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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then I found this in a webpage about freeloaders:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He one-upped and mansplained me all the time.

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

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

Reasonable request, right?  But he got offended!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me

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

5. My frustrations mount

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

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