book reviews, divorce, Ex

Repost: My review of Say Goodbye To Crazy by Paul Elam and Dr. Tara J. Palmatier

This is a repost of a book review I wrote in 2015, about 18 months or so before Bill reconciled with his younger daughter. At the time, I was hanging out on Shrink4Men.com, run by Dr. Tara Palmatier. I have less of a need to hang out on that site now, since Bill has reconnected with his daughter. I still think this is a good book, though, so I’m sharing this as/is review for those who might find it useful.

In November of this year, I will have been married to my husband, Bill, for thirteen years.  We have had a great marriage for the most part, except for dealing with his former wife and the two kids he had with her.  Those adult children are extremely alienated and haven’t spoken to Bill since 2004– with the exception of letters they supposedly wrote in 2006, formally disowning him.  One might think that Bill is an utter failure at being a parent, but I know the truth about what happened and I know that had he not chosen to have kids with a crazy woman, he would have been a much beloved and highly successful father.  In fact, he was much beloved by his kids until he got divorced and married me.

Before anyone asks– no, I am not the cause of Bill’s first marriage breaking up.  I did not meet Bill in person until 2001, almost a whole year after he and his ex wife legally split.  I did meet him online prior to that, but Bill’s marriage was already in a death spiral by that time.  Moreover, we were strictly platonic until the divorce was final (and really until we actually met in person).  Ex, on the other hand, had a boyfriend and was quick to move him into the house Bill was paying for right after they separated.  Boyfriend is now Ex’s third husband.  She has five children with three different men, and after each of her divorces, the resulting children ended up alienated from their fathers.

It’s been a few years since Ex last directly harassed us, though every once in awhile she rears her ugly head and does something to remind us that she’s lurking.  Overall, things have gotten much better for us, though.  It’s sad that Bill lost contact with his kids and former stepson, but letting go of them ultimately proved to be the best thing he could do for his sanity, his wallet, and our marriage.  Even though Ex mostly leaves us alone now, I am still fascinated by people with high conflict personalities. 

A few years ago, I found Dr. Tara Palmatier’s excellent Web site, Shrink4Men.com.  Dr. T’s blog is written for men who are involved with abusive women and the non abusive people who love them.  While many might scoff at the idea of an abused man, I know for a fact that there are a lot of guys out there who have suffered abuse at the hands of a woman.  I think Dr. T’s Web site is an important resource that serves an underserved group of people.  There are plenty of places for abused women to get relationship help if they need it.  Men, by contrast, often have to go it alone.

This year, Dr. T and noted men’s rights activist Paul Elam teamed up to write a book called Say Goodbye To Crazy: How to Get Rid of His Crazy Ex and Restore Sanity to Your Life.  This book, which was released on Mother’s Day, is primarily written for women like me, married or in a relationship with a man whose ex is toxic and abusive.  Why?  My guess is that it’s because women are more likely to read self help books than men are.  Look at all the heavy hitting books out there that have been popular like Women Who Love Too Much and Men are From Mars; Women are From Venus.  These are books directed to women about relationships with abusive men.  They were hugely successful with their easily quoted titles.  Even though both of those books been around for decades, people still remember their titles.  I think Elam and Dr. T were smart to recognize who their audience really is.   

Though Say Goodbye To Crazy is a great book for men trying to reclaim their lives after being involved with a destructive, “crazy” woman, the authors write as if it’s the man’s new wife or girlfriend reading, rather than the abused man himself.  They refer to the destructive ex wife or girlfriend as “Crazy”, as if that’s her name.  Using a conversational, empathetic tone, the authors explain what and who “crazy” is and describe some of the destructive antics women with high conflict personalities will stoop to in order to get their way and wreak havoc on other peoples’ lives. 

Reading about things “crazy” does was like reading Bill’s life story for the ten years he was involved with her and the few years immediately following their divorce, as she struggled to keep him bending to her will.  As I read, I often found myself nodding in agreement, both in terms of our experiences dealing with Bill’s ex wife and the things we did that finally got her to leave us alone.  It is unfortunate that in Bill’s case, saying goodbye to crazy meant also saying goodbye to his kids.  On the other hand, not having contact with the kids and not letting Ex use them as weapons means that we also have no contact with Ex.  And that has meant peace, harmony, sanity, and prosperity.

Say Goodbye To Crazy helps men choose appropriate and effective attorneys and therapists.  For instance, the authors explain what kinds of questions to ask therapists and attorneys before hiring them.  They point out ways to spot biased and/or ignorant therapists and lawyers before wasting time and money.  They also explain the differences between counselors and their training.  Indeed, they even take a shot at social work, the profession I was trained to enter before I became an Army wife.

Dr. T and Elam explain that social workers tend to be female centric and biased toward feminism.  As someone who has a master’s degree in social work, I have to agree with them.  While there are social workers out there who are open minded about gender, the profession is female dominated and people within the social work profession generally deal with women’s issues.  There was a time when this strong emphasis on feminism was needed.  Unfortunately, I think in some situations it’s gone too far in the other direction and some men are being treated unfairly by social workers due to their gender. 

Please don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that I don’t think women need champions or that women aren’t victimized by men; it’s more that if you are a male who is dealing with an abusive woman, you don’t need someone telling you to be more empathetic and tolerant toward her crazy behavior.  You need someone to be YOUR champion and help you escape the abuse.  If you can find a competent social worker who can do that for you, by all means, take the help.  Just remember who the patient/client is.   

Elam and Dr. T also write about the concept of “parallel parenting” and why it’s so important when you are trying to raise a child with a high conflict parent.  They offer advice on how to find mental health and legal professionals who will support the idea of parallel parenting to minimize the post divorce craziness in your life.

Dr. T and Paul Elam write about the many ways “crazy” will try to manipulate and control people– anyone who is within her sphere of influence.  I can speak from experience that Ex tried very hard to get me under control, even to the point of inviting Bill and me to Bill’s father’s house for Christmas one year.  She expected me to go along with her wishes in the interest of “making nice” and showing the kids that we’re all a big happy family.  She did not ask me if I wanted to go.  She did not speak to me about it at all.  Instead, she told Bill this was how we’d all be spending our holidays and just expected that I would acquiesce.  She thought I would be desperate to try to win over the kids and the in-laws.  I understood that the kids had no interest in seeing me and the in-laws just wanted to hang out with the grandkids, so that made it easy to say “no” to her crazy and ridiculous demands.

I stayed home while Bill visited his kids at his dad’s house.  He booked a hotel while Ex and her current husband stayed with Bill’s family.  Ex ended up looking like a gigantic asshole as Bill sat alone at the Christmas table with a hotel reservation and a rented car.  Bill’s dad and stepmother initially blamed me for not coming and tried to get Bill to stay with relatives.  He declined, since he’d already paid for everything and he wanted his family to understand that his ex is an asshole… and by allowing this spectacle, they aided and abetted her asshole behavior.   

Of course, what Ex was really trying to do was force me to bend to her will and get me on turf where I’d feel forced to tolerate her abuse.  To achieve that end, she used her own children like human shields.  I suspect she figured I would not want to risk upsetting or alienating them or my husband’s father and stepmother, but she made a serious miscalculation in her assessment of me.  I understood that I could never take her place as the mother to her kids and wouldn’t want to try.  I have my own family and I don’t even tolerate much manipulative bullshit from them anymore.  Why would I take it from my husband’s former wife?

In the short term, I got a lot of crap from Bill’s dad and stepmother for not going with Bill and standing by him while also enduring Ex’s toxic bullshit.  However, in the long run, not going was the best and smartest thing I could do.  Crazy, high conflict people are masters at finding peoples’ hot buttons.  Had I exposed myself to Bill’s ex wife, she would have gotten information about what makes me tick.  She would have then used that information to drive a wedge between Bill and me and others in his family.  At the very least, that holiday would have been completely ruined and, God forbid, had it gone well, Ex would have a reason to make it an annual event. 

You may think I’m being dramatic.  I’m not.  I am deadly serious about this.  High conflict people, males and females, live to cause drama and love to destroy friendships, romantic relationships, and family ties.  Bill’s ex wife successfully alienated him from his two daughters.  But that wasn’t enough.  She also tried to turn his own parents against him.  She told them bald faced lies about the kind of person he is, twisting situations and things that were said to make it look like their beloved son is a monster who hates women.  She went on a campaign to turn his extended relatives and friends against him.  And she did all of this despite the fact that he really is a decent guy who bent over backwards for her and their kids. 

I am aware that there are a lot of men who walk away from their parental responsibilities.  Bill is not one of those guys.  He paid a lot of child support for his two daughters and Ex’s son from her first marriage (whom Bill never adopted).  He frequently tried to set up visitations and phone calls.  Ex successfully did everything in her power to thwart his attempts to stay in his kids’ lives until they finally sent him hateful letters disowning him just in time for his birthday.  Ex also sent adoption papers, which she invited Bill to sign so that her current victim could legally become “daddy”.  Bill didn’t sign, though the temptation was certainly there.

While I have pretty much written off Bill’s kids, Bill has not.  He still loves them and would see them if they asked to meet.  I, on the other hand, don’t care if we never see them again.  As far as I’m concerned, they’ve revealed to us who they really are.  They claim we don’t deserve to know them?  I submit that the opposite is true.  I would never tolerate that behavior from people I don’t know.  As far as I’m concerned, Bill’s kids are strangers, not family members.  I have only met them once and I am not their mother.  In fact, I barely qualify as a stepmother.  And I am not the one who made them strangers to us; that was their mother’s and their own decision.  Understandably, Bill has different feelings about his daughters.  If and when they eventually contact him, he will handle the situation as he sees fit and I will do my best to stay out of it.

I realize that not all men who have been married to crazy women have situations as extreme as ours has been.  For those guys (and their girlfriends or wives), Say Goodbye to Crazy is an excellent guide.  For me, it was just more affirmation that as “crazy” as Bill’s ex has always seemed, there are many more people like her, male and female.  In fact, many people have it much worse than we ever did.  We are not alone.  If you have the misfortune of being in a relationship with a high conflict person, you are not alone, either. 

I highly recommend Say Goodbye To Crazy. Dr. T also has a YouTube channel that might be helpful.    

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condescending twatbags, mental health, music, narcissists, psychology

Say goodbye, not goodnight…

Beth Nielsen Chapman has a really moving song in her catalog called “Say Goodnight, Not Goodbye”. I happened to hear it the other day while I was listening to my “comforting” playlist on iTunes. I have a bunch of playlists I made when iTunes was more functional and I was bored and feeling compulsive. One of the lists is called “comforting”, and it’s a collection of really poignant and beautiful songs that are easy to focus on as I write. A lot of Beth Nielsen Chapman’s songs are on that list. I think she’s a wonderful songwriter. I like to listen to her songs, but I also like singing them. “Say Goodnight, Not Goodbye”, is one I would love to do someday. But I suspect that will have to wait until I get good enough at playing guitar to manage it.

I wish I’d stuck with piano lessons.

I see from the comments on this video that this song appeared on Dawson’s Creek. I remember watching the first season of that show, but I got out of the habit because it was airing at around the time I was in graduate school and I didn’t have time to watch a lot of TV. I also seem to remember that show was on the WB network, and the cable provider in Columbia, South Carolina stopped carrying the WB at some point while I was living there.

This poignant song is about loss, but ultimately, there’s a promise that the separation isn’t forever. Someday, there will be a reconciliation. Maybe after death. It’s comforting to believe that after the pain of separation, there will be a reunion of some sort, whether it’s on Earth or in Heaven or wherever else we go after our time down here is finished. I know Beth Nielsen Chapman has experienced a lot of pain and loss in her life, to include the loss of her first husband, Ernest Chapman, to cancer. She’s managed to parlay those losses into the most beautiful music. Even now, having just listened to that song, I feel a bit verklempt.

You might have noticed that I changed the order of the words to Beth Nielsen Chapman’s song as my post title today. That wasn’t an error. Sometimes, it’s really best to just walk away forever. Most people are worthy of a reunion, if both parties are willing. But some people really aren’t. And sometimes they reveal themselves in really petty ways that are laughable. You realize that someone who is well into middle age or older has, emotionally speaking, never grown up beyond the age of twelve or so.

The older I get, the more I realize that some people are just not worth the effort. And I don’t have to go away mad… but I do have to go away. It hurts a bit– kind of like getting a vaccination, which is painful and inconvenient for a short time, but spares the worse pain that could come if one contracts the actual disease. Everybody has their own ideas of what’s beyond the pale in another person’s behavior. For me, it’s when a person is blatantly disrespectful to me or flies off the handle. I’ll forgive that reaction in people I know well. I don’t forgive it nearly as easily in people I don’t know well.

A few months ago, I had a casual acquaintance on YouTube. We had an okay rapport on the surface. It was friendly and complimentary, as we’re both music buffs and have similar tastes. We even had some successful collaborations. One day, I made an offhand and somewhat off topic comment on a music video he’d posted. He took huge offense to my comment. He proceeded to tell me off in a really over-the-top, insulting, embarrassing way. Then, he said he only wanted me to comment on the music and nothing else.

It wasn’t as if I knew that he had this policy regarding comments on his videos. He hadn’t specifically told me that he’d only wanted certain types of comments, nor was there any kind of notice on his channel that he didn’t like comments that weren’t simple praise for him. I had made the comment completely innocently and was truly shocked and offended by his reaction to it, which was to lecture and shame me about the genius of Paul Simon, and then demand that I ONLY comment on the music. I think it’s lame to get mad and tell people what their reactions must be or dictate what they can or can’t say.

Basically, he was saying that he didn’t want to hear from me unless it was to tell him what a great musician he is. That told me that he wasn’t interested in being friends or getting to know me. He just wanted adoring fans to up his subscribers and hit count. I thought it was overly controlling and ridiculous, but it’s his page; so I just left him to it. And since I was also a bit stung, I deleted my comment and quit interacting with him. I don’t think he realized or cared that what he said was humiliating, or that I was actually pretty hurt. And usually, when people are hurt, they tend to slink away and lick their wounds for awhile.

Time went on, and I quit thinking about the incident and kind of forgot about him. Then last night, I was sitting alone at my dining table, looking through some old postings. I remembered that this person had commented on a lot of them. Do you know that this guy went through and completely scrubbed every single comment? He didn’t block me, which I found interesting… but he did remove all of his comments, which seems like an awful lot of effort, especially since I didn’t even notice until months later. I was amazed… and then I was amused. Because obviously, my decision not to interact with him anymore had really upset him. Then after thinking about it for a moment, I also wasn’t surprised. I had a gut feeling that he would notice my absence and respond in such a way.

I started thinking about what this meant. I’ve spent many years of my life trying to appease people who think they have the right to say and do whatever they want, but they don’t want to grant the other person the same right. It’s happened to me over and over again. I’ve wasted a lot of time and effort on trying to smooth things over when I overstep some imaginary boundary that I never even knew existed. I now realize that people who are that high-maintenance are probably not worth the effort, even if they do play a mean guitar. Life is much too short to walk on eggshells. There are other mean guitar players out there who won’t act like that. In fact, with every passing day, I get better at playing guitar myself. Someday, I hope to get to a point at which I won’t need to collaborate with anyone, if I don’t want to.

Please note– I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have boundaries. There’s nothing wrong with being assertive and telling someone when they’ve upset you or done something offensive. That’s how people get to know each other and determine what behaviors are acceptable. I’m writing about the practice of exploding at people over innocuous things, and then resenting them when they inevitably get offended by that over-the-top reaction. This would not have happened had he simply asked me what I thought of his music rather than belligerently shaming, belittling, lecturing, and demanding a specific response or deference to him. Especially when he never granted me the same courtesy. Let’s not have a double standard; one standard will do just fine.

There were other things I had noticed when we were still on “speaking terms”. Like, he’d often offer me unsolicited advice on how to run my channel. He’d tell me that I shouldn’t post more than one video a day, assuming that my goal is to get popular (it’s not). I often post videos that I make for my blog, so they go up when I need them for a post. Sometimes, I go weeks without posting anything. Sometimes, I’ll post more than one video a day. I also post them when I’m inspired. Would I like it if a lot of people liked my videos? I guess… although I have learned that being popular isn’t always a great thing. The more popular you are, the more shit you tend to get from trolls, creeps, stalkers, and negative people. In any case, I never asked for tips on how to run my channel. I suspect his goals are different than mine are, and that should be okay.

I also noticed that I would post every one of our collaborations on my page and promote his channel, but he only posted one of our collaborations on his page and didn’t promote mine. It got a lot of positive feedback, so I’m left thinking that maybe he didn’t want to share the limelight. It was a little Ike Turner-esque. And it’s not that he didn’t like our collaborations and was being polite by praising me but not sharing them. If that were the case, why would he keep doing them with me? He’d always leave me compliments on our collaborations on my page, but then he didn’t share the collaborations on his. So now I’m thinking he’s probably insecure and a bit jealous of any attention someone else gets, no matter how small. I’m sure it’s not just me, either. He probably does it to other people, too.

I notice a number of red flags…

In any case, as I’m writing this, I’m reminded of the many videos I’ve watched by Les Carter, a therapist who specializes in dealing with narcissists. I don’t know if my former YouTube acquaintance is a narcissist because I don’t know him personally. However, I do think some of his behavior is a bit narcissistic and transactional. He wanted me to be loyal and deferential to him, but wasn’t going to reciprocate. I’ve had my fill of dealing with those types of people. It never ends well. I suppose I could try to “make up” with him by leaving praise on his videos. Maybe he would respond in kind on the few I’ve recently done. But I think it would only be a matter of time before I upset him again and the same thing will happen. I don’t have time for it, and frankly I deserve better.

Anyway, I made another video yesterday. I think it’s okay. I’ll keep working on learning how to play my guitar.

I did this in one take. I kind of wish it had taken more time.

So… I’m saying goodbye, not goodnight. May we both have better and more satisfying interactions with others. There are plenty of wonderful, mature people in the world who aren’t simply about having transactional relationships. I’m going to focus on finding and interacting with those people.

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mental health, music

Pretty soon, I’ll be busting out some guitar songs…

This morning, I got a beautiful instrumental hymn stuck in my head, performed on guitar by Amy Grant and Vince Gill. I hadn’t heard it in a long time, but it’s one of those pieces I never get tired of listening to, even though I am not a particularly religious person at all. It’s just so pretty…

I first heard this version on Napster, of all things… years ago!

I downloaded the album this song came from, and every once in awhile, I decide I want to hear it. This morning, it was on the brain, so I played it. Then I looked at my guitar and wondered if I could play along…

I could have tried to figure out the chords myself, but I was in a lazy mood. I ended up on a site called Chordify, which had a very useful moving chord chart that scrolled as it also played the official recording of this song. Before I knew it, I had picked up my pretty blue guitar and was playing along quite well. I messed up in a couple of places, particularly with the Em7 chord, which is a new one for me. But sure as shit stinks, it sounded pretty damned good, if I do say so myself. I think if I practiced it a couple more times, I could probably play it quite passably… at least the rhythm part. And I could work on the riff, which is probably Vince’s work. I ended up subscribing to Chordify, because it’s a really cool tool.

The COVID-19 pandemic has mostly been a drag, but there have been some unexpected gifts, like finally learning guitar. For instance, Noyzi the rescue dog continues to bring us joy. I’ve gotten to spend a lot of time with Bill, and we still get along beautifully. I finally caught up on all the episodes of Glee and even discovered a few other series I probably never would have bothered with if not for the lockdown. Reading books is slower than usual, mainly because I fall asleep when I try to read and my eyes are not as good as they once were. I really need to visit the eye doctor for a new prescription. I think it’s time for bifocals. It’s also time for a dental cleaning.

I’ve been feeling kind of nervous and grumpy about a lot of things lately, but sometimes things get put in perspective when I get smacked in the face with reality. Every once in awhile, I watch a YouTube channel run by a mortician named Caitlin Doughty who lives in Los Angeles. She has a channel called Ask a Mortician, which is quirky and often very funny and informative. I don’t watch her channel religiously– I’m more of a casual viewer, I guess. But I happened to catch her most recent video, which really touched me. She presented the perspective of what it’s like to be a mortician in L.A. during the pandemic, particularly after the holidays. A lot of people decided to throw caution to the winds and see their friends and families. Sadly, that led to many people contracting COVID-19, getting very sick, and dying.

Well worth watching, especially if your patience is growing thin. I like this channel during less dire times, too. Caitlin is very cool and so interesting!

And now, Caitlin and her mortician colleagues are overwhelmed with business… and lots of people are finding out what it’s like to have a dead body waiting to be processed. At one point in this video, Caitlin is on the verge of tears as she describes the frustration and agony of having to deal with the constant and ever growing backlog of death, as well as the friends and family members who are left hanging when someone dies of COVID-19.

I have never not taken this pandemic seriously. In my case, it’s meant mostly staying in my house and trying not to go stir crazy. I haven’t been to downtown Wiesbaden in many months. I don’t even remember the last time Bill and I were there. I bitch about the face masks because I hate them, but make no mistake, this is a very real illness and a lot of people are not going to see the other side of the pandemic. So I sit here and hope for the best… and try to make the best out of this very strange time. I realize I’m very lucky because I’m in a living situation that allows for this. I probably have Bill to thank for it, too. If we weren’t together, I would probably not be able to hunker down so well.

Today, that means exploring Chordify, which turns out to be a really cool tool for learning songs. If you pay for a subscription, which at this writing is less than 36 euros for a year, you get access to tools that show you the easiest ways to play. In my case, that means extensive use of the capo until I get better at barre chords. I do need to practice them more, by the way. But considering the fact that I have learned just about everything I know from Fender Play, I feel pretty okay about my progress since last May, when I first started this journey. And maybe before too long, I might even make a video featuring myself on vocals AND guitar. In any case, it’s probably about time I popped the guitar video cherry. Maybe sometime soon.

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Duggars, narcissists, politicians, Trump

What the Trumps and the Duggars seem to have in common…

I’ve been reading Mary Trump’s new tell all book, Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man, all about growing up Donald Trump’s niece. I’m probably about halfway through it at this point. I also fell down a couple of YouTube rabbit holes yesterday. I found this lady’s Duggar centered channel…

Okay… it’s not actually Duggar centered. But she does have a lot of Duggar content.

Without a Crystal Ball is run by a dark-eyed, light-haired woman named Katie Joy. She has videos about a lot of shows, but I found her because she does a lot of Duggar videos. Somehow, YouTube knows I’m a sucker for Duggar videos.

As I was reading more of Mary Trump’s book this morning, it dawned on me. JimBob Duggar is probably a narcissist. So was Fred Trump, Donald Trump’s father. So is Donald Trump. You can see by the way these men handle(d) their business that they are extraordinarily controlling, and they think they know more than they actually do. They don’t take counsel from other people, and those who are in their sphere know better than to cross them.

About an hour ago, over breakfast, I read a passage in Mary Trump’s book about how she had wanted to go to boarding school. Mary’s parents, Linda and Freddy Trump, had divorced, but even before their divorce, they were pretty much governed by Fred Trump, right down to Freddy’s being pretty much ostracized and disowned for deciding to be an airline pilot instead of going into the family’s real estate business.

The decision to allow Mary Trump to go to boarding school was to be decided by Fred Trump Sr., not Freddy Trump and his ex wife, who were Mary’s parents. Freddy served as a living warning to Fred and Mary Trump’s other children, not to cross Daddy. Freddy managed to get his father to consent to allowing Mary to go to boarding school (which was paid for with Freddy’s trust fund). The day before she was to go off to school, Mary went to her grandparents’ house to say goodbye to her dad. He was staying with his parents because, since the failure of his career as a pilot and disastrous stint in the real estate biz, Freddy had become an alcoholic. The alcoholism was so bad that it had destroyed his health. He got very sick and, with nowhere else to go, was forced to live in his old childhood bedroom.

When Mary reached the familiar back door to her grandparents’ house, she was greeted by her grandmother, who said her father wasn’t there. She was acting awkward and weird. Mary noticed, but didn’t press. Grandma Trump said she’d have him call her. Freddy never did call. Two weeks later, Mary was told she needed to call home. Her grandfather basically told her nothing was wrong and that she should call in the morning. Not believing her grandfather, Mary called her mom, who told her the sad news that Freddy had died of a heart attack at age 42.

When it came time to bury Freddy, Mary tried to let her elders know of her father’s final wishes. He had not wanted to be buried, and was very adamant about that. She had also wanted to see her dad before he was cremated. Not only was Mary denied the right to see her dad one last time, but after he was cremated, Fred Trump buried the ashes, despite Freddy’s wishes not to be buried. And when it came time to distribute his personal effects, Mary got nothing. Her brother, Fritz, got Freddy’s Timex watch.

So what does this story by Mary Trump have to do with the Duggars? Well… I have heard and read from many sources that Duggar kids go against their father’s wishes at great risk. Derick Dillard has gone against JimBob quite publicly and he and Jill quit Counting On, and Jeremy Vuolo has whisked Jinger away to Los Angeles. Sources reveal that both couples are a bit on the outs with Boob. Jill and Derick, for instance, are not allowed to go to the Tinker Toy Mansion without JimBob’s permission or presence. Jill had once been Daddy’s “favorite”. Now, she’s an outcast, but it looks like she’s embracing a more mainstream lifestyle. Same thing with Jinger. However, it appears that freedom comes with great cost.

I think Derick Dillard may contribute to Boob’s inevitable downfall.

If you’ve been reading my blogs over the years, you know that my husband was kept from seeing his daughters for many years, due to their narcissistic mother’s insistence that they disown him. In March of this year, Bill finally saw his younger daughter. It had been fifteen years, and younger daughter, now 26 years old, is finally able to make her own decisions. She seems to have come to terms with the idea that if she wants to live her own life, she may have to do so without contact with her siblings who are still on their mother’s side.

This is a common tactic narcissists use to stay in control of their relatives and others who are close to them. They handle the money, the major decisions, and set things up so that if you go against their wishes, disaster will strike. Or, even if disaster doesn’t have to strike, they train their relatives so that it seems like there will be a disaster that will befall anyone who leaves the fold. It’s not unlike being in a cult. That perception of impending doom can be very powerful. It takes a lot of courage and will to leave a narcissistic family system. It basically means you have to strike out on your own. And if you come from a really powerful family and have limited access to money or transportation, that can be an extremely daunting task.

In Freddy Trump’s case, being Fred Trump’s son meant that he couldn’t get loans, because his father was buddies with all of the powers that be at the local banks. That meant that instead of buying himself a nice house in Long Island, he was forced to live in a shitty, slummy apartment building owned by his father, that his father refused to fix. It meant that instead of doing the work he wanted to do, Freddy Trump was forced to work for his father, doing work that didn’t interest him. The hopelessness of it, along with those Scottish genetics from his mother, probably contributed to his severe alcoholism and eventual early death.

Jim Bob Duggar is probably not as powerful as Fred or Donald Trump, but he does have a lot of power. He owns many properties in Arkansas, has plenty of lawyers and money to pay them, and has trained an army of children, over half of whom are now young, healthy, strong adults. He also has their spouses, many of whom were kind of brokered into the Duggar family by their parents. It takes a certain type of person to marry a Duggar child… someone who will toe the line.

However, it’s plain that Boob failed to notice that Derick and Jeremy, and probably Austin Forsyth (Joy Anna’s husband), aren’t going to take his shit forever. But JimBob clearly sees as people in his family as slaves. He tries to “own” them. I can see that getting out of his clutches isn’t an easy endeavor, especially as the adult children have children of their own. Those children and their total dependence on their parents make it much harder for the Duggar adults to escape Boob’s narcissistic clutches and strike out on their own. There are a few exceptions, though. I think John David pretty much tells his dad to buzz off when he feels like it.

I’m mostly enjoying Mary Trump’s book… some of it is very sad, though. I get the sense that the malevolent streak in the Trump family doesn’t even so much come from Friedrich Trump, who ironically died in the last major world pandemic, back in 1918. He got Spanish Flu. It seems to me that the real culprit of the Trump nastiness came from Fred Trump’s mother, Elizabeth Christ Trump. She was the one who really got the business going, and, according to Mary Trump, she treated Fred’s Scottish wife, Mary, like dirt.

I’m sure it was tough for Mary Trump to decide to write this book. She basically reveals her family’s dysfunction for all that it is. Her Uncle Donald is, for now, one of the most powerful men on the planet, and he is royally fucking things up. It’s probably very embarrassing for her. She seems like a good and decent person with empathy and, in fact, it appears that most of the Trumps aren’t terrible people… just a few of them who have that malevolent, narcissistic streak that compels them to enslave and exploit people. I’m sure that Mary Trump might even fear for her safety after having written her book. I think she was brave to do it.

Likewise, I hope Derick Dillard or Jill, or someone else in the Duggar family spills the tea about JimBob. But then, I have seen his type enough times to recognize the behavior. I know he’s a narcissist and that his family members are mostly neatly under his thumb. I even remember someone on their reality show– can’t remember which one– saying that you don’t say no to JimBob. If you do, you might live to regret it. He’s a bully.

As for Without A Crystal Ball… I don’t know if I’ll keep watching her videos. I just happened to stumble across them a couple of days ago and they fit with today’s post. Hopefully, I’ll be able to review Mary Trump’s book soon.

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narcissists

She just wanted me around for the “likes”…

This morning, I’m listening to a great video by narcissistic behavior guru Dr. Ramani. She is one of several experts on narcissism that I follow on YouTube. She’s wise, insightful, and helpful, although I probably watch videos by fellow expert Dr. Les Carter more often.

Today, the video I stumbled across is on the topic of regret. I’m writing about it now, because I happened to be talking about this very same topic with Bill before I found Dr. Ramani’s video. Bill and I have both had our fill of interactions with narcissists. And we have both experienced regret in the wake of them.

She’s a very kind woman with good insight and better advice.

In this video, Dr. Ramani says “Narcissistic relationships waste time.” And they do. In my case, one of the most damaging relationships of my lifetime lasted about 33 years. I have countless memories of my time with this person. I grew up with her. The friendship probably died before we graduated high school. If it didn’t die in high school, it was definitely in its death throes when we were in college. But I still hung on to it for years, even though I knew that it was a ghost of the “friendship” we’d once had.

I repeatedly resisted the healthy side of me telling me to break off my ties with her for good. Why? Because we’d known each other for so long. I’d invested a lot in the relationship. I didn’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. I hoped that one day, we could be friends again, more like we were when we were kids.

Then one day, it became painfully clear that she wasn’t my friend and hadn’t been for many years. It became obvious that she saw me as a source of supply and a possession… just one more soul on her Facebook friends list count. She wasn’t interested in being friends with me. She just wanted me for the “likes”. How did I discover this? Well, as it so often happens in my life, it was completely by surprise.

In the fall of 2013, I was sitting in my house in Texas when I got an email from a woman who used to sit next to me in the church I grew up attending. Like my former friend, she had known me since I was eight years old. Her husband was in the choir. My dad was in the choir. Her husband and my dad were both graduates of Virginia Military Institute, so they were like “brothers”. My mom was a church organist at another church, and my three sisters were pretty much grown and out of the house. So there I was, eight years old, with no one to sit with in the forced church services every week. And there she was, a middle aged woman whose children were either grown or in boarding school (she and her husband are wealthy). I spent years sitting through church services with her while her husband and my dad sang in the choir. She was my “special friend”, who even took me for summer outings every year.

Anyway in 2013, this lady, then about 80 years old, had known that my ex friend and I had been “besties” as kids. My ex friend was also the maid of honor at my wedding, which church buddy had also attended. So she probably figured I’d known that ex friend had a baby, and had been attending my former church. She’d had her baby baptized there, and apparently forgot that I was raised in that church and still knew people there.

Church friend wrote to me about the blessed event, probably expecting me to already know about it; but it really was news to me. The revelation that my former friend had kept the news of her pregnancy from me put me in a delicate position, since it didn’t seem appropriate to explain to this elderly lady that apparently my “bestie” and I not only weren’t “best friends” anymore, we weren’t even mere acquaintances. And it was she who had made it abundantly clear that we were no longer “friends” with this bombshell news about my ex friend’s baby’s baptism at the church I had attended as a child.

I think what I ended up doing was telling church friend that I hadn’t known about the baby, since ex friend and I were no longer friends. I didn’t elaborate as to why. I later heard that the church lady asked my mom what happened and my mom couldn’t tell her. When she sent more news to me about ex friend, I reiterated to her that the friendship was over, and I think she finally got the message. It was very awkward, though.

After I got that first email about my ex friend’s shady business, I went looking on her Facebook profile. We were still “friends”, but I had noticed some time earlier that I couldn’t tag her in a photo a mutual friend had shared. I didn’t think much of it at the time, because frankly, we hadn’t been chatting much anyway and I had unfollowed her so her posts didn’t show up in my feed. But after I got the news about the baby, I realized that all of her Facebook posts were public and none were about her baby. It was then that I realized she’d put me on her restricted list, which allowed her to see my page, but restricted what I could see on hers to her infrequent public posts.

She did this, even though we’d known each other since we were eight years old and I have actually met members of her family who are long dead– people like her father, her grandparents, and her great grandmother– most of whom have been gone for decades. I doubt anyone else she knows has ever met these people personally unless they are family members. I would have had a lot more respect for her if she’d just unfriended me, or even blocked me. But no… I was “restricted”, so she could keep tabs on what I was doing and still count me as a “friend”.

Naturally, I was hurt, because there was a time when I genuinely thought we were “best friends”. In fact, she was the one who had first declared us “best friends”, way back in the early 1980s. Honestly, even though we were not as close as we once were years ago, if I had known she was expecting a baby, I would have wished her well. But I have feeling that she didn’t want me to know about her baby because she was afraid I’d somehow steal her thunder. I got married before she did and remember that she’d made a lot of mean-spirited, passive aggressive digs toward Bill and me. I think it upset her that I beat her to the altar. I think she was afraid that if I knew she was pregnant, I’d go out and get pregnant too, or something. She is a competitive person who tends to get jealous and insecure about some things.

I went and talked to Bill and it, and he said, “Well… you know, at our wedding rehearsal, she did and said some inappropriate things.”

Then he proceeded to tell me about how she’d basically hit on him while standing in for me at the rehearsal. She looked at him seductively as she reassured him and told him to relax and pretend she was me. After the rehearsal of the vows was finished, she batted her eyes at him and whispered, “Don’t forget your vows, Bill.”

Bill, being a good guy and knowing that she was my long term “best friend”, figured he’d misinterpreted her behavior. He never mentioned it to me. If he had, I think I would have asked her to leave. Because that behavior on the day before my wedding was extremely disrespectful. I know that if I had done that at her wedding, she would have been furious and there would have been ballistic outrage.

After hearing about her shitty behavior at our rehearsal ten years after our wedding and then discovering that she had me “restricted” on Facebook, so she could see my posts, but I couldn’t see hers, I realized that she was most definitely NOT a friend. I was just something to be used… for narcissistic supply, moral support, adoration, or whatever. It was all on her terms. So, although I really wanted to tell her off, I decided the best thing to do was block her on social media and say nothing. And that’s what I did.

About a year later, I got an unexpected message from her ex boyfriend from our high school years, a guy I hadn’t talked to in well over twenty years. He had a book that I had lent my ex friend, back when we were teenagers (also when they dated, although I think they both carry a torch for each other). He wanted to know how to return it to me. It had been well over twenty years and I had already replaced the book, so I told him to keep it.

I’m sure she put him up to messaging me. There’s no reason he would have otherwise. We weren’t close when we used to know each other. I think she wondered if I’d dish to him. I kept it polite and non-committal because I expected he’d return and report to her. This is what’s known as “Hoovering”. Just like the vacuum cleaner, it’s an attempt to suck someone back into a relationship. Narcissistic people never really let anyone go completely. One way to tell that someone you had dealings with is narcissistic is that they “Hoover”. I suspect that her ex boyfriend was unwittingly serving as a “flying monkey”… doing dirty work on her behalf.

A lot of narcissists will try to Hoover.

Several more years passed. Then, in February of this year, I got an unexpected private message from my former friend’s brother. Again– while we were Facebook friends at one time, I hadn’t spoken to him in years and he wasn’t active on Facebook, so I unfriended him. Out of the blue, I got this message, supposedly from him, with an update on ex friend’s life, including news about the daughter she never told me about. I was tempted to respond to that effect– that I hadn’t even known she’d been pregnant, so I figure we aren’t friends anymore. But I’ve learned that the best thing to do is not respond. No contact is essential.

Moreover, I had a feeling that it might have actually been her sending the message. Maybe she got access to his account and sent me the message because I didn’t have him blocked (I did have her blocked at that time). Either way, I was certain that even if it was a message from her brother– not a bad guy, by the way– she put him up to it. And it had NOTHING to do with her wanting to be friends with me. I was just a possession to her. She was just looking for supply. It didn’t need to come from me. It could have come from anyone. She hasn’t changed. Narcissists never do.

I wrote the below passage in a blog post I wrote back in 2013. I sure called it, didn’t I?

Something tells me she will eventually pop up on Facebook again or send me an email to tell me about her baby or whatever other news she feels compelled to share.  Or she’ll want to take advantage of my super long memory or knowledge and she’ll contact me for that reason.  I’ve watched her do it to other people over and over again.” 

But… I would be lying if I said I didn’t regret the loss of the “friendship”, or at least the illusion of the friendship. The truth is, we had many good times together. We spent many days and nights together playing. We went on trips together– shared books, movies, music, and many Saturday mornings playing with our Barbies together. And, at least until we got to high school, we genuinely liked each other, and it felt like a real friendship, even if people close to me didn’t like her and repeatedly warned me about her self-centered behavior.

But then it started to become clear that she just wanted me around to make herself feel better. There was no reciprocity in our relationship. I was doing most of the work to keep the relationship going, and many times, after talking to her or messaging with her, I was left feeling really angry and upset. She has a way of making cutting remarks that are intended to make the other person feel small. She never misses the opportunity. I also noticed that she wasn’t interested in my successes or triumphs. She only liked to see my failures, vulnerabilities, and heartbreaks. And not because she wanted to offer support.

In fact, I noticed that a lot of her friends were people I wouldn’t necessarily put as her “equals”. Most of them were people who had significant problems of some sort– obvious ones. I suspect it made her feel better to have people around who were worse off than she perceived herself. I came to that conclusion because I noticed that she became distant whenever I had successes. She didn’t want to hear about my triumphs, like a real friend would. She only wanted to hear about the bad stuff or, if she was in the mood, to have someone to gossip with and/or badmouth others to. I noticed she generally had shitty things to say about people we grew up with… she accused one woman who was in a happy marriage of being a “Stepford Wife”. She accused another woman who looked youthful for our age as having had cosmetic surgery. She was gleeful as she told me about another “friend” who had gained a lot of weight and seemed to be gaining more. It was just toxic and mean, especially since she claimed to be friends with some of them. I realized that she was probably saying the same nasty shit to people about me, too.

This could be her theme song. This was the cast we saw when we saw Avenue Q in England in 2016. They cleaned up the language in this version.

Personally, I like it when my friends succeed. I especially like it when Bill succeeds. I don’t feel jealous or slighted when he does well at work, nor am I jealous of my friends who are doing well. I like to be around people who are successful. I try to learn from them.

Yes, I have regrets. I’m sorry I wasted so many years with someone who didn’t value me or my friendship. I’m sorry that I wasted time with someone who kept me from making friends with people who were real friends. I’m sorry that I willingly subjected myself to years of her toxic crap. I’m sorry that she was my maid of honor and that she’s in my wedding pictures. I’m sorry that I put Bill in the position of having to wonder how to handle her inappropriate behavior at our wedding rehearsal. I regret that so many childhood memories involve my times with her, instead of times with other people who might be real friends with me today. I regret that her treatment made me a worse friend to other people. I really regret ever comparing myself to her and thinking that I wasn’t as “good” as she was, simply because of the things she said and did to try to make me feel that way. And I’m sorry that my experiences with her make it hard for me to trust people and make new friends.

But I don’t regret learning the truth about her before it was too late. I have the rest of my life to make real friends, and I’d rather be alone than be “friends” with fake people, anyway. Life is short, and it’s often not a lot of fun. However, it’s always better when it’s not spent wasting time with people who just want to bring you down and watch the world burn. I may regret decisions from the past, but I still have a great future to look forward to… if I survive this pandemic, anyway.

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