red flags of abuse

I finally find my Frodo–who moves in

As a shy, quiet person, I had the occasional friends in school but not always in my neighborhood, so when classes changed and lunch periods changed and the kids around me changed, my friends changed as well.

Since I was verbally bullied for being different from the other kids (somehow weird), I was glad to have these friends, but I longed to have that one friend who would stick with me through life.  Someone to be inseparable (but not lovers) with, like Bill & Ted or Anne & Diana or Frodo & Sam or Ofra HazaAndrew Eldritch or Gus & Shawn.

I made good friends in college who became friends for life, but after college we moved away from each other–separate cities, separate states.  It’s hard to maintain close friendships even when they live an hour away from you, so we’ve relied heavily on e-mail and now Facebook.

I did occasionally see friends who lived about an hour away, and occasionally did things in the SCA while Jeff was more involved in it for a while.

Male or female has never mattered to me.  I have two brothers and no sisters, so I was just as comfortable hanging out with boys as with girls.  Not the athletic type of boy who thinks burps are funny, no.  I mean the smart, geeky ones who watch British TV and play role-playing games.

My husband and I both have had opposite-sex friends, some close, all through our marriage, with no jealousy.

But it had been years since I’d had a close friend who lived right there nearby, when Richard and I became close over the Net and the phone, having met on a forum while I was searching for spiritual truth.

He was impressed by the theological section of my website, and wanted to befriend me.  He said his wife wanted to befriend me too, but I rarely heard from her, no e-mails or phone calls, just a web chat one evening.

I was surprised at how easily I could talk to Richard on the phone, and for hours, because with most people I just can’t do that, preferring face-to-face or e-mail/letters even for my closest friends.

Also, I can only talk on and on with people I “click” with.  That doesn’t happen with just anyone, either.  Jeff, too, found him easy to talk to when I was unable to come to the phone right away.

In those days, Richard called when he said he would, except once–and that time, he apologized and explained later.  (This all changed in 2008.)  He led me into Orthodoxy, where I found my spiritual home, and that’s mostly what we talked about, as I had lots of questions.  He seemed like a cool person.  But he lived far away.

I began going to the local Greek Orthodox church in November 2006, though–deliberately taking my time to make such a huge decision–I didn’t join it officially until January 2009.

I did what I could to connect with people there during coffee hour, but had to deal not only with my shyness but with the language barrier: Most of the parishioners spoke English just fine, but many of them spoke and understood very little English.  Also, most of them were much older than I was.

One morning during Divine Liturgy, in a fit of loneliness, I prayed that God would please send me a friend.  Just a short time later–within a few months, I believe–Richard e-mailed me that he needed a new place to live, and I suggested my hometown.  He hadn’t expected that, and was surprised to find how promising my hometown would be.

This was early fall 2007.  His wife and children were thousands of miles away with her parents while he cleared out their house, from which they’d been evicted.  He had no job, and hated the area.  He had no hope and nowhere to go.

He was grateful to me because he actually felt happy now, hopeful.  He checked out the links I sent him about my city, then later in person, and loved the town.

He asked to stay with us for a few days while looking for a job; he began calling at least once a day, talking my ear off so much that my ear actually began ringing.

I already felt bonded with him, that we had a close friendship, even though we never met, because he was the only person (besides my priest and Jeff) to whom I told all the details when my family was shaken up during Lent 2007.

It was a disturbing event, full of embarrassing details, things that had been hidden from me by my family for my entire life.  He and my priest heard them all, but even my college friends didn’t hear them at first.

But he had never told me certain personal details about himself and his life, which now, in September 2007, he began telling me, things which just started pouring out without me prompting him.  I worried a bit about his violent past, and was uncomfortable with some of the things he said, because I felt they should be kept private from most people.

But we’d been on the same forum for about two years, we’d been phone friends for maybe a year or so, Todd (the owner of the forum) had stayed with him twice for a month each time, Richard’s wife was on the same forum, and another poster had been his phone friend for several years and had glowing praises for him, so I figured–hoped–he was safe.  And hoped that he would arrive while Jeff was around, which he did.  The day he arrived was, I believe, around October 5, 2007.

Despite pouring out my soul to a forum friend online, in person for the first time, he or she seems a complete stranger.  So I turn into a turtle, hiding in my shell.

It took me a bit to get used to Richard’s physical presence, to connect the forum guy and the voice on the phone with this hulking stranger in my living room.  We had shared so many things already, I had confided things in him, called him when my family went through a terrible upset–but now he was like a stranger.

He was happy to meet me, but after waiting anxiously for him all day long, now I wanted to run away from him.  Until one afternoon when we started chatting about music, the conversation began to flow, and then we just looked at each other all of a sudden like, “Whoa!”

Everything began coming together and falling into place.  Despite Tracy’s aggressive personality–which he had been telling me about and which I soon began seeing for myself–our families seemed to be blessings and helps for each other over the coming years.

It all seemed to be an answer to prayer, the moving of the Spirit, God’s will for Richard and I to be friends and help each other spiritually and materially.

Richard lived with us for two months, during which time we bonded even more, as I did with two of my college roommates.  There’s just something about living with a person, day in day out, and them being there through all the things you deal with from day to day.  We told each other everything.

Though it wasn’t supposed to drag on for so long, I didn’t mind.  I finally had someone to watch TV with, since Jeff spent most evenings on the computer or watching other things.  I was sure we would be friends for life.  At long last, I had somebody outside of the family to talk to again.

Richard became my family, more like a twin brother moving in than a stranger.  Jeff was not some Neanderthal macho man threatened by this.  He, a far more enlightened being than that, usually spent evenings in the basement so Richard and I could talk.

He trusted us both so much that twice he went out of town overnight, once for work and once for a D&D game in the next county on the same day as a blizzard.

And we were careful not to see each other in undress, yelling out warnings when necessary, since we had no spare bedroom and had to stick him on the couch.  I wore my robe over my nightgown; I wore a tank top under revealing shirts; I never wear low-waist pants or high-waist shirts.

I considered him my best and closest friend.  He was the one I went to about religion.  He’s the one I found to help light my way when I was searching for the True Church, the original doctrines.  He had already found it before I did.

We had similar backgrounds, and similar views of the various churches.  We could sympathize with each other about going through contemporary church services.

We could discuss Orthodox theology with a similar base knowledge and interest.  We could discuss the meaning of original sin, or whether River of Fire is a good source of Orthodox doctrine.  We could discuss what it means to experience the Holy Spirit.

I could ask him about various things, such as why the English translations of the Latin and Greek versions of the Nicene Creed are so different, even the parts that come from the original Ecumenical Council that produced them.

I could share with him Orthodox writings, and give him Orthodox books and icons for Christmas or birthdays.  I could tell him what led me away from Western doctrines, without feeling judged for turning to “heresies.”

I simply don’t have another friend with whom I can discuss all these things, at least not from the same background, baseline knowledge, amount of interest and same denomination.

I asked him about difficult points of Orthodox doctrine or practices.  I asked him how to forgive people who had hurt me years before.  I lamented to him about Net Orthodoxy and its legalism.

In short, he was my spiritual mentor.

He was the one I always wrote to about interesting church meetings or services.  Who else can I write these things to, who has the same level of interest?  I wrote to him about my church because he was the one who led me there.

And these things led to sharing our life experiences and troubles.  I told him my secrets, and he told me his.  He was my counselor, as I poured out my heart to him about various issues I dealt with, how I’d been bullied growing up, and how I’d been used and abused by college exes.

This included private details which I did not normally tell anyone, because of their nature.  I told him these things because I trusted him completely.

I told him funny stories of things that happened day-to-day, or dreams.  I shared with him thoughts about movies I watched, books I read, life stories.  We talked for hours at a time.

Since he lived with us for a time, he became like an adopted brother, so I could tell him things I didn’t tell other people.  He became “Uncle Rich” to my son.  We could joke back and forth with each other and play off each other so easily that one guy in an IRC chat room said, “I love it when you guys are here!”

We went on religious websites together and defended Orthodoxy.  And we had similar tastes in music, both loving the obscure Goth genres, 80s, New Wave–yet knew some of the same Christian artists as well.  He had actually been a Goth, while I was interested in Goth culture, and did as much “Gothyness” as I could do in a small city in the Midwest.

Because of our similar backgrounds, we both knew about the Thief in the Night series, Left Behind, and other such things.  We were even the same age, so grew up with the same pop culture.  We both liked watching EWTN.  We were both interested in paranormal investigations.

It seems impossible to replace him.  These elements of our friendship I found especially valuable and important, especially appealing, and these were the reasons I was so attached to his friendship.

I was quite certain, from how he acted and what he said every day, that the feeling was mutual, that we both felt bonded to each other in a special, lasting, close friendship.  I wanted to be like his sister or cousin, to whom he was also this close.

I had no idea he was love-bombing me, bonding me to him emotionally with so much attention and praise that it became addictive.  He must have seen how vulnerable I was, since I so badly needed a friend, so badly wanted that One True Friend.

Even though he lived in my house and I knew his gross and annoying habits, I was so devoted to his friendship that I could overlook this.  He had such charisma that I saw the same bond and devotion in Todd and in Richard’s best friend from his hometown.  I craved his good opinion, and felt devastated when he criticized me.

It wasn’t about a lover: I already had one.  It was about that One True Friend, whom I had always dreamed of, and would think I had found, only one of us had to move away so things drifted off.  I felt my life would not be complete without that One True Friend, that Frodo, in addition to my husband and child.  I was a ready victim:

  • Loneliness. If you’re lonely, your unmet social and emotional needs can create an opening for a psychopath to enter your life. Many lonely people are also bored, which elevates risk.

According to Brown, some victims don’t even know they’re lonely, bored, or living a small, confined life, but the psychopath knows. –Psychopaths & Love, Traits of the Psychopath’s Victim

In this part, I explain about Richard’s claim to have hypnotized me.  I knew nothing of this until 2009, when he told me he used conversational hypnotism to get me to open up with him while he lived here.

He told me Americans are far too reserved, so he gets upset whenever people say Frodo and Sam are gay lovers.  He said it used to be seen as perfectly normal and NOT sexual to hug or hold hands or whatever with friends as well as family members or spouses.

I told him that in the book Two Towers, second in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Frodo and Sam held hands, fell asleep cuddled up with each other, and the like, and that’s why I joked about them being lovers.

But he said the fuss in America over Frodo and Sam’s supposed homosexual relationship was silly, that no one would have dreamed they were homosexuals back when the book was written.

Which is true, but also made me more susceptible to Richard breaking down my own physical reserve.  It took me a while just to hug him.

I don’t have a problem with opposite-sex friends innocently flirting: My husband does it, I do it, my geek friends do it, my SCA friends do it, my old co-workers did it.  In time I learned that Richard did it, too, with everybody, including male friends!  My husband and friends also consider it perfectly natural to get crushes now and then, as long as you don’t act on them.

At first, Richard behaved like a prude about innocent flirting, but then he got freer.  One Sunday morning, we visited the brand-new Catholic church building–and he put his head on my shoulder right there in the middle of Mass.  He muttered a playful “sorry” and sat back up.

Then he went in the opposite direction of “prude” one night all of a sudden, after Jeff went to bed.

He didn’t put hands in forbidden zones or try to kiss me or profess undying passion, no, nothing like that.  But he confused me greatly by putting his head in my lap, then on my shoulder.

I was used to flirting with words, such as the occasional double entendre.  Or Richard calling up a female friend right after calling his wife and saying, “Hey, what are you wearing?”  He demonstrated it was all meant in fun.

But this–What was this?  He had also started giving me long, affectionate hugs good-night.

The alarm bells went off.  I wanted a platonic friendship, not an affair; we were getting in too deep!  I finally fled to my room to go to bed and get away from this.

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

Then the following night he did these things again, making me think, What the heck is going on here?

Then the next day he acted normally again.  I also felt like the scum of the earth for letting him do these things.

So that night I found a way to bring up the “cuddling and flirting,” to confront him about it, get the truth out of him of what the heck he was up to.

But he said, 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.”

Now I see him as using me for affection after a long, tumultuous period with his wife, but holding back just enough that he could feign innocence when I called him on it later…when he realized I thought he was making moves on me, told him they were freaking me out.

I see him as manipulating me through his covert hypnotism and the trust he gained with me, doing these things when Jeff was not there, preying on my NVLD gullibility–which has also made me susceptible to elaborate hoaxes played on me by exes.  But at the time, I just saw him as a well-meaning bumbler.

But now that I called him out, it was time for him to backtrack: I’m sorry if I violated your boundaries.  No, no, I do those things with my sisters-in-law! cousins! sister!  They’re gestures of friendship and caring!  And those things I said–that was just “playful banter,” not even flirting.  No, we did nothing wrong.  You can look your husband in the eye.  And no, we don’t have to stop doing these things…..

I never would’ve thought of doing these things, with my American and possibly Asperger-ish reserve, if it had not been for Richard mentoring me on how they’re perfectly fine for platonic friends to do.

I was never quite as comfortable with it as he was, but he taught me there was nothing to worry about, and made me feel silly for ever thinking he meant anything more than friendship.  Then I began advocating such things myself.  I discovered the Cuddle Party website:

One problem with finding comforting touch is that if you believe that touch is about sex, then either you are afraid it might lead to sex, or you are afraid it might not lead to sex.  Not so helpful.

We humans need touch and affection. It’s no longer a question. Nurturing, welcome consensual touch is good for you.

Good for your body, heart and spirit. Good for your blood pressure, your nervous system, your emotional health, your ability to connect with and trust people, your ability to respect and care for yourself, your creativity, sense of safety and comfort and belonging.

Infants who are deprived of touch fail to thrive; we never outgrow the need.

Why is it so hard to find? Because for the most part, we think it has to do with sexual relationship, or at least romance, hooking up or ‘attraction’.

What if it just has do with being a human being who cares about other human beings? Kindness, compassion, comfort and nourishment.

Cuddle Party is a movement to reclaim this option in our lives.

I discovered that other cultures and time periods have been freer than our own with nonsexual touch, discovered that I have SCA friends who are just as free with their friends as Richard is with his friends.

We set up some boundaries to stay out of trouble, “forbidden zones” and the like, and agreed that any “playful banter” would be done in platonic friendship only, that any gestures would be in platonic friendship only.  I knew that if he ever tried to kiss me, I’d have to end the friendship right there and then.  I thought that was that.

Oh, by the way (he said the day his wife moved in with us), don’t do these things when she’s around.  She’s very jealous of other women.

Then, of course, when wifey finds out–I don’t know what he told her, but from the way she kept blaming me for everything, I get the impression he didn’t give her the full story, that he was the instigator telling me it was all innocent.  So who gets in trouble?  Me.

It makes me feel like such a naive, gullible fool, putting my trust in his words more than in his actions, which told me something other than what his words said, but for the sake of friendship I chose to believe him and trust him.

I now realize my own blame here was to not call him out on the discrepancies I noted even then (how one day he called it “flirting” then re-named it to “playful banter” when it was convenient for him).  To fail to notice that he didn’t do these things in front of Jeff, that he told me not to do them around Tracy.

But I wanted to believe he was telling me the truth because I didn’t want to be some scumbag cheater.  And you just don’t want to accuse your BFF of lying to you.

I wanted a One True Friend, not a lover, did not want to turn my beautiful friendship into a stinky, dirty, filthy affair.  I did not want to be barred from the Eucharist through carnal relations with the one who led me to the Eucharist in the first place.

He was not sexually attractive, with his repulsive hygiene (bathing every two or three days) and morbid obesity.  But we had a connection of the mind and spirit, a rare jewel of friendship, the Platonic ideal and philia.

Oscar Wilde also discusses this ideal in his Portrait of W.H. (pages 62-67 in this copy, near the end of part II of the full text).  He explains that Renaissance thinkers resurrected the Platonic ideal of friendship, and used terms for their bosom friends that made Victorian readers think they were lovers, even though they were not.

The lack of Frodo/Sam-type friendships in modern American society is described here:

Why is The Lord of the Rings such a powerful myth? Why did the final installment earn almost half a billion dollars in its first eighteen days?

Because all of us want the fellowship illustrated in the films. Because we want relationships that last. Because we want to feel super-glued to family and friends, like the glue that bound Sam and Frodo. Because we want involvement. Because we want shared creativity and wonder, because we want loyalty and commitment.

And yet we don’t have this feeling. Oh, if we are lucky we have it in one relationship, maybe a spouse. But in general we don’t have it.

In general we tend to be atoms bouncing around the eternal void, occasionally bumping into another atom, exchanging a curse or a smile.

Ought we not create our own Fellowship of The Ring? Ought we not create relationships that will last a lifetime? Ought we not build delightful things, even at some risk to ourselves? Ought we not discover something with ourselves that demands eternal loyalty and commitment?

I thought Richard was that kind of friend for me.

I wanted to believe we were simply expressing caring for each other as just friends.  I didn’t realize his instructions to not do them around Tracy gave them a dirty tinge.  I believed him, and saw nothing wrong with giving him the same gestures that I would to my son.

I did not do to him gestures that I only do to my husband, did not do the kinds of cuddling I only do with my husband or son.  No, for us “cuddling” meant sleeping on a shoulder, with arms folded only around yourself.  Like in a recent viral Internet picture in which a man let a tired stranger sleep on his shoulder on a subway train.  Or John sleeping on Jesus’ shoulder during the Last Supper (John 13:23-25).

It was sweet, innocent, a beautiful symbol of platonic friendship, which Americans could do well to adopt, instead of labeling it “gay” or “inappropriate.”  We had distinct boundaries in place.

So I thought we were safe and everything would be fine.  However, he needed to move out soon, before anything did happen.

But moving in his family was not the answer: No, he finally had a job now, and should have saved up a down payment, then moved out immediately after.  You know, like we planned all along.

But then one day, he told me the plans had changed and his family was coming to stay at our little condo.  !!!!

You may already have noted that I am much like Anne Shirley.  I always identified with her inner life: full of romantic ideals and loyalty, expressive on paper even if (unlike Anne) I am not in speech, willing to tell my friends I love them and how much they mean to me, identifying kindred spirits and longing for a Bosom Friend.

One of my friends, Mike from my college memoirs, believes we should say “I love you” to anyone–friends, co-workers–without fear that it’s somehow “inappropriate.”  I also identify with Marianne in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility.

While Tracy was always angry at somebody or something, always ready to fight.  Whenever I picture her, her face is twisted in fury as she yells and screams or hits.  Tracy does not understand people like me.  She is not a kindred spirit.

Here are articles written by people who believe that physical affection between platonic friends is not wrong at all–not even if your friend puts his head in your lap.  So no, it’s not wrong to behave this way with a friend, just different from the current culture:

Platonic Love and its Revealing Secrets

Is Flirting Cheating?

Touch Much: Why is Platonic Affection so Taboo?

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

 

 

I was Sam in search of a Frodo, Anne in search of a Diana

Richard said he wanted a friend like Sam was to Frodo on Lord of the Rings, so I told him I would be.  Finally I had a close friend in my own city whom I could see often, talk to often, someone who could get my normally quiet self to talk for hours, someone to understand me.

We had deep discussions, not about the weather but about music, religion, life experiences, movies, subcultures such as Goth (which he’d been heavily into while I had been interested in it), cultural attitudes, all sorts of things.

Because of my shyness, introversion and NVLD, and moving far from friends or family, it has been hard for me to make lasting friends in this city.  I used to make geek friends through local BBS‘s, but the Internet rose and the BBS’s died.  I changed jobs and churches; friends had squabbles and I became collateral damage.

I had always wanted a friend like Frodo/Sam or Anne/Diana or Bill/Ted, that one bosom friend who is closer to you than any other platonic friend, who wants to be with you all the time, but who is NOT your spouse or in any way a sexual partner.  Finally, I found that Friend.

But then his wife got jealous of me and within a few years, it all fell apart.  I thought Richard cared enough to have my back, since he said I was very dear to him, and showed in various ways that he loved me like a sister.

But in many things, he didn’t seem to want to understand me.  He let his wife tease me for being different and bully me for being quiet.  He refused to listen when both Jeff and I tried to explain my shy, quiet, introverted personality, that he was too hard on me.

In the moment of testing, he let me down.  Majorly.  He became my Judas.

So here I am alone again, wondering if I’ll ever have a friend like (I thought) he was again, someone who doesn’t live two or three hours away.  It may have to be a socially inept or shy person, like I usually befriend, rather than an outgoing extrovert like Richard, the type who thinks that everyone can be just like him.

I hope it’ll be a woman, so I don’t have to deal with a jealous wife again, but finding a woman who’s into the same music I like, is into Orthodox theology and has grown up in the Fundamentalist/ Evangelical subculture–that could be hard.

No, I don’t want to hear about the evils of opposite-sex friendships, because it’s a bunch of BS.  We’re liberated Gen-Xers; trust is a virtue.  I treat the topic in greater detail here, along with flirting, displays of affection between friends, and jealousy.

My husband was perfectly fine with our friendship, was glad whenever I got a chance to chat with Richard for more than a few minutes, and Richard had all sorts of female friends, with whom he innocently flirted (guys, too).

People put far too many rules on their friendships and on each other, when they should just let things be.

Tracy was abusive verbally and physically to Richard and their children.  I spoke up about it to him and shied away from her aggressive personality.

Instead of realizing she’s far too abusive and aggressive and needs to change herself, she tried to force me to accept her behavior as okay and twist mine into something it wasn’t.

She insisted on approving his friends, that she had veto rights; I know this because they both told me so.  She said so in a forum post, calling it “respect” to give up friends your spouse does not want you to have.

While he told me at various times about the rules his friends had to live up to, that she had to meet them, approve them, be friends with them too.  He said even his male friends were under this initial scrutiny, subject to her approval.

While he only wanted to meet her male friends before they went off to some political conference together.  (He just wanted to know what they looked like so he could beat them up if they tried anything.)

He had to live by far stricter rules than she did, you see.

(12/19/13: Tracy also felt entitled to read Richard’s e-mails and chats, and got mad at him once when she found someone she hated in his cell phone records.  Just tonight on Facebook, an old school friend asked,

If you are in a relationship does that mean that you have no privacy?  Does that mean that your significant other is entitled to go through your phone, check your text messages and Facebook messages?

The response: a resounding NO!  The various responders said you must have trust and privacy, and if your SO does not respect that, you’ve got major problems ahead. 

One said if he doesn’t stop this in its tracks, it’s going to get worse; one said “STALKER”; one said he’s going to have female and she’s going to have male friends, so you have to trust each other; another said, Get out, run fast!)

As soon as I learned this, red flags sprang up because of my abusive ex Phil, and all the research on abuse I did while writing about him in 2006.  As I explained above, Phil also tried to separate me from my best and dearest friends.

So I already knew about jealousy and control as forms of abuse.  I did even more research because of Tracy, and began posting links and comments on jealousy and abuse on this page and this page.  (They did not know about these pages.)

During this time, I also read a forum thread in which a woman described her abusive marriage.  She said, “He had to approve my friends.”

Instead of becoming the kind of person Richard’s friends would like, Tracy treated them like creeps if they didn’t like her, thereby driving them away as one after another of Richard’s friends ended the friendship, or she forced him to end friendships, showing a huge lack of trust in him and his judgment.  There was Todd; there were at least two more whom I know of.

From What Makes Your Control Freak Wife or Girlfriend Tick:

Projection and projective identification play a part in her controlling behaviors. She maps her feelings onto you and controls you by inducing these feelings within you.

Her controlling facade masks her true internal experience. Deep down she feels frightened, out of control, incompetent and helpless.

Les Parrot (The Control Freak) writes, “People who want to exert control over everything can make those around them feel inadequate, insecure, nervous, angry, anxious and physically sick. Their message is: I don’t trust you to be able to do it right; I don’t respect your judgment; I don’t think you are competent; I don’t value your insight.”

Whether or not this woman is aware of it, this is how she feels about herself. Once you recognize the defense mechanisms at play, it becomes a little easier to take her hurtful behaviors less personally. She’d be like this with anyone.

My awkwardness in social situations can lessen around kind people, even if I don’t talk much.  But it becomes far worse in the presence of a hostile person, which Tracy is not just to me but to many people.

Instead of doing her best to draw me out and be kind, Tracy just kept punishing me and sending hostile waves at me for being unable to open up to her, which pushed me further into my shell–yet she and Richard both blamed me for it.

This all made my husband furious, especially when Richard finally allowed Tracy to vent her fury on me in such horrible language and words (such as “f— off,” which nobody has ever said to me before) that made me wonder how any Christian woman could justify this treatment of any other person.

Jeff and I told others what she said; they were flabbergasted that anybody would cuss me out like that.  Jeff and I finally threw up our hands and tossed her out of our lives for good.

Unfortunately, this meant Richard was tossed out as well, even though–at long last for me, who had been starved of good local friends for years–Richard had been my dearest and closest friend for 5 years.

He had been my spiritual mentor, the one who led me into the Truth I’d been searching for, the one who helped me decide on Orthodoxy and thirst for the Eucharist.  He helped me find love for God and my faith once again.  He helped open up the Scriptures for me, by leading me in the right direction.

But then he turned on me and betrayed me, threw me under the bus, letting Tracy tear me apart instead of giving her the key piece of information which would have proven to her my innocence.

Then, a month later, he said that not saying two sentences together to Tracy for a month and a half (WHAT month? and I don’t count my sentences! what, ANOTHER rule nobody told me about?) was somehow worse than being verbally abused???

Being wary of someone who’s been bullying you for two years and has recently upped the intensity, is worse than being verbally abused????

And this to a person they already knew to be extremely quiet in most social situations?  What kind of people are these two, anyway?

This makes me struggle to keep in the same faith as him and Tracy, and even causes me to doubt the very existence of God (who seemed to place him into my life just as I prayed for a friend, and to cause our families to be there for and bless each other).

After their abuses of me, I also struggle to make social connections with anyone else who isn’t already in my circle of friends (friends I mostly keep in touch with via the Internet).  I’m afraid of what’ll happen if I open up to anyone else the way I opened up to Richard, that they’ll hurt me like he did.

The problem first started with Tracy misunderstanding me, and me not having a clue about it until she was already digging in her heels and treating me badly and I had no idea why.

I noted over the years that she responds to problems by snarking at and being mean to the supposed offender, which she never so much as apologizes for.  This offends the offender and leads to nothing but arguments and bad feeling.

I complained to Richard about it and then, finally, started hearing what she was so upset about.  But trying to clear up the misunderstanding did no good at all because she was apparently determined to think badly of me.

Nobody informed me of a test I had to pass for Tracy to let me be friends with Richard, or what I was expected to do or know, until long after I already failed.  And after that, it seemed that no matter what I did, it wasn’t good enough to make up for it.

In fact, it reminds me of Hell Week during my short-lived stint pledging a sorority: having no idea how I’ve offended the actives or what rule I’ve broken until I see a roster that’s already in the hundreds below zero.  And each day, more points are taken away, finding my points down in the negative thousands with no idea what rules I broke and no hope of getting back up.

I could concede that some of her rules seemed reasonable enough in normal circumstances–but we were not in normal circumstances, we were sharing a house.

When you live together for weeks on end, when you must keep in the good graces of the host and hostess who are doing you a huge favor that few people would do, getting in a snit fit about things that go against your usual rules, makes no sense.

And it makes no sense to say you don’t “know” somebody when you live in the same crowded house for six weeks, and spend nearly every night socializing with that person for hours.

When we shared a house, both our families for six weeks, it was a disaster.  It was never part of the deal.

We lived in a tiny house, about 1100 square feet.  The spare room (a library, not a bedroom) was filled with the changing table and baby supplies, so already Richard slept on the couch.

It was supposed to be a temporary arrangement, helping out a friend until he found a job and a place to move into with his family, NOT an indefinite address for the entire family.

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

 

 

Why I put this story on the Web–at great personal risk

I keep putting up this story and taking it down again and putting it back up again.  I take it down because I wonder how much I really want to post on the Web.

Then I put it back up because the issues in here–child abuse, domestic violence, bullying, women who abuse men–are very important and need to be addressed.

It’s a risk which sometimes I do and sometimes don’t want to take, but there are many things in here that need to be said about modern society–and it’s hard to make a complete picture of what happened without posting all of it.  However, there are some private details which must be kept private.

1. This page is for NLDers, introverts, fellow bullying victims, fellow abuse survivors and friends of abuse victims.

2. I want to help raise awareness that women do abuse, too, not just men.  If the roles were reversed and Richard did the things I saw Tracy do and heard that Tracy did, nobody would question that he was a jerk and abuser and that she needed to get out.  But because the woman was the abuser, Richard kept trying to hold it together.

It takes great courage or stupidity to post this, because I’m scared the bully Tracy will find it and retaliate.  She is, after all, physically violent when she chooses to be.  (But then, she thinks I’m stupid anyway.)

There’s also still the faint hope that one day soon Tracy will regret the things she’s done, apologize and try to change.

But if she does find it, or Richard finds it–who knows, maybe reading this will show them just what they’ve done and that theirs are not the only opinions that matter.  Maybe it will inspire them to make amends and changes in their own lives.

If they just look and laugh and make no apologies, then that would be childish and prove they have no business coming back into our lives.  If Tracy beats me up, I’ll finally have physical proof of her true character.

[Update: The above was written somewhere between 2010 and 2011.  They did indeed find this in May 2012; see here.]

3. But I’ve read other people’s accounts of how they’ve been bullied and abused.

So my story burns within me to be told as well, expressing to the ether what happened, hoping other abuse victims will be helped by it and learn from it–especially people who deal with NVLD, Asperger’s or selective mutism, or who are introverts, and whose social understanding is hampered.

I have been betrayed and thrown to the wolves by the very person I thought had my back.

4. You will see that it’s useless to deal with someone who is jealous, controlling and/or abusive, but won’t deal with her issues properly.

You will hopefully learn that it just isn’t worth trying to pacify such a person, that it’s best to just cut them out of your life early–before they infect you with their emotional damage and leave you to deal with the pain, the post traumatic stress disorder-like symptoms, the lies they spread about you, etc.  Even a dear friendship isn’t worth that.

5. I hope to demonstrate the evils of jealousy, to make a plea for all those who are judged by advice columnists and bloggers and the like as whores and “inappropriate” based simply on one side given us by an upset wife in a short letter.  There may be more to that story than you realize.

6. I hope to help NLDers realize their naïveté can make them far too trusting, far too easily taken advantage of.

7. As a writer, I am driven to tell stories, even and especially my own stories, whether positive or negative.

8. There’s a huge lack of stories, even on the Net, about the friends and families of people who are involved in domestic or child abuse situations; friends who are being abused by friends; the friends of friends who are being abused by friends.

You read about them, but mostly a sentence or two about how friends and family are driven away by the abuser and/or subjected to abuse as well, because they object to how the abuser treats their friend.

I searched and searched to find stories about friendship abuse, but kept finding very little (except occasionally in comments to blogs or advice columns).  There are plenty of survivor stories from people who were abused by parents or romantic partners.  The dynamics are obviously different, making it hard to relate if you’re the friend being abused.

So that’s another reason I put these stories here, because this is about a friend who sees her best friend’s verbally and physically violent marriage, objects, then finds herself subjected to abuse and accusations because she objected, until finally she cuts these people out of her life at great personal grief.

This story is for people who are abused by friends, or the spouses of friends, or who feel helpless as a friend or family member is domestically abused.  Perhaps you will see that while the abuse of me did anger me quite a bit, what angered me the most was how Tracy abused Richard, the children, and others.

9. I want to help raise awareness of different types of domestic abuse.

10. I want to help raise awareness of bullying and abuse in other contexts.

11. We need to get our stories out there so others learn how to recognize bullying and abuse–to get away from it, to stop doing it, to help others out of it.  Despite decades of attention, this problem persists.

12. I want to help others learn from my mistakes, of which you will probably find many.

13. I want to record my struggle with loss of faith and trying to hold onto it, after the most significant person in my conversion to Orthodoxy, became my betrayer and manipulator.  The fall of a spiritual mentor into some kind of sin does happen now and then, shaking the faith of the ones who looked up to him, so this story is universal.

14. I want to raise awareness for what it’s like to be an introvert, or to have NLD/Asperger’s/selective mutism, and how people like us are constantly bullied in today’s American society, which values extroversion and looks down upon introversion.

15. And, well, this story is true from my perspective (that last bit added for legal reasons).  I wouldn’t be so confident with a lie.

Here is another story of a woman abused by a friend, as seen through the eyes of another woman who eventually became subjected to abuse as well, for sticking up for the abused.  And here is what appears to be the story of the friend being abused.

Here is another story of a woman being abused by her female friend, who is a narcissist.  From what I have observed, Richard and Tracy both have narcissistic traits.  Note the following paragraph from this link, from JoyfulAliveWoman’s blog.  Note that her friendship was heterosexual, that there was nothing sexual about it, and yet this woman hooked in JAW so much that she wrote this:

I was under H’s spell. I couldn’t get enough of her. I became Codependent with her. It was pathetic.

No one else had that effect upon me, nor had they ever. My relationships with others were different.

That isn’t to say those relationships weren’t challenging, but there was a “hypnotic and obsessive quality” to the relationship with H (strong characteristics of a codependent, dysfunctional relationship).

H had her so enthralled that, even though she didn’t acknowledge that JAW had wisdom and insight of her own, and her own superior attitude sometimes inspired JAW to rebel, JAW was always the one to go crawling back, contrite, while her objections were swept under the rug.

It wasn’t like this in the beginning between Richard and me, not until later on, but it was always that way with Tracy and me.

Although it is a common belief that grooming is most relevant to children, the same or similar psychological processes are used by perpetrators to exploit adults.

In the case of adult grooming, the victims family and friends are also manipulated into thinking the perpetrator is a “nice guy” and that he can be trusted.

It is not only a perpetrator’s victims that are groomed (which would be considered emotional abuse), but the victims’ family and friends, the perpetrator’s own family and friends, and even public servants and medical professionals (in which case it is purposeful manipulation). –Mel Stewart, The Fine Art of Grooming

I’ve described the Richard and Tracy story in little bits and pieces, interspersed here and there in my reviews of Gone With the Wind, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and Mysteries of Udolpho.

For more than two years I was bullied for being different by a grown adult, bullied by Tracy by proxy through Richard, verbally abused by Tracy only to have both of them act like what I did (basically, being shy, quiet and wary of Tracy, who bullied me, Richard and her children) was somehow worse than her bullying and abuse of me.

At first, Richard and I bonded over religion, music and Goth.  He was my spiritual guide.  He was my best, closest and dearest friend, the one I trusted so much that I told him things I hadn’t told anyone else.  We were like a mutual admiration society.  He told me I was the most awesome person he knew; I felt the same about him.  But he betrayed me.

The first thing is, you were born this way. It is in your nature, and thus cannot be wrong.  On average, one out of every three people is an introvert, if being quiet was wrong, that would make 1/3 of the total population born lesser. –serjicaladdict, Why are you so quiet?

16. [This part was written somewhere between late 2010 and early 2011.]  Another reason is to try somehow to understand this perplexing situation.  Only over the past several months, as I’ve been writing and adding to this story, have I started to see the whole picture and make connections and understand little bits of pieces of it.

I noticed the same thing over the past 15 years as I wrote memoirs about my life: Certain events that upset me greatly, long-term abuse and other such things, I wrote about as they happened, and put them into my memoirs several years later.  I began to understand, but not quite yet.

Then several years after that, I put these memoirs online in public versions.  As I did this, and did more research into abuse, I saw connections I never saw before.  Things began to make sense, how guys would manipulate me, and that sort of thing.

I see this happen now as I write about this horrible situation.  I see clues to what may have happened, that I didn’t see before.

All my life I’ve written diaries, letters, e-mails, journals, memoirs and other accounts describing my life, its various events, my emotions.  This may be related to NVLD, being confused by life, not seeing the whole picture for the details, and needing to journal about it to figure things out.

It may also be related to Aspergers, having a long memory, going over things again and again in your mind long after other people have forgotten about it.

Or maybe I simply want to be a modern Laura Ingalls Wilder.

What Makes Your Control Freak Wife or Girlfriend Tick sounds to me very much like Tracy, and you will recognize various elements of it as you read my story, such as:

  • her being happy as she cuts you down
  • having to be in control (which she did to me, to Richard, to an ex-family friend named Todd)
  • histrionics I witnessed when she dealt with her ex
  • steamrolling me time and again, no compromise or concession, this coming back to bite her as people kept bolting from friendships or other relationships with her
  • two or three of the emotional states listed under “Losing Control” (when I challenged her for raging at me and she realized Jeff and I were ending our friendship with her).

Todd, who was friends with Richard for six years–from before Richard and Tracy got married–and stayed with them twice, for a month each time, said she yells at you but does nothing to work on her own part of the problem.

I witnessed a few arguments between her and Richard that got nasty, so I knew it wasn’t just me.  If she were this way with nobody else, I’d have to look harder at myself, but this was not the case.

17. Tracy did her hardest to make me think I was the problem, but I knew this wasn’t true, and wrote this to remember why.

As the above article states,

Yes, this woman is deeply troubled, but it is NOT your responsibility to tolerate, accept or change her. The only way to gain mastery over a relationship with this kind of woman is to end it. Otherwise, you’ll begin an endless replay loop of your own misery.

18. This article, and my story, should help you recognize such people in your own life, and that it’s not worth waiting around for change.  Take warning from what happened to me.

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

 

Richard dismisses my experiences

I got frustrated and angry with Richard because it seemed he didn’t care what things were like for me: He just wanted to lecture me on what he thought was right, and everybody else should agree with him.  (This was the same approach he took in many other areas as well, which was maddening.)

Richard just laughed it off whenever I tried to explain NLD, not even entertaining the possibility that I might know myself well enough to see myself in these conditions, that they explained my entire life and meant I was not a freak.  (I shed many tears over my life because I thought I was a freak.  Discovering NLD was a lifesaver.)

I thought maybe he would finally believe my brain was different from his when he showed Jeff and me Batman Begins:

Jeff understood what was going on, Jeff and Richard both enjoyed it very much, while I couldn’t make heads or tails of the plot, the explanations, or anything.  It was such a garbled, jumbled mess that I found it very disconcerting, almost alarming and disturbing (not because of the story or violence but because of the incomprehensibility).

I asked on an NLD support forum if other people had the same problem with such movies.

On IMDB, the reviewers keep saying it’s the best Batman movie or comic book movie ever, while I thought it was terribly done and should have been slowed down a lot to make it understandable.  (Give me Christopher Reeve’s Superman, not this!  I can understand those movies!)

Occasionally, movie trailers and the new, revamped episodes of Doctor Who, confuse me.  They go by too quickly with so few words I can understand, and people talking too fast in their different British accents on Doctor Who.

Meanwhile, my husband catches every important detail, understands the trailer for next week’s episode, understands the Doctor’s explanations, etc.  According to some other posters in an NLD support forum, if these trailers were hard for everyone to understand, then the marketing department would have failed and have to do things differently.

Yet still, Richard didn’t believe me, thought I just had to push myself harder.

He never heard about the mental stimming or the repetitive behaviors or most of the other little things that support my supposition that I have either Asperger’s or NLD.  (Most likely NLD because I don’t do stimming that’s obvious to others.)

He didn’t know me when I was a kid and did not make eye contact at all, was very disorganized, and had all sorts of social and academic issues that I have since overcome (though I still struggle socially and with eye contact).

But he presumed to declare me a neurotypical and an excuse-maker or “victim” based on what little I had told him, and because he had this idea that NLD requires autistic traits.

(That’s not NLD, that’s Asperger’s, and the two, while related, are not the same.  A new study shows that 25% of NLD subjects have benign cysts or legions in their brains; 1 Aspie subject; 1 neurotypical (normal) subject.  It’s a minority in any of the three groups, but far larger in the NLD group than even the Aspergers group.)

He only knew me as an adult who had already overcome many of the things that caused me trouble in childhood, yet decided he knew better than I did if I had it or not.  Jeff and I both found this to be very arrogant.

Amazing how they would poo-poo the NLD, while Tracy kept getting offended at and making fun of the very things that showed I do have it: routines, particular behaviors that others don’t understand, “weird” as Tracy called it (chapter 7), extreme reserve and quietness, isolation, gullibility, the occasional remarks from Richard or Tracy that “I shouldn’t have to tell you this–everybody knows it!”

(I express myself much better via writing, and talk normally with people I know well, such as mates, roommates, family.)

Heck, even one of my brothers made a comment once–only several years ago–that I would come for a visit and not talk to anybody.  Well, I do talk to Mom and Dad, but my big brothers have always been a bit scary for me, picking on me all the time and such.

[sarcasm on] Oh yeah, I couldn’t possibly know myself better than you guys do–and it couldn’t possibly be anything other than stubbornness or malice.  [/sarcasm off]

(Yes, despite NLD, I do understand sarcasm fairly well.)

Richard acted as if it were better for me not to “label” myself as NVLD, as if deciding I’m just introverted and bad at sports would somehow make me feel better about myself and what I can accomplish.

But I had already been “labeled” all through school as “weird,” and my struggles with driving made me feel like a “freak,” so “NVLD” was far better.  As a matter of fact, NVLD meant I could pinpoint where my problems lay and possible ways of dealing with them.  As Peter Flom puts it here:

If you are weird in some way, you are going to get labeled. You can choose the label, or have it chosen for you. If you (or you, for your child) insists on not having a label like “NLD” then you will get a label like “lazy”, “crazy”: or “stupid”.

But labels can be more useful than that. They can help find services, they can reduce isolation, they can even help with solutions to the problems you face.

The problem comes when we let the label dictate to us, instead of the other way round–because a label can be a box, and people don’t fit in boxes.

 

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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