Articles from July 2010

My Friend Richard, the Narcissist

For his own part, Richard neglected to call when he said he would, and kept changing plans at the last minute, for everything from picking up his stuff to family get-togethers–but if I objected, it was my problem.

Once I e-mailed asking him to please send me an e-mail with an apology and explanation if he couldn’t call/come over as he’d promised–just a simple, “I’m sorry I can’t/didn’t call; I was tied up with a family crisis”–but he acted as if I were being silly, paranoid.

And he didn’t do it, just kept blowing me off and leaving me hanging all day or night, waiting for his call, putting off other things I could’ve done, as if his were the only time that mattered.

(But then in 2010, I saw him post that same message on Facebook to some politician he was supposed to call and didn’t.  So–Political connections are worth simple courtesy, but not me?)

He’d treat me badly online one day, then be sweet the next in person.

I kept feeling like something was wrong, but then I’d talk to him and everything seemed all right again.

He was very charismatic, drawing all sorts of male and female followers to himself, the phone constantly ringing from some old friend or a new friend he’d picked up on the Internet.  (At least, it rang all the time when he lived with me.)

He kept converting people to Orthodoxy just by talking about it, but denied trying to.  He claimed to have been quite a womanizer in his past, that all the guys in high school hated him because their girlfriends wanted to date him, to still have women chasing him all the time.

He was very arrogant, and admitted it.  He name-dropped so much that I often wondered if half his stories were true:

He seemed to be connected to big names in Hollywood, religion, Goth music and politics;

to have done every activity that could be interesting (such as Goth clubbing, moviemaking, ghost hunting, scriptwriting, even making a movie that was popular locally);

to be some way involved in movies that had been released;

to have family members connected to the Illuminati or a Nazi (though the Nazi was probably true);

to have a family member working on an amazing discovery that would revolutionize the world;

to know all sorts of secret things about political dealings.

It seemed like every time he Googled a religious subject we discussed, he discovered it was linked to someone he used to know or was related to.

He claimed a hypnotist friend taught him how to hypnotize.  He spoke of his high intelligence and ability to tell when someone was lying–though, of course, the material on covert hypnosis also says you can tell when someone is lying to you or trying to hypnotize you.

Todd confirmed that Richard was in the Mafia and used to be a preacher.  But I could not verify most of the stories, which Richard told me were not on the Web because the government wouldn’t allow them to get out.

His story of his brother getting a huge salary for an invention–So why is this invention still a dream of the future, when Richard told me it would revolutionize the world soon–back in 2007?

Why do I find that lots of people have been involved in developing this invention for decades, not just one guy around 2007? 

Then he tells me that the invention won’t come out because Al Gore won’t allow it.  Why would Al Gore block it, when this invention continues to be developed by companies all over the country? 

And biggest of all, I ask why doesn’t this brother help Richard with his dire financial straits, and get told that his brother isn’t actually making that money yet–so we give them a large sum of money?  That, there, is a big sign that these people were conning us.

I discovered a potential lie: about his weight.  I know a guy, a friend of a friend, who incidentally, Tracy worked with in the past.  He’s Richard’s size, but told us a much larger weight.  Richard admitted to getting that high, but the weight he gave me was almost 200 lb less.

When the friend of a friend gave his weight, a couple other guys at the party gave theirs; they were much smaller than Richard, yet the same number he gave me.  Then the court records said a number in between.

So with all the lies I’ve caught him in on small things, I wonder how many of the wild stories are also lies.

I have also caught him in a lie which was easily investigated: In 2010, he told my husband and me that he once met Siouxsie Sioux after a concert.

He was always name-dropping like this.  He said she was so short and tiny that he knew he could never date her (if such an option were ever open), because at 6’5 and several hundred pounds, he could break her easily.

Well….One day I googled her height.  The woman is six feet tall!  She’s taller even than his wife, who is several inches shorter!

When I was mad at him for something, he got so charming I couldn’t stay mad at him for long: He could just give me a puppy-dog look and the anger melted away.  Or he’d talk to me about it over the phone.

I thought it was just because of our close friendship, but now it seems more like covert hypnosis.  In fact, a certain old picture of himself seems to have the same effect–something about the angle….

Male and female friends spoke of him in glowing terms and wanted to be with him.  It was like a spell he wove, and I got caught up in the headiness of it.

When he found another friend in town, Chris, it felt like Chris and I were assistants of the Doctor, since we were both friends with such an awe-inspiring person.

But I thought I was a special friend to Richard, that we had bonded in one of those rare platonic friendships that are very close and lifelong–a Frodo/Sam type thing.

In short, he was bigger than life, and special to me.

But there was a dark side.

He would tell me how I should run my life, then act all offended and angry if I called him on it, saying either that he was doing no such thing, or that I had invited his advice by telling him about my problems.  (Uh–no.  That’s called sharing.  It’s how you grow closer to your BFF.)

The more time passed, the more it felt like with either Richard or Tracy, I could say or do nothing right because at least one of them criticized it–even posts I made on Facebook.

It seems I was dealing with two kinds of narcissists:

  1. Tracy, the malignant narcissistic abuser and/or Borderline Personality Disorder, the high-conflict person.
  2. And Richard, a more benign but still maddening narcissist, who pulls you into his web so you don’t want to get out, idealizing you and then devaluing and discarding you over time.

Mutual friend Todd says Tracy and her whole family are “nuts,” that you don’t find that out the easy way.  He said that one day she’ll go off on you and get Richard to help and it’s all over.  He said that Richard has lost other friends because of her.  This matches what I’ve witnessed and what Richard has told me.

While he lived with us alone, Richard called me his “dear, sweet Nyssa.”  Now, sometimes he treated me like his best and dearest friend, and sometimes he devalued and discarded me.

It kept me on my toes, always wondering how he really felt.  I recognize most of the signs on Psychopaths & Love’s How to tell if you’re being manipulated.  For example:

  • Sometimes s/he gives you a lot of attention and love, and sometimes he gives you the cold shoulder for no reason. You’re left wondering what you’ve done wrong.
  • Your feelings have gone from happiness and euphoria to anxiety, sadness and even desperation.
  • You never feel sure of where you stand with your [friend, in my case]; you feel you’re in a constant state of uncertainty and anxiety.
  • You feel confused about the relationship and frequently ask your [friend] what’s wrong. He becomes angry or frustrated and he consistently denies responsibility for any problems.
  • You may frequently feel angry and resentful toward your [friend], yet are not allowed to express it. Communication feels restricted or even forbidden, causing feelings of extreme frustration and even hostility.

(Also see The difference between narcissism and Asperger’s.)

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

The emotional vampires suck me dry–and accuse me of being too sensitive

From what I saw, whenever anyone hurt Richard or Tracy, whether intentional or accidental, it was terrible.  But if they hurt other people, it was their right to do what they did and you should just deal with it.

At first, Richard apologized to me all the time for all sorts of things, so much that it annoyed me.  But over time, he began resisting apologies and got upset that anybody was upset with him.

It seemed that he and Tracy both saw apologies as confessions of guilt and utter remorse.  But I saw them as a way to show you didn’t mean to hurt anyone, a way to show that relationship is more important to you than pride, the “lubrication that keeps society moving smoothly,” as written here.

If you really go around intending to hurt people, then you must be a horrible person!  Most people don’t mean to hurt the people they love, but do it anyway because they don’t realize how they sound or what they’re doing.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that what they did is awful; oftentimes, it’s just a matter of point of view.

So when I saw Tracy doing things that bothered me, if I felt she was abusing and controlling her husband and children, if I felt she was bullying me, I was a horrible person who hated her and was biased against her.

But if she constantly made fun of me, or blew up at me and accused me of all sorts of horrible things and vilified, belittled and demeaned me, I was supposed to just bend over, take it, and say, yes ma’am, may I have another.  And if I didn’t see it as my due, then I was being childish.

Though–because she kept it hidden from me–I did not actually see the full extent of this until her narcissistic rage in July 2010, I did see some of it.

I finally refused to listen to Richard when he said not to apologize, and apologized to her for my own mistakes and for hurting her feelings (both in June 2009 and August 2010).  I tried to offer to do things that would make up for them.

But she used my apologies against me, as if they somehow justified what she did, as if they were capitulations and confessions of guilt rather than regret over unintentionally hurting her.

It’s affected my psyche so much that I sometimes wonder if I’m crazy to think these things have happened, that I start to feel guilty over the abuse she heaped on me.  I suffer from frequent, long-lasting headaches.

I have to remind myself of what really happened, or else I’ll sink into a morass of self-flagellation, or even try to go back to her and patch things up with no evidence that she’s repented of her own wrongdoing.

Even worse is knowing that Richard–a person I once thought of as awesomely devout and a devoted friend–lied to me, even excused and justified the abuse, my own personal Judas.

Richard kept conveniently forgetting important details at crucial times, details of his own part in things that upset her, which would’ve exonerated me to Tracy (if she were at all reasonable, that is).  So I was left looking pathetic, guilty, sheepish.  I was too afraid of Tracy to do anything but hope Richard would explain things and defend me to her.  At times, Jeff did defend me, but even he wasn’t listened to.

Richard once called me too sensitive after I got upset about something he said.  This is a common defense used by emotional abusers and gaslighters, to make you think you’re the problem.

(Also see The Perceived Threat Syndrome.  And see an awesome defense of sensitivity here.  It says, what’s so bad about being sensitive?)

How can you not be sensitive if an adult, supposed to be beyond such things, nitpicks you every chance she gets, even though you try very hard to ignore her snarks and not respond?  How can you not get upset, if your attempts to show love and concern are criticized as if you did something wrong?

You start getting jumpy and paranoid, afraid your bully is also influencing her husband, once your biggest fan, into thinking you’re just an annoying twerp.

Especially when even your friend nitpicks as well, acting like you do everything wrong and you should start doing things his way.

That’s everything from what you feed your child, to how to deal with social situations, to what movies or TV shows you watch, to which political party to support, to whether you should save all your letters, to whether you should abandon the mutual submission that’s been working so well for your marriage and put the husband in charge (and then bragging that his own marriage is like that when you know different), to what sexual positions and frequency you should enjoy (none of this, especially this last thing, being any of his business).

And then you get the comments like: “Even little children know that compliments are meant to start conversations!  How could you not know that just saying thank you is rude?”

Er–what?  Since when did it become rude to simply smile and say thank you to a compliment?  How would you know that more is expected, when you weren’t asked a question?  So the compliment isn’t real, but a means to get something out of the other person–a conversation–and obligate her to you?

Here you go, a time when Richard said, “I shouldn’t have to tell you!”–which people often say to the NLDer.  Here he was proving I had NLD, while thinking I didn’t.

But this was one way that Tracy considered me “rude” to her or “snubbing” her.  It was ridiculous.  I had never heard of such a thing, and here I thought I had always been graceful in accepting the very few compliments Tracy gave me.  (I remember maybe three, and that we were already in a conversation.)

Jeff, also, had never heard of such a thing, and always thought that smiling and saying “thank you” was all that’s required.  We could only conclude that it was a regional difference.  But of course, this probably made no difference to Tracy.

I had an etiquette book as a child (Manners to Grow On by Tina Lee), along with the many things I had since learned about etiquette.  So I wasn’t completely lacking in social skills.  But it specifically said the way to answer a compliment is to smile and say “thank you,” rather than “Oh, this old thing.”  It said absolutely nothing about how you have to start making conversation or you’re being rude.

It was affirming to see a Peanuts cartoon, originally run in 1998, re-run on May 6, 2011:

Little girl: “Those are nice shoes, Rerun.”

Rerun: “They feel good.  My other shoes were always a little tight..I like the color, and the soles feel bouncy, and the laces are easy to tie..”

Girl: “When you get a compliment, all you have to say is, ‘Thank you.’

Rerun: “I’m sorry…I’ve never had a compliment before.”

So it’s not a faux pas to simply say thank you–but correct?

Then I found this in a webpage about freeloaders:

If you compliment Rhonda on her dress, instead of saying “Thank you” and leaving it at that, the first thing out of her mouth will be that her sister gave it to her, or that she bought it at a 75% off sale.

Yet again, the assumption is that you are supposed to say “thank you”–but nothing is required beyond that.

A little Googling came up with the same thing, including from Miss Manners: All that is required is a simple “thank you.”  While you can use it to start a conversation (especially if some hot chick compliments you on the bus), it is not expected or required.

Then it showed up in Carolyn Hax’s column on 6-15-21, a conversation about compliments that made it clear that a simple “thank you” is all that anyone actually expects.

I suspect this was yet another way the two of them tried to gaslight me into thinking I was somehow “snubbing” Tracy when I was doing nothing of the kind, to mindscrew and scapegoat me and make me think I was the problem–taking the focus off Tracy’s bullying and abuses.

Then there’s putting down your opinions and one-upping your problems: Whatever problem you have, is not really a problem because he’s had it worse.

If you’re upset about some arguments at home, well, they’re not really a problem because he’s seen much worse, and you’re too sensitive because you should allow more yelling.

If you had a difficult, traumatizing childbirth–well, his wife had much worse childbirths and they considered it all wonderful just the same.  And Indian mothers used to birth all by themselves in the wilderness, so you don’t really need doctors to survive childbirth.  Even though you probably would’ve died in earlier centuries, because you were a small person giving birth to a baby of 10 and a half pounds, could not progress after 23 hours, and had to be cut open.

If a job loss or severe cut in pay (during the recession of 2008-2009) makes you fear you can’t afford food, well he’s gone through much worse so stop complaining, and (even though you have a mortgage and association fees and various costs that renters don’t have) how can you possibly not live on that much?

Even if your doctor calls it migraines, even if you often lie on the couch with a heating pad because of the pain, pain that won’t go away for days–well, unless you sit up at night unable to sleep because of terrible pain, then it’s not really a migraine.

You say you’ve been depressed in the past (depressed for months, wanting to die).  But he’s been depressed and knows what it’s like, so doesn’t let anyone else tell him they’ve been depressed.

My views on childrearing would spoil the child, while he knows the right way to do it (including screaming, smacking in the head, and, once or twice, sticking the kids in the closet).  And how ridiculous of me to think screaming is child abuse!

If he thought I didn’t have NVLD, I didn’t have NVLD and was just making excuses, and he wanted to strangle me for continuing to think so.  (How dare I keep believing something he thought was wrong!  He is all-knowing, after all.)

If I had a problem with him, my diplomatic way of dealing with it–taking three hours to craft a message–was wrong: It had to be blunt and not care about sparing his feelings.  But when I was blunt, followed the examples he gave, and took far less time to craft a message, he got furious.

Even though I always told him if there was a problem, and I stated my problem clearly while trying not to hurt his feelings, I wasn’t being “assertive” enough.  If I had a problem with him, I had to just deal with it–but why didn’t I tell him sooner that I had this problem?

Whatever comment I made to one of his Facebook posts, was wrong somehow.  Whatever comment I made on one of Tracy’s posts was also wrong somehow.  My responses kept disappearing and not showing up later.

By agreeing with my priest on ecumenism, I “just offended most of the Greeks” in our area.

When I found an article on a church website he showed me, by a priest who said that the husband had to take responsibility for everything that went wrong in his home/marriage, I told Richard that this wasn’t true: The wife should take responsibility for what she’s done, as well!

I thought that he, as an abused husband, would be very glad to hear this from me.  But no, he told me that I’m very liberal (to which I said “thank you”) and 90% of the world disagrees with me!

I thought he was more into equality–heck, he admitted his wife ruled over him, and claimed he married her because she was bossy.

But on other days he claimed he was in charge, that he married her because she believed in obedience, that I should abandon my practice of an equal marriage (which worked just fine for us) and adopt one like his (barf), that I should read that infamous passage in Ephesians about women submitting to their husbands (I had perused it many, many times already!).

He one-upped and mansplained me all the time.

(The mansplaining wasn’t necessarily because he was a man, but because of his arrogance due to his high intelligence.  It included everything from childrearing to politics to religion, and he did it to others as well, sparking arguments.)

I got the impression that I was supposed to just accept anything he said as true: One day in 2008, before the election, he told me there was a video of Obama saying he would force Wisconsin to use taxpayer money to fund abortions (which he never actually did).  I asked for a link so I could see it for myself.

Reasonable request, right?  But he got offended!

(Yet Tracy treated me like “the other woman”?  There was nothing but a harmless flirtation, such as I carry on occasionally with friends and which is considered normal in my circles–there was no attempt to be “the other woman”!

(Who would want to leave a husband like mine for someone who was revealing himself more and more to be the kind of person I wouldn’t want to be married to, no matter how good he was at charming people–and someone who didn’t even have a job?)

I had to admit that at times I could understand why Tracy got so mad at him, though she handled it poorly.

I finally began seeing this as a hopeless cause when, in June 2010, I tried to bring up a problem with him one day when I saw him on Facebook–but without even knowing what the problem was, he just tore into me via e-mail with such meanness that I would never have imagined him using with me.

Whether your friend has abandoned you or not, the bully’s verbal abuse begins to affect your psyche, a kind of psychological rape, or drawing and quartering, until you can no longer trust the friend and want nothing to do with the bully.

But of course, if you decide to put up boundaries between yourself and the bully, to protect yourself from the constant barrage of insanity, you get accused of being far more offensive than any harsh wordsdemeaning, humiliating, vile, filthy, belittling words–that have no business coming from a Christian woman’s mouth.

The abusers blame the victim for causing the abuse. For example, the abuser would say to the victim, ‘If you cleaned up more, I wouldn’t call you names'” (Love Shouldn’t Hurt).

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

Tracy snarks and Richard nitpicks

On February 10, 2008, I wrote an e-mail to my mother that said Richard told me they patched things up.  I wrote,

I had trouble with Tracy because I’d hear her pick at Richard and yell at him when he was trying not to argue; if she’s not doing that anymore, then a major barrier to our potential friendship is removed.

Unfortunately, this honeymoon period didn’t last, and I later witnessed her doing stuff like this at him and the kids again.

Tracy poked fun at anything I did or said, in real life or on Facebook.  Jabs from Richard and Tracy kept adding up over time and driving me crazy.

Richard told me I didn’t feed my family right because I didn’t do it like they did.  He got upset with me for being happy when a citywide controversy with a local business was resolved a way that I wanted but he didn’t.

He jabbed at me for bringing Kleenex to their house (I have always, always had a bundle of Kleenex in my coat pocket wherever I go, just like in the olden days people carried handkerchiefs).

He and Tracy criticized so many things I did that in 2010, I complained to Jeff that everything I did, said or thought was “wrong” somehow.

I kept in touch and tried to deal with things as well as I could online, but sometimes the chats led to their own misunderstandings and disagreements.  Especially when I’d see a ping from him and think, oh cool, Richard wants to talk to me–but he’d start ripping on me for having a different political opinion.

Or he’d make some personal remark late at night and out of the blue that I thought was unfair, but get upset that I wanted to talk this over and get it resolved right away.  Then I’d have trouble sleeping because it wasn’t resolved.

It was harder than heck to get him on the phone: Either Tracy answered and said he was in the middle of something and he’d call later, but he never did, or nobody would answer/return my calls.  That made me think she told him not to call, though he later told me that was not the case.

I kept telling him we needed to get together and talk about things in person.  I told him our issues were not getting properly resolved because we didn’t do this.

But it fell on deaf ears, and I was stuck with e-mail and the occasional phone call, which was not as effective–especially when Tracy was nearby, or he scolded kids every two minutes.

We were eventually “allowed” to get together and talk if he brought the kids along, but it was hard to get him to even do that.  You’d think he’d come over more often, since at my place the kids had room to roam inside and out that they didn’t have at home, and a playmate, my son.  And my son and Richard’s kids kept wanting to play with each other more often.

I have described the snotty comments Tracy made while living with us.  But there were even more after she moved out.

For example, one day, the eldest child saw Ronald Reagan on TV.  I told her I watched on a TV in my classroom as Reagan first went into the White House in 1981.  I was excited to share this with her, and had so much to tell her.

But as I began the story–Tracy suddenly snarked that I was really showing my age.  (She’s almost a decade younger than Richard and me.)

I was only about 36 years old!  Hardly ready for a cane and the nursing home just yet!

In shock and indignation at her rudeness, I could not say another word.  But, of course, since people say you’re supposed to ignore the bully to get her to stop, that responding will only feed the troll, I ignored her.

How amazing that they kept accusing me of rudeness, when I was polite to her but she was constantly rude to me!

I thought we had settled things: I believe this was in 2009, after Richard and I had a long phone chat that (I thought) sorted everything out.  But here she was being mean again.

Did Richard ever notice any of this?  He knew she insulted me several times on the phone while I was nearby, loud enough for me to hear.  Why did he act so surprised that I held her at arm’s length?

They basically told a sheep to befriend a wolf or the wolf would eat her up, wondered why the sheep was nervous around the wolf, and then blamed the sheep when the wolf devoured her.

In I think 2009, Richard asked me to please please help with a problem his wife had, by finding and sending any links I could find on it.  He said I had an amazing ability of finding things on the Net.

I did as he asked, and stayed up late that night, giving myself mouse-cramp from all the Googling and clipping/pasting of links.  I did this to please her.

But it made her furious.

She convinced him that he did an awful thing by having his friend send her links.  The next day, when he picked up my son for school, he asked me to stop sending links.

He was very apologetic to me, because he knew he asked me to do this.

He also seemed psychologically beaten down, upset, on the verge of tears.  This tells me that her fury must have been frightening and emasculating–over something meant to help her, to make her happy.

I saw him sad and crying once before because of her.  It made me feel protective of him and angry with her.

So not only could he not do anything right, but it was passed along to me, his defender.

Shortly after this, I found a “how-to” video on Youtube, how to deal with friends going through what Tracy went through.  One of the suggestions was exactly what I did!  (If I were more clear you’d understand, but due to the personal nature of the situation, I can’t be.)

And when Jeff was in the same predicament later on, she had no problem at all telling him how to search a certain website and find links etc., giving him all this information.  He found this hypocritical.

I’m talking about the kind of sensitivity we call “walking on eggshells” which describes how people act when they never know what will set that person off.

Which means that offense is taken where a reasonable person would never even think to get offended over such things.

Narcissists often pretend to be offended in order to steer the behaviors of those around them to suit their purposes. It is a manipulation tactic to constantly be looking for reasons to be offended as the narcissist does. –Anna Valerious, Do They Have Feelings?

Other examples of perverted behavior are:
–reacting with anger to what should please (such as finding some mysterious offense in an attempt to suck up)
–getting angrier in reaction to what should appease (Narcissistic Rage)

In short, whenever you see a backwards reaction to something, believe your eyes and ears. Accept this behavior’s perplexity and know what you know — that there is something seriously wrong with that person. And don’t forget about it tomorrow when he’s Dr. Jekyll again.

Are you in a relationship with someone who has made you want to pinch yourself to see if you’re dreaming? Have you often found yourself confused, afraid, and distressed at this person’s inexplicable backwards reactions to things?

Please, please see this for the red flag this is and get the hell away from them. Carefully. Don’t threaten to leave. Just leave. Plan your escape and run away! Change your name if necessary. Seek a shelter if you know this person is unlikely to let you just leave. –Anna Valerious, The Reddest Red Flag of Narcissism

Another time, in 2010 I believe, somebody asked my height.  I answered the question the way I usually did: “5’4 and three quarters.”  To me, just a simple answer to a question.  But Tracy said, “Only little kids use fractions of an inch.  Are you insecure about being short?”

HUH????  My mother uses fractions of an inch all the time when giving her height!  In fact, if you say she’s 5’1, she gets indignant and says, “5’1 and three quarters!”  My mother is not at all childish.

When I told Jeff about this in 2011, he said, “Tracy just had it in for you, didn’t she?”

Tracy snarked at or got highly offended by things that Jeff either supported or shrugged at.  So he stuck up for me whenever he could.  He kept getting upset at her barbs or jealousies.

But you shouldn’t have friends who treat you so badly that your husband needs to stick up for you!  Several times over the course of that “friendship,” I researched “toxic friends” on the Internet.  (“Frenemy” is a good word.)

By the way, he is not a “yes man”: He tried to get me to see Tracy’s point of view in many things.  I respected that he didn’t just say what I wanted to hear.  (Of course, later on he discovered my powers of observation were greater than his, and told me wished he had listened.)

I suspected that saying what the other person wanted to hear, on the part of Richard and Tracy, was sabotaging our friendship, because they didn’t even consider my point of view.

Sometimes I’d discuss an issue with Richard (always on the phone) and then try to explain Tracy’s point of view to Jeff, but Jeff would still be upset with both of them.  So when Jeff got upset at Tracy, I knew it was genuine, not just keeping his wife happy.

The snarking really stepped up in spring 2010; more on that later, and how Jeff defended me.

More on this subject in the next section.

Why did I stay in this friendship?  Because Richard didn’t always act like this, and many times acted like he still cared about me.  If not for him, I’d have nothing more to do with Tracy.

His criticisms didn’t come as often as hers; I thought he was well-meaning, but flaky and know-it-all.  Many times, we had fun online or sharing videos or chatting while the kids played.

Just like any abusive relationship, if it were bad all the time, you’d flee at the first opportunity.

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

Their doublespeak and double standards

As for the things that so upset Tracy, as described in chapter 2, she wouldn’t let either of us forget for the next couple of years that I did these things or wanted to do these things and was such a slut to even think of them in the first place.

If these things wouldn’t be okay with her, why did he do them with me in the first place?  (In case you don’t know and don’t look at the link, these things were all innocent and platonic.  But I don’t want to use up space by describing them yet again.)

If Richard didn’t complain about something, and especially if he acted as if it were perfectly fine and dandy to do it, and especially if he himself kept doing the thing–

I had no way of knowing if Tracy had a problem with it until I did something in front of her (to show her my intentions were pure and I had nothing to hide), and she got short with me, or he’d tell me about the drama he was dealing with at home.

Or the rules about what exactly was and was not okay, were extremely hard to understand because his own behavior kept changing, or because nobody ever explained them to me.  And Tracy’s reactions to things seemed extremely overblown.

An example: We were always having long chats online and off, and I never heard the slightest hint from Richard that Tracy might have a problem with it.

Then one day–several years into our friendship, which was online for two years before becoming in-person, and in person for at least a year–Richard told me Tracy said to him one night, “Were you just chatting online for two hours with that woman?”

Keep in mind modern online geek, Gen-X and Millennial culture, how it’s been for probably 20 years now: It’s quite common to find people online at all hours of the night, especially with different time zones, ages and work schedules.

I have often chatted with male and female friends in the wee hours of the morning, whether on BBS’es, IRC or Facebook.  Keep in mind that Richard and I were both night owls, that he called me or guy friends in the middle of the night, that late-night online conversations are quite common in online geek culture.

My friends are often male because I’m part of the geek subculture, and it’s more common to find males than females who share such interests.

Meanwhile, Jeff’s friends are often female because he can talk with them on the sidelines at SCA events while most of the men fight with sticks.  He often went to events by himself because I got bored with the SCA a while back, and stopped going for a long time.

I’ve read many crazy things on the Internet–probably by much older people who have nothing to do with geek culture–describing “signs of cheating.”

Things which show no understanding of modern culture among Gen-Xers and Millennials, especially computer geeks.  Things such as late-night conversations must be cheating, going on the Internet late at night must be cheating, etc.

When actually, in our crowd, such things are considered perfectly normal and appropriate behavior.

So I certainly didn’t expect Tracy to be upset about any of it, especially when we’d been carrying on such chats for years.  So her comment baffled me.

I was sick of her making innocuous stuff “dirty.”  Especially when I had no reason to think she’d be upset about it–and especially when Richard kept carrying on with it (such as late-night chats) with no indication that we were doing anything wrong.

Then another time he’d tell me she had no problem with us talking on the phone or him visiting me with the kids along or whatever.  I didn’t know what was going on.

Then there were things that Richard did many times, but if I did it, it was somehow wrong.  Then later on, he did it himself again.  It was all very confusing.  

I doubt that having a normal brain, no NVLD, would have helped me much: Abusers do this “crazy-making” with normal people as well, keeping you on your toes, being fine with one thing one day and then screaming at you for it the next.

Then there was the time shortly after they moved out, when I told Richard I had another bag of his family’s stuff waiting to be picked up.  He said he’d come over, but didn’t, didn’t even call to cancel, so I just waited and waited.  I was upset at his rudeness and lack of consideration for my time.

I finally wrote an e-mail asking him to PLEASE let me know when he can’t come over, rather than leaving me hanging.

He responded that she actually fought him “tooth and nail” every time he needed to come over just for ten minutes to get a bag of their own stuff!  She’d say I hated her and was biased against her.

That’s the first time I heard of this!  What, did she want us to keep their hair fasteners and mail and books and other crap that I kept finding all over the place?

Then when he finally did come over soon after to pick up those bags, I talked with him some more about it.  He said no, she was just upset because he promised to do something with the family right after work.

Wait–What?  So which is it?  Does she hate me or is she just afraid you’re going back on your word?  I later asked him by e-mail and he said, “It’s both.”  So the doublespeak drove me mad, because he did this all the time.  Jeff also complained about it.

More doublespeak: One day I hear something’s okay with Tracy, then another day I hear it’s not okay with Tracy.

Also: He called it “flirting” when he put his head in my lap, when he put his head on my shoulder, when he began flirting so shamelessly with me that I began thinking it wasn’t just innocent flirting, so I fled to my room to get away from it.

Then the next day and night he goes about life like nothing has happened, talking about his wife and kids coming to town in a couple of days, etc.

Then the following night he does these things again, making me think, What the heck is going on here?  Then the next day he acts normally again.

So that night I confront him with the “cuddling and flirting,” to confront him about it, get the truth out of him of what the heck he’s up to.  But he denies there was any such thing: No, it wasn’t cuddling, cuddling is something else, my family/relatives put our heads on each other’s shoulders, I was sleepy, and the teasing wasn’t flirting, it was “playful banter.”

In online geek culture, everybody, no matter what their marital status, flirts with anybody and everybody, often shamelessly, often with the same sex.  Jokes get raunchy, humor gets bawdy, and some really crass groups on IRC will have one guy (such as “Maverick”) greeting another guy (“Saetan”) with “Maverick is raeping Saetan.”  This “raep” stuff is too crass for me.  But it’s all just pixels on a screen.

I have participated in such exchanges ever since the days of BBS’s in the 90s, so much so that my college roommate Sharon once called me a “cyber slut.”  My husband, too, occasionally does this.  It’s just what you do for fun in chats.  Bawdy humor and flirting is also the norm in SCA groups.

So while some people might consider this shameful or even “cheating,” our groups would consider them “prudes.”  Nobody is swinging or switching beds here: It’s all just talk.

The double standards: Richard flirts shamelessly with the ladies.  Tracy sometimes flirts with Jeff (footsie, or asking me if I wanna switch husbands).  Tracy flirts shamelessly on IRC.

Richard posts a picture online (for those overgrown frat boys in the IRC channel!) showing his wife’s breasts.  He often flirts with me.

But I use my verbal wit on Richard in IRC one day and Tracy appears to get all upset.  (I say “appears” because I was never sure if she was upset or just joking.)

(I’m pretty sure Tracy had a little thing for Jeff; I found it cute.  Jeff also used to have a thing for one of my friends; I found that cute, too.  I just don’t have time for jealousy.)

Or Tracy makes some comment in the IRC channel, and one of the guys types, “fap fap fap!”  Or Richard acts like a stick-in-the mud, some days flirty and some days acting shocked at something I said, even though it’s just a bit of harmless silliness, nothing like the kind of stuff he says to people all the time.

He can “sex” ladies in the IRC channel with Tracy watching.  He can post to ladies on the Forum that he “may be married but has lots of love to go around, so call me.”

He can make orgasmic sounds in the middle of his music webcast, knowing full well that I’m listening along with the guys in the IRC channel.  My mind starts going places where I don’t want it to go, but when I complain he treats me like a prude.

He can hit on Jeff all the time and tell me he’s going to steal him away from me, so–even though it’s supposed to be a joke–Jeff complains to me, “Talk about crossing boundaries!”

Richard tells Jeff (with Tracy right there) that he’s going to invite us to a Christmas party and smooch me under the mistletoe, so Jeff says he won’t bring me to his party, then.

But when I playfully tease Richard about it later, he acts like I’ve said a horribly shocking thing, and says like a party pooper, “I think of you as a cousin.” Jeff’s response: a very cynical, “Uh-huhhh.”  So….It’s perfectly fine for you to make this joke, but it’s disgraceful for me to tease you about it?

But somehow (according to Tracy in July/August 2010) I’m the one who “doesn’t understand boundaries” or social convention or “appropriate behavior.”  Even though anything I ever do is extremely tame compared to the stuff they do, with me, Jeff and others.

She tells me how Richard flirted via text with one of his female friends from the Forum, while proposing to Tracy.  And she laughs about it.  She jokes about how he finds “girlfriends” online.  We all laugh, understanding that he’s a faithful husband and it’s all just a big joke.  But then she gets mad when it involves me.  Or another time, doesn’t get mad.

Richard flirting with me, especially in front of Tracy, is an obvious sign that she must be okay with him doing that now, just as she is with him flirting with other women.  But then several months later I can’t even tell him I’ll miss him on his trip out of state.  Okay, Sybil, who am I talking to now?

The lines keep moving back and forth so much that I can’t pin them down, what’s okay and what’s not.  Her approval for something, like getting coffee with him, is given one day, then at some mysterious point, without a word, is taken away again.

He’d say, “She knows you’re not trying to get with me,” but she acted as if she thought I was.

Tracy can go to a rock concert with Jeff, but I can’t get coffee with Richard.  (Both are in public places!)

I don’t wear revealing clothes around Richard, while Tracy wears extremely low-cut blouses and low-waist pants around Jeff–yet I still get treated like a slut.

Richard and Tracy can be jerks to others, but God forbid anybody be jerks to them.

One day he tells me something would be fine once I fulfilled Tracy’s obligations, but the very next day he tells me it would never be okay.  This is obvious crazy-making.

I think that even a “normal” (neurotypical) person would have trouble dealing with this doublespeak and the double standards.  But NVLD made it even worse because–since I already knew that I was socially inept and had trouble doing “normal” social things–I looked to Richard as my guide for proper behavior.  If he did a certain behavior, then it must be okay for me to do it, too.

The author has noticed how girls with Asperger’s Syndrome seem more able to follow social actions by delayed imitation. They observe the other children and copy them, but their actions are not as well timed and spontaneous. —Tony Attwood Answers Some Common Questions About Asperger’s Syndrome

Note a double standard in what Richard was allowed to do with male and female friends, vs. what Tracy was allowed to do:

All Richard had to do was meet a guy once, and he’d even let the guy go to a conference overnight alone with her.  Then if he hit on her, Richard would know whom to beat up.

In red because it’s a HUGE red flag of abuse:

But according to a phone conversation Richard and I had in 2008 or 2009, and a forum post she wrote in 2008, she insisted on approving all his friends.  This included male and female.

She had to meet them, put them through her “test.”  Her approval could be made in minutes, or–with me–it became a long, drawn-out, exasperating process that infuriated my husband and me.

She felt she had the right to say she didn’t want him to keep a friend, and it was “respect” for him to follow her wishes.

But she freely did things with Jeff that if I tried them with Richard, she’d scream bloody murder.  Like, for example, going to a concert alone with Jeff, telling me she was playing footsie with Jeff under the table, and joking about wanting to switch husbands.

If I did these things with Richard she would scream because I “hadn’t befriended” her.  Yet she did them with Jeff after making very little effort to ever befriend me.

I thought this meant I finally had more freedom to do simple friend things–like going for coffee–with Richard, since turnabout is fair play, but no, I didn’t.  (Or maybe I did, but she pulled her approval at some unknown time without a word.)

He could go out for coffee with, flirt outrageously with, and show affection to his friends, male and female, but if it involved me–I was a whore.  (She didn’t use that word, but the things she said and did added up to that.)

More doublespeak: He told me I was very dear to him, reassured me that we were friends.  But he was cruel and deceptive to me, allowing his wife to go off on me for things he did and convinced me were fine, getting angry at Jeff for saying it was wrong of her.

Richard tells me for the longest time, “Oh, yeah, hugs are fine.  Hugs are okay.”  So we hug all the time, including in front of Tracy, and I’m led to believe it’s perfectly fine.

Then on the day of the Incident, he gives Jeff the impression that hugs are NOT okay and were never okay until certain conditions would be met.

I’m told it’s not okay to go out for coffee with Richard.  Then one day, maybe December 2009, Richard asks me to go get sushi, but it’s like midnight and hardly the time for it.

This was the “signal” I had asked for in an e-mail just a few months earlier, to tell me that Tracy is completely fine with me, that we can go out for coffee now, do everything he does with all his other “okayed” friends, since I didn’t want to keep asking him again and again if these things were okay.

So I e-mail him, saying, let me know when you want to go out for sushi.

Then on the day of the Incident Jeff hears how “Yes, it’s okay to go out for coffee/hug/etc., when certain conditions are met which have not been met.”

It drove me crazy.  I felt like Alice in the rabbit hole, trapped in a world I didn’t understand, bombarded by contradictions.  And Jeff, too, recognized the doublespeak and double standards.

As “Dategirl” Judy McGuire wrote in a column a few years ago,

Lest you think that could never happen to you, if you look at any study of domestic violence, you’ll see that jealousy is the No. 1 predictor of domestic abuse. Some other adjectives used to describe a typical abuser include controlling, overly critical, hypersensitive, and isolating.  Sound familiar?

Yes–In fact, these describe Tracy, not just to me but to her husband and children.

But unfortunately, she and Richard gaslit me, scapegoated me, tried to pin the blame for everything on me.

I resisted as much as I could (as I do whenever someone bullies or abuses me), knowing there was plenty of blame to go around, to them as well as to me.  But the gaslighting still affected me, making me doubt my own eyes and ears.

It seemed they wanted me to think I was crazy and they were normal, as if I had no right to my own opinions, as if everything I felt was wrong.

Tracy seemed to want me to grovel at her feet, and think I was some kind of worm who didn’t deserve their friendship unless I jumped and danced to her tune.

Her demands seemed to be deliberately placed so high that I could not reach them, especially with someone as mean to me as she was.

And of course, when she first discovered that I found her behavior to everyone to be abusive, that her behavior to me was ungrateful and wrong (after I had gone out of my way to give generously to her and her family), that being jealous and controlling are wrong–

–Instead of changing or proving me wrong, she did everything in her power to prove me correct–and try to make me seem like the “wrong” one.

2. The brainwasher controls the victim’s time and physical environment, and works to suppress much of the victim’s old behavior. The victim is slowly, or abruptly, isolated from all supportive persons except the brainwasher.

Your partner might have insisted that you stop certain social, hobby, or work activities. You might have gotten moved to a new location, farther away from your family and friends.

Or you may have been asked (or told) to reduce or stop contact with specific supportive people in your life. –Barbara, The Process of Brainwashing (Mind Control)

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

Tracy’s unreasonable jealousy even as I take pains to be above reproach

Tracy saw everything I did through green-colored glasses.  I was always careful to not cross the boundaries, to dress modestly, cover my cleavage when bending over in front of Richard, to only kiss his head or cheek if I kissed him at all (which was rare), to make sure my e-mails to him were about life and religion and such, etc. etc.

Yet she still saw everything I did through her jealousy, even my ingrained personality trait of being quiet!

Everyone I’ve ever known has commented on how quiet I am.  Yet to her, my being quiet with her was proof that I was not to be trusted with her husband.

It was inevitable that one day it would all blow up, that somewhere I would mess up and she would refuse to believe she had completely misunderstood me.

I have already described why he was not sexually attractive, including poor hygiene.  I occasionally find an overweight guy attractive, but he was morbidly obese.

Hygiene aside, I find infidelity to be disgusting.  If I even get tempted, my moral objections flare up; while I can’t help being tempted or being attracted to someone else, my conscience keeps me from acting on it.

I love my husband, who complements me quite well; we get along quite well most of the time, which–from what we can tell–is more than can be said for far too many couples.

There were many things about Richard that I wouldn’t be able to stand in a husband, while Jeff wasn’t like that at all.

Jeff is like my other half; he’s my main confidante, so there is no danger of me confiding far more in any of my friends, male or female, than I do in him.

For me, Richard was someone to whom I could tell the things that would bother Jeff, such as details about past boyfriends, or religious musings that would actually upset Jeff (make him wonder if I was turning atheist or heretical or the like).  While Richard was no stranger to religious questioning, and on the side of Orthodoxy.

So there was no danger of Richard usurping Jeff’s role, and I also did not want to usurp Tracy’s role.

In fact, whenever we went out in public, such as to church or the grocery store, I took pains to distance myself from Richard physically and tell anyone who misunderstood that no, we are not married, we are not “together,” we are just friends.

When he lived with us alone, I anxiously looked forward to Tracy’s arrival (once Richard secured an apartment) so she would be at his side during church, leaving my relationship to him more obvious.

(We sometimes went to other churches where our relationship to each other was not known.  I’d spend the entire service worried that people thought we were married.  Heck no!)

While visits with Richard were far too short, I was still quite happy to have him go to his own filthy house, with his own children and his own wife, and his extreme politics and coffee and other things I couldn’t stand–

while I stayed in my clean house with my little family and its moderate politics, no coffee, no alcohol (because we don’t like it), and other things that I preferred.

Also, after I had worked so hard to find the Truth and get access to the Eucharist–the very source of Life itself, direct access to the Holy Spirit and union with Christ–I wasn’t so stupid as to risk excommunication from the Chalice with the very person who brought me there.

I also kept my husband updated on our conversations and such.  He never objected to the friendship, so it was never some shady, secret thing.

In fact, I’d often say, “Hey, I got to talk to Richard for an hour on the phone today,” or “We chatted for two hours online just now,” and Jeff would say, “Oh, good, I’m glad you finally got a chance to talk with him again.”

It’s also quite ridiculous that I even have to explain myself.  One adult shouldn’t have to explain/defend his/her friendship choices.  Yet I’ve actually encountered people who thought our relationship was somehow wrong–simply because Richard is a man and I’m a woman and we’re married to others!

It made me wonder if I’d slipped back 100 years or so.  I thought such backward thinking had been eradicated a long time ago!

Until Tracy’s jealousy flared up and I encountered these people, I never felt the need to explain or defend this friendship to anyone!

If Tracy had been sweet, kind and accepting like most of my friends’ significant others, I would’ve loved her like a sister and freely given her hugs (once I got comfortable with her).

She’d probably make a terrible animal trainer, because instead of using love and kindness to draw me to her, she punished me with harshness for not being comfortable around her, chasing me further into my shell.

If only she would take the lesson from my son and one of our cats, a shy and skittish little thing: When he was little, he kept harassing her, so she became afraid of him and ran away from him.  She still gets nervous around him and will sometimes bat at him.

But he grew out of his meanness, and I taught him to be kind and gentle with her, which, over time, is winning her over.  If he kept being mean to her, she would never want anything to do with him.  But now she’s finally beginning to warm up to him, take pets from him, even curl up on his lap.

Whenever I had to deal with false accusations (whether from Tracy or from clueless people on the Internet who don’t understand male-female friendships can be platonic and that it is possible to love without lust and sin), it was ridiculous:

There was no infidelity, no attempt from me to start infidelity, no attempts to get into his pants or even kiss him, except on the head or the cheek (like with a child or beloved brother).

Yet Tracy kept treating me like some kind of ho who doesn’t understand boundaries, as if I were her own ex-friends who apparently did try to screw around with her boyfriends.

To me, she was the one acting extremely inappropriately–Heck, an ex (Phil) had called me “possessive” for far less (not wanting to hear about his lust for others)!  A friend (Catherine) accused me of having Jeff “on a long leash” for far less (not wanting him to share a hotel room with her)!

If I behaved with any of my boyfriends or husband the way she behaved with Richard, I would’ve been unceremoniously dumped immediately.

Tracy’s behavior transgressed boundaries, showing her belief that she could yell or scream or bully anybody she liked, showing a desire to gain control over others/her husband.  It was possessiveness, jealousy without cause.

I believe no one has the right to behave this way with a spouse:

  • to pre-approve his/her friends
  • to control what he/she can or can’t do with friends who haven’t been “approved” (short of infidelity)
  • to tell him/her to stop being friends with someone and get mad because that friend’s name was on his/her cell phone call list
  • to chase away his/her friends (such as Todd or me)
  • to act jealous of his/her friends
  • to yell and scream and/or want to kill as a knee-jerk reaction to anything less than a liplock or groping or finding proof he/she has slept with somebody else
  • to go through his/her cell phone logs, e-mails or pockets without legitimate reason/permission

I believe that anyone who thinks a spouse does have the right to behave this way, has serious control and boundary issues–unless the spouse slept with somebody else.

This is a serious red flag of abuse from this person, so it’s best to get out ASAP, before you find all your friends/family gone and yourself locked into marriage/parenthood with a control freak and domestic abuser.

Every website on abuse I check, seems to list jealousy and isolation from friends/family as major signs of abuse.

In fact, on Facebook an old classmate asked if his girlfriend’s behavior (checking his phone, calling it her “right”) was legitimate.  The responses were a resounding NO, this is not right, and you need to trust someone and give him room for friendships.  One said RUN!

But Tracy blamed others for this behavior and grew angry and accusatory when they objected.  It was all quite maddening, more of Alice in the rabbit hole.

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

4. More details about Tracy’s abuse of her husband and children 

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

Sequel to this Story: Fighting the Darkness: Journey from Despair to Healing

 

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