moreover, all Chris did was play a harmless prank and scare him for a minute. Brent committed assault and battery and could have been arrested for his retaliation.”

Again, I really don’t think people picked on Brent solely because of his appearance. I don’t think most people cared who he was dating, either. Some people did, because it was Virginia and some people are backwards and racist. But I don’t think that was the overall attitude toward Brent. It was his arrogant behavior and confrontational attitude that got him picked on… calling out freshmen for drinking when he was, himself, breaking the rules by keeping knives and swords in his dorm room.

So then, I said to my relative, “Anyway– the POINT of the story is not about Brent being bullied. I was trying to tell you about a funny word made up by my friend, which could describe the song, ‘I Never Will Marry’. It’s a ‘brently’ song.”

Now… how does this relate to my relative falsely referring to herself as an “empath”? Besides the fact that she completely missed the point of the funny story and went straight to shaming me, as if I were 12 years old, it’s also because I have many memories of her bullying me. I remember her telling me she thought I was “stupid, fat, and ugly” when I was a kid. I also remember her physically abusing me when I was a small child and couldn’t fight back. I remember many, many meltdowns from her over the years, and a lot of entitled behavior, even after I had reached adulthood. For instance, here’s another rerun story from the past.

Christmas 2003– Bill and I lived in northern Virginia, not far from my relative’s home. My family was having Christmas at their house. My relative, then in her 40s, asked if we wouldn’t mind taking her down there with us. I said it would be okay, but she needed to realize that if things got shitty, we would be leaving. I didn’t want to hang around if there was any fighting.

My relative agreed, so on the day we were leaving, Bill went to pick her up. Naturally, she wasn’t dressed when he got there at the pre-appointed time, so he had to wait for her to take a shower, dry her hair, get dressed, and have coffee. This put us on the road later than we needed to be.

We got down to my parents’ house. All the other relatives were there, and most were sleeping at the house. Bill and I were relegated to the office, where there was a very uncomfortable fold out couch with a metal bar that would hit right in the middle of the back. I had also started my period, so I wasn’t feeling very well.

There was a lot of tension in the air and we were all walking on eggshells… Sure enough, hours after our arrival, I got into a fight with one of my sisters, who decided to get all self-righteous and holier-than-thou with me. My feelings were hurt and, whether or not the fight was my fault, I didn’t feel like staying in that environment, which had become pretty toxic. I just wanted to go home and be in my own house, with a comfortable bed and a toilet where I could tend to Aunt Flow in peace.

Remembering that I had vowed to leave if there was a fight, I told Bill I wanted to go home the next morning. So we told the relative who had bummed a ride with us that we would be leaving early. She had said, before accepting a ride with us, that she was okay with us leaving early if the need arose. But then, when the situation actually came up, her response was to try to manipulate Bill into talking me into staying. Why? Because she was hoping we’d drive her to nearby Williamsburg to go shopping. She wanted us to drive her around, even though at that time, we didn’t have much money, and I sure as hell don’t get my kicks watching her buy stuff. She really can be a terror to clerks and wait staff.

When Bill didn’t talk me into changing my mind, my relative tried. I said I wanted to leave and nothing was going to change my mind. So she flew into an EPIC rage. She was still in bed when we packed the car, but she got up, took a shower, and came storming into the kitchen with wet hair. She screamed at me that she needed to dry her hair and have coffee, so she wouldn’t catch cold. I was just flabbergasted that a woman in her 40s was acting like this. I turned to Bill and said, “Let’s just go.” Because I knew that having her in the car would be hours of hell, and I had had enough hell.

So, while my relative was still angrily orbiting around the house, Bill and I got in the car and fucking left! And my relative ended up taking a bus home. She gave me the silent treatment for a year after that, not that I minded. Somehow, our decision to enforce a boundary also became a reason for shaming. I remember my dad telling me I was “mean” to leave my relative stranded like that. He had no idea what had transpired, but just assumed, after hearing her side, that the whole thing was my fault.

Leaving my relative at my parents’ house was the right thing to do, but it was also a hard thing to do. Because I have been trained since childhood to overlook other people’s bad behavior and be “nice” at all costs. And when something goes south, I get blamed for it, even if the other person was the one acting like a jerk. I was expected to just “go with the flow” and sweep it under the rug.

My mom was always a big fan of “going with the flow”, and she always tried to tell me that’s what I should do, even when someone was outrageously abusive to me. Like, for instance, the time my father humiliated me in public, treating me like a six year old when I was a married woman in my 30s. That incident occurred, again, when I was doing a favor for my “empath” relative, who had asked us to drive my elderly parents around northern Virginia.

Bill and I were sitting with my relative’s boyfriend in a noisy stadium on the occasion of my relative’s master’s degree graduation. My parents were not sitting next to us, but they must have seemed like they were with us, because some strange woman who sat near us apparently felt we were being too rowdy. Instead of speaking to us directly (we weren’t being any louder than anyone else in the stadium was, and we were all adults), she complained to my parents. And my dad turned around and yelled at me, “Shut up! You’re DISTURBING PEOPLE!” It was really loud, and I’m sure everyone heard it. Including that cunty woman who complained to my parents instead of directly to us. I still don’t know how she knew we were together.

Anyway, after my dad screamed at me, Bill says the look on my face was one of unbridled rage. I wanted to kill my father right then and there. I was absolutely LIVID. Instead, I got up and left. Bill found me, and I told him I just wanted to go home. But because we had driven my parents’ car, that would have meant arranging for alternative transportation. At the time, we had very little disposable income to waste on rental cars or even train fare. Once he had me calmed down somewhat, we found my mom. I went to the bathroom, and my mom was telling Bill that I should just “go with the flow” and not let that incident ruin our “lovely day.”

Bill, being the prince he is, told my mom that actually, my dad’s outburst was embarrassing, uncalled for, and totally wrong, and that I had every right to be as angry as I was. Moreover, we were at the graduation as a favor to my parents and my relative. I hadn’t even WANTED to be there. I had just let her talk me into doing her a favor, yet again. As we rode in the car to the very nice restaurant where Bill and I had gotten engaged the year before, Bill was making small talk while I squeezed the blood out of his hand. I was so PISSED.

It happened to be Mother’s Day that day, and the restaurant was giving out pretty potted Impatiens flowers. They gave one to me and my dad said, “Why do you get one? You’re not a mother.” To which I said, “I am a stepmother.” This was before Ex’s parental alienation campaign had ramped up to the toxic levels it eventually got to. And then, when we sat down to brunch, which my father would be paying for, I proceeded to order steak and eggs, several whiskey sours, and dessert. Bill smirked at me, knowing full well that I was passively aggressively taking my rage at my father out of his wallet.

The following week, Bill finished his first master’s degree. We went back to that same restaurant and had a less expensive, but still very enjoyable, do over of that brunch. And ever since those incidents in 2003, as well as Ex’s sick Christmas stunt of 2004, in which she tried to compel me to spend Christmas with her in my father-in-law’s house, I have become a lot more assertive and less likely to just “go with the flow”. Especially, when it comes to dealing with my relative who, I repeat with emphasis, is NOT AN EMPATH by any stretch of the imagination. However, she is sometimes pretty “brently”.

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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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