Tracy snarks and Richard nitpicks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But it made her furious.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on this subject in the next section.

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

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

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

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

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

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

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

 

Their doublespeak and double standards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

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

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Table of Contents 

1. Introduction

2. We share a house 

3. Tracy’s abuse turns on me 

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

5. My frustrations mount 

6. Sexual Harassment from some of Richard’s friends

7. Without warning or explanation, tensions build

 
8. The Incident

9. The fallout; a second chance?

10. Grief 

11. Struggle to regain normalcy

12. Musings on how Christians should treat each other

13. Conclusion 

13b. Thinking of celebrating the first anniversary

14. Updates on Richard’s Criminal Charges 

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

 

I almost break off the friendship because of Tracy

In late February 2008, Richard and I exchanged a series of e-mails which led to the revelation that she fought him “tooth and nail” every time he planned to come over to my house to pick up the bags of mail and stuff I kept finding as I cleaned.

I was horrified to find that she kept telling him I “hated” her, was “biased against” her–and that she gave him so much trouble just to come pick up their own stuff.

Didn’t she want her mail?  Didn’t she want her daughters’ little doodads?  I sure wasn’t going to keep them at my house!

I was also horrified to hear him back up her complaints against me and now scold me for doing things I did not even remember ever doing.  Or for not wanting to talk to her because I was angry at her for something she had just done.

I tried to explain that they kept misunderstanding me, but he refused to listen.  I thought my BFF, with whom I had bonded, who called me the most awesome person he knew–

–would give me the benefit of the doubt, and believe in me, know that I meant no harm–

–but no, even he judged me without a trial!

I told Jeff, “I just can’t deal with that woman!”

It was so distressing that I thought I had to break off the friendship.

Jeff wanted to go over there and give Tracy a piece of his mind, but they were getting ready to go down to their previous city, and fetch their furniture and other stuff from storage.

So he planned to straighten them out after they got back.

I spent a long, miserable weekend, crying a lot, barely sleeping, thinking the friendship was unsalvageable.

Jeff tried to reassure me and comfort me by making the decision for me, saying that I wouldn’t break it off yet.

We went to an SCA event to get me out of the house.  On the way home, I spent probably the better part of an hour describing all the abuse I witnessed Tracy committing against Richard and the kids while they lived in our house, so he would know what all was going on.

I wish I had written it all down at the time.  Or maybe I did, but shredded it later.

On February 22, I wrote but never sent an e-mail to Richard:

You want me to make an attempt to get past the things that happened while you guys were all staying here.  I want to, as well, and have been doing so.

But I tried and tried and tried and kept coming up against a roadblock: that you say Tracy feels herself justified in what she does and rarely apologizes.

Well, I can offer forgiveness; I can offer civility.  I can offer apologies for hurting her feelings or offending her at any point.  I certainly never meant to.

But I must assert my rights to dignity and to choose who my friends will be.

I was deeply hurt by things that happened, and no, it’s not okay.  It will NEVER be okay if all I get for each point is, “[Tracy] was justified for (whatever reason).”  No matter how reasonable the reasons may seem to her, it doesn’t erase how the action made me feel.

If I just pretend nothing happened and everything’s okay, I will get an ulcer [I had one in high school], and inside I will be miserable physically and emotionally.  I endured years of bullying as a child and in college; I’m far too old and have come too far to allow it to happen again.

In order for me to be her friend, to even consider confidences, I MUST insist that Tracy give in some and make apologies.  Otherwise it will be nothing more than civility.

I know it can be hard to do that when you feel you’re right, but to make it in this world, a person must learn how to make apologies even when she does feel justified.

There were some things that happened with the children that bothered me, but as time went on, I noticed that they seemed to lessen.  The children were also very difficult to deal with at times, so I’ve decided to cut her slack.

So these are the things that must be apologized for if she wants to be friends and not just acquaintances:

1) Doing these things in my house: Yelling at you, picking at you, accusing you of things I knew were not true [they had nothing to do with me, by the way], using a foul word [“bullsh**”] right in front of her children and [my son].

I know this was done to you and not to me, but it was done in my house and I will not have that kind of crap going on in my house.  It never affects just the couple when there are other people around.

2) Getting angry at you for talking to me, not just around New Year’s, but still getting angry at you just for wanting to come over here and grab the stuff you left behind when you moved out!  I don’t want to hear any more about it being a “respect” thing, getting to know her first–

It was deeply offensive and insulting to be treated like crap for wanting to talk to you privately about private concerns, after all that I had done for you guys, after opening my house to her.

3) Me overhearing a phone call to her mother criticizing the menu for that week.  I made that menu in the middle of the lice treatment.

Not only were we trying to deal with shampoo and nitpicking, not only did we need groceries, but I had an unbelievable amount of laundry to do, and it had to be done all in one day so as to kill off any lice in the sheets before we went to bed that night.

The menu had to be done quickly without much thought.  Sunday by necessity HAD to be fast food.

And we couldn’t incorporate lots of produce or meals made from scratch, because that takes a lot of money, and our grocery bills were already averaging $300-$400 a week.

4) Me overhearing a phone call to you as she criticized me for having a “routine.”  That “routine” keeps the house from turning into a pigsty. That “routine” keeps the house and the laundry clean.

I have been mistress of my own house for many, many years and will do things my own way.  My mother had a “routine.”

After Richard and Tracy got back with their stuff, I told Richard one day that Jeff wanted to talk with him.  They had this talk in the bar and grill on Friday, February 29.

Jeff had calmed down somewhat.  But he still tried his best to persuade Richard that I was being misjudged and mistreated, that I was naturally shy and quiet with everyone and could not be an extrovert, that my NVLD affected my social skills, that Tracy’s treatment of me was causing me to close up with her.

He came back home and said the results were very disappointing, that Richard and Tracy thought I was making “a mountain out of a molehill,” that I should just “push myself” to be more sociable with her, that the NVLD was just a crutch.

Jeff tried, but could not get Richard to feel any empathy for me at all.  Jeff was disturbed by this lack of empathy, not just then, but in the years following.

And not just for me, but in other areas, such as Richard’s “oh well” when Jeff told him that his political ideas would cause the poor to suffer for years.  A lack of empathy is also a sign of narcissism.

Lack of empathy is one of the most striking features of people with narcissistic personality disorder. It’s a hallmark of the disorder in the same way that fear of abandonment is in borderline personality disorder.

“Narcissists do not consider the pain they inflict on others; nor do they give any credence to others’ perceptions,” says Dr. Les Carter in the book Enough of You, Let’s Talk About Me (p. 9).

“They simply do not care about thoughts and feelings that conflict with their own.” Do not expect them to listen, validate, understand, or support you. –Randi Kreger, Lack of Empathy: The Most Telling Narcissistic Trait

And no, Sally Normal and Joe Regular, we can’t just ‘get over it’ and we can’t just ‘be normal’. The brain is a flexible organ and we do learn, but we will always be Aspies. –Rudy Simone, “Why are Aspies so Weird?  Why can’t we just “get over it” or act normally?

2. You just need to try harder. Sorry, but no. My brain does not work the way yours does. There is something the matter with mine. It’s not a matter of will, or effort.

It’s a matter of trying to figure out how to cope. You wouldn’t tell a blind person to try harder to see, would you? –Peter Flom, PhD, Things not to say to LD people (or their parents)

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.
A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers.

That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.)

Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ. –Carl King, 10 Myths About Introverts

I thought Richard was my friend, that he understood me, that we were a mutual admiration society.

That he would have my back, and at least try to understand my point of view and validate it, even if he had to support his wife at the same time.

But no, there was no empathy at all.

Richard even gave Jeff the impression that it would be dangerous for me to apologize to Tracy, and that it would also be dangerous to tell her about the NVLD, because her mother had abused her while using some disorder as an excuse.

(Jeff thought it was a learning disorder, but he may have misunderstood, because I know her mother had borderline personality disorder.  Learning disorders don’t lead to abuse.)

Jeff found it very frustrating.

If it were even remotely possible for me to behave like an extrovert who didn’t have NVLD, don’t you think I would have already done so 20 years before, rather than always feeling like the odd one out, the one nobody paid attention to, the one rarely asked on dates?  Do you really think this is some sort of choice?

Unfortunately, I did not have research into introverts to show him at that time, because I did not know that the very makeup of my brain determines how I interact socially–even before you get into the problems that NVLD caused me academically, socially, athletically, and in various other ways as described here.

But who knows if even that would’ve made a difference with how he treated me, because he’s one of those extroverts who think that introverts only act the way they do because they’re stubborn, don’t like people, or aren’t trying hard enough.

Richard and Tracy probably would’ve bullied me on the playground if I knew them growing up.

It was also extremely insulting to me, putting my shyness, quiet nature, social understanding disability, and reaction to Tracy’s abuses, on the same level as the abusive actions and excuses of a crazy mother!

Most introverts experience various levels of discrimination in our extroverted society, but this was beyond the norm: It crossed the line from misunderstanding introverts, to abusing and bullying me, by trying to twist my behavior until I sounded like the bully!

It was gaslighting and echoing, both common tactics of abusers and narcissists to screw with your perception–to take the focus off their abusive actions and put it on you.

Introverts may be common, but they are also among the most misunderstood and aggrieved groups in America, possibly the world. —Jonathan Rauch, Caring for Your Introvert

On March 3 I wrote an e-mail to Richard, but I don’t remember if I sent it or not:

I keep getting the impression and fearing that you have misunderstood something: I am NOT trying to get Tracy to ease up on her restriction of our going out to the bar and grill, for coffee, etc. alone.

I stopped fighting that weeks and weeks ago, I think after having a talk with Jeff [after they moved out] that calmed me down and helped me see things from the other perspective.

I know the topic came up on Friday, I’m not sure how, but he probably meant that merely to explain why I was upset and did not understand in the first place back in January, not to change anything.

I just want her to understand that I do not hate her, that she can trust me, so she can feel comfortable with me and ease up on her own time.

Okay, don’t tell her about the NVLD, if you think it’ll only cause trouble.  Just tell her that I never meant any harm to her and did not deliberately snub her.

Tell her I’m a little dense in social situations, if you think that’ll help.  I’d rather she think I was a bit thick than mean or hateful or devious.

I don’t mean the NVLD to be a crutch.  It is, rather, an explanation. I keep looking for ways to compensate for it.

The problem is that I don’t have a teacher, so oftentimes I’ll know I have a problem with something, but don’t know how to deal with it.

But nothing seemed to change.  I was still expected to change the most basic part of my personality, just as much a basic and unchangeable determinant of who I was, as my gender and race–if I ever wanted full friendship benefits with Richard.

While Tracy felt no need whatsoever to stop being an abusive bully, something which can and must be changed, because bullies violate other people’s rights to be treated with dignity.

‘And it is as fundamental a part of who we are as our gender is,’ [Susan Cain] insists. ‘Your tendency to be inward-directed [introverted] or outward-directed [extroverted] is huge; it governs every part of the way you live and work and love.’ –Jane Mulkerrins, The big noise in the quiet revolution, why introversion is in: Susan Cain on her bestseller about keeping life on the lowdown

 

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 smear campaign and emotional blackmail begin full-force

Eventually, we stopped sharing a house.  No apologies ever came from Tracy for the many insults and jabs she made.  When I begged Richard to get her to apologize and be kind to me, he talked like everything was somehow my fault and fat chance getting an apology from her, and I was just making a mountain out of a molehill.

Meanwhile, when I asked about making apologies to Tracy–because I felt bad about many things that happened during the six weeks they stayed with us, and wanted to try again–he told me not to, she only wanted that from him, it wasn’t necessary–and Jeff got the impression from him that it would actually be dangerous somehow.

I almost broke off the friendship right there and then, and once or twice afterwards, but Jeff dissuaded me from it and Richard didn’t want me to go.  My son loved playing with their children, Jeff loved playing D&D with them, Jeff had just as much trouble finding friends nearby as I did, and I loved Richard like a brother.

Since Richard claimed to care a lot about me, said I was “very dear” to him, said he loved me like a sister, I had hopes that somehow, the friendship could be salvaged.  Many times I got the impression it had been, that things were finally moving along at a nice, even pace.  But then something would come out that shattered my illusions, and made me feel like Tracy loathed me and would never accept me.

There were huge communication problems: I was open and honest with Richard about all sorts of things.  But Richard and Tracy constantly kept from me all sorts of things that I needed to know, such as ways I had offended Tracy, and then blamed me because we didn’t seem to get anywhere.  I couldn’t apologize or repent of something I did not know I had done.  We couldn’t resolve problems we did not talk about.

It was also exhausting, because I couldn’t just relax and be myself, and stop wondering if I’d done something to offend her yet again, or was she just joking.  I felt constantly on edge, on the spot, on trial around her, because as an introvert with NVLD (and possibly selective mutism) who had objected to her abuses of me and others, it was impossible to please her.

This made me feel resentful, especially since she never apologized for the things she did to me, or for her abuses and controlling behavior toward her husband and children–and I kept seeing her do more of these things all the time.

How could I be expected to forgive and forget when she not only did not repent of what she did, but kept committing more emotional crimes against me, Richard, the children, and others?

Yet I was somehow expected to make up for my “errors” and act just the way she wanted me to act, or else I’d be punished by losing the best friend I’d had in many years.

Except that I had no idea what the rules even were.  I’d think I was following them as well as I could, but many months later I’d find that she still wasn’t satisfied, that something I had always thought was perfectly fine with her, was ticking her off.  This was emotional blackmail.

I often trembled and shook and felt dizzy (panic attack?) before calling Richard, and had to psyche myself up to do it, unless I knew Tracy was at work.

Once, I called and left a message with her, and she was so nice and cheerful–rather than short or brusque–that I thought, finally, finally she likes me!  Then I found out later, to my disappointment, that it wasn’t her but the babysitter.

I told Richard once that I didn’t call him often because I didn’t want to annoy Tracy.  He said, “Go ahead.  Annoy her!”

He was my BFF, my best friend, so of course I wanted to do what best friends do, and talk with him often about everything.

I told Jeff everything, which inspired him to trust me, and if he had a problem or suspicion, he would’ve told me; he was okay with everything and didn’t mind.

So I was startled one day to learn from Richard that Tracy called me “that woman” when I wasn’t there.

And this despite the fact that our two families constantly did things together, them coming to our house, us going to their house, me babysitting their kids, us giving them presents at Christmas and birthdays, Jeff giving Tracy or Richard a ride, Jeff playing D&D with them–

So I was not some woman she barely knew and never saw socially.  No, I was a family friend.

I kept thinking things were hopeless, wondering if I should break things off, and told him straight-out one day in an e-mail that I didn’t feel comfortable being friends with a man whose wife hated me.

But Richard kept telling me things could be resolved, that she didn’t hate me.

In 2010, I sometimes wished he had ended things long before this, out of respect for his wife’s feelings.  While I was always out of the loop and clueless, always hoping and thinking that Tracy was now perfectly fine with me, he knew what was really going on in his own home.

Sometime in late January or February 2008 after they moved out, I discovered through a series of e-mails to Richard that–even though I thought for sure he could go get coffee with me–that he could not, that Tracy had restricted him from doing that with me, though he could do it with other friends.

See, I stopped asking to go to the bar and grill, because there seemed to be a stigma attached to going to a bar with him–even though it was actually a regular family restaurant with a bar, like Applebee’s, not a tavern.  Like there was something “affair-y” about going to a bar with a guy.  (Or, even more ridiculous, like there was something “affair-y” about going to a family restaurant with a guy.)

But I thought it was okay to ask him to meet me each week to get coffee and catch up.  Public place, and not a bar.

That’s when I learned that I wasn’t even allowed to go to a coffee shop with the guy!  What the–?

Restrictions kept trickling out little by little like this.

In August, I asked to meet him in a parking lot to talk, thinking that was a nice, safe place she wouldn’t possibly object to.  My husband had just lost his job, and I needed someone to talk to, preferably my BFF.

But no, even a frickin’ parking lot was off-limits.

Yet it was okay for him to visit me in my house by himself when the kids were along.  Like the kids were “chaperones.”  It was crazy!

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