I discover the restrictions are still up after 7 months–and ponder ending the friendship

In late August, I thought all of the crap was long over with and Tracy was now fine with me, that surely she knew me well enough by now (after 9 months!) to relax all the restrictions.

From what I recall, at this point I don’t believe I knew that I was supposed to be good friends with her as well; I thought friendly acquaintances was enough.  In our interactions, I had done my best to forget the things she had done and kept doing, and be pleasant.

Jeff lost his job early that month due to downsizing.  Like a huge chunk of the local businesses, his employer depended on Mercury Marine, which suffered during the 2008 downturn.

Actually, Mercury had been suffering for a while, because they make recreational equipment (outboard motors, that sort of thing), the economy had been dragging for several years, and when that happens, people don’t buy boats.

So Mercury didn’t go to my husband’s company for parts for their equipment.  So his company suffered, mandated unpaid vacation time, and let people go, even this one whom they once called their “go-to guy.”

We were already living paycheck-to-paycheck; a lack of inflation-based raises over the past several years, debt that kept us in chains, and added hardship from paying for Richard and Tracy living with us, meant no savings whatsoever.

And unemployment paid only a fraction of what it took to run the house and pay our debts.  We relied on Jeff’s family just to keep out of bankruptcy.  And it was a couple of months before the big crash of the national economy, making this a horrible time to be out of work.

I was stressed out, trying to be strong for Jeff, so I naturally wanted a shoulder to cry on.  There was nobody close enough to me for this except Richard: I had no girlfriends in town to talk to.

Shortly before August 24, I asked Richard for some time to just sit and talk with him in the parking lot about my troubles, expecting that Tracy’s restrictions were long gone by now and we could do this.

So I was shocked to learn from him that all the restrictions were still up!  This is probably when I learned she wanted me to be buddy-buddy with her and have deep conversations with her.  All this time, I thought I just had to let her get to know me first.  Now there was more!

During our daily walks, I explained the situation to Jeff, since he’s my husband, so I naturally tell him everything that troubles me.  He grew furious and made remarks about how Tracy could take herself back to [their original state], etc. etc.

I wrote an e-mail to Richard on Sunday, August 24, 2008; this is a compilation of the drafts, not what the e-mail finally looked like, and shows how I worked with different ways to say the same thing:

I have to be honest with you: If it’s true that Tracy still won’t let us go somewhere and talk, just talking in a public place, maybe even just taking a walk, even when I really need to talk to my friend about difficult times, after all this time, then I have to say I’ve given up on trying to please her.

It sounds like other people have gotten her approval with far less.  She lived here under my roof for a month and a half; she knows all she needs to know.  If she doesn’t trust me now, she never will.

The more she resists my friendship with you, the more of a wall gets built up between us, and she won’t get this buddy-buddy friendship she seems to want.  We also just don’t have enough in common for that: Our personality types just don’t mesh well together.

After all we’ve done for her family, to be cut off from you feels insulting, unnecessary and ungrateful.

The primary reason why I get paranoid when you don’t call me back when promised, is that I fear what’s going on on the other end: Is she getting mad at you for the very thought of calling me back, no matter how urgent the matter?  Is that why we have to talk to each other when she’s at work?

I am the way I am, and she has to take it or leave it.  I don’t feel comfortable with this situation, and it’s depressing.  The last thing I want is to be forced to give you up because the wife doesn’t like me.  You’re one of my dearest friends, part of the “inner circle.”

It’s very hard for me to find friends as close as we’ve gotten, so when I find one, I try to hang on.  But most of my close friends are in other cities and our primary communication is by e-mail.

Here I finally had a close friend right here at home again.  I’ve missed that since [an old] crowd drifted away and the youth group was disbanded.  I want it to stay that way.

I don’t know why she doesn’t like me and is putting me through all this; I don’t buy the reasons given.  I want to be there for you for everything, and I want you to be allowed to be there for me.

feeling bullied….

OR

I’ve been feeling heartsick, and after talking about it with Jeff, he’s just as upset.  I feel like I’m being bullied.

Tracy and I DID have good conversations in the beginning, while I was lying on the couch sick or we went to church while you were at work, and after living here for more than a month, she knows all she needs to know about me.

We were there for her when she was in a tough situation.  It sounds like others have been given free reign after far less.

I’ve been watching her kids and being nice and offering her free meals and supporting her and chatting with her occasionally, so I thought we were getting along now.

I thought she would be okay with you and I going somewhere to talk, especially while I’m going through tough times and need an outlet outside of this house.

I’m Melanie, not Scarlett O’Hara.  If she’s not okay with it by now, I’m afraid she never will be.  I don’t believe the reasons.

I wanted to be her friend, but there’s a wall that is impossible for me to breach.  I don’t feel it’s my fault.  I don’t call that often because I’m always afraid she’s going to yell at me again.

I can understand and respect that you don’t want trouble at home, but is it right to allow a good friend to be bullied?

I don’t feel comfortable with this situation.  It makes me feel like some blasted “other woman.”

The last thing I want to do is to end our friendship, but things have got to change because I can’t take much more of this distrust and suspicion and fear of somehow transgressing.

OR

I do love you [philia] dearly, and that’s the reason why I’ve put up with this for so long.  But I can’t let it keep going on like this.  

I do believe I earned the right long ago to be cut some slack, and I don’t feel I’m being treated fairly.  I did not create this situation.

I don’t appreciate being treated like some “other woman” who can’t be trusted. 

I’ve gone to a great deal of trouble to put her family back together, and should not keep getting treated like I’ll try to break it apart as soon as her back is turned.  I don’t want to go to extremes or put up an ultimatum I’m sure to lose.

But if Jeff were bullying one of my friends, I would stick up for him/her.

OR

About our conversation the other day, this is difficult for me….You are very dear to me and I don’t want to hurt or upset you.

But I’m not sure you realize the stress I’ve been under since I discovered Tracy still has me under “restriction” after all this time.  I want the stress to end.  I want to find some way where we can all get what we want, but things have to change.

I claim my right to protest that this is very unfair to me.  This “restriction” I’m still under is far more appropriate for someone she’s just met who dresses provocatively and has a history of manstealing.

On the contrary, I happen to think she knows me quite well, I dress modestly, respect boundaries, and have tried to help you guys out any way I can.  I earned the right to be cut slack because of our generosity.

We were roommates for more than a month, so she DOES know everything she needs to know about me.  I have never understood why she keeps saying she doesn’t.

I’ll hear her say things about me that I don’t even recall mentioning.  I don’t remember telling her I don’t like shopping.  I don’t remember telling her I’m a nervous driver.  Yet somehow she knows both things.

I have indeed tried to be friends with her, and I thought we were now, that the past was gone and she was learning to trust me.

When Jeff and I first met, he had a group of friends which I felt uncomfortable around, but they were his friends.  However, I claim the right to choose my own confidants.

I am also a shy, quiet, private person; she has to take me as I am.  I opened up to her about many things in the very beginning.

While I was sick and could not move off the couch, and when we went to church, we had long conversations.  You were at work at the time, so did not witness them.

We could do what women do and poke fun at you when you were in the room.  Things were going fine.

I seem to recall wanting to watch chick flicks with her–finally, someone to watch them with!

But then distressing things happened that caused me to put up boundaries.  I would like to be able to take those boundaries away again.

But there is only one way this can happen: I MUST BE MADE TO FEEL SAFE.  To elaborate, I must be accepted the way I am: an introvert.

There must be no harsh words, just gentle treatment; I must not be punished for wanting to talk to you; I must not be pushed or criticized or punished for not talking more to Tracy, because this will cause me to clam up.  

This is not stubbornness.  Honestly, my brain will freeze up, I will feel very uncomfortable around her, and I will not be able to speak to her.  This always happens when people tell me I should talk more, tell me to smile, or whatever.

I have been able to make friends with some difficult people, but they inspired my loyalty through compliments and gentle treatment.  For example, my former boss [the narcissist], who had a temper, kept cutting my hours without pay, and kept “forgetting” my paydays.

Once he wanted me to talk to a credit card company for him, and impersonate his wife, who had to call them herself but wasn’t able to.  When I refused, he called them up himself and began speaking falsetto.  It was the strangest thing I ever witnessed.

The day he quit, he was like a dragon, spewing flames out all over the building because he thought the underwriter had treated him badly.

But he normally spoke gently to me; he joked around with me; I poked fun at him for his messy office; he kept telling me how smart I was and what a help I was, putting his files in order.  (“Disorganized” is far too light a word to use to describe his office.)

This inspired my loyalty, so when someone told me I should threaten to stop working for him if he didn’t pay me on time, I didn’t do it.

I want everything to be the way we dreamed it would be back in the beginning.  It just can’t go on the way it has been.  But if I’m accepted the way I am and made to feel comfortable, you will see that things can change.

I am skittish and sensitive.  This must be taken into account.  If it is, then we can finally get somewhere and everyone will be happy.

The way things are now, is very distressing, because I start getting anxious if I need to call you (for fear of Tracy getting upset with me), and I do occasionally need to talk to you in person–not just over e-mail or the phone–like friends DO.

I want the freedom to do so, because I will not stand for this forever.

From what you said, I got the strong impression that others have been “okayed” for far less.  I do feel I earned the right to be cut slack because of all the trouble I went through for you guys.  I feel she already knows all she needs to know about me after living under my roof for more than a month.

Now we’re the ones going through difficult times, and I feel I have the right to go out and talk with a friend.  I’m not going to make some ultimatum which I’m sure to lose, and I don’t want to put you in a tough spot.

But I will say this just is not right, not the way to pay back someone for helping.

The final e-mail had some things about, I didn’t feel comfortable being friends with a man whose wife hates me, and explaining that the pressure needed to be taken off me to talk.

I didn’t find a copy of it, and I think it was sent through an online forum, so I don’t remember what it said, or which version above it most resembled.  But it was probably similar to the last.

Tracy tells Jeff a different story: I have already been “approved” as Richard’s friend

Afterwards, Jeff drove Tracy to work or the airport, and had a little conversation with her about all this.  

She told him that she actually was perfectly fine with me now, that Richard could do anything he wanted with his friends as long as he cleaned the house first–He just hadn’t been cleaning the house.

They were all going out of town for a bit and would return the day of an Alice Cooper concert.

Richard had to run an errand after they got back, which I won’t describe here, just that it was necessary and would take him out of town during the concert.

Tracy suggested that she and Jeff go to that concert, while Richard would take the kids to my house and watch them there, while he and I hung out together and watched The Apostle.

I don’t remember when exactly he was first allowed to bring the kids to my house and hang out with me with them around, like little “chaperones” (or maybe spies, for all I know).  But that was usually a couple of hours in the afternoon, not hours and hours in the evening.

This was a gracious sign, a direct message from Tracy, that all her restrictions on me were gone and I had nothing more to fear from her.

Turnabout is fair play, after all: For her to go to a concert alone with Jeff, she must be willing to let me go out for coffee/ice cream/cry on a shoulder with Richard.

I told Jeff that Richard should not be telling me tales about his wife, telling me she was still against me when she wasn’t at all.

Jeff and I were both thrilled at this news.

For many months I operated on the understanding that all the restrictions were gone now.  I just figured that Richard wasn’t going out for coffee with me after that simply because he had no money for such things, being too poor.

It wasn’t until June 2009 that I discovered she had withdrawn her “okay” yet again, without telling me when or why.  I still have no clue when it was withdrawn.  This was maddening!

Unpredictable Responses
This includes emotional outbursts and extreme mood swings on the part of the abuser.

If your partner likes something you do today and hates it tomorrow, or reacts to the extreme at an identical behavior by the victim, this is an unpredictable response.

This behavior damages the victim’s self esteem, self confidence and mental well-being because they are constantly on edge, wondering how their partner is going to respond to their every move. –Mary M. Alward, Inside the Mind of an Abuser

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