I wrote my mom detailed e-mails all during this time, because I badly needed to talk to SOMEBODY. I told her that Tracy was controlling and possessive, everything she was doing, how jealous she was acting, how abrasive she was, and about the verbal abuse I witnessed every day.
I first tried to get these things sorted out with Richard and Tracy myself, but just kept feeling ganged up on, like I was being overruled again and again, as if my opinions and views and feelings held no merit and were of no importance whatsoever.
In one of those e-mails, written the afternoon of Wednesday, December 26, 2007, when everyone was at home for Christmas, I wrote that “I don’t know how much longer I can put up with this.”
As a considerate host who did not want to use up all the hot water before my guests could shower, I’d wait for hours for people to take showers before I could start the laundry or take my own. But nobody would.
That morning, I was the first adult awake, and Jeff had to run some errands, so I had to wait until another adult would get up and watch the four kids, before I could take my shower.
Jeff came home and Richard and Tracy got up. I told them I wanted to start the laundry, and asked who should take a shower first–them or me–but got no real answer.
Soon I overheard them talking about going somewhere, and it sounded like Richard was about to shower. But then Tracy started ripping into Richard and screaming louder and louder, angrier and angrier, accusing him of things!
Now I know that I witnessed a narcissistic rage, a common means of intimidation and control used by narcissists and abusive borderlines, further proof that Richard told me the truth about her abuse of him and the children.
(Can you imagine being subjected to this as a child? In 2010, I also witnessed her in a screaming rage against the children.)
The trouble is that, while borderlines are supposed to feel sorry later, I never witnessed her feeling sorrow for her rages against him, the children, me, or Todd. This is why I tend to think of her as either a narcissist, or a narcissistic borderline, rather than just borderline.
(When I say “scream,” I don’t mean raised voices or yelling or shouting. I mean “scream”: screeching, hysterical, high decibels, Exorcist-style, at the top of her lungs, wild, out of control. This is also what I mean when I say she screamed at her kids.
(I thought everybody understood that “yelling” and “screaming” are two different things, but later discovered that some people think they’re the same thing. Everybody yells from time to time, but screaming is verbal abuse and intimidation.)
A number of behaviors are considered verbally abusive, including angry outbursts, screaming rages, and name-calling. Verbal abuse often includes blaming, brainwashing, and intimidation.
Hidden aggression is a part of verbal abuse, as well. Verbal abuse is extremely manipulative, as insults are often disguised as caring comments. Verbal abuse can be overt or covert, but it is always about controlling and manipulating the victim. —What is Verbal Abuse?
I recall the basic nature of the argument, but won’t reveal it online. I will tell you it had nothing to do with me or my house, and that her accusations sounded very unfair, that he was deceiving her. He said it was a misunderstanding; she wouldn’t hear of it (sounds familiar); everything turned heated.
Richard just took it without arguing back. He didn’t even try to defend himself. He said little, even agreed with her at times. Yet she just kept getting angrier and angrier and screaming louder and louder.
I was furious with Tracy for treating Richard like this, and furious that nobody was taking a shower. Jeff and the kids were all in the basement, and the whole house could hear the screaming.
I wanted to scream at her to shut up. I went upstairs to do some chores. I screamed in my room for it to stop. I slammed a door in frustration and anger, and was on the verge of breaking down. But still she did not stop hounding him.
I wanted to rescue Richard, defend him. I flew downstairs to the basement to Jeff. The children were also there playing. I complained to him about how Tracy was treating Richard, and how frustrated I was.
He would have more force and authority as the man of the house (and as the person who Tracy was not constantly insulting). So I asked him to tell her to STOP treating Richard like this.
It was either that or go into the living room and scream at her to stop screaming at Richard. Calling on Jeff to assume his role as man of the house and lay down some rules, seemed the most civilized thing to do.
He went upstairs and simply said that we’re not going to throw you out of the house, but please don’t do this in the house, and please take your showers now so Nyssa can take hers and start the laundry. Tracy apologized to Jeff.
After that, she didn’t scream at Richard inside my house. When she wanted to scream abuses and cuss at someone (like her ex), she took her cellphone outside. But we should not have had to rescue Richard like that. His own wife should be his partner, not his abuser.
I hid in the basement until they left with the kids about an hour and a half later, because I didn’t want to face them.
I described the whole argument to my mom. I wrote,
For the last few weeks, I’ve been very depressed. I’ve already talked to Richard about this, but I’ve been feeling cut off lately. I don’t have a lot of time to talk to him anymore.
I didn’t tell him that one reason I have trouble connecting with his wife is I often find her rather abrasive. She orders him around and picks at the kids and picks at Richard.
At least twice during this time period, I saw him give her a look as if scared of what she would do if he stepped out of line.
My mom e-mailed back that things were getting out of hand, that we needed ground rules, that I shouldn’t wait for them to shower, just go ahead and start the laundry.
After they returned in the evening, I avoided both of them in my room, but finally had Jeff call Richard to me.
I was still furious with Tracy for abusing Richard, and for disturbing the peace of my household like this. (In Shogun, the abusive husband had to grovel in repentance for doing this in the main character’s house.) Note again that this conversation took place on the evening of December 26, 2007:
I said, “I can’t stand the way she picks at you and orders you around!”
She kept picking on him and getting mad at him for the slightest thing, making fun of him, ripping on him, ordering him to go get her some ice cream etc. without even a please, and one night he commented to me privately how annoyed he was at this.
He and I both noted that he had not argued back. But to my shock, he began to say these things: “Actually, she’s being nice to me.”
“She’s being NICE to you????!!!!!” I cried in disbelief. This is NICE for her? What is she like when she’s not “nice”?
“…My father abused me as a child, but I was a little rat who deserved it, and it made me a better person….I’ve had to put the children in the closet before to get them to listen to their mother. It looks like I’m going to have to do it again.”
I couldn’t believe he’d say such things, wondered if I’d misjudged him somehow. How could my spiritual mentor, the same guy who complained to me for two months about how his wife verbally abused him and the children, about how she always screamed at the children and he had to be around to keep her in check, that she was jealous, that she got furious with him for talking to an old female friend she had been “at war” with–
How could he turn around and tell me these things? How could he tell me that he, too, was abusing the kids, that he justified it with that tired old Stockholm Syndrome chestnut: that his parents did these things but he deserved it?
I expected him to be grateful for my support and sympathy, especially after he had courted it for two months. But now that Tracy was here, he was like a totally different person, content to abuse and be abused.
He did once tell me over the phone that he recently abused the kids, but he gave no details, and said he was sorry for it. But now he was excusing abuse?
Other times, too (during this time and in the following years), he told me she didn’t trust women, that pregnancy hormones made her jealous of any attention he paid to other women, etc.
So no, this wasn’t about me causing her jealousy, but about her being naturally jealous to start with. If some other woman had been in my place, if he stayed with some other couple for two months, she probably would’ve treated her the same.
Jeff reacts quite differently to the same things that made her jealous and furious.
I think people online or in advice columns who just automatically assume the wife must have a reason to be jealous, don’t realize a wife can be so naturally jealous that she sees offense even in innocuous behavior, and drives everyone around her crazy with it.
Another shock: Now that I saw her abuse for myself, and no longer just took his word for it, he made excuses for what she did, and claimed she was being “nice” to him.
In other, later conversations, he told me she was justified in her anger at him during the time they lived with us, or that screaming at children was not abuse but necessary to keep them from being spoiled, and I could swear he told me that yelling at a spouse can be a good thing. (My mother told me not to get any more childrearing or marital advice from him.)
I began to feel gaslit, a tactic of abusers of which I was already aware because of my 2006 research into my ex’s behavior. But then one day in 2009, Richard told me things that proved I was not imagining abuse. These things are here in my accounts.
Jeff wrote a Myspace blog about this: He wrote that with our son squeezed into the bed, a squirm who kept getting sick, he had only a foot or so of space for himself. No raise for 2007, a 2% raise for 2008, and here we were trying to make that stretch for eight people.
The couch could not take the strain of Richard’s weight: One day, the kids jumped on this already-compromised frame, and it broke down.
We sat on the right side now, having no other chairs. We were supposed to get together with some friends from out of town on New Year’s, but it was cancelled because of lice.
Yes, lice. Yet another gift they brought us, along with the cockroaches.
The paperwork for a new apartment finally went through, but they still had to get rent and deposit money, so I had no idea when they were going to move out.
I complained about Tracy’s jealousy and controlling behavior to Richard through a letter, since letters and e-mails were now the only way I could talk to him.
First, he said it was indeed jealousy causing her to act this way, then he said it wasn’t jealousy but some other thing. But whichever it was, her behavior was still that of a jealous wife who wanted to control her husband’s every move.
That rubbed me the wrong way. Not only did it insult the hostess and benefactress helping her family and providing her with room and board.
But it raised my hackles because anyone who hurts my dear friend or child or husband, it’s as if they hurt me. I have always been protective of family and friends, going back at least as far as middle school when my best friend kept getting harassed by other kids.
It demonstrated Tracy’s own insecurity and possessiveness, but when I spoke up about it, I was treated like I was somehow the one in the wrong.
It also seemed quite ridiculous and unreasonable to try to keep two roommates from speaking privately once in a while. What are you going to do, shadow our every move? She did try!
She looked ridiculous, and this gave a full picture of her abusive hold over the family, an emotional terrorist trying to keep her family under tight control. It was like my abusive ex Phil all over again.
Don’t allow yourself to be isolated from others against our own better judgment. Insist on your right to have your own friends and family. —Gaslighting