manipulation

Verge of nervous breakdown as houseguests from Hell abuse our hospitality

Tracy complained about the food we provided, even though they never gave us money or ideas for other food, we were financially strapped (paying for 8 people’s food and utilities with not a bit of financial help) and, with a small child running around (now four small children), didn’t have the time to prepare from-scratch meals every day.

If they found our food so offensive, why didn’t they plan, buy and then prepare meals for us?

I did two dishwasher loads a day, along with extra towels and sheets.  And of course, you can’t run a washer and dishwasher at the same time, because it strains the hot water.  I stayed up till 1 in the morning doing these things, then heard complaints from Richard and Tracy about how late I stayed up.

I’d overhear wailing children, arguments, and criticisms from the wife about how I run things.  I’d walk in on various things.  The TV was on all day and evening, which drives me crazy.  (I must have my music!)

I felt claustrophobic, wading through people and things just to get dinner or find a seat.  We did not have room for a proper dining room table (I told you this place is small), so people ate in the living room when they couldn’t fit around the little island.

The living room was full of STUFF.  I couldn’t believe what I found in each room as I began cleaning up after they moved out.

There were new illnesses all the time.  My son had to share his room and toys, and even had to give up his own bed, so he got pretty naughty for a while there and I had to lay down the law.  His behavior greatly improved after they moved out.

And with all that, I had this hostile, jealous, abusive woman in my house 24/7, and I was expected to excuse and accept her behavior.

Jeff didn’t like having to give the kids breakfast every morning because the parents were asleep.  He didn’t like never getting help taking out the extra trash.

And never a thank you from Tracy for putting up with all this, with her–just hostility.  Richard alone we could handle: He was far more gracious and easygoing.  But all these people, whom we didn’t know previously and who weren’t even family?

I also confided in my priest during this time about some of the things going on, especially since they kept neglecting to go to church with me, when Richard used to go with me all the time.  I felt stressed and sad even during the service, unable to get away from it in my head even at church.

My priest said that his own parents had once hosted family who arrived from Greece, that things got very tense after a while, and that it was time for Richard and Tracy’s family to leave.

Once I heard Tracy getting short with Richard on the phone while he was at work, then hanging up and saying “Bullsh**”–with kids nearby!

I did not just quietly seethe, but brought it up with Richard whenever I had the chance.  We agreed to chat with each other in the evenings while Tracy was on the computer and I was doing chores in the kitchen; this helped a bit.

Since I was not comfortable around her, she was too scary and hostile to safely confront, and he was my best friend, I felt it best to tell him I was upset so he could take things up with her in a way that she would respond to.

Also, it seemed proper to do things this way.  For example, the advice column Annie’s Mailbox typically advises to let your husband/wife/friend deal with his/her own family even when you have a problem with them.  Like, for example, here, on 1/26/15, when they say the writer’s husband should deal with his own grown son, not her.

I let my husband deal with his family, and I deal with mine.  So to deal with a friend’s wife, it seemed right and proper to go through him.  Something Miss Manners would approve of.

I told Richard every problem as it came up, through snatches of conversation grabbed when Tracy was on the computer, or letters, or e-mails, whatever I could manage, since she was being so overprotective about our time together.

But he did not tell me crucial information I needed to know, like the fact that she overheard my venting to Jeff, or that she had forbidden sleeping on shoulders.

I told Richard I was very upset about the complaints to her mother about the food while I was right there in the bathroom, but he didn’t tell me that she knew I overheard her, that she was deliberately being catty, that she felt herself justified in this cattiness.

It wasn’t until a year and a half later, June ’09, that he told me she knew I could hear her and that it was in response to my complaining to Jeff.

I was amazed that he scolded me in June ’09 for venting privately to my husband about real problems, rather than scolding her for being vindictive.

I wanted to throw them out–or, at least, her.  Keep Richard and the kids, but throw Tracy out on her ear.  But I felt bound by the rules of hospitality, and Jeff was being far too nice.

We didn’t realize that it was within our rights to go ahead and (kindly) show them the door, that if we didn’t, we were actually allowing ourselves to be taken advantage of by freeloaders.

I kept telling Richard from the very beginning that I wanted them to leave, but he didn’t until he made up his own mind that it was time to leave, after the events in the last section.  When he first told me this in June ’09, I thought it strange that he said they decided it was time to leave, when I had been telling Richard for four weeks that they needed to set a date and leave.

But this memory faded a bit until a few days ago, when it finally dinged in my head (after reading various comments online about freeloaders) what really happened: that they had it cushy here, we were not assertive enough about bills and pitching in and getting out, they were obnoxious houseguests whom we were sick of, but they wanted to decide when to leave.

We have cheap motels around here where people in their position often stay; they could have moved into one of those.  But no, instead of letting us decide how long they get to stay, they figured it was up to them, even though neither my husband nor I ever approved them all staying here to begin with.

Meanwhile, it seemed they never had enough money for a downpayment on an apartment, even though Richard had been working part-time for a few weeks before they all moved in, and they didn’t contribute to their expenses.

We were too nice, they were intimidating and forceful, they took charge and decided when to stay and when to go, meanwhile sponging off us and not contributing financially or getting full-time work.

And then they guilted me for making things “unpleasant” for them by disapproving of abusing spouses/children, and not being properly “welcoming.”

This letter to the Annies sounds very familiar:

Dear Annie: My brother and his wife recently stayed with us for nine months. He did some part-time work every now and then. His wife refused to find a job and mostly stayed home.

My wife and I work long hours. We also then had to do the grocery shopping, cooking and taking care of our kids afterward. During this time, my brother and his wife never spent a penny on food or anything else.

We politely said that we think it is time for them to find their own place and move out. A few hours later, they left screaming and shouting at us. We were speechless.

My brother says we are cheap because we asked them to leave. What do I tell him? Please help. — Cheap Brother

Dear Brother: Listen closely: You did nothing wrong. Your brother and his wife are first-class freeloaders. They took advantage of your generosity, making no effort to contribute to their upkeep.

They would have allowed you to support them financially for the rest of their lives.

They are angry because they couldn’t bamboozle you longer than nine months, which is plenty long enough. People who take advantage of others are always the first to cry “foul” when things don’t go their way.

We know you care about your relationship with your brother, but nothing will make him happy short of letting him move back in. Please ignore him. Do not defend yourself against his accusations.

Do not, under any circumstances, let him guilt you into helping him out again unless it’s to help him find a full-time job. Simply say as calmly as possible, “I’m sorry things didn’t work out for you.” Repeat as necessary.

Then this comment from a reader:

Listen very closely: The best defense is offensive attack (and as offensive as possible), especially when you’re dead wrong. What the Annies said – EVERYTHING they said.

We didn’t get screamed at for telling them to move out, but I did get chewed out (and, later, screamed at) for other things, as I show in this memoir–things related to how I was supposedly such a horrible host of these freeloaders.

I felt all along, for the next two and a half years, that Tracy should be making it up to me, NOT me making it up to her.  But she started throwing her weight around with Richard and making it sound like I had to suck up to her, or else I was a horrible person and couldn’t be friends with Richard.

This whole thing sounds very much like “echoing”: Basically, the abuser finds a way to accuse the victim of doing what the abuser is doing, then uses it as license to continue the abuse.

Another very destructive habit which I have identified in my relationship I refer to as “echoing”. This habit takes two distinct forms. The object is to feel whatever the partner feels whenever an “attack” is detected by the abuser….

The second form is to accuse the partner of whatever the partner accuses them of.

Scenario 2:

Partner: Please don’t raise your voice at me.

Abuser (Screaming): You’re the one that’s yelling.

or

Partner: Please stop cutting me off and let me finish my sentence.

Abuser (angrily): You’re the one who cuts me off all of the time.

When the conversation is discussed later, the abuser quickly takes the opportunity to first accuse the partner of the infraction and seize the high ground.

The abuser will then take every opportunity in the future to accuse the partner of doing what they do saying “See, you do it too.” This is generally viewed by the abuser as a way out.

Anytime they accuse you of an action similar to one of their destructive actions, that is viewed by them as a license to do it at will and a “win”. —An Analysis of the Abuser’s Language by Abused Judge

I was criticized by them both for everything I did: not being harsh enough with my son, my habits, not eating right, not potty training right, standing and quietly waiting my turn in the little kitchen when somebody was in front of me rather than pushing them aside (apparently they like rudeness, and politeness “drives them crazy”).

If I wanted Richard to call me and let me know he was going to be late and not dead in a ditch during a snowstorm, I was being his “mother.”  (Actually, it’s one of the rules of being a houseguest, so your host doesn’t worry about you.)

Tracy may have overheard me complaining to Jeff that she was abusing the children as well, because during one conversation, she said she figures she’s not abusive if her children love her.  (Actually, that’s Stockholm Syndrome and a natural defensive tendency of children.)

I confronted her for telling my son that he’d better stop doing something if he knew what was good for him.  To me, that sounded like a threat of violence.  She said she meant that I would punish him.  But I don’t know whether to believe that or not.

Then the couch–not up to the strain of holding some 300 or 400 pounds every night–began leaning towards one side, then finally that side broke down one day when a few of the kids jumped on it.

We had to quick buy a futon, which cost us even more money we didn’t have and put us even further into debt.  I wanted to be paid back for the utilities/food/futon, but they never had the money to pay for it.

We had a futon when we were first together, and that couch had been a wonderful replacement when we finally had the money in 2001.  No more metal bars! no more springs hitting you in the butt!

But now our wonderful couch–complete with washable fabric (great for kids and pets) and end recliners–was broken after only six years.  We only had money for yet another wretched futon.  Well, actually, we had no money for that, either, but everybody sitting on the floor was not an option.

Then Jeff put the futon together when it arrived (mail-order), but Richard complained that it wasn’t put together right.  While “fixing” it, he broke it, and we had to buy another futon frame with money we didn’t have.  But then he turned his puppy-dog look on me and melted me into forgiveness.  He had a way of doing that, of getting me to not be mad at him no matter what the infraction….

After they moved out the next day, I believe it took me about a week to clean the place properly, systematically going room to room, filling grocery bags with stuff they left behind and mail they were still receiving.

Then when I asked Richard to come pick up these bags and get them out of my house, Tracy would fight him “tooth-and-nail” and make life extremely unpleasant for him if he came over!

Then in the springtime after the melt, my son and I had to go around the parking lot around our condo, picking up all the cigarette butts which Richard and Tracy never picked up after themselves.

While they were still there, I had at least two breakdowns, one a crying jag that must have lasted for hours, the other just shutting inside myself and sitting and doing nothing.  I wanted them GONE.  NOW.  But Jeff had to be on board or it would be just little, cringing me against two big, forceful people.

I did tell Richard in a letter I slipped to him, that I wanted him to get an apartment right away because I couldn’t handle all this anymore, told him how it was affecting me, and begged him to come up with a move-out date.

But kicking him and his little children out on the street in the middle of a long, cold winter?  I couldn’t bring myself to do that.

From What Makes Your Control Freak Wife or Girlfriend Tick:

In order for me to win, you must lose.

Because this is a matter of psychological survival to her, she has to steamroll you in order to avoid feeling helpless. “To relinquish control is tantamount to being victimized and overwhelmed” (Schumacher).

Unfortunately, her fears also fuel her lack of empathy toward you and create the mindset: “Victimize or be victimized; dominate or be dominated.”

To the emotionally abusive woman, it’s not enough to merely control you. She only feels in control and good about herself if she makes you feel less than. Her mood becomes buoyant as she cuts you down. She has to make you feel useless, disoriented and helpless, so that she doesn’t feel this way.

This is evidence of a faulty belief system. She has a one-up/one-down mentality. She believes that in every interpersonal interaction there’s a winner and a loser and she will fight tooth and nail against being the “loser.”

This is why it’s virtually impossible for this woman to compromise or make concessions. To her, compromise and concession are humiliating defeats. She’d rather blow the house up and everything in it than compromise or take personal responsibility.

Her need to control, however, will come back to bite her on the backside. Instead of feeling and appearing in control, this woman comes across as out of control when trying to exert control and the people who are under her tyranny eventually stage a revolt and/or bolt from the relationship.

I did indeed feel steamrolled; this is the very word I used once to Jeff, and here it is in a webpage about controlling women.

Apparently it was “offensive” to Tracy for me to do housework, take care of my little boy’s needs, and take time to myself each day to recharge, rather than sitting on my butt talking to her day in, day out, for six weeks.  And she refused to see it any other way than as a deliberate, personal offense.

She decided that Jeff was “welcoming” while I wasn’t.  This despite the fact that I spent six hours socializing with her every evening/night, while Jeff spent that time in the basement on the computer.

What, was I supposed to let my son’s diaper stay wet and the house get filthy and the laundry stay undone?  You must allow your hosts to get back to normal life as soon as possible, because while you may be homeless and unemployed, your hosts are not, and have responsibilities, routines, and ways of doing things.

6. Let your presence interfere as little as possible with your friend’s normal routine, household duties, and career.

You friend may of course wish to take time out to hang with you, but you should never be the one to impose on their time. Do your best to conform your routine to the routine of the household, as to not get in the way or create an imposition….

13. Don’t overstay your visit. Try to keep your stay shorter than three days. Your host has things to do and they can’t put their life on hold forever. —How to be the Perfect Houseguest

I was very welcoming to her when she first arrived.  But I think even extroverts get tired of a small, crowded house after a few days, and want those houseguests to leave.  After all, Benjamin Franklin himself said that “Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days.”

We had no spare beds or extra couches.  We had debts, a child in diapers, and all the expenses of home ownership and association fees, so we had no spare money.

They left their dirty laundry in a pile on the living room floor.  They left messes in the bathroom for me to clean up, and didn’t shower more than once every two or three days, but it was too cold to open windows.

They criticized everything from how I ran the house to my various introverted ways.  (So what if I “don’t go anywhere”?  Maybe I don’t want to go anywhere.  And where exactly was I supposed to go, anyway, especially with a toddler and no car?  All my business was in the house.)

I didn’t let them into my house to tell me how to run my life and that everything I do is wrong!  Is there anyone (at least in our culture) who would still be “welcoming” for long in this situation?

Of course, we are not just animals but social animals. Social norms requiring politeness and hospitality usually override overt territorially defensive actions (e.g., “You have to leave my territory, NOW, or harm may come to you”).

Instead, hosts typically communicate feelings of invasion through social withdrawal and short-temperedness.

Primary territories are also the most private of territories. We can control others’ access to us, which reduces stress and promotes recovery.

Most of us need time at home alone or with a few trusted others to recharge before we go back into the world. This varies based on culture and individual differences. For example, introverts, like me, have high privacy needs.

Mack upped his fishiness quotient by inserting himself into private conversations, intruding in private spaces (my bedroom!), and being omnipresent (in spite of the fact that he was not a Holy Mackerel).

Altman’s privacy regulation theory would predict that houseguests are stressful to the extent that they create a “disconnect” between hosts’ actual and desired levels of privacy. —The trouble with houseguests

They really could have used this list of houseguest etiquette; they violated all sorts of things here.

I had no idea I was offending, only that she was suddenly acting very hostile toward me and also toward Richard and her children.  In the beginning I had no problem with her at all, wanted to befriend her, chatted with her, told her a few secrets, had no desire to upset her–but then her hostilities began.

I kept begging Richard to set a move-out date.  He finally set one, January 16, 2008, and I counted the days.  Then as the day got closer, I’d hear, “We may not be able to move out then after all.”  But when the day came, they left.

And there was much rejoicing.  Except that I was so used to having Richard around to talk with and watch TV with, that I missed him dearly.

But for the next couple of years, every time I cleaned the basement and otherwise went about my normal household routine, I heard Tracy’s snotty little voice ripping on my “routine” as if there were something wrong with an orderly household.

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 overhears me telling Jeff she’s abusive–and wreaks vengeance with smear campaign

I finally got a chance to vent privately to my husband on Wednesday, January 2 about what all went on in his house while he was out of the house or the room.  I told him the same things I told my mom, about all the abuse, possessiveness and controlling behavior, including the story of her getting jealous just because Richard took me to a corner store so we could chat.  (Jeff said in shock and disbelief, “She was jealous of you?”)

He got so furious with Richard and Tracy that I thought he would throw them both out onto the street right then.  He says I asked him not to, and that’s the only reason he didn’t, the only reason he didn’t even yell at them.  But they came upstairs and were shocked at how angry he was.

I must have asked him not to throw them out because I didn’t want to throw the children onto the street in the middle of a cold winter.  He was angry and shocked at Tracy for being jealous of me, of all people.

He felt her behavior was ungrateful and insulting to the hostess, after all I had been doing for them, basically accusing me without cause of being a slut.  I wrote to my mother the next day,

I had a long talk about this with Jeff yesterday.  He knew some of it, but apparently I hadn’t told him the full extent of what had been going on.

He agreed that Tracy has to stop getting mad at Richard and chewing him out whenever I want to talk with him alone, that he needs to have friends, that we own the house, and that chewing out Richard for talking with me alone is not the way to treat me after I’ve been providing hospitality.

Now that Jeff and I had full agreement on this, I had the strength I needed to take charge.  I told Richard that I own the house and she is not to do that anymore, that it’s getting in the way of me being friends with her.

He said that he believes he has it squared away now and there shouldn’t be any more trouble.

Richard and Tracy were in the basement and I was on the main stairs with Jeff, the only way we could talk privately.  But I wasn’t even allowed this private grievance session with my own husband:

Tracy must have come upstairs very quietly, because she eavesdropped without my knowledge on this conversation with Jeff.  She never told me she heard everything I said.  I had no clue until the summer of 2009, when Richard finally admitted it.

Since she was the one listening, not Richard, she got away with blatantly lying to him about what I said.  She told him I was manipulating Jeff.

The truth is that I told Jeff what was happening and how I felt about it.  If that’s “manipulation,” then proper, direct, open communication with your spouse is “manipulative.”

Then Jeff came up with a way to help me.  It wasn’t a good way, but neither of us realized this at the time.

I think what I really wanted him to do, was to sit down Richard and Tracy and explain the rules of the household and being a guest, rather than leaving it all to me to deal with these people.  But I don’t remember if I said so, or if I was even able to articulate this at the time.

(Sometimes I don’t know how to explain what I want while I’m speaking.  The words I need tend to come while writing drafts of e-mails–or blog posts.)

This is the first time I know of that Tracy lied to Richard to smear me and slander my character; there were other times to come, when she either lied to him about me, or twisted my actions and slandered my character to him over and over again, while I was in my house blissfully unaware (until he told me about it).

When she later accused me in 2012 of defaming her character, this was hypocritical, because she defamed my character to her mother, husband and on Facebook, and defamed Todd’s character to an entire web forum/gaming group.

And I did not defame her: To defame is to lie and tell half-truths to make a false representation, and I have been scrupulously honest in these accounts.  (I have been honest to the point of fear, which I bravely faced and posted anyway, because I want to be a trustworthy narrator.)

I also do not name her or post her personal identifying information, because this is about telling the story of my trauma in my own way, NOT about smearing her to her friends/co-workers/etc. or getting it to show up in Google searches for her.  But I digress.

She then decided I hated her, was biased against her, was a terrible person, had bad character, must not spend any time alone with her husband without her okay, and was “moving in on” her husband.  Anything and everything I did was evidence supporting this theory.

During this time period, I’m told, she almost killed me for something she wrongly interpreted as vixenlike behavior, though I wasn’t aware of this for a year and a half.  (I have no idea if this was meant literally or metaphorically.)

As for what I did: I have already explained how Richard taught me that putting your head on another’s shoulder and sleeping is an innocent expression of friendship, nothing more.  That our arms stayed folded around ourselves, NOT each other, and in a friendship manner.  He made it sound like this was normal friendship behavior where he grew up.

(From what I just read in an abuse blog by a woman around that area, and her descriptions of caring gestures by a close platonic friend with no romantic feelings for her, this may actually be true.)

I was wrapped in a small couch/throw blanket because I’m always cold in the wintertime, and was now cold with illness; I was NOT sharing it with him, he was NOT under this blanket, had no blanket on him at all.  Even if I wanted to share it, this little blanket couldn’t possibly stretch far enough to cover him, too.  But no, I did not share it with him, despite her later claims to the contrary.

I was sick, desperately needed a nap, my son was asleep in my room, and the couch was crowded.  Normally back then, I often took naps during the day (probably exhausted from caring for a toddler), and preferred to nap on the couch instead of on my bed.  It’s just a quirk, hard to explain why, but I don’t like lying down to nap.

All these people interfered with my normal nap routine, along with everything else.  I also did not want to wake up my son by going in the bedroom, and sickness makes it hard to breathe when sleeping on your back.  I felt just rotten, but couldn’t get a nap or any rest at all.

I was wrapped in a blanket because I’m always cold in the wintertime, but my sickness made it worse.  Richard was beside me on the couch; finally, I put my head on his big, squishy shoulder, which was just like a large pillow, not some bony skinny shoulder, and fell right to sleep.

An innocent act, no more “vixenlike” than the guy who put his head on another guy’s shoulder on the subway.

But it inspired Tracy–in a massive overreaction which showed the violent truth of her character–to kill me!  She only kept herself in check because of fear that we’d throw her out.  (Well, yeah, if you kill me, or even if you just beat me up, my husband won’t let you stick around.  He’ll get your *** thrown in jail.)

Richard later told me that Tracy’s reaction was based not on the act itself, but that if, say, a certain other friend from the Forum did it, Tracy would find it cute and join in, because she was friends with Tracy….

Which is, of course, maddening, because Tracy had already told me that she and I were friends.

But she changed her mind on that without telling me so, or why, because I had trouble carrying on conversations with her, and because I desperately needed time by myself every day to recharge (things I did not know until the summer of 2009).

Basically, because I am an introvert with NVLD, who desperately needed time alone every day during a house invasion which had gone on for weeks, she began acting jealous and controlling toward me, but never told me why.

Then I recognized her verbal abuse and controlling behavior for what it was, rather than saying she was right and justified.

So she eavesdropped when I told my husband what was going on, did not tell me she overheard, was prejudiced against me for being an introvert, and made me jump through impossible hoops before she would consider me her friend and allow me to do things like this, which she would allow her other friends to do.

So she wanted to kill me because I was sick and needed a nap, and because I followed Richard’s directions to do this when she was not in the room (and fell asleep), NOT because I actually “did” anything.

I made no moves on her husband, did not try to get him to kiss me or go to bed with me or any crap like that which would have deserved her ire.

By the way, my husband came home and saw it, remembered we have SCA friends who do this sort of thing, shrugged his shoulders, and went on with life, never saying a word about it.

In fact, a month or two later, I even mentioned it to him to explain why Tracy was mad at me this time, without fear that he would berate me over it.

Not only did he not berate me, but he understood it was platonic, and still did not tell me he already saw me.  I did not find out until August 2010, when he told me Tracy’s reaction was overblown and ridiculous!

Basically, I did something which would have been perfectly fine with her if I were an extrovert without NVLD, and if I accepted all her abuse as okay.  It was a double standard which discriminated against me for what I was and could not change.  Nobody told me she saw this and was upset, until a month or two later.

Once I found out this upset her so much, I thought she overreacted, and was puzzled because I thought it was normal behavior where they came from?

However, I never did it again, respecting her boundaries–but continued to pay for it constantly for two more years as she kept bringing it up with Richard as evidence of my bad character, and then ripped into me for it in the summer of 2010.

Because I was sick and desperately needed a nap on a crowded couch.  Because I had been taught by Richard that such behavior was perfectly fine, normal and appropriate among friends.  (The jerk set me up!)

You will also note that it was the middle of the afternoon, in the main room in full view of the kitchen and front door, while she was awake and my husband was about to come home.

NOT late at night or while the house was empty, like when Richard did it before.  Which is further proof of the innocence of my actions.

There was also another time when they were up late watching TV, she was on one side of him on the couch and I was on the other, and I tried to nap against his shoulder because the TV was boring and I was sleepy.  But she never mentioned that I did do this in front of her once, did she?

No, I was falsely accused of bad motives and character, and constantly slandered by this woman, who knew that I saw her abusing her husband and children.

And now I was supposed to suck up to her and court her favor or else I’d stay on her sh** list and be “that woman” who wasn’t her friend and couldn’t say or do much of anything to him without her getting upset.

This is a common abusive tactic: Slander your spouse’s friend and make his life miserable, because the friend could open his eyes to the truth of the abuse.  Use intimidation and pressure to get him to only be friends with people you approve.

Memories of Phil were still fresh in my mind from writing and researching about his abuse in 2006/2007.  This was a tactic he used to try to separate me from my group of best friends, who saw he was treating me badly.

Richard kept things from me that I needed to know, such as the fact that Tracy overheard my complaints to my husband, and saw me asleep on his shoulder.

Meanwhile, I overheard her complaining about me or my son to Richard or her mother on occasion, sometimes quietly, and sometimes so I could hear.

Rather than get them out in the open and deal with them directly with us, she was passive-aggressive.  (Note that I did not go to Jeff until after I tried to sort things out with them, but conditions continued to deteriorate.)

And I was not allowed to object to her jealous, abusive and controlling behavior, or say how she treated Richard was wrong, or say that I will not be disrespected in my own house–or she would lose all respect for us and go back across the country to the state she came from.  (Right there: intimidation, delivered through Richard as her proxy.)

But it was well within my rights to object to abuse and other mistreatment of my friends, and to say that no one was to be abused and mistreated in my house.

That included objecting to her telling Richard not to go to the bar and grill with me.  She thought I was horrible and disrespectful of her to even ask him in the first place!  Say WHAT?

Even two and a half years later, she still got on my case about this, saying “everybody knows” you don’t do this without being friends with the wife first, and making me into a horrible person for “violating” this “rule.”

First of all, there is no such “rule.”  I have occasionally gone out to lunch or some other thing with a friend or boss, or had conversations with him, without consulting the wife first–or even knowing her, period, let alone being friends with her.  And the wife never put up a fuss about it.

The only “rule” is that you are open and honest, don’t sneak around and lie about where you went or who you were with, because that’s a red flag of cheating.

Second, she herself TOLD me I was her friend weeks before I even asked him!

Third, it was Richard’s idea to take me to that bar and grill in the first place.  He never informed me that one-on-one conversations and going to get ice cream, which were all perfectly fine and allowed for the past two months, were suddenly verboten.

I had absolutely no reason to think there was anything wrong or “inappropriate” about continuing to do these things.

It is gravely immoral to be mean to your close friends, to restrict your husband’s friends, to be jealous without cause, and to be hostile to the person who is sheltering you in her own home.

It is gravely immoral to treat close friendship as if it were expendable, as if it could just get tossed away.

It is gravely immoral to verbally abuse your kids all day and your husband all evening.  It is gravely immoral to be violent, whether verbally or physically.

Yet I was treated as if my feelings on the matter, my opinions, were just so much garbage to get tossed out with the rest of the trash, that I was a horrible, hateful person to even have them.

Richard’s own behavior was baffling through all this.  The first day she moved in, he told me she was a jealous person who went through his cell phone logs.  She discovered that while he lived with us, the female friend she was “at war” with had called him, and he called her back.

She got furious with him for it, even though he and this friend had always been platonic, and the friend was thousands of miles away.

I heard his conversations with this friend; they were appropriate, just catching up and news of the church the friend still went to and that Richard and Tracy used to go to.  He was upset with Tracy’s behavior, and I found it bizarre.

In just a short time, I had a full picture of a domestic abuser who considered me a threat to her control.  Especially after she eavesdropped on Jeff and me, she knew I recognized her abuse for what it was. 

Because I now know that she eavesdropped, I am confident that this was her true reason for the smear campaign and making me jump through hoops to please her.

I remember Richard saying she “heard every word” of what I said to Jeff, in that scolding tone which implied that I lied to Jeff, or that there was something wrong in what I said to him.

But I told Jeff nothing but the truth–and they obviously had no qualms talking to each other about me.  Yet more intimidation and control, not just from Tracy but from Richard as well, trying to keep me under their thumb.

I have always wondered what all Tracy told Richard I said.  I know she lied about me manipulating Jeff; what else did she lie about?  This is how domestic abusers operate when they know they are found out:

Domestic abusers use various methods to separate their victims from anyone who could open the eyes of the victim to the abuse.  An abuser will object to your friends and family, either unilaterally or just the ones who recognize the abuse.

She’ll lie to you about that friend/family member.  She’ll tell you that person is bad and you should not associate with her.  She’ll smear her to you, slander her character with lies and half-truths, to drive a wedge between you and your friend/family member.

She’ll tell you a friend made moves on her, even though it is a lie.  She’ll forbid you to be friends with someone she has not approved, or allow it but make life difficult for you whenever you see that friend.  Or she’ll make life so difficult for that friend that he breaks off relations with you.

She’ll reward you for sticking up for her, and subject you to more abuse if you object to how she treats your friend.  This, also, drives friends away, because nobody will put up with that for long if they don’t have to.

In the end, you are isolated from everyone who could open your eyes and help you out of the abusive relationship.

One day Richard complained that his wife should allow him to spend time with his friends, too, and was it really so wrong for him to do so?

But whenever I myself complained about how she treated me, or how she treated him, he defended her, spoke like I didn’t know what I was talking about and there was nothing wrong with her behaving this way.

Even a year and a half later, he told me her treatment of him during this time was his fault because of this and this and this.  This is Stockholm Syndrome, also known as the FOG (Fear, Obligation, Guilt), which drives an abuse victim to defend the abuse.  For example, the wife who’s beaten and then says, “It was my fault.  I shouldn’t have upset him.”

As for consideration for Tracy’s feelings, Jeff and I had many conversations about this situation, and he did try to get me to see Tracy’s side as well.  This led to me going to Richard, contrite.

I do acknowledge that I did a few things wrong myself during this time.  I spoke to Richard about these things, some of them during this time, others later on after they moved out.  I also stopped trying to get him to go to the bar and grill with me.

But even though I told him she did many things to hurt me, he told me not to expect any apologies from her at all, that it was very difficult for anybody to get apologies from her (including him).

Even though twice I suggested apologizing to her on Forgiveness Sunday (which begins Lent in Orthodoxy), the first time he said it was not necessary (that she only wanted apologies from him), and the second time, he gave Jeff the impression that my apologizing would somehow be dangerous for me.

As a housewife with a small child (not potty trained) and a cold northern winter outside, I was in a tiny house 24/7 with this jealous, hostile person, who also had no job.

One night, I even overheard her talking to Richard and saying my son’s name several times, angrily.  (I don’t know what else she said.)  How on earth could she speak badly about a 3-year-old child???!!!

It was extremely stressful and insulting after all I was doing for her, and after she overheard me venting to my own husband about it, she got even worse.

Shortly after, while I was in the bathroom next to the kitchen, I heard her in the kitchen lying to her mother about me (and on my phone, too, using my long distance!).

She went on and on about the dinners we were providing, and that “No, your grandchildren are not eating vegetables.”  This was an outright lie, because I put vegetables in nearly every dinner.

She b**ched about that week’s dinner menu.  I made that menu in the midst of cleaning up the lice they brought into the house.  I had no time to worry about balanced meals, just had to come up with something quickly so my husband could get groceries, and so I could get back to combing nits and washing every single thing our heads had touched.

Also, we were spending $300-$400 a week on groceries with absolutely no financial help from them, so we had to get meals as cheaply as we could.  (In today’s prices, that’s like $340-$450.)  Everything from scratch is far too expensive when you’re feeding eight people, and who has time for that with small children running around?

Other meals were up to them, but I made sure we had vegetables for dinner.  We also had a lot of fasting days during this time, so many meals were heavy on vegetables.  (The Orthodox Church asks believers to fast from certain food items–especially meat–for a few weeks during the Christmas season.  So you have to eat vegetables or go hungry!)

So she was even going to smear me to her mother with lies and half-truths?  And I later learned from Richard that she did this on purpose to get back at me, as vengeance for what I told Jeff!  This woman was frickin’ vindictive!

But no, one week’s lapse because we were far too busy cleaning up lice to make up a proper meal plan or grocery list, and she rips on me for it as if that’s always the case.

Then she b**ched at her mother that I don’t cook, Jeff does.  Apparently there was something “wrong” with this, too, though what, I have no clue.

This was none of her frickin’ business!  He did the cooking because I was exhausted from taking care of the house and our small child all day.

What’s so terrible about a husband sharing the load while the kids are small?  Was this related to her refusing to help Richard with the house and kids, expecting him to take care of it all himself?

Apparently, in her mind, her abusing her husband and children and being nasty to me was somehow nowhere near as bad as me providing food she didn’t like, or letting my husband cook.

(I mean, seriously, I accuse her of being an abuser and this is all the “dirt” she can come up with on me to “throw in my face”?)

When the kids got into some children’s medicine, I did not wish to assign blame, even though she was supposed to be watching them every day so I could do my normal daily tasks without keeping an eye on four wandering children.

But I heard her on the phone with Richard, pinning the blame on me, saying “I guess she was going about her–” insert extremely snotty tone here–“routine,” even though the medicine had been in the medicine cabinet where it belonged–and she was just a few feet away from the bathroom.

And even though she tended to leave her allergy meds on the coffee table.  I believe the youngest child was with me at the time.

Oh, so now I was expected to watch the children, too, on top of all the other work these people made for me?

I was only beginning to get a picture of just how vindictive, controlling, blame-shifting and hysterical this woman really was.  She claimed to not know me, yet I was beginning to know her quite well–and I did not like what I saw.

So today’s dose of truth and reality is this: Evil must mask itself with good in order for it to make a living. Evil must hide itself by hiding the truth of who and what they are. Therefore, full truth (light) is anathema to evil.

You know this is true. You’ve tried to bring just a smidgen of truth to the table with the narcissist and you saw the hissing, spitting and reviling it invoked.

The extreme reaction is the narcissist’s attempt to get you to drop the holy water before he gets burned.

That is not the moment to fumble or drop the truth. Thrust that stake deep into his heart and then put him in the ground. Metaphorically speaking, of course. –Anna Valerious, Narcissists Suck: They Hide From the Truth Because Their Deeds Are Evil

 

Abusers believe they have a right to control their partners in the abusive relationships by utilizing the tactics found in the power and control wheel, by:

  • Telling them what to do and expecting obedience
  • Using force to maintain power and control over partners
  • Feeling their partners have no right to challenge their desire for power and control
  • Feeling justified making the victim comply
  • Blaming the abuse on the partner and not accepting responsibility for wrongful acts. —Power and Control Wheel in Abusive Relationships

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 control-freak behavior–to me, in my house

I wrote to my mom on New Year’s,

Now I find there’s trouble with Tracy.  I mentioned in an earlier e-mail that she kept making these cracks which sounded jealous and suspicious, but I couldn’t tell if they were just jokes.

Well, I’ve been trying to spend some time with Richard, trying to talk like we used to, watch movies, etc.  We used to talk for hours about life, our histories, our marriages, our families, theology, Orthodoxy, cultural differences between [our regions], etc.

We’d sometimes stay up until 3 in the morning and end up exhausted the next day.  We’d go to a local bar and grill at around 9pm, find a table away from the smoke and chatter of the bar, and get so deep into conversation that we don’t realize it’s closing time already.

These were conversations that you can only have when it’s just two people; if you start adding people, somebody clams up (usually me) instead of opening up, and has no control over the conversation.

Richard and I have interests that we don’t share with Jeff or Tracy; for example, Jeff’s not Orthodox, and Tracy is not theologically inclined.  They’re all into roleplaying games and movie genres that I’m not interested in.

I have struggles and private things that I don’t feel comfortable telling other people.  Richard and I started exchanging e-mails and calling each other well over a year ago, so we’ve built up the kind of relationship where we can talk about those things.

Everybody needs that kind of friend, not just a spouse.  For me it’s been absolutely wonderful that my friend is no longer on the Internet or on the phone, but right here in person [because I don’t have a friend like that around here].

But every time we start getting deep into a conversation, or want to watch a movie, Tracy breaks in, gets upset, and tells Richard she wants to play a game or some other thing.  I leave the room or go to bed, and hear her chewing him out over something.

It’s gotten so bad that if I want to talk to him about anything private, I have to either slip him a note or ask him to step outside.  But when we step outside alone together, she chews him out.

On Sunday [December 30] I wrote him an e-mail about my concerns, how upset I was over things, my frustrations, but he hadn’t had a chance to read it, so on Monday [December 31] I printed it up for him.

All yesterday, [they were out until late taking care of some family business].  So last night, after we finished watching a movie and he’d had some time to relax, I asked him to step outside with me for a few minutes.  [Tracy was right there.]

I didn’t say so, of course, but I wanted to slip him the printout someplace where nobody would be looking over our shoulders.

He looked very uncomfortable [and fearful] and glanced over at Tracy.  He then said okay, and then Tracy says, “You’re going outside for a smoke?  Why don’t I go with you?”  NOOOOO!

I felt a sudden ice in the room [probably from Tracy’s scary, angry, threatening expression], and stepped into the bathroom.

When I came out, I didn’t know if Richard and I were going outside or not, or if Tracy was coming, meaning there was no point in me going outside.  But they apparently came to an agreement that he would go one way and Tracy would go another for a few minutes.

Once we got out of hearing range, I slipped Richard the printout, and he read it in the streetlights.  I hoped he’d tell me that I totally misunderstood Tracy, that she wasn’t jealous of me at all.  But instead, he told me that I had a correct understanding of what was going on.  She IS jealous and suspicious….

I’m told that in [their old region], it’s so hard to find a good man that women are out for themselves, not principled in who they go after.

Part of the problem is that I’m busy all day long, doing housework and taking care of [my son] and such, so I don’t talk with her much and she hasn’t had a chance to get to know me.

But I’ve been so annoyed over the noise, the crowded conditions, the scolding [by Tracy] of Richard and the kids, and this feeling of suspicion, that I’ve just wanted to be by myself.  That and it’s hard for me to get to know people.

It’s so frustrating that because I happen to be a woman, I have to feel cut off for a time from my best friend.  Sometimes I want to scream; sometimes I want to cry….

I have no intention of breaking up our families by trying to steal him away.

I’m careful to use the term philia, which is the Greek term for the love between best friends.  Jeff trusts me, and I’ve done nothing to betray his trust.  He and [one of our female friends] are great friends, and I have no suspicion about them.

He knows what’s going on, and understands.  He’s been trying to get Tracy into conversation or roleplaying games so that Richard and I can have our own conversations.

It’s annoying to be suspected of something I’m not doing.  I can’t wait until the rent money is saved up and their family can move into their own place.

Did Mom, in her wisdom, say that Tracy was somehow in the right and I was in the wrong, that I wasn’t respecting her as Richard’s wife, that she was allowed to be jealous?

No, she did not.  She said they needed to move out soon.

My priest said the same thing, because I confided in him, too.

Several months later, my mom said to me on the phone, referring to Tracy’s behavior during her stay at my house, “It sounds like that Tracy needs to grow up!”  (Which is funny and ironic, considering that Tracy accuses other people of this all the time.)

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

 

%d bloggers like this: