disasters, divorce, Ex, narcissists, royals

How petty, toxic, narcissists take revenge, and the estrangement that follows…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from having been married to a man with an apparently very narcissistic ex wife, it’s that narcissists love to take revenge. Many times, over my almost twenty year marriage to Bill, I’ve observed Ex being spiteful to those who dare to cross her in any way. On a few occasions, Ex has tried to take revenge on Bill by using his children and other family members as weapons. She doesn’t seem to care that her attempts to get even are usually not just hurtful to her targets. They also hurt innocent people, like her children. And now that she has grandchildren, I fear that they could also be harmed, unless their parents keep them far away from her, and her toxic influence.

I’m reminded of this truism as I watch and read the news about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, abruptly flying back to California on a private jet before the Platinum Jubilee even finished. I think it’s safe to say that their return to Britain was not particularly triumphant, as Harry and Meghan were treated like they’re now second class. They weren’t invited to the balcony to wave to the public. They didn’t sit with the Prince Charles or Prince William when they were in church. And the public booed them when they arrived and left the Thanksgiving church service. The couple did get to introduce their daughter, Lilibet, to Her Majesty the Queen, and their son, Archie, also got to be reunited with his British cousins. But there were no photographs of the event, and the “Harkles” were reportedly not given close access to their family members. It’s been hypothesized that they weren’t allowed to get close because of their deal with Netflix and Harry’s upcoming memoirs. The family wasn’t wanting any private moments to be exposed on Netflix or in Harry’s expected book of woe.

After the chilly reception the “Harkles” got in Britain, the family didn’t bother to stick around for the grand finale of the Platinum Jubilee. Maybe they had other urgent business to attend to back in California, but my guess is that they were really pissed. Or… maybe only Meghan was pissed, and Harry simply went along with her to keep the peace. That was how it often was with Bill and his ex wife. He’d do what she wanted to avoid the pain of what she’d do to get revenge. On the other hand, I suspect that Harry has a bit of a temper and can be a little spiteful, himself. I obviously don’t know him personally, but I’ve read the news, and I pay attention to body language, too. It probably wasn’t a hard sell to get Harry on board, if Meghan was the one who instigated the abrupt departure from the festivities.

Jesus Enrique Rosas talks about the potential reasons why Meghan and Harry might have decided to curtail their brief return to Britain.

Consider the circumstances of this situation, though. The Platinum Jubilee was a huge party to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s remarkable 70 year reign. It wasn’t supposed to be a party to welcome back Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan. All of the working royals, to include Prince Charles and Prince William, their spouses, and the Queen herself, were going to be extremely busy. Also consider that the Brits can be delightfully snarky, and they have long memories. Did Harry and Meghan really think they could come back to Britain and not suffer some backlash? Of course people are upset with them, even if there is some truth to some of what they’ve said about the British Royal Family. To many people, Harry and Meghan are incredibly privileged people, and their behavior has come off as unbelievably petty and damaging. But– since I don’t know them personally, I will admit that it’s possible that Harry and Meghan felt the situation was toxic, and left only for that reason. I really doubt that’s what happened, though.

The Royal Grift’s video showing Peter Phillip’s chilly reaction to Meghan is referenced in Rosas’ video; I happened to see this two minute video yesterday, before I watched The Body Language Guy’s video today.

Narcissistic types don’t like it when people behave in ways they don’t expect, especially when they “push back” against the narcissist’s rude and entitled behavior. I suspect that the Harkles’ return to Britain was very humiliating, and it didn’t go off in the way they thought it would. And sadly, I think Meghan and Harry are going to try to make the rest of the British Royal Family “pay” for this treatment, which I think was probably deeply shaming to them. Why? Because I’ve seen the same shit in more ordinary circumstances with average, everyday people. And I know that narcissists, by and large, have a playbook that is uncannily familiar. It doesn’t matter if we’re discussing a royal family or trailer trash. Narcissists are capable of being unbelievably petty and spiteful.

Many years ago, when Bill and I were newly married, and Bill was trying to handle his business with Ex more assertively, he sent a “stern” and rather lengthy email to his ex wife. He was addressing the fact that she was alienating the children, insulting me, and being extremely greedy about money. She had demanded that he get another $500K life insurance policy, because she felt entitled to $1 million in coverage, in case he died before the children were grown. I wrote about that incident here, to include the actual emails that were sent. Bill was polite to Ex, but he made it clear that he wasn’t going to be her patsy anymore.

Ex was angry that Bill wasn’t going along with her demands without question. She sent a very brief and foreboding response, which I’ve posted below:

I would like to take a little while to absorb all that you have said.  It would seem my email to you was set in a very different tone that what I perceive is coming from you.  After all that you have done to the children, and me I find this …quite frankly …unbelievable and would prefer not to comment without having time to carefully choose my words.  You will hear from me again.

Bear in mind, this email was sent in 2003, just after the children had their one and ONLY unsupervised visitation with us. Bill saw them only once more when they were still children; that was at Christmas, in 2004. I famously opted out of attending that “celebration”, because I knew it would be a disaster, and I couldn’t see how my presence would make things better. We knew better than to tell Ex that I wouldn’t be attending the gathering, because my attendance was most of her whole purpose for setting up what amounted to a supervised visitation. She wanted to send me a message about my (diminished) place in the family, gather intel about me (the somewhat new and threatening wife), and still look like she was being generous by “sharing” the children. Most of all, she wanted to humiliate both of us, and shame us into doing what she wanted us to do. Of course, Bill had every right to see his kids, and now regrets not taking Ex to court and forcing her to allow visitation. But, unfortunately, that’s now water under the bridge.

As I figured it would be, that Christmas meeting was indeed a disaster. My conspicuous absence made things “weird” and awkward, and Ex ended up looking like a petty fool. Bill’s dad and stepmother were very embarrassed, although everyone basically fixed the blame on me for upsetting the apple cart. Ex decided to get revenge by completely severing Bill’s connection to his daughters and ex stepson. It didn’t matter to Ex at all that this would be very hurtful and damaging to her children. She just wanted to hurt Bill, and the children were the most effective weapons for that task.

A few years later, Ex wanted Bill to side with her, when ex stepson decided to leave home after turning 18. Bill was paying him child support directly, per the agreement he made with Ex in their divorce decree. As usual, Ex hadn’t thought ahead, and didn’t realize that having the kids paid directly when they became adults would give them the chance to rid themselves of her. So she called Bill in the spring of 2006 to ask– or really demand– that he not pay ex stepson any child support. Bill refused, and demanded to know about how his daughters were doing, since they refused to speak to him when he called.

Ex’s response was to send a nasty email that, once again, insulted me, even though I initially had nothing to do with ex stepson’s decision to leave home. Bill told me what she wrote, because although she had asked him to keep what she wrote about me a secret, Bill doesn’t keep secrets from his wife. I got very pissed off, and sent Ex an email of my own, which she promptly tried to weaponize. She spoke to Bill on the phone again, insulted me anew, told Bill that the kids hated him, and later sent him adoption paperwork, so that her loser third husband could legally adopt Bill’s daughters. She also forced her daughters to write letters disowning Bill, and sent several itemized packages of Bill’s possessions that she’d held on to for years. All of this landed on our doorstep, restricted delivery, as Bill and I were celebrating his 42nd birthday. It was very upsetting and TOXIC as fuck, but we handled it as best we could. Bill refused to sign the adoption papers, although he was tempted to for a minute. But there was no guarantee she would file them, and besides, he had no way of knowing if the girls had written those letters under duress (and younger daughter now confirms that they were, indeed, forced).

When her sick, manipulative tactics still didn’t work the way she’d expected, Ex doubled down even more, which led to ex stepson severing ties with Bill after we caught him changing his surname without telling Bill, as he was also accepting $850 a month in child support from him, and driving a used car that Bill gave him (as a 21 year old MAN, no less). That fiasco was, no doubt, very humiliating for ex stepson, who probably only did it because his mother influenced him to do it. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had a role model who has taught him that a little humility and contrition can go a long way in healing rifts. Instead of humbling himself, having an honest converstion, and apologizing to Bill, thus “mending fences”, he simply cut off all ties. The end result is that ex stepson is now quite estranged– not just from Bill, but also from the rest of his family. Younger daughter says he rarely has contact with Ex, or his siblings. He never liked #3, so it stands to reason that they wouldn’t speak. I don’t know if the estrangement makes him happy and gives him peace. Maybe, it does. Personally, I think it’s pathetic, especially since I know he once thought of Bill as his dad; but if being completely estranged from Bill pleases him, so be it.

When I look at Harry and Meghan, and the obvious estrangement happening within the British Royal Family, I can’t help but feel pings of familiarity. They may be a lot more famous than we are, but the petty dysfunctional narcissism playbook is very similar to what we’ve experienced. Sadly, in Her Majesty’s case, it’s all on display on an international stage, for everyone to see, and for everyone to speculate.

This is a pretty cheesy video that sounds narrated by AI, but it makes some sense. It sounds like her friends could see this coming.

I have great respect for Queen Elizabeth II. She has not had an easy time of it. She wasn’t even supposed to be the queen, and she had that duty thrust upon her at a very young age. She’s had to endure as her children and grandchildren and their spouses and exes have been embroiled in all sorts of embarrassing situations. Through all of the scandals over the years, the queen has managed to hold her head high with dignity. She’s a good sport, even appearing with Paddington Bear for the Platinum Jubilee. And even at age 96, when she’s no doubt easily tired, she still shows up for her people.

This is just adorable and makes me weepy every time I watch it… and I think I’ve already seen it a half dozen times. I used to own a Paddington Bear from the 1970s, complete with genuine Wellies. I wish I knew where he was.

I noticed that today, a new picture of Lilibet has been shared with the public. It’s a solitary photo, showing a smiling little girl with ginger hair and what appears to be blue eyes. She’s definitely adorable, and the public will eat up the coveted rare photo. I suspect that the Harkles’ children could wind up being their ticket to relevance, since it appears that neither the Royal Family, nor the British public, are going to stand for their manipulative bullshit. I suspect Meghan had visions of being like Harry’s mum, the iconic Princess Diana. Well, she’s no Diana… and it’s obvious that almost no one is going to indulge that fantasy for her.

Actions have consequences, and you don’t just marry into a hugely famous and powerful family, such as Harry’s, and think you can call the shots. That idea doesn’t always work for “normal” families, either. Especially when people have had enough bullshit and refuse to be indulgent anymore. Moreover, this behavior is clearly nothing new. Meghan’s own brother even tried to warn Prince Harry before the wedding.

I hope that Harry will eventually be able to reconcile with his family. Sadly, I suspect that if he does decide to go “home” again, he will probably have to sacrifice access to his children, on some level… and if it doesn’t happen soon, he may also lose his Granny. She’s 96, and no one lives forever. On the other hand, if anyone has access to good legal counsel, it’s the British Royal Family. So maybe Harry’s situation won’t be anything like Bill’s was. I sure hope not.

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Ex, family, rants

This letter in Carolyn Hax’s column really hits home…

This post has brought out some of my deeply ingrained, still raw anger toward Ex. It comes out in this post, and there is profanity… Proceed with caution. And please, if any readers feel compelled to lecture me about how inappropriate my anger is, do me a favor and buzz off. My anger is perfectly reasonable and justified, and I can write about it on my blog if I want to. That’s what blogs are for.

As some readers know, I like to read advice columns. One column I read fairly regularly is Carolyn Hax’s. I think she’s very sensible and gives good advice. A recent letter in The Washington Post gave me pause. Here it is.

Dear Carolyn: We never spent time with my dad’s extended family, but one of his siblings and I have a lot of similar interests. I emailed her once to ask something, and we now exchange emails regularly. We haven’t spoken since I was a teen and I’m in my 30s now.

My parents are Not Pleased. My mom is actually really upset that I am talking with her; in high school she made me stop talking to her completely. My father just tells me she will eventually hate me, give it time, she’s a horrible person and not really interested in me at all.

Let’s skip over the emotional baggage that comes from all the times my parents told me people have no interest in me and are just using me. There’s clearly something that really bothers my mom but she won’t openly discuss it with me, so I can only guess what the issue is. I would not be surprised if my mom actively sabotaged my relationship with this person in ways I don’t know about when I was younger, and now she’s afraid it’ll come up.

Am I wrong to continue talking with her?”

I was glad to see that Carolyn gave this writer good advice (in my opinion). She reminded the writer that she’s in her 30s, and she has the right to speak to anyone she wants. If her parents have a valid reason to discourage the connection, they need to explain themselves honestly. And even then, it should be up to the letter writer, who is in her 30s, for God’s sake, to make the choice as to whether or not she should speak to her relatives.

If you have followed my blog for any time, you probably know why I feel the way I do. It’s mainly because my husband and his daughters were estranged for many years. Ex wanted to punish Bill for agreeing to her divorce demands, so she sabotaged his relationship with his daughters. That was absolutely wrong for her to do, although it was not surprising that she did it. She did it to her first husband, too. Then, she claimed that both of her ex husbands were awful people and she was simply protecting the children from their “shitty fathers”.

In the one and only email I ever sent to Ex, I explained that if she was being truthful about her exes being shitty fathers, then she clearly has bad judgment and terrible taste in men, and she should not have married a third time and had more children. Every time she divorces, she forces her kids to be estranged from their fathers and their families. That’s very hard on them, and totally unfair. If she was really as good of a mother as she claims she is, her focus should have been on raising her “traumatized” children, and helping them recover from her poor choices in fathers for them. Otherwise, she’s just a liar, and is simply being spiteful and mean. And that makes her a shitty, toxic mother. Having been married to Bill for 19 years, I know, without a doubt, that Bill is definitely not an irresponsible father, as Ex tried to make him out to be. His ex wife just hates her exes more than she loves her kids.

When a person becomes an adult, they have the perfect right to make their own choices. But having parents who impose their petty bullshit grievances with other people on their children, simply because they’re their children, and they demand “loyalty” from their children, can cause making those decisions to be difficult. I know Bill’s daughter didn’t summon the courage to speak to Bill until she was about 23 years old and married. And even then, she was terrified to speak to him, even though she remembered him to be kind and loving.

Bill and his younger daughter missed out on about twelve precious years together, all because Ex imposed her hateful craziness on her own children. Younger daughter could have lost Bill forever when he went to Iraq, or when 9/11 happened. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, and now they can bond. Younger daughter is also talking to her grandmother again, after Ex tried to ruin that relationship. Younger daughter and MIL have a lot in common, and they clearly love each other. They never should have been forced into estrangement simply because of Ex’s manipulative and toxic ploys.

I remember when younger daughter and Bill started talking again. She said she didn’t want to tell her mother about it. She said it would be an “unhappy conversation”. Ex eventually did discover that younger daughter and Bill were in contact. Quite predictably, Ex gave younger daughter a ration of shit, telling her that Bill had really “hurt” her and that the divorce was “so painful” for her.

But Ex is the one who initiated the divorce in Bill’s father’s house over Easter. She’s the one who shacked up with #3 in a house Bill paid for. She’s the one who practically forced Bill to join a restrictive, culty religion, and caused him extreme financial distresses in the forms of bankruptcy and foreclosure. She’s the one who tried to ruin his relationship with his family of origin. And she is the one who sexually assaulted him. She has some nerve claiming that Bill ever “hurt” her. She was not the one who was left with literal scars in private areas of her body.

I think it’s interesting that Ex seems to have absolutely no concept of how painful it was for Bill to be divorced, forced to pay her half his salary for years, and was STILL prevented from having a relationship with his daughters, whom he has always loved very much. There was no reason why Bill should have been denied visitation with his daughters. I have often wish he’d taken her to court and either forced her to comply, or taken custody of them. But he allowed her to leave his finances so depleted that that option was out of the question.

Ex told outrageous lies about Bill to those girls, and even forced them to write hateful letters to him, disowning him. Yes, I am still pissed off about it. I was there to witness the pain she inflicted with her lies and vengeance. She lied about me, too, and made me out to be a horrible person… or maybe just a whore. And yes, I know the truth about myself, and I know that being angry about what’s already done isn’t productive. But I can’t help it. Reading letters like this one bring up the pain again, and piss me off anew.

Older daughter is still estranged, and continues to miss out on knowing her wonderful father. Maybe older daughter wouldn’t think he’s as wonderful as I do, but she’s never tried to find out for herself. She just takes her mother’s word for it. And, you know what? It’s her loss. All I can do is hope she’s happy.

It’s hard to tell why the letter writer’s parents have such an acrimonious relationship with the writer’s extended family. Whatever it is, it’s obviously between the parents and the relative, and the letter writer has never been clued in to what happened. Seems to me the parents need to come clean and offer a *rational and provable* explanation as to why there is so much strife, if they expect their daughter to consider heeding their wishes.

If they aren’t willing to explain what the problem is, then she should tell them to mind their own business. I did that with my own dad when he tried to involve himself in my personal affairs. It was very liberating for me, and shocking for him.

Either way, the letter writer should still initially proceed with caution, in case there was a good reason for the split. But my guess is that the rift was due to someone being stubborn, offended, or just plain petty. And there’s no reason why an adult should be compelled to choose a side in a situation like this one, especially when the person who is imposing the shunning can’t or won’t offer an explanation.

I also don’t think there’s any reason why the writer’s parents need to know who she talks to, particularly if she isn’t living in their home. It’s simply none of their business.

I wish this letter writer well. I understand her dilemma. It sounds like she’s doing some healing within her family, which is a great thing to do. She may find that reconnecting with this long estranged extended family member brings her much joy, and new insight into her own origins. As an adult, she has the perfect right to seek this healing and potential joy. Her parents need to butt out… or, as I frequently like to put it in my profane way, they need to fuck off.

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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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book reviews, true crime

Repost: Death Trap… reminds me of what might have been

This book review was originally written for Epinions.com. I also shared it on the original Overeducated Housewife blog. It was posted February 12, 2012, and appears here “as/is”.

Last Sunday, while everyone else was watching the Super Bowl, my husband Bill and I were watching a Snapped marathon on the Oxygen channel. For those who don’t know, Snapped is a television show about women who “snap” and commit crimes. I have seen the show many times and have often been inspired to read more about the cases that are profiled. Such was the case last weekend when Snapped profiled Jessica McCord. The case was so startling to me that I had to look for a book about it. That’s how I found M. William Phelps’ true crime book Death Trap (2010). 

Who is Jessica McCord and why does she merit a book?  

In February 2002, thirty year old Alabama resident Jessica McCord was on the brink of losing custody of her two oldest daughters to her ex-husband Alan Bates and his wife, Terra. Jessica’s second husband, Jeff McCord, was a police officer in Pelham, Alabama. As an officer of the law, he was duty bound to protect and serve the public. But as Jessica McCord’s husband, he evidently felt he was also duty bound to help his wife off her pesky ex-husband who demanded access to his daughters from their marriage. 

Since her divorce from Alan Bates, Jessica McCord had refused to cooperate with court orders allowing Alan Bates visitation with their kids. She had moved the girls, taken them out of school to “homeschool” them, removed the mailbox to prevent her ex-husband from serving her with legal documents, and refused to answer the telephone when he called, wanting to speak to their kids. She wanted Alan Bates to pay child support, but he was not to influence their children, and she did everything in her power to prevent him from doing that.

Young love gone wrong 

By most accounts, Jessica McCord and Alan Bates never should have gotten together in the first place. They met in high school. Alan Bates was an honor student who loved the theater. He had a very bright future ahead of him in set design. Jessica Callis was a misfit from a broken home. Her natural father regularly beat her mother and abused the kids. When her parents divorced, Jessica found herself being used as a pawn. Nevertheless, somehow she buried the pain of her childhood by mocking those who came from good homes. She had made fun of people like Alan Bates. And then, for some weird reason, they started dating and Jessica eventually got pregnant.

Alan Bates was a fine young man who wanted to do right by his pregnant girlfriend. The two got married. Jessica dropped out of school and got her GED. Alan graduated with honors and won acceptance to the University of Montevallo to study theater. The young couple moved to the college town and tried to make a go of it. Jessica had their second daughter in 1992. Meanwhile, Alan worked non-stop to care for his family and get an education.

Jessica was displeased with being a housewife saddled with two babies. She was jealous of Alan’s “freedom” and academic accolades. She was convinced he had a girlfriend at school. Their marriage crumbled in 1994. 

Several years later, Alan met Terra Klugh, a woman with whom he was much more compatible. Even though Jessica had another child with an ex boyfriend, she was furious when Alan moved on. There was no way her daughters would have a stepmother, and Alan would have to pay for “abandoning her”. What’s more, she was determined to get married again, too. Just before Alan married Terra, Jessica married Jeff McCord, who stepped in as daddy to Jessica’s brood. She went on to have two more kids by her second husband.

Alan Bates only wanted to have a relationship with his kids, but his ex-wife made it impossible for him to be a father. When he’d finally had enough of Jessica’s blatant disregard for his rights, Alan went to court to compel her to cooperate. At the very end of his life, it looked like he’d finally prevailed. But Jessica and her husband had a nasty surprise for Alan and his second wife, Terra. M. William Phelps outlines how Jessica and Jeff McCord carried out their plan to be rid of Alan forever and the court case that put Jessica and Jeff McCord in prison.

My thoughts

I can’t say I “enjoyed” reading Death Trap, because it is a true crime book about how two innocent people were murdered trying to do the right thing. In the wake of the murders, five children lost their parents to prison or death. Three families were left to grieve for lives prematurely ended or ruined. 

However, I can say that I was fascinated by this book, mainly because my husband was once married to a woman very much like Jessica McCord. Like Alan Bates, he wanted to do the right thing. He paid child support and tried to maintain contact with his kids until it became impossible. Unlike Alan Bates, my husband never pursued his parental rights in a court of law. I don’t know that my husband’s ex would have resorted to murder, but I honestly wouldn’t put it past her if she got desperate enough. So on that level, Phelps’ book was very interesting to me.

I don’t think this book is particularly well-written. Phelps has a habit of using sentence fragments to make dramatic points. That style became annoying to me after awhile. It seemed amateurish and sensationalist. In the course of writing this tale, Phelps jumps around a bit, making it tricky to keep up with the story. He also includes a number of asides in parentheses which were distracting. The photos in the book did show up well on my Kindle, at least.

Overall

I read this book because it was the only one available about Jessica McCord’s case. Because the case was so personally relatable to me, Death Trap was well worth reading. However, I think Jessica McCord’s case would have been handled better by a different writer. I would recommend Death Trap to anyone who wants to read Jessica McCord’s story, though.  

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

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divorce, Ex, psychology, true crime

Armchair quarterbacks…

When I used to post on Blogger, I would get all kinds of comments from all over the world. Sometimes, people would offer me unsolicited advice, based on what they thought they knew about me. Sometimes they would armchair quarterback when I’d post about situations we were dealing with. Often, the comments were left in a spirit of being helpful, but sometimes they were spiteful and cruel.

I think there must be a lot of people out there in the world who feel a lot better about themselves when they tell off some stranger on a blog or on social media. For most of my years on Blogger, I didn’t moderate comments before they were posted, so sometimes I would get nasty surprises from mean-spirited people who didn’t like something I’d written or disagreed with my opinions.

The first “nasty” comments I ever got were based on a post I wrote about Jessica McCord, a woman who, with the help of her police officer husband, killed her ex husband and his second wife. I had seen an episode of Snapped, a TV show on Oxygen about women who kill, and was horrified by how much Jessica McCord’s behaviors, prior to the murders, reminded me of Bill’s ex wife’s. So I wrote a post about it. That was a bad move.

News piece about Jeff McCord, a former cop who helped his wife, Jessica, murder her ex husband, Alan Bates, and Alan’s wife, Terra, after Alan won custody of his daughters.

My blog entry about Jessica McCord caught on fire several months after I posted it. I got all kinds of bile from people over that post about Jessica McCord and my comparison of our situation to hers… a lot of people wanted to blame Bill for not fighting harder to get his kids away from his ex wife. In retrospect, maybe he should have fought harder for custody… although by the time I saw that episode of Snapped, the girls were already grown women. Both of the girls stopped speaking to Bill in 2004 or so, and back then, we had no money or time for court battles. I saw and wrote about the Snapped episode in early 2012. By then, older daughter was 20 years old, and younger daughter was 18, and it had been over seven years since they had completely quit communicating with their dad.

I wrote my post about Jessica McCord because I was shocked by how much she had behaved like Ex before McCord and her husband resorted to murder. At least, to our knowledge, Ex never tried to murder Bill, although she did once tell him, when she thought he was sleeping, that she should just “slit his throat”. Surprisingly enough, Bill didn’t leave her at that point. He still had hopes he could save the marriage and be there for his kids.

Although a lot of people had negative things to say to me about my Jessica McCord entry, that post also attracted sympathy from someone who was friends with Alan and Terra Bates and understood the dynamics of dealing with an unhinged ex spouse. He was also a man, and he understood that it would have been difficult for Bill to get custody changed, and just taking the kids from her and refusing to bring them back would have landed him in jail. Ex had made it very difficult for Bill to see the kids, anyway. She lived on the other side of the country, was taking about $30,000 a year in child support, and absolutely refused to cooperate with him. We later found out from younger daughter that Ex was terrified that Bill would “steal” them from her. “Steal” was the actual word she used, even though two of the three kids for whom Bill paid child support were also HIS children (older stepson has a dad, but his dad didn’t pay support– Bill paid for him, instead– how’s that for being an irresponsible father who “copped out” of parenthood?). She clearly sees her offspring as extensions of herself instead of people unto themselves.

Upon reading all of the nasty spew in the wake of that post, I ended up writing a follow up– not so much about Jessica McCord, but more for the people who read it and left negative, shaming comments and unsolicited advice for me. One woman who commented on the first post claimed to be an “academic” and pretty much gave us both barrels. I would say that for an “academic”, she was remarkably uneducated about parental alienation syndrome. She also lectured me about not showing appropriate “deference” for her academic achievements. However, she also used a pseudonym and blocked her profile, so there was no way to know if she was who or what she claimed to be. I would say that anyone who leaves a comment like that but doesn’t allow themselves to be vetted is probably brimming full of shit.

I am glad to point out that the follow up post got sympathetic comments rather than the hateful bile the first post attracted. In the follow up post, I explained in more detail what happened and reminded people that having one’s children completely disown and reject them without ever giving them a chance to explain their side is extremely hurtful. At that point, I was still very angry with Bill’s daughters. I thought they were complicit. Since they were adults in 2012, I held them responsible for their actions. I have since changed my mind about them, now that one of the girls has resumed communicating with Bill and we’ve learned more about what was going on from their end.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that people felt the need to “armchair quarterback” our situation. People react with righteous indignation when it comes to certain subjects, and they love to take what they think is the moral highground. When it comes to children, it’s easy for people to become sanctimonious about what other people should be doing, regardless of the individual circumstances they might be in at the time. For an easy example of what I mean, check out any video or picture of a child in a car seat. You can bet there will almost always be at least one comment on how the child is strapped in. It never fails, even if it’s a cute video. Nowadays, I’m seeing less about that subject as everyone is now preaching about wearing face masks. Many people take a “no excuses” attitude about some topics, even when such an attitude is not based in reality and doesn’t take into consideration other perspectives or circumstances. I guess it’s human nature.

On the other hand, it was pretty scary that some people felt that Bill should have been willing to be murdered for his daughters. What the hell good would he have been to them dead? Years later, Bill has finally reconciled with younger daughter, and he’s helped her out financially and emotionally, as she’s tried to make sense of her childhood. If Bill’s story had ended like Alan Bates’s had, his daughters would have lost BOTH parents forever.

My post about Jessica McCord was a source of a lot of angst for me, mainly because so many people left shitty, judgmental comments, mainly based on projection from their individual experiences. Also, a lot of people automatically blame men when a relationship doesn’t work out, and they assumed Bill was a “typical guy” (trust me; he isn’t). It got many thousands of views and, for years, it was one of my most popular posts of all time. It’s now been long surpassed by a post on my little visited music blog, Dungeon of the Past. For some reason, people are fascinated by a post I wrote about Mindi Carpenter, daughter of Richard Carpenter of the Carpenters. That post has generated many comments and, at this writing, has 117,790 hits.

Nowadays, I don’t get a lot of nasty comments. I moved the blog to WordPress, and comment moderation is turned on by default, making people a lot less willing to driveby with nastiness. I also have a smaller readership because a lot of the people who read the old blog were drivebys who read one or two posts and moved on. Now, I have some regular readers, but they’re mainly people who know me and know that Bill isn’t a deadbeat dad. I also don’t have as many posts about controversial topics on this blog, although I add new content pretty frequently. Today’s post, for instance, might ignite a fire.

Hope springs eternal that one day, I’ll write something as explosive as that Jessica McCord post was. In my experience, people tend to get the most upset about true crime posts. Sometimes I even hear from people directly involved in the cases I’ve written about. I can’t blame them for being upset– I suppose that even though I always try to be fair when I write, they still feel judged and/or attacked. I have to remind them that my comments come from what I’ve read or seen in the media, as well as my own deductive reasoning.

I empathize with them, too, because people did the same thing to me when I stupidly compared Jessica McCord to Ex. I couldn’t help myself, though. Jessica McCord really did eerily remind me of Ex. She pulled a lot of the same evasive tactics Ex did before Bill finally quit trying to fight with her. I’m truly grateful that she didn’t slit his throat or get her husband to help murder Bill and me, even if it pisses me off that she got away with what she did. Had it been my choice to make, I think I would have done all I could to take her to court and sue for custody. But I say that as a woman who wasn’t directly victimized and financially ruined by her, as Bill was.

I do sometimes get funny “advice” from spammers. Not long ago, someone left a comment on a post on my travel blog. It read like an actual person posted it. It started with something along the lines of, “Where’s your contact link? I have some ideas for your blog that I want to share with you.” Um… thanks for the attempt at giving me advice, but I don’t remember asking you…

I was a little astounded by that comment. It’s a fucking travel blog. Who says I want or need any help with it? I don’t write any of this for money! It’s mainly for myself and those who might find it interesting reading. If I make a little money from ads, that’s just icing on the cake! Really, I just write because it’s something to do, something I enjoy, is good for processing things, and helps me preserve memories. Not everyone appreciates what I do, though. Good thing the Internet is such a big place and people are free to go somewhere else.

Anyway, if my comments about Jessica McCord have piqued anyone’s interest, here’s a link to the episode of Snapped from which it came. I found it a truly chilling case. I am also going to repost my review of Death Trap, a book about the Jessica McCord case.

As an Amazon Associate, I may get a small commission from Amazon from items purchased through my site.

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