book reviews, divorce, psychology

Repost: Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking The Ties That Bind

Here’s a great book suggestion for anyone dealing with parental alienation syndrome. I read and reviewed this book ten years ago, before Bill’s younger daughter reconnected (the other remains estranged). Because I like to be helpful, I am reposting the review as it was when I originally wrote it for Epinions.com in 2011.

Those who regularly read my Epinions reviews may know that my husband has two extremely alienated daughters who haven’t spoken to him since 2004.  I have only met my husband’s kids once, back in 2003.  We had a nice enough visit, but afterwards, their mother decided that I was too much of a bad influence on them.  She ramped up her efforts to get my husband’s kids to reject him.  Today in 2011, he has no contact with the two kids (now adults) with whom he used to enjoy a very warm, loving relationship.  My husband’s daughters are textbook examples of kids who are affected by Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).

PAS is a term that was originally coined by Dr. Richard Gardner, a child psychiatrist.  Dr. Gardner noted that sometimes in highly contentious divorce situations, one parent may misuse socialization techniques to turn their child against the other parent to the point at which the relationship is completely destroyed.

PAS is a very controversial topic.  Since alienating parents usually tend to be women, a lot of feminist organizations deny that PAS is real.  A lot of legal and mental health professionals also argue about whether or not it’s real.  I am myself educated as a public health social worker and, having spent almost nine years living through PAS with my husband, I have no doubt that parental alienation syndrome is very real and very scary.  It absolutely deserves to be taken seriously, especially by the family court system.

Although I’ve pretty much given up hope that my husband’s daughters will ever have a normal relationship with their father, I do still feel the need to read about PAS and related subjects such as narcissistic personality disorder.  That drive to research led me to read Amy J. L. Baker’s excellent book, Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking The Ties That Bind (2007).  This book is very well-researched, well-written, and I guarantee that anyone who has experienced the PAS phenomenon will recognize the uncanny steps a determined alienator will take to destroy a child’s relationship with the targeted parent.

Who is Amy Baker and how did she research this book?

Dr. Amy J. L. Baker is director of research at the Vincent J. Fontana Center for Child protection of the New York Foundling.  In researching Breaking the Ties That Bind, Dr. Baker interviewed 40 adults who believed that when they were children, they were alienated against one of their parents.  She also interviewed people who were targeted parents of parental alienators.  Chapter by chapter, she uses her subject’s stories to lay out what PAS is and outline the tactics used by parental alienators to sever family ties. 

The hair on the back of my neck stood on end as I read about the experiences of these adult children of parental alienation syndrome.  Many of the alienating parents were women, though some of them were men.  And in some cases, the alienation tactics even had some validity because there were some targeted parents who really weren’t very good people.  In other cases, the children eventually realized that they were manipulated to hate their other parent and their relationship with the alienating parent was damaged.  Sometimes they were able to reconnect with the lost parent and build a positive relationship; sometimes they found out that the “dead” relationship was better off left alone.  I liked the fact that Dr. Baker explained how adult children of PAS eventually figure out what happened.  In some cases, adult children of PAS figure it out when they themselves become targeted parents, either by marrying someone who alienates the kids or by realizing their alienator parents have turned into alienator grandparents by trying to turn their grandkids against their parents.  Sadly, sometimes PAS victims never learn the whole truth, but Dr. Baker seems to think they usually do eventually “get it”, even if it takes decades.

According to Dr. Baker, the vast majority of parents who alienate their children from their other parents are people who have personality disorders, most notably narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).  Based on our situation, I am inclined to agree with Dr. Baker, although I also recognize that there are varying degrees of PAS and sometimes the PAS is even somewhat unintentional.  

In any case, the children are the ultimate losers in situations where one parent alienates children from the other parent.  Dr. Baker notes that children never forget that they have that other parent “out there” and every time the alienating parent punishes them for mentioning or missing the other parent, they are punishing them for their identity.  These kids are ordered to deny half of their DNA in order to keep their custodial parent happy.  That forced denial has to hurt on many different levels.  Indeed, through her research, Dr. Baker found out just how the realization that they have been lied to and manipulated can be so hurtful to children, who have often lost many years with their other parent.  In some cases, the other parent has died, making reconciliation impossible. 

Overall 

If you, or someone you love, have been affected by PAS, I highly recommend reading this book.  It’s probably one of the very best books I have ever read about parental alienation syndrome.  In so many ways, I found Baker’s book very insightful and helpful.  I found myself feeling a lot more empathy for my husband’s kids, despite the horrible way they have treated him and the rest of his family over the years. 

This is also an excellent book for mental health and legal professionals; indeed, I think it ought to be required reading for custody evaluators, especially those who doubt PAS exists. 

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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book reviews, mental health, narcissists

Review of Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse: Shattering the Illusion, by Mrs. Anne McCrea

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that Bill and I have had our share of encounters with narcissists. I also have what would have been a professional interest in narcissism, thanks to my background in social work and public health. And the whole world has been subjected to the whims of the Grand Poobah of narcissists, Donald J. Trump, who is pretty much a walking billboard for the condition.

Since I’ve already written so much about narcissism in other posts, I’m not going to define what it is. I think most of us have a pretty damned good idea of what it is, although some people still haven’t gotten the message that our soon to be exiting president is a narcissist. Sadly, I think most people who know what narcissists are don’t understand what being involved with a narcissist means.

For instance, yesterday I read two accounts in the news about people who heeded Trump’s call to storm the Capitol. Both of these folks, who have been arrested and are looking at prison terms, are pleading with Trump to pardon them. They think he owes them that for their loyalty. But Trump doesn’t have any loyalty to anyone but himself. Moreover, the faux coup attempt of last week was a failure and, in fact, made things worse. So, even though Trump egged these people on and they threw themselves under the bus for him, it’s highly unlikely that he’ll feel any pity for them. His first instinct is to save himself. And screw all of the people who broke the law to try to keep him in office. My guess is that they will be at the mercy of the courts, and it’s unclear how much sympathy they’ll get from their judges.

Narcissists don’t care about gestures. They don’t care that someone “tried” if their try ended in failure. They only want positive results, and they aren’t believers in the idea that it’s the thought that counts. Their good graces are short-lived, and those who are in their sphere are only as good as their last good deed. And since the mob failed to “stop the steal”, so to speak, Trump likely thinks his supporters are losers and suckers.

Robbie Rist, who played “Cousin Oliver” on The Brady Bunch, dislikes Trump as much as I do. He shared this very astute cartoon four years ago today… It’s pretty much dead on.

In any case, I’ve read a lot of books about narcissism, but I’m always interested in reading more. I don’t remember how I discovered Mrs. Anne McCrae’s book, Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse: Shattering the Illusion. She does have a Web site, as well as a Facebook page, but I found out this morning that I wasn’t a follower of her page. It’s possible that this book was a suggestive sell on Amazon and I decided to download it after reading some of the very positive reviews.

The first thing to know about this book is that Mrs. Anne McCrea is not a mental health professional. She is simply someone who has experienced the pain of being in a relationship with a narcissist. So it’s important to keep in mind that her views are mainly those of a layperson’s. The book is mostly well-written in British style, as Mrs. McCrea is from the United Kingdom. I did notice some grammar and spelling errors, but they were minor and not that distracting.

In 2014, McCrea launched her Facebook page, having studied narcissistic personality disorder. The Facebook page mostly has clever memes on it, but there are also informative posts on how to spot a narcissist and tips on how to get away from them. In 2017, she published her book, which is written in a sympathetic writing style to which I think many readers will respond. The book mainly contains a lot of what’s on the Facebook page, minus the memes and personal interaction. It’s a quick, easy read, though perhaps not the most professionally written or polished book on this subject.

This book is not so much about what happened to Anne McCrea as it is a primer on narcissistic personality disorder. A lot of what’s in this book can be sourced elsewhere. But she does include special interest chapters. For instance, she writes about children of narcissists, as well as families with narcissists in them– narcissistic siblings, children, parents, and co-parenting all get mentioned. I suspect that much of her material for those chapters may have come from her Facebook page and the forum on her Web site.

Anne McCrea’s story

After the sudden death of her husband, who took his own life, Anne McCrea was left vulnerable. She soon found herself in the clutches of a very controlling, manipulative man, who turned out to be a narcissist. It took six years to break out of the relationship, which also negatively affected McCrea’s daughter. At Christmas time in 2012, McCrea writes that the narcissistic man told her daughter that it was no wonder her “daddy did what he did”.

McCrea highlights other cruelties she experienced at the narcissist’s hands in a letter she wrote to the man after their breakup. She writes that one can’t expect “closure” from a narcissist, but writing the letter made her feel better. I kind of liked what she wrote about forgiveness. A lot of times, people say that you must “forgive” people who have wronged you in order to heal. McCrea writes that she disagrees that forgiveness is essential. She claims that she doesn’t feel pain for not forgiving the narcissist.

I tend to agree that forgiveness isn’t essential, although it could be that different people have different opinions about what forgiveness actually is. Some people think forgiveness means that all is good between an abuser and a survivor. I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think forgiveness is allowing yourself to get over the pain and not dwelling on it anymore. But different people take different amounts of time to heal. It’s just like any other injury. Recovery takes time, and the amount of time it takes is highly variable and dependent on many factors. Mrs. McCrea writes that most people take about two years to get over a narcissistic relationship. I’ve found that to be pretty much true in my case, in that I stop obsessing and ruminating in about that amount of time.

Overall

This is a decent book about narcissism. I don’t think it’s the best book. I’ve read a lot of them, and while I think that one can learn a lot about narcissism by being in a relationship with one, I tend to prefer counsel given by actual professionals with solid credentials. But Anne McCrea has written a pretty good book, particularly for reference purposes. She offers solid advice and reassurance, as well as reputable resources for further reading. She does a good job of covering the subject. I probably would have preferred more information about her own personal experiences rather than the textbook information she includes, especially since she’s not a professional. I can get textbook information anywhere, but Anne McCrea’s personal story is unique to her. I think she should have written more about that, than a general “how to” guide to surviving relationships with narcissists.

The below review, which appears on Amazon.com, also gives me pause:

If it’s true that the author responded very negatively to constructive criticism about grammar, then perhaps she has a touch of narcissism herself.

I think my favorite and most useful sources for information about NPD are on YouTube. I like Dr. Les Carter’s Surviving Narcissism channel, which he runs with survivor, Laura Charanza. I also like Jess Stanley’s channel on narcissism— she’s another one who speaks from personal experience, rather than professional training. And I like Dr. Ramani, who is a very warm, empathetic, mental health professional who is a veritable guru on this issue and has also written books.

Personally, I would probably go to any of those YouTube channels before I’d necessarily consult Anne McCrea’s book. But it’s not a bad book and I can see why some people like it very much. And her Facebook page is also a good source of information– but it’s one of many available sources. That’s not a bad thing, given what we’ve all endured for the past four years. I think a lot of us need soothing and understanding and will be healing for some time to come.

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Biden, politics, Trump

Is Mike Pence finally “woke”?

Today’s featured photo is a screen grab of a video about the attempted faux coup last week.

Please forgive me for using that term. I kind of hate the expression “woke”. And please forgive me for yet another political post, although I have a feeling I’ll be writing them for some time to come… at least until the dust settles on Trump’s exit from the White House.

I didn’t write anything yesterday, nor did I practice guitar. Instead, I watched a lot of old episodes of Glee and hung out with Bill. We did a lot of talking about the events of last Wednesday. Vice President Mike Pence is probably feeling the heat right now, as pissed off MAGA cultists descended on the Capitol and erected a gallows as they screamed “Hang Mike Pence!”.

Trump stoked the fires of public resentment against Pence for refusing to “undo the will of the People”.

Why were they screaming? Because Donald Trump had expected the vice president to “overturn” the results of the election. Trump repeatedly made the false claim that Pence had the power to nullify the will of the people. He also repeatedly made baseless claims that the election was “stolen” from him. And he encouraged a mob of people to take action against legislators tasked with certifying President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

Mike Pence, who has been totally loyal to Trump for the past several years, did not do Trump’s bidding. And now, he is discovering what happens when you cross a malignant narcissist. Although he’s probably never been formally diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder, it’s pretty obvious to me that Trump is a narcissist. A lot of people might claim that most politicians are narcissistic. And they would be right in making that claim. But there’s a big difference between being “narcissistic” and having full blown NPD. And even within the realm of NPD, there are varying degrees of it. I think Trump is pretty far on the NPD scale, which means he’s extremely entitled, very immature, and completely focused on himself and his own needs. Couple that with his charisma and innate ability to say what people want to hear, and you have a very dangerous individual.

I don’t agree with Mike Pence’s politics at all, but here he sounds much more presidential than Donald Trump EVER has. But I suspect that Mr. Pence thought Trump would burn out quickly and he would wind up being the 46th president.

Right now, I think Mr. Pence is understanding what it means to go against a malignant narcissist, even when it’s the right thing to do legally, ethically, and morally. Unfortunately, hitching your wagon to a narcissist in hopes of getting ahead often ends in disappointment. Always remember that narcissists ultimately don’t care about anyone but themselves, and it doesn’t matter how loyal you are to them or were in the past. The minute you cross them, you’re in their crosshairs of revenge. They see other people strictly as tools to be used and they have no compassion or understanding when someone disappoints them, even when it’s because they have been put in an impossible situation, as Mike Pence was.

Donald Trump now faces a second impeachment, and Pence is under pressure to invoke the 25th Amendment. If you ask me, he should have done that a long time ago. But I can see why Pence would not have wanted to invoke the 25th Amendment, even though Trump is clearly unstable and dangerous. For one thing, there’s that old boy network of mutual back scratching and political favors. Pence wouldn’t want to piss off his buddies in the Republican party. But there’s also the fact that Trump could go off the deep end and do something much worse than what he’s already done, simply out of spite. And there are thousands of people who want to hang Mike Pence for not being totally obedient to Trump rather than following the Constitution.

This morning, a friend of mine shared a Twitter feed showing people who were mobbing the Capitol being refused return flights as they were being arrested. Some of them are crying pitifully as they are correctly being kicked off of flight, labeled terrorists, and escorted away in handcuffs. Indeed, people who breached the Capitol are being identified, and those who managed to leave the nation’s capital are being arrested at home. Somehow, these folks, in an era of iPhones and surveillance videos, thought they could get away with their felonious behavior without being held accountable. I guess it’s a good thing Trumpers are not known for wearing face masks. It makes identifying the perpetrators of these crimes much easier than it otherwise might have been. And these folks are going to find that Trump will likely do NOTHING for them as they properly face charges, fines, and possible jail time for what they did.

Powerful words from a true leader.

Yesterday, I watched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s speech about the events of last week. I was actually pretty moved by what he had to say. Arnold Schwarzenegger is certainly no paragon of virtue himself, but he would have been 1000 times better in the White House than Trump has been. Unfortunately, Arnold, who obviously loves America, can’t run for President, because he’s a naturalized citizen. But even though I have sworn off voting for Republicans, I might make an exception for Arnold Schwarzenegger, because he’s clearly a much fitter leader. And what he says about the effects of Hitler on his home country of Austria, are very astute. He’s not the only one who has seen the parallels of Trump’s leadership and the rise of Naziism in Europe back in the 1930s and 1940s.

One more thing. I don’t think this is over by a long shot. The MAGA crowd is super pumped and emboldened right now, and while Trump might be riding off into the sunset soon, there’s sure to be someone else waiting in the wings. I suspect it’s someone younger, smarter, more likable, and actually knowledgable of and dedicated to the cause. I don’t think Trump actually cares that much about the MAGA movement. He just wants to stay in power and avoid the extreme narcissistic injury of losing. But I feel certain that there are other people out there who really do believe in forcing America to turn into their warped white supremacist Christian vision of what they think it should be. You can bet that even if Trump’s era ends, someone else will try to do what he failed to do.

We must all stay vigilant and aware of those who want to turn our country into real life Gilead. That’s why I hope Mr. Pence will do the right thing and help the Democrats get Trump out of power as soon as possible. There’s a lot he can do in the next nine days. I’ll be surprised if Pence actually does invoke the 25th Amendment, but I think it’s the right thing to do. I believe our country is in serious danger. I already have more respect for Pence today than I did a week ago. I think doing the right thing by the American people and helping to restrain Trump would go a long way in redeeming Pence’s lapdog image, at least as far as I am, personally, concerned. I do think Pence has more concern for others than Trump ever will. He’s certainly saner and more competent.

Bill has empathy for Mike Pence. He once worked for a man who is a lot like Trump is. Being second banana to a raging narcissist is a thankless and punishing endeavor. Bill was fortunate in that there were a lot of people who supported him and realized the terrible position he was in, and he came out of that experience relatively unscathed. However, when he was working for that man, it was hell on Earth. I’m sure Pence can relate, because I don’t think he has the same extreme ego Trump has. People like Trump never choose people like themselves to work with them. They look for people who are malleable and trustworthy. So now that Pence could be “woke”, like so many of the rest of us have been for years now, maybe he will earn the trust of the majority of Americans who would like to see Trump removed from power. Even if it means he never again has another peaceful moment.

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book reviews, politics

Grateful to have left “The Room Where it Happened” by John Bolton…

In about three weeks, Donald Trump will (hopefully) leave the White House, and Washington, DC, for good. I also hope that will mean fewer political posts on my blog, since political posts invite commentary that I often find irritating. I don’t enjoy being annoyed, and yet I can’t help but opine about Trump’s egregious abuse of power. That means my posts get read by his supporters, who feel compelled to “set me straight” about my opinions.

I have felt compelled to write about Mr. Trump, probably because Bill and I have had some unfortunate and extensive dealings with much lower level narcissists. We’ve learned a lot from being exposed to narcissists, and that makes us able to spot them quite easily. Donald Trump is the Grand Poobah of narcissists, so I find his behavior very triggering. When I get triggered, I want to write. But, to tell you all the truth, I don’t actually find politics or politicians that interesting, except when they are engaged in specific topics for which I have an interest. And usually, it’s only the topics I care about, not the politician. Trump is different, though, because he’s a walking billboard for narcissistic personality disorder. It distresses me that so many people still don’t see him for what he is and don’t realize the damage he’s done– and NOT because he’s supposedly a Republican (not really), but because he’s a vile, self-obsessed, money grubbing, maniacal asshole who has been enabled by people like John Bolton, one of Trump’s many ex flunkies turned author.

I expect I will still occasionally write about politics once the orange walrus has waddled off into the sunset, but I hope it won’t be as often. And I hope I will write about a wider variety of people rather than just Trump. I am truly troubled by the number of people who continue to support Trump. But, after reading John Bolton’s book, The Room Where it Happened, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. If someone like John Bolton can be taken in by Donald Trump, I suppose anyone can.

Who is John Bolton, you ask?

I know I would ask that question, in any other presidential administration. And mustachioed John Bolton has worked in a few of them. Wikipedia says he’s an “attorney, diplomat, Republican consultant and political commentator who served as the 25th United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 and as the 27th United States National Security Advisor from 2018 to 2019.” Bolton truly has an impressive resume, having been educated at Yale University and spent his working life rubbing elbows with Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, and yes, Trump. Bolton is also a military veteran, having served a total of six years in the Army, Army Reserve, and the Maryland Army National Guard. He’s been a Republican heavy hitter since the early 1980s. If you read my post yesterday, you know how very long ago that was. 😉

When Mr. Bolton’s book was first published last June, I initially resisted downloading it. I still have several Trump related books to read and, again, I’m not actually that interested in the nuts and bolts of politics. I think I changed my mind after I read Michael Cohen’s book about being Trump’s lawyer. I thought Cohen’s book was rather illuminating and kind of tragic in some ways. I thought maybe Bolton’s book would be similar, with juicy, yet readable, stories about what it’s like to work with Trump as U.S. President. Well, I’m here to tell you, it wasn’t.

I finally finished Bolton’s book late last night. I’ve been chipping away at it for weeks. And, I have to say, I don’t feel I came away with much new knowledge after plowing through all 578 pages of The Room Where It Happened. John Bolton comes off as overly impressed with himself, unrelatable, and pompous. I’m sure he’s very competent as an attorney and political advisor. He’s clearly an intelligent man. But he does not have a gift for writing. There is not much engaging about his book. Reading it, for me, was like sitting through a very long-winded lecture while I also had an urgent need to pee. I was quite “antsy” to finish it. I’m glad I finally did.

There were a couple of times when I thought about abandoning my efforts to read Bolton’s lengthy tome; it was so dry. But I like to finish what I start, especially when it comes to books. If there is one thing I learned when I used to write book reviews for Epinions.com, it’s that it’s not really fair to review a book I haven’t read… and not finishing a book is akin to not reading it. However, I’m not going to sugar coat it, folks. This was rough going for me. Parts of this book were about as interesting as watching flies fuck.

The Room Where it Happened: A White House Memoir promises scathing details and damning evidence of Donald Trump’s corruption as “45”. And maybe, somewhere buried in the many pages of complex and clumsily constructed text, there’s an exciting tale to be told. Alas, this book was not well-edited, so it’s easy to get knocked off course by minutiae and random asides. I found it a frustrating experience trying to read Bolton’s complicated accounts of what supposedly went on while he was serving as Trump’s security advisor. Nothing was particularly exciting about this book, and every time I sat down to read more of it, I felt like a masochist.

So what did I learn from reading The Room Where it Happened? Not that much, actually. The most interesting part of this book, for me, is probably the title, which was reportedly “borrowed” from the popular musical, Hamilton. Bolton mostly writes about his work with an air of being “above” the job.

One thing I have observed, though, is that Washington, DC is full of narcissists who are convinced that they can reform the biggest narcissist of all, Donald Trump. Think about it. It takes a special kind of arrogance for someone to look at a guy like Trump– who might as well have a flashing neon sign over his head with the word “narcissist” on it– and think that he can be reformed or guided in any way. Even though I know, just by the sheer number of YouTube channels and self-help books out there about narcissistic personality disorder, that many people have narcissists in their lives, it seems that a lot of folks still haven’t been clued in by what Trump is and what that means.

Even after four years of watching this very selfish man do everything in his power to destroy democracy and use his time as POTUS as a way to line his pockets and reward his cronies, rather than serve the people, many folks still champion him and think he’s the only one who can “save America”. Well, my friends, that is utter bullshit. In fact, there’s a whole slew of people who can do a better job at making America a better place, simply because they have a conscience, a functioning brain, and a heart.

Another thing I’ve learned, which was reinforced by reading Bolton’s book, is that you can be very intelligent, experienced, politically savvy, and highly accomplished, and still be suckered by someone like Trump. John Bolton, like other Trump flunkies, thought he could advise Donald Trump. He was mistaken. Trump doesn’t answer to anyone but himself. The only way to survive working with him is to agree with everything he says and does and kiss his ass, even as you helplessly watch him destroy everything. He fires or forces to resign anyone who isn’t willing to pucker up for him. Once he’s done using a person, they will be discarded. This is what ALL narcissists do to some extent, although some narcissists are more narcissistic than others are. I suspect John Bolton has a healthy level of narcissism himself. Many politicians do, due to the nature of their work. But he wasn’t a match for Trump. No one in Trump’s administration has been.

I think Bolton would like to think he made a difference, hence his decision to write this book… which shows a frank lack of consideration to his readers. He could have easily shaved at least 100 pages from this volume, which would have spared his readers some time and saved a few trees (for those reading the print version). He could have enlisted the help of a talented writer and/or an editor, to make his story more concise and engaging. Instead, he decided to take us into “the room where it happened” all by himself. Once again, he’s grossly overestimated his abilities, but at least he does give us a few interesting photos at the end of the book.

It was a colossal chore to read The Room Where it Happened, but great God almighty, I’m free at last. And now, I feel like the world’s most disastrous dinner date has finally ended. I suspect I’ll feel similarly on January 20th, 2021.

John Bolton talks about his thick skin.
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divorce, Ex, narcissists, psychology

Vindication…

Today’s post is not going to be about current events. Frankly, I’m once again feeling a bit saturated by what’s been going on in the world. A friend added me to a group for military wives against racism (not the actual name of the group), and it’s very busy. I spent a good part of yesterday looking at the constant stream of outrage about racism, and I’m just feeling a bit overwhelmed by it all… So, I’m not going to write about that today. Instead, I’m going to write about vindication.

Those of you who used to read my original blog already know that I wrote many times about my husband’s ex wife. More than once, people told me I was “crazy”, “bitter”, “petty”, or “bitchy”, because I wrote the truth about her. I had more than a few people try to blame me or Bill for what happened in his first marriage.

I suspect a lot of the people who felt qualified to opine about our situation were projecting shit from their own lives. Because, let’s face it, a lot of times, when a heterosexual marriage goes south, the man does bear a large part of the blame for what went wrong. More often than not, both parties are equally to blame, but it’s true that men are statistically more likely to be abusers, for instance. And a lot of times, men are less emotionally mature than women are, especially when they’re involved with the military or another line of work that is typically “male-centric”.

There were times over the years when I wondered if I was being fair in my assessments about Ex and all that went wrong. I wondered if I could be more charitable and understanding toward her, and the way she treats people. I did, on a conscious level, understand that she had been severely abused and neglected when she was growing up. I could understand on an intellectual plane how she turned into someone as cruel and mean spirited as she always seemed to be.

After awhile, once the kids became adults, I stopped caring as much about her. I wrote less often about her, although I still wrote some posts that drew negative comments from the peanut gallery. As recently as late 2018, someone commented that I shouldn’t “trash” Bill’s ex wife and air so much TMI “dirty laundry” on my blog. They implied that writing about this stuff made me less “classy”… as if I really care if someone who doesn’t know me personally thinks I have “class”. The fact is, I don’t (either care or have “class”). I know the truth about who I am, and what happened. I write about it for myself, and for those who can relate.

Bill’s daughter has been talking to him, and we’ve learned that the truth about what happened was actually even worse than we knew. I suspected on one level that things were probably bad in their house. I knew this intellectually, because of what I know about high conflict personalities. My husband’s ex wife definitely has one. It’s not as simple as dealing with someone who has a short fuse or is argumentative. She is seriously unable to cooperate, empathize, or relate with other people. She must have things her own way, even if it means messing things up for herself. She’ll go out of her way to set things up to prove people “wrong”, even if it hurts her or a loved one.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Back in 2006, Ex’s eldest child, a son from her first marriage, had turned 18 and wanted to move out of his mother’s house. Ex had set up the divorce decree (like, she literally wrote it up herself) so that the kids would get child support beyond age 18 if they met certain conditions. But when her son decided he wanted to move out, she realized that it didn’t suit her purposes for him to continue to get child support. So she called Bill and asked him not to pay child support for her son (and actually, Bill shouldn’t have been doing that anyway, since legally, he was not Bill’s responsibility).

Bill refused to honor her request and demanded to know what was going on with his daughters. She got very angry and sent him a hateful email full of bile about what an awful father he is, and how much the children hated me. Keep in mind, I have met Bill’s daughters just once. It was in July 2003, about seven months after we married. The girls were 9 and almost 12 years old. We got along just fine. After that, Ex would not let them visit. Before his visit this year to younger daughter, Bill had last seen them in December 2004. But here it was, April 2006, and Ex was claiming that they “hated” me. She also told Bill not to tell me what she wrote. In essence, Bill’s ex wife expected him to keep a secret from his current wife. Naturally, that didn’t sit well with me. One could argue that it’s not my business how she raises her children, but she had no right to ask Bill to keep secrets from me.

So I wrote her an email and basically ripped her a new one. I told her she was a terrible mother because every time she divorces, she forces her children to divorce their fathers. I also let her know that I would trust my own perceptions of what the girls thought of me over hers. Since we’d only met once, and I knew that we’d gotten along fine, I figured that if they truly “hated” me in 2006, it was not because of anything I did. I also lambasted her for denying her son access to his real dad and for changing her son’s original last name to Bill’s. Looking back on this, I realize that maybe I shouldn’t have written to her, although the one good thing that happened was that she quit sending Bill hateful emails and she never again tried to screw with me personally.

Three years passed. During that time, Bill was paying his former stepson child support. He was talking to him regularly, even though we were in Germany for a good part of that time. Then, on New Year’s Day 2009, I happened to make a discovery. At the time, I was a member of a messageboard for second wives and stepmoms. Sometime around Christmas 2008, someone in the group posted a link to a now defunct Web site called criminalsearches.com. You could enter people’s names into the site and it would show whether or not someone had been involved in criminal activity. This site actually went beyond the other, similar sites that make you pay. It was totally free, and even showed the official sites where you could find the information for yourself. Ex and her brood were in Arizona at the time, so the information was on Arizona’s court site.

One day, I was bored. I plugged in the names of all the adults in Ex’s household, to include ex stepson, Ex, and her current husband. Sure enough, they all had entries. But I got very worried because one entry was for someone with the same name as Ex’s husband (it’s a common name). The charges were very serious, involving crimes that would necessitate Bill’s intervention. After a little more sleuthing, I determined that the person with those crimes was someone who was actually two years younger than Ex’s current husband, but had the same name. I was relieved that it wasn’t Ex’s husband who was getting arrested for being drunk in public and stalking women. But then I came across a court entry for former stepson, indicating that he was going to change his last name. He had kept this big news a secret from Bill.

Let me state right now that neither Bill nor I had a problem with the young man’s decision to change his name. It never should have been changed to Bill’s last name in the first place. Moreover, her first ex husband should have been paying child support and having access to his son. He wanted to, but was not able to pay as much as Bill did. The issue was that the lad was changing his name without so much as a word to Bill about it. He was taking “child support” from Bill and sneaking around behind Bill’s back. It was very shady, ungrateful, and disrespectful behavior. So Bill called him out on it. Ex stepson’s reaction was one of anger. Clearly, he’d been led to believe that he could take this action and not be caught… and, in fact, he was only caught because I was bored and did some snooping. If the person in my group hadn’t posted that link, he probably would have gotten away with it.

It soon became clear that Ex had been working to get her son to detach from Bill for the past three years. She got her son back in touch with his dad, convinced him to change his last name to what it was originally, and led him to believe that he could do this and not be caught. And it was all because I told her she was wrong to deny him access to his real father. She was determined to make me “sorry” for telling her off in an email. I’m sure she hoped Bill would hate me for it, too. She probably suspected he would, because that would have been her reaction in the same situation. She seems to think everyone thinks the way she does.

I suspect she was surprised and even angry that Bill wasn’t upset that the boy had changed his name and reconnected with his real dad. She had intended to hurt Bill by doing that. She did hurt him, but not because the ex stepson rejected Bill in favor of his natural father. It was because Bill had been his “dad” for so many years, and the relationship all came down to money. In fact, the very last time Bill communicated with his ex stepson, it was in a message the lad had sent, begging for just one last payment of $500… and a promise that if Bill would only pay it, he’d never be “bothered” by ex stepson again.

Normal, loving, caring mothers would not do this to their children. They would welcome other people loving their children and helping them in life. But Ex deliberately screwed up her son’s relationship with Bill, which was mutually beneficial to both of them, because she was angry that I had told her off several years prior. Moreover, as the girls came of age, she refused to cooperate with Bill so that they could have valuable financial and emotional support from him. Younger daughter went to college with just the clothes on her back. If we had been in contact with her, she could have gotten child support and, perhaps, might have a college degree and less college debt now. Older daughter might not be saddled with as much student loan debt as she has.

So anyway… all of this leads up to why I titled today’s post “vindication”. Over the past months, it’s become clear that I wasn’t overreacting or being “petty” about Ex. I have suspected for a long time that she has serious mental health issues. Some of them are probably organic and could be helped with medication, but most are personality disorders. Personality disorders, unfortunately, are less likely to be curable because they are a part of a person’s psyche. A person with a personality disorder has to recognize that they have a problem and want to fix it. Sadly, most people with personality disorders, particularly those of the “cluster B” variety, do NOT want to get help. They think other people are the ones with the “problem”, even when it’s glaringly obvious that when problems arise, it almost always starts with them and their aberrant behaviors.

People love to hate “stepmothers” and second wives. I can’t tell you how many times people have assumed that I broke up my husband’s first marriage. Our ex landlady, who I think probably is a bit of a high conflict person herself, actually asked me point blank if Bill got divorced because of me. We have learned that Ex told her daughters that Bill cheated on her with me, which is a bald faced lie. In fact, if anyone was cheating, it was Ex. She moved her current husband into the house Bill was paying for before they had even divorced. I met Bill offline for the first time almost a year after he and his ex were officially divorced, and we didn’t even consummate our marriage until we were married for two weeks. Bill had to explain all of this to his younger daughter when they met in person back in March. Fortunately, she never entirely believed her mother’s lies and after meeting Bill again fifteen years after their last in person visit, realized that she’d been fed a lot of lies for years.

I’ve been on the receiving end of abuse from people who have commented on my blog posts, as well as people in RfM about my comments about Ex. Again, it’s usually people who are projecting their own situations onto ours. They don’t know me or Bill, but they know what happened in their situation. And somehow, they mostly figure it’s always the same story. The man is the one who screwed things up. The second wife/stepmom is an evil whore who wrecked the family home. And the ex wife is always just a victim, cast aside for a younger, prettier model.

Well… younger daughter has wisely been seeking professional help with what’s she’s been through as well as postpartum depression. And she has learned that her mother has real problems… mental health problems. The conclusion is much the same as the one I came to. Apparently, the therapist thinks the Ex is probably suffering from borderline personality disorder with psychosis. Originally, I thought maybe Ex had BPD too. She may very well have BPD, but personally, I think she’s also got full blown narcissistic personality disorder. I know that is a popular term right now and it’s being thrown around willy nilly by all kinds of people. I also know that I am not qualified to diagnose her. However, having done the work for master’s degrees in social work and public health, and having lived with the aftereffects of Bill’s relationship with his ex wife, this is what I’ve concluded about her. And it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who has come to this conclusion.

I am certainly not perfect. I have my own issues. I’ve sought psychiatric help myself in the past, mainly for depression and anxiety. Seeking help for a mental health condition is, by the way, a sign of strength, not weakness. But, as Bill often reassures me, I’m not at all like his ex wife. I don’t abuse him. I don’t cheat on him, squander his money, or sabotage his successes. In fact, I want him to do well, and I do all I can to support him. When he does well, we both reap the benefits. I love my husband very much and don’t see him as an adversary. I want him to be happy. I would wish for his happiness even if we split up someday, mainly because I know what kind of a person he is. He’s not an evil person, and honestly, he’s done so much for me I could never repay him anyway. But I don’t think we’ll split up, even though the state of the world has us both a bit stressed right now. We love each other too much. We are, in fact, pretty much perfect for each other.

I write about this because I know we’re not the only ones who have gone through this battle, as insane and farfetched as it may seem. Those who have never had to deal with someone who is legitimately mentally ill and refuses to get help will never know just how “crazy” it can be. I sometimes think my own dealings with mental health professionals just before Bill and I met were preparation for what was to come. Like I said, I do have my own craziness to deal with, but it’s on a much smaller scale than Ex’s is… and the fact that Bill divorced his ex wife is not a reflection on him. He tried for years to make the relationship work. She finally crossed a line that made it impossible to keep trying. And that’s when he ran straight into my arms.

I do feel somewhat vindicated as we’ve learned more about the truth of what happened. Hearing another perspective from another escapee of Ex’s crazy fantasy world has taught me that I’m not the one who’s crazy. I may seem bitter, petty, crazy, and wicked to those who read these posts without any backstory or insight. But the truth is, while I’m certainly not perfect, I’m also not the enemy… at least not to most people. I’ve only ever wanted to live my life in peace. Those who let me live in peace and don’t hurt me or the ones I love will get the same consideration. Those who don’t, at the very least, can expect that I’ll write about them. And the older I get, the more likely it is that I’ll take some other action, too. Even if it’s just to practice my guitar, which I’m going to do right now.

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