Sunday, 24 June 2012

Now and Then

After 4 or so years in the army, I’d gotten over all my implanted hangups, become quite self confident, been promoted twice, ran a small communications repair team, I’d done 2 tours of duty, first a nice cushy UN tour in Cyprus and just returned from bandit country in Northern Ireland, where it’d been a bit stressful . I’d also just split from my first serious girlfrend. I had a week free so I took the chance to visit my parents.
First evening , dinner, present were NM, enabler Dad, passive  Grandad and golden sister with new enabler boyfriend. My expectation, to relax, have a nice dinner, catch up with family goings on.
NM’s expectation, to show everyone that she hasn’t lost her magical powers of control.
Conversation, something like this...
NM- I found these really funny old photo’s of David the other day, who wants to see them? (screech screech)( She has tried this trick about 4 times.)
Asshole boyfriend with porn star moustache- That’s a good idea (bray bray)
Me-  I’m not in the mood for this nonsense, you don’t want to see the cricket trophy I won?
NM- Maybe later, I don’t understand cricket.
Asshole boyfriend then launches into a story about funny cricket players that has everybody honking, braying and screeching. He then starts on me, which everybody honks and screeches to again. I remember my head spinning, feeling somehow betrayed, angry and totally off balance.
Me- What the hell’s going on here?
NM- OH David, you silly goose, you always did take yourself so seriously.
More screeching and braying.
Me- Well I’m only staying until tomorrow and I’ve been invited out tonight.
NM- Stop it David, you’re so puffed up and over confident these days, you really do need taking down a peg or two.
Me- Strangely Mother, the army says something completely different.
NM- They don’t know you as well as I do.
Me- Better actually. Look, I’m not staying here to be insulted by some creep I’ve never met before.
NM- (aged 48, overweight, started wearing a miniskirt)- No, he’s really WUUUUNDERFUL! It’s a pity you can’t be more like him.
Me- You kidding?
Result, everyone upset and confused, NM’s pale watery eyes are searching around for support. Enablers are all looking down, even creep won’t look at me.  I go out, but feel like a loser, it only happens when I’m here I think.  So, I never slept under that roof again and I realized that confrontation didn’t work, she still had the upper hand.  Sister married the creep. Creep would go on to make a pass at ex wife, ex girlfriend and current partner. Creep

Move forward to present day, first evening of week long visit, (she wanted a month), location, our restaurant in Germany.
Present at dinner,  long term partner, partners mother, father and uncle, our daughter upstairs in flat finishing homework or something.  We’re all prepared for visit, we know all about NM, girlfriends uncle looks a bit worried. I wink at him, he smiles, we’re a team.
We’re all sat at a table, NM is out of comfort zone, she’s not only in a public place but in our public domain, she’s at the other end of a long table from enabler Dad, he’s right next to me.
Girlfriend to my Dad – So how was the flight?
Parents, almost at the same time- Dad- it was fine (he’s trained not to complain). NM, well the service was a bit unfriendly. And.....
Our team- Laughs
Partners father- Were you on the same flight?
Everyone but NM –Laughs again.
NM, looks around furtively, knows something is wrong.
NM- why isn’t granddaughter joining us.
Me- She’s got an exam coming up, she’ll be down soon.
NM- (sarcastically) Well it must be VERY important. (Nothing is more important than her)
All our team including Uncle- OHH YES (nodding at the same time) NM senses danger of exalted position.
NM quickly to Uncle- So, what subject is she studying? (singling him out, he’s the weakest link, recently widowed)
Uncle (shrugging shoulders) - I don’t know, just something important I think.
Everyone including enabler Dad- Laughs (NM knows there is a problem)
Grandaughter arrives.
NM to Grandaughter- What were you studying? It must be difficult.
Grandaughter- No Gran, I was skyping my friend, she’s got a new boyfriend.
Everyone except NM- laughs and laughs
Partners mother- It’s so nice that we can all sit down and laugh together. Team agrees.
NM completely out of her depth, pale watery eyes look round again.
OK, so NM managed to get our waiter to do lots of explaining about the menu, some fuss between the English and the German version. Her pocket dictionary was even out. She’s really just testing his patience. But that’s his job, his English is quite good and he was warned in advance.  I can feel myself getting angry, but my partner puts her hand on my arm.
Partner- He’s a really good waiter, his wife just had a baby and he needs the extra money, we’re lucky to have him. (All our team nod and smile)
NM (trying to cast doubt) - Well, if you really think so. (She hates him, it was her chance to show him up, to make us and the restaurant look bad)
End of meal, I invite waiter to sit down, introduce him to parents, partners mother asks him about baby.  Team do lots of OOOHs and AAAHs.
Partner to waiter- you must bring baby sometime soon so we can see her.
Partners Dad and surprisingly my Dad give waiter a big tip. NM smiles uncertainly, wonders why my Dad tipped the waiter. She now guesses she won’t rule the roost for the next 6 days, self pity is written all over face.  Yes, we’ve taken some time off to show them round, but NM will never have us alone and cornered. No, we won’t try to make her feel unwelcome, but we’ll keep her at arms length. She’s played mind games 3 times on the first day and we are all on amber alert. 
All her enablers are hundreds of miles away and enabler Dad will sense a bit of freedom, hide behind me and granddaughter a bit and play deaf to NM, she’ll have to repeat everything 3 or 4 times. This is bad for her, she can’t do ridicule and laugh alone.
So, did she enjoy the holiday to Germany? I asked, but only my Father answered, he thought it was a great time. We did all the right things, went to lots of interesting places, took hundreds of photo’s and sent them to enabler sister. They’ll go home and give enabler sister 2 completely different versions of the same situation, sister will look at the photo’s and continue living in her fuzzy gaslit strange world.


  1. Very interesting. You are fortunate to have a "team" on your side. I, unfortunately, have a NM and a NMIL, both with enabling dads. It was interesting to see how your dad takes his moments of "freedom". Both enabling dads do this too, when given the opportunity. And NMIL, always goes quiet and mopey when not on her own territory. She doesn't do well without home field advantage. It's like all the air gets sucked out of her and she hides beind her E-husband. My NM is always out of her depth and element. However, the result is she becomes like a caged animal, striking at any opportunity. She can be quite bitter, angry, and off-putting. Which then makes her worse.
    I'm glad you have such a lovely support system for yourself and your daughter.

  2. Hi Jessie. We're a team in lots of ways, we took the bar and restaurant over from them 14 years ago and bought them out 10 years ago , but we'd helped out before. Now they help out when it gets busy. They don't interfere, but we discuss lots of stuff.
    Things got intense when my daughter was 4 and got slapped by NM. I told girlfriend and family the whole truth about my upbringing, the plan of action was hatched and we've got better at it over the years. My girlfriends mother had had a great aunt who we now reckon was an extreme narcissist, but that's another story.

    NMs behaviour is slightly worse now in the restaurant (she hates the bar), now we are the owners, in her twisted mind, she owns me , so the restaurant too. That's why she only comes 1 week per year.

    You are right, they operate best on home ground, reminds me of the poem.
    Will you walk into my parlour, said the spider to the fly.

  3. I should also say that we're not perfect. We do have our arguments, partners father wants to spoil grandaughter too much, he's always giving her cash, whereas partner and mother are bit too strict with her. If the bar or restaurant is busy, that's when we get tetchy. But it's never long lasting.

    1. Well, I think that's the difference between "normal" dysfunction and narcissism. In discussing this with my husband, he sad "but all families have their problems." Yes, that is true. The difference is that other families CAN work through things. They can move beyond things. Everyone is respected, although opinions may be different. With my mom and MIL, no matter how hard I tried, it never got better. In fact, with my mom, the more I try, the worse she gets as she starts to bloat with her what she sees as weakness and power. It took me so long to figure this out. I could never work things out with these women. The only defense I had was to put up walls and I knew that wasn't right. I generally get along with lots of people, have always been respected in my work endeavors, and have good relationships with my extended family members. But with these women I could make no progress. It was either completely surrender and let them swallow me whole, or put myself up in a tower.
      By the way, what did you do when NM slapped your daughter? I would've came unglued.

  4. Yeah, we were visiting and NM produced a huge bag of hand me downs. I told her we didn't need anything. To her it was some strange way of making up for always buying clothes far too small. But she insisted and was trying to get Daughter to try them on, but she was resisting. Who wants to be stripped by a flustered unfriendly old woman.
    Anyway something was held up to her and daughter said it was smelly. NM lost it and lashed out. I went crazy and called NM an evil old bitch, used loads of bad language. Partner just stood there stunned. We grabbed Daughter, coats, and left, walked a few streets and stopped a taxi back to my friends house.
    I remember we never spoke a word for ages. My daughter was first, she said 'I'm sorry Daddy' We both told her she was a good girl, but she didn't look convinced. Partner phoned her parents, I could see her shaking. I'll never forget those shaking shoulders. When I touched her she cried. Daughter was hugging our legs, but was spirited away by best friends mother and wife to do something, I can't remember what.
    We never saw them for 2 years, but NM wrote a letter after 2 months, no apology of course, downplayed it, said she didn't really understand, just trying to do us a favour. I only went back 2 years later because my grandfather died, and I took my son from 1st marriage. He has no feelings for her at all.

    1. What a horrible situation for you all. I am so sorry that happened to your family, especially your poor little daughter. How frightening that must have been for her. All over some smelly old junk that she wanted to force you to take and be grateful for.

  5. It was a totally crap time. I felt bad that I'd exposed them to danger, I was also worried and a bit ashamed to tell partner all about NM. NM had never hit one of my kids before. Big daughter can't remember anything and she didn't really cry much at the time, shock probably.
    Almost as bad was having to explain my chidlhood to partner and everyone at my friends house. My ugly shameful past had just caught up with me. Even worse, I'd failed to protect the people that I loved.
    I'd always separated my life into two parts and my best friend and his wife looked a bit unbelieving, but his Mother didn't, we'd originally lived just a few houses away. She just kept pouring the whiskies and she was just so nice and kind to my partner. My partner was in a foreign country and her daughter had just been physically abused, best friends Mother understood this.

    Daughter had already fallen asleep on the couch and friends 12 year old daughter was stroking her hair.

    Next day we visited ostracised Aunt and she wanted us to call the police. She came out a few weeks later, was great fun, took over as a sort of Gran, even took her to my ex Wife's to see my son. They walked everywhere, well , my daughter skipped and skipped, told stories and sang songs all the way. We were passing them in the car, saw 2 umbrellas, a smaller brighter one bobbing up and down and they didn't want a lift, they liked walking, they said in unison. My old Aunt still laughs about it, we all do.

    Anyway, I had to explain to partners parents back home all over again. We could never put our finger on the problem, we just thought quick tempered and manipulating. Partners Mother came up with the formulas, distract, ask probing questions. But us 3 wanted no contact.

    1. That is so hard. I too have hid my "real" life from so many people. And even if I do tell someone, it's so hard for them to get past the "but she's still your mother/partner's mother and she loves you" crap. Or they just don't see how it's a death by a 1000 cuts. I've seen many of the unbelieving stares or the pitying glances like I'm some poor, bitter soul. "Get over it. They are your family. They will always be there for you." Sure. Cause they've always been there in the past. Even when I was minutes from dying during my first son's childbirth, nobody made it about me. It was all about them, their needs, their perceived slights. They weren't there then.
      One of the hardest things I struggle with is the grandparent issue. Their behavior is so slight that I could never fully explain it to anyone why I'm so fearful for my child. And going NC or drastically limiting contact would create some real havoc (mainly on husband's side and he'd also never agree to that.) Luckily, I've been able to limit NM a bit as she lives six hours away. Anyway, I would NEVER wish harm on my child, but sometimes I wish I had something more concrete like a slap to point people would quit looking at me like the world's worst daughter, denying the grandparents their "alone" time and "bonding" time. I so feel for you in your situation because how could you have foreseen the slap coming to protect your daughter, but you also know what a shrew she is, but you have pressure to maintain the "family" from society....all of that can sure make a person feel horrible.
      I am so glad you have somebody to support you. I love the image of the two umbrellas. I'm glad your daughter had someone like that in her life. I wish so desperately that my kids could have that fun "Gran".

  6. I agree NC is drastic. Even if FIL is an enabler at least he's human. I don't know, maybe set ground rules of do's and don'ts regarding your children. If she uses religion, encourage your children to question her ideas. You can always say it's healthy to question, that's why there was a reformation.

    We keep my parents busy , and when they are ready to sit down, we leave them alone. Our daughter always has friends round, another good idea to prevent that one to one contact. Lots of screaming wild kids, then leave Grandparents to it.

    Yeah, old Aunty is great, she always was. Still don't know why NM hates her, impossible to get a straight answer.

    1. yes, I definitely think NC can be drastic, and cut you (and your family) off from a lot of people who shouldn't have to pay the penance. But, that requires that the ACON be strong enough and the narc be somewhat civil.
      I've come to conclude that, while my children are little, contact will be limited and supervised (for the most part). I also strive to maintain a relationship with my kids that they feel comfortable in telling me anything and that anything that makes them uncomfortable can be shared with me and my husband. And should anything truly drastic and damaging happen, a re-evaluation will be in order. But, I think that my kids are going to encounter lots of nasty people in life. And right now, I'm there to help guide them in a way to deal with these people in a way to protect themselves.

  7. Hi Jessie

    Don't wish for drastic, nobody benefits from that. Kids should have nice memories. They will meet nasty assholes in life. Kids have to be a little bit tough, know right from wrong too, in themselves and recognise it in others.
    Some of my best memories are from tough situations that I got through with army buddies.
    Nobody is perfect and you can't expect perfection from others. I'm in the bad books myself actually, probably why I just said that.

  8. I had to go NC. I tried LC, fairly frequent contact via email, but it just was too much and no one enjoyed being around my parents anyways. It's no great loss, to be honest. I never had much positive from them anyway. Just a big fat black hole trying to suck the joy out of everything.

  9. Dave
    Honestly the ganging up and emotional lynch mob mentality of the first scene with your NM at the dinner table made me profoundly uncomfortable.

    So familiar, that tar and feathering especially if you're in the scapegoat role no matter how nice, honorable, accomplished or successful you are. Disgusting, dispicable treatment
    .If you stand up to them, then you're still the sick, angry one in their minds.

    Glad you got up and left.
    The second scenario just seems exhausting, A relationship with a narcissist is like being on a Stairmaster.

    Glad you found something that works for you, but I get tired of all that shadowboxing.

    Thanks for your blog and your insight and awareness.