Out of the FOG

Coping with Personality Disorders => Dealing with PD In-Laws => Topic started by: gettingstronger1 on July 03, 2019, 01:49:59 PM

Title: How to help a spouse who is coming Out of the FOG
Post by: gettingstronger1 on July 03, 2019, 01:49:59 PM
How do you help a spouse who is slowly coming Out of the FOG about their dysfunctional mother?  He is aware that his mother has problems and he has come a long way in the last six months.  The problem is that he still has problems recognizing inappropriate and sometimes abusive behavior.  He doesn't like to use the term "emotional abuse" because he feels it is too stigmatizing and she does have periods of time when she can be very loving.  My DH deals with his mother's dysfunctional behavior by mostly ignoring it.  If she becomes to offensive he gently confronts and she never takes him seriously.  She then continues the same controlling behavior.

Please feel free to read my other post for more details on the situation.   https://www.outofthefog.net/forum/index.php?topic=80275.0

My second question is about confronting someone about their abusive behavior.  It is very important to me to behave with integrity and fairness. I also feel it is very important to set healthy boundaries for behavior.  When I confronted my MIL about her behavior I had some hard truths to reveal to her.  I tried to speak calmly, directly and firmly.  I think she felt I was being harsh because I had to tell her hard truths about her behavior.  The main thing I confronted MIL about was her controlling behavior.  She took great offense to this. No one had ever told her the truth before and I think she felt it was harsh.  My question is how to confront someone with hard truths but not come across as being too harsh or a total attack on her person.  Like I mentioned earlier, she does have some good qualities.   I ran into this problem when I confronted my own PD mother about her abusive behavior.  I told my PD mother the truth. I told her she was emotionally abusive.  She and my FOO could not handle the term "emotional abuse" and in turn conducted a smear campaign against me. So at any rate how do you confront in truth without sounding harsh?  My belief is that the truth must be told even if it is hard to hear.  I am not willing to keep family secrets any longer.  Thanks for any help in answering these two questions.
Title: Re: How to help a spouse who is coming Out of the FOG
Post by: all4peace on July 04, 2019, 01:06:11 PM
Hi, gettingstronger1--as I read through your post, if I'm reading it accurately, it seems that the phrase "emotionally abusive" is tough for your PDm, PDmil and  your DH to take. Might I suggest  finding another way of describing what you're seeing instead?

I wonder if describing the behavior might make it easier to hear than labeling it.
I also think this could be a boundary issue. If I tell my own uNBPDm that she's emotionally abusive, I'm in effect name calling without offering much useful information.
If, instead, I tell her that I have a hard time feeling safe with someone who will not stop lying, it's me simply stating my own boundaries. I don't like lying, and I don't trust people who lie, and because my M lies nonstop we don't have a basis for relationship.

Just my opinion. It's so hard to know how to deal with these behaviors, and no matter how we confront them it may not go well.
Title: Re: How to help a spouse who is coming Out of the FOG
Post by: gettingstronger1 on July 04, 2019, 01:55:52 PM

Thank you for responding. I appreciate your feedback.  I guess I need to clarify the situation.  When I confronted my PD mom ten years ago I did use the term “emotionally abusive.”  In my letter to her I gave her 4 concrete examples of her emotional abuse.

When my DH and I spoke to my MIL the other day, we used the term “inappropriate behavior “ and we gave her several concrete examples. I knew the term would be hard for her to hear so I purposely did not use the term “emotional abuse.”  I hope that clarifies the story a little. I appreciate your thoughts and the suggestion to use examples.  You are right in that giving concrete examples gives the PD person an understanding of exact behavior instead of vague generalizations they won’t remember.
Title: Re: How to help a spouse who is coming Out of the FOG
Post by: Bloomie on July 04, 2019, 03:49:45 PM
gettingstronger1 - so tough to be dealing with all of this.

In my own marriage the only thing, one and only thing that "helped" my DH come OOTF and come to terms with how unhealthy his family system that orbited around two uPD family members whose behaviors were a serious problem, was to say how I felt/what I needed/what I saw one time to him and then zip my lips and give him space to come to his own conclusions and be on the front lines of dealing with their behaviors.

I took myself completely out of the line of fire. I no longer try and be a part of communicating to my uPDmil or uPDsil how their behaviors are not working for us as a family. I no longer go on extended family vacations because of all of the toxic and manipulative icky stuff that goes on that hurts us and our kids. I am my DH's wife and I support him and my FOC in their relationships with these uPD folks.

I stand with my DH, we find a way forward together, but I am not the spokesperson for our family or the mediator or the go between or the one trying to find a palatable way to express to unrepentant, often out of control, persistently resistant people that they are threatening the very life of their relationships with us with their unmanaged offensive behaviors.

In my own case, they did not have ears to hear. 🙉 🙈🙊 They have been enabled in their distortions for decades and like things just exactly like they are.

They have actually said in response to our kindly and carefully expressed confrontation of their behaviors and a how deeply hurtful those behaviors are and to our attempts to find common ground and a way to live together as a family with mutual regard and respect, to try and rebuild trust between us... "I have no desire to sit and listen to you talk about things I have done wrong. I like who I am. I am a good person. I am not going to change for anyone and I hope someday you can enjoy being around me." :upsidedown:

I actually found this to be quite the gift to be honest because it was said with a level of high bravado and as a cry of self liberty and expressed the mistaken underlying belief of this particular uPD family member that they could continue say and do whatever they want to in the name of being who they are and yes, sometimes they might hurt us, but they have never intentionally hurt anyone in their lives and if it is unintentional then the problem is ours.

Your mil has most likely not come out and say she will not change for anyone, but has she shown you that consistently over time? Would talking with her and addressing things again specifically, couching it a bit differently, not using certain phrases and triggering words really bring peace, resolution, reconciliation? Would it be productive? Is it a good use of your time and emotional energy?

One way of refusing the generational secret keeping and toxic paradigms is to live out your truth and confront things in the moment and quickly move on. A way of speaking the truth is to refuse triangulation, gossip, smearing, manipulations, etc. to commit to consistent messages in our interactions and to work toward letting go of bitterness. And to take responsibility to control what we can and that is possibly to limit our exposure to these family events that seem to bring out the manipulative, mean-spirited controlling nature of our mils. The less lovely side.

I have been a student of my own uPDmil and I have learned what circumstances she is at her best and that is when I strategically engage with her in general. When she is in my domain.. my home.. and crosses a line and is behaving offensively, because even on her very best day she is going to behave offensively, I step firmly out of my default neutral MC and address it and step right back into neutral and carry on and refuse to engage about the issue further.

When it is an issue within my DH's sphere of responsibility I support. I am a cool cucumber and these are not my family members. I hope that differentiation makes sense. It has really helped me to figure out what is mine to do in all of this.

I guess in a nutshell.. I have learned we don't have to take on educating, convincing, expressing things just right, helping them be better humans when they have never shown an iota of interest in what we have to say or how we are experiencing them.

There is a wise man who started this amazing site name eclipse who says something like this: "When someone treats you good 90% of the time and poorly 10% of the time you feel bad 100% of the time."

Our uPD family members may/do have good qualities and be able to be loving at times, but part of what makes this all so painful is that we see they are able to be better people, kinder, more loving at times - usually for us it is when there is an audience or things are going their way or they want something - and we can hold two experiences of people to be true at the same time - that they can be loving people and they are so broken they are sadly not safe for us to be in close connection with because they refuse to manage themselves differently.
Title: Re: How to help a spouse who is coming Out of the FOG
Post by: Cat of the Canals on July 04, 2019, 04:19:36 PM
To answer your first question, I think you have to let your husband come out at his own pace and in his own way. I see you addressed this above in terms of your MIL, but if your husband also rankles at the term "emotional abuse," then I would stop using it about him or to him, in regards to his FOO. (I'm guessing it makes him a little defensive. I can understand this to some degree. It took me a long time to come to terms with the behavior of my own parents as "abuse" since it wasn't physical. I also wanted to cling to that whole idea that "they really do love me, though.")

Encourage him to talk about specific incidents. Example: My PD MIL is obsessed with the state of our lawn and never misses an opportunity to comment on the grass needing to be mowed. It is often the first thing out of her mouth when she comes to visit, always with a snide, judgmental tone. I know this bothers my husband, so afterward, I might ask, "Did it bother you when she commented on the lawn like that?"

If he's upset about it, he'll probably be relieved to be able to vent a little. Keep the focus on letting him talk about his feelings, if and when he wants to.

My answer to your second question - how to confront her without being harsh or attacking - is to ask if you felt you were harsh or attacking? My guess is no, since you said you were calm and direct.

I think a rephrased version of your question might be: How do I confront her without her thinking I am being harsh or attacking her?

The answer is, you can't. You can only control your behavior. You can't control her behavior or her reaction.

Given the way you described her reaction in your other thread, I would be surprised if she were able to handle any sort of confrontation or boundary-setting like a rational adult:

Her response was to become extremely angry even though we spoke calmly and firmly to her.  She said she would do and say whatever she wanted in her house and with her family.  She them attacked my character and told me that she was ending her relationship with me.  She then left the room in a huff not hearing a thing we said.

"You can't make me!" "I can do what I want!" These are the words of someone with the maturity of a 7-year-old. No magic concoction of calm, direct words are going to transform her into a mature adult. She is who she is.

And she is telling you that she will never respect ANY OF YOUR BOUNDARIES in her own home. (And honestly, probably out of her home, as well.) And she's right. You can't force her to do anything. But you can change your behavior to better protect yourself and your family. In most cases this will probably mean restricting her access to you (so she can't continue to abuse you).

If this were me, the confrontation you already had would lead me to setting up a whole slew of shiny new boundaries:

Boundary #1: I will leave the room if someone can't speak calmly to me. If I'm trying to have a calm discussion with her, and she reacts by being "extremely angry," I will calmly state the boundary and the consequence. If she continues, I enact the consequence.

ME: I will not discuss this with you unless you can speak calmly to me.
ME: *leaves the room* or *hangs up the phone* or *some other action that clearly shows the consequence in action*

Boundary #2: If she is prepared to "say and do whatever she wants in her house" with no regard for my boundaries, then I will not stay at her house. From now on, we will stay in a hotel when we visit.***

In this case, this is sort of a boundary and consequence rolled into one. You already stated a boundary, and she told you flat out that she will not respect it. The consequence is that you will not stay in her home if that is her attitude.

You can, of course, explain the consequence, if you so choose. I don't feel a need to explain my boundaries over and over again to repeat offenders. So I'd personally go with something like this:
ME: I just wanted to let you know that we'll be staying at the Holiday Inn when we come to visit.
HER: Don't be silly! Of course you'll stay with us.
ME: No, we've already made the reservation, but thank you. So how about this weather? Have you been getting all of this non-stop rain?

But if you wanted to be crystal clear...
ME: I just wanted to let you know that we'll be staying at the Holiday Inn when we come to visit.
HER: Don't be silly! Of course you'll stay with us.
ME: No, we won't. I asked you last time not to do XYZ, and you told me you would do whatever you wanted in your own home. Therefore, if you won't respect my boundaries in your home, I won't stay there.
(And now we go right into the Boundary #1 example, right?)
ME: I will not continue this discussion unless you can speak calmly to me.
ME: *hangs up the phone and cancels hotel reservations, because I refuse to allow someone to treat me this way over and over and over again, despite clearly-stated boundaries and consequences*

Personally, I would consider not even going to her home at all, given her attitude above. You can conduct your visits at the park, zoo, restaurants, etc., but if she's going to use her home as an excuse to treat you like crap, then DON'T GO THERE.

On the other hand, you might use the hotel as a trial run. Can she behave now that you've set a boundary and given a consequence? If not, then like I said, I'd consider only interacting with her outside of her home. If she can't behave in public, I'd stop visiting altogether.

***I wanted to point out here that you can make boundaries for you and your children, but not necessarily for your husband. (He has to make his own.) If my husband didn't like the idea of not staying at his parents' house during a visit, I would tell him, "That's fine. You are welcome to stay there, but me and the kids will be staying at the hotel."
Title: Re: How to help a spouse who is coming Out of the FOG
Post by: treesgrowslowly on July 04, 2019, 08:30:49 PM
Given how insightful people are on these boards, I knew without a doubt that someones post within the first 10, would explain why the answer to your 2nd question is "you can't".

Narcissistic people don't process information the way non PDs do. They just don't. They don't see their behaviours as the problem. They just don't.

"Am I the problem here?" There's 5 words a Narcissistic person doesn't ever believe.

 They don't want to change themselves. I've seen them lose wives, husbands, children, jobs, and none of it sends them to the self help book section or the therapist chair. Instead, all their targets and discards are in those places, trying to figure out what happened or prevent it from ever happening again.

My answer to your first question...

No one could make me see my parents were narcissists. It takes time to come to terms with the reality- that love and narcissistic supply are two very different things.

Most of us went through hell to avoid the wrath or abuse of the person who insisted that their controlling ways were "love".

I think adult children of narcissists have endured some of the most invisible forms of abuse that can exist. Coming OOTF is a journey. Narcissistic abuse leaves no physical scar and instead takes a child's need to love and hijacks it.

No child has the ability to defend against this and it is after our own childhood is long gone, never to be had again, that we get told that we were with a narcissist the whole time and that's why our bond to them is so painful.

It's very hard to come to terms with that as the adult child of a narcissist. It does happen though. Obviously. This website is proof. 

And there is a grief because it can feel like a death of sorts. The beliefs we had about this person die, and we have to face reality. Very hard. More invisible loss. Therapy can help your spouse no matter where he's at with coming OOTF. Therapists by now are mostly well versed in the reality that many families are run by PDs and / or Narcs.

My guess is that the average therapist would be in the job less thsn a year before encountering someone who is the target of Emotional abuse. It's what they are trained to deal with, and sadly, emotional abuse is more common than we would think. Its still so hidden...

Emotional abusers know how to hide their anti social behaviours. It's shocking really- if they are good at hiding it why can't they use that skill to change instead? Rhetorical question there...

I would find a counsellor that can support the work you're doing to have boundaries. Emotional abuse is invisible to the average person perhaps but not to the average therapist.
Title: Re: How to help a spouse who is coming Out of the FOG
Post by: gettingstronger1 on July 06, 2019, 06:03:02 PM
Thank you to everyone who responded. There were many good suggestions that I have been thinking about and plan to use in the future.  I liked the suggestion about staying in a motel. My MIL won’t like it, but it is really best for everyone involved. It will give us some personal space and the house won’t be so over crowded which causes everyone a lot of stress.  My MIL’s house is about 60 years old. There is no central air upstairs where we stay so we roast when we are there. They are wealthy and could afford air conditioning. The toilets don’t work well and many bugs came in the window and got on me at night so a hotel would be much better. My DH even agreed to a hotel and shortened trips in the future.  Even though it was very hard to do, I am proud that DH and I set boundaries with MIL.  It brought DH and I closer together. If my MIL has poor behavior, it will be easier to set the boundary and leave quickly if we don’t have to pack our suitcases at her house. We can quickly go with as little drama as possible, and then pack our suitcases in the privacy of our hotel.

At any rate, we are finally driving 14 hours home today.  I am grateful I now understand MIL’s true colors and will be better able to protect myself in the future.

An interesting side note is that my SIL stated her mom probably has a DSM 5 diagnosis, but she didn’t say which one.  I am trying to decide if it is rude to ask her which diagnosis she thinks her mother has, but I think I missed my window of opportunity.
Title: Re: How to help a spouse who is coming Out of the FOG
Post by: all4peace on July 08, 2019, 12:51:17 PM
Such great points above!

I agree that certain personalities are not able to hear what we're actually saying.
I still find value in learning to communicate with dignity and respect for myself and others.
At some point, per long therapy regarding this subject, we may need to stop talking or become a broken record because (as mentioned above) someone has already made it clear that they are unable or unwilling to hear.

My first suggestion was along the lines of making sure we're taking care of our side of the conversation, even if we have very good reasons to believe the other person still won't get it.

I love that your Dh is willing for boundaries and changes that make your time more tolerable--that's wonderful progress! And wow about your SIL's comment!
Title: Re: How to help a spouse who is coming Out of the FOG
Post by: gettingstronger1 on July 09, 2019, 01:07:45 AM

Thanks for the compliment of my DH.  We had a heart to heart talk again after we got home from the trip.  It went well.  I about fell out of my chair when my DH told me "You probably really did my family a favor."  DH was referencing my confrontation with his mother.  No one had ever done it before.  His siblings and father had been in many arguments and shouting matches with MIL, but no one had ever really set a boundary with her and let her know our family would leave if she did it again.  The whole thing has been a learning experience for both of us.  One thing that really helps our situation is that I give my husband positive feedback when he is making progress on coming Out of the FOG. It seems to really help him when I recognize his progress and empathize with how hard it must be to do.  I remember well how painful it was for me, 10 -15 years ago when I was coming Out of the FOG about my dysfunctional FOO.  Thanks for all the great feedback.     :)