Trying to make sense of why...

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acc1984

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Trying to make sense of why...
« on: October 24, 2019, 04:10:17 PM »
I haven't been on here for a while. Sometimes too much exposure to all of this makes my anxiety crazy and I have to take a break. But we've had a few issues lately, one in particular, that have been incredibly upsetting. I've talked before about my DH's BPDxw and the way she uses their 4 children to control and manipulate everyone. Literally uses them as weapons to hurt him. DSD15 seems to be fairly immune to it, or has at least learned how to use it to her advantage because she tends to stay out of the back and forth. BPDxw is always able to get the boys extremely worked up, however. Currently the oldest (who just turned 18) didn't graduate from high school and we haven't heard from him in almost 4 months (we're assuming he's still living with her but we don't know). After DSS18 left BM tried to poke at DSD15 a little bit but that didn't really go anywhere. Now she's working on the youngest two (DSS10 and DSS13). Here is the one that really has us shaken up.

DSS10 recently starting going to an activity with one of his best friends. It's a great group of kids, and parents and we were really excited he wanted to join as he can be pretty timid about that kind of thing. We took him a few times on our weeks and when he decided to commit DH emailed BPDxw and told her he wanted to participate in this activity. She didn't respond until the kids were back over at her house when she said "He told me he doesn't want to do it so I'm not going to make him."

This is something that has happened MANY times. With DSS10 and the others as well. She has never attempted to get them involved in any sort of extra curricular activity and when we do she absolutely sabotages it. She did the same thing to DSS18 when he had an opportunity to shadow DH at a work event that would have been an incredible experience for him. "He told me he doesn't want to go and he feels like you're pressuring him so I'm not going to force him." Ugh.

So anyway, we decided to continue taking DSS10 to this activity on our time and even though we hated it, he would just have to miss on her weeks. Well recently there was an overnight trip he was very excited about. I took him to the activity that week and they spent the entire time talking about this trip. He didn't realize it was on his mom's week because he kept turning around and mouthing things to me excitedly about getting to go. As we were walking out and he was chatting away about it I said "You know buddy, this trip is on your mom's weekend." He immediately got quiet and stopped talking. Then said "Well maybe I can ask her if I can go?" I told him I thought that was a great idea. I was really proud of him because the boys will RARELY stand up for themselves. They know she doesn't want to be bothered or won't support things we initiate so they don't even ask most of the time.

We talked him up and told him that if his mom knew how much fun he was having and how great it was, surely she would be so happy he wanted to go! We took any inconvenience out of it and offered to pick him up and drop him off, etc. Hoping to remove all barriers to a "yes." He called her and for some reason had the phone on speaker so we could hear most of the conversation even though he was in the other room. This is how it went:

DSS10: There's a trip next weekend, your weekend, and I wanted to know if I could go. Dad can take me so you don't have to drive me anywhere.

BM: You DO? (The tone was immediately negative)

DSS10: Yes, I would like to go. (He went on to tell her a little bit about it)

BM: Okay, I don't care if you go, I just need your dad to send me the information (This seemed too good to be true, and it was. She was setting it up so she was the "good guy." and could say that she said yes then turn it around and blame it on DSS)

Then she started asking him if he was okay?

BM: What's wrong, are you alright?

DSS10: Yes, I'm fine.

BM: Are you sure? It sounds like something is wrong? Are you okay?

DSS10: Yes, I'm fine! (He was starting to get a little anxious sounding, at this point)

He eventually took her off of speaker phone but I could tell by his responses exactly where the conversation was going. That woman asked him no less than 15 times if he was okay and by the end of it he was clearly really upset and confused. I'm a grown adult and if someone asked me that many times I'd probably start wondering if I was actually okay by the end of it too!!

You can probably guess what happened from there. He started crying and she began asking him things like "Do you feel like you're being pressured to go? Are you afraid you're going to get in trouble if you go? Are you afraid they're going to be mad at you?" He tried to keep it together but he started sobbing, clearly really upset and probably really confused. I didn't hear the rest of the conversation because I had to walk outside to keep it together. But when he hung up he told DH that he didn't really want to go and he felt like he was being pressured into it. This is NOT a phase that kid would have said on his own.

I'm shaking right now just thinking about it. I've never in my life experienced anything like that. How in the WORLD can a parent brainwash their child like that ONLY to hurt the other parent.

She sent DH a text message that said "He got really upset on the phone and said he doesn't want to go and feels like he's being pressured into it. I told him he didn't have to and that he could stay with me at the house." DH's response was "Hmm, yeah, super weird because he was really excited about this trip all week. I can't imagine what could have happened to make him so upset." I don't know if she got the dig or not.

I'm starting to feel really defeated. We've tried really hard to pick our battles, consider what she's trying to get out of poking at something (conflict) and do everything we can to grey rock and avoid it. But I don't know how we're ever going to be able to accept that she's sabotaging these kids' futures. The oldest didn't even graduate from high school! I'm scared to death that she's going to get in the way of the others going to college and being in any way successful.

Did she do this because she was mad that she wasn't in control? Or was it that she wants to keep them out of any exposure they have to normal, good people?! Because then the kids will find out that she's NOT normal or okay? I'm trying to make sense of it in any way I can but I don't think it will ever add up. This is the same kid we had to go to court over because he was dyslexic and she fought him going to a summer tutoring program that we fully paid for and transported him to because "It cuts into my time with him."

I can deal with her accusations and threats but I don't know how we're going to make it 8 more years watching her systematically dismantle these kids' futures.

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Penny Lane

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Re: Trying to make sense of why...
« Reply #1 on: October 24, 2019, 05:44:23 PM »
Oh man. I am so sorry. We have seen this too. And watching brainwashing happen in real time is like watching the kid get stabbed in the heart, it's always heartbreaking.

We had almost the exact same thing happen over the summer. BM was (in violation of right of first refusal) bringing the kids to her parents' house every day even though DH was home all day. She refused to discuss any camps at all with H, so he signed them up for a few one-day activities on his time. The kids come back from this activity and they LOVE it. They want to go the next day, which is her day. BEGGED Dh to ask her if they could go.

So he messages her and says, hey, the kids really want to go tomorrow, here's the website, if you sign them up I'll even drive them there. She IMMEDIATELY calls them. "So do you want to do this? Are you sure? OK, well I will try to make it happen, but it's really up to your dad. He needs to tell me some stuff, like the cost." The SECOND she said "cost" the kids' whole demeanor changed. As soon as they got off the phone they said they changed their mind, they don't want to go.

It really devastated me to see how quickly she can make them change their mind, without even saying that she wants them to do so. Clearly they knew that there would be repercussions if she had to spend any money at all on extracurriculars for them. That day (like every other day) they went to her parents' house and watched TV when they could've been at STEM camp.

So then H sent her a message to let her know that the kids had changed their minds. SHE HAD THE GALL TO BLAME IT ON HIM. She asked what he thought "they" could have done differently to make this not happen. And he straight up told her - you discouraged him when you brought up money. He should not have to worry about that sort of thing and yet he carries incredible stress about it.

I'm still kind of mad about this. The kids were soooo excited when they got on the phone and soooo bummed when they got off.

It sucks. It sounds like BM won this round, so to speak. But what you're doing and your husband is doing really does make a difference. Hopefully as the kids get older - and especially the younger ones, who've had years of stability with you guys from an earlier age - they will be able to speak up for what they believe in, even to their mom. Hang in there, you're doing the right things.


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Stepping lightly

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Re: Trying to make sense of why...
« Reply #2 on: October 24, 2019, 06:30:40 PM »
Yep- happens here too.  BM uses the "are you ok, you don't sound happy" phrase to completely content and happy children, and it is super annoying.  I hate when people do it to me, when someone repeatedly asks if I am ok, I'm like "alright, do I not appear ok, because I clearly feel ok and you keep asking if I AM ok, which makes me not feel so ok because I don't want to not look ok when I am feeling quite OK".

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athene1399

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Re: Trying to make sense of why...
« Reply #3 on: October 25, 2019, 08:39:10 AM »
One of the few times SD decided she still wanted to go home with us on our night after one of her chorus concerts at the school (she would normally ditch us to go home with BPD BM), BM would not stop asking her is she was "OK" and "are you sure you're ok?" IMO it's a projection thing. The PD parent is not ok with it, so they assume the kid must not be. I just hate how they don't drop it. Someone should only have to answer the "are you ok" question once. If you say "no" and you aren't ok, then you aren't ready to talk about it so the person asking should stop pressuring. If you answer "no" and you are ok, then no need to ask again. 

I also feel part of it is the PD parent thinks they know best. They think they know inside the kid's head better than the kid themselves (like that whole enmeshment, "you are an extension of me" thing). It is scary and disheartening to see the type of control the PD parent has on the kids. And if you try to actively fight it or say anything about it, I feel that may make things more confusing for the kids IMO. It leads us to feel "stuck" of "helpless" in these situations, when we have no real way to make it work out on the PD parent's time. :(

But I would think one day they will learn how to be assertive. I think it just takes time. But it's good that DSS10 gets to do fun stuff on your time. And even if he lets BM talk him out of this trip/activity, I feel deep down he really knows he likes doing it. I think one day it starts to click. And maybe next time the weekend trip will be on your time. :)

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D.Dan

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Re: Trying to make sense of why...
« Reply #4 on: October 25, 2019, 09:27:52 AM »
My uPD mom would do this to me and my siblings during our childhoods, and both her and my ex did this to me as an adult. So it didn't stop when I was grown.

What it always felt like/seemed like to me was, they wanted a specific answer from me and they were going to ask me the same question, over and over, until they got it.

The answer? It was "I'm angry!"

They usually wanted that answer in order to deny me whatever I was asking for, as a punishment. "Well, since you're so mad! Then we won't go!" Or "FINE! I won't help you then!"

But yes, the build up until I gave them the answer they wanted was always very upsetting. Especially since I'm fighting the whole time to remain calm and not get angry. And a lot of people don't understand the whole, " mom wouldn't stop asking me what was wrong! And nothing was wrong! So, I got... mad..." kids can't really describe this aggressive form of gas-lighting. It's easy to get the "she probably didn't mean it that way" or "are you sure you were talking nicely (or some other such nonsense that essentially blamed me for the whole thing)?"

I've learned since that I can derail the interrogation for an angry response by asking, "why are you trying to make me angry/upset?" Which is, of course denied but then I followed up with, "it's obvious you're trying to upset me because I was perfectly happy until you started telling me I was upset/wouldn't accept my answer of being fine. Stop it."

I wouldn't really advise this though because as a child, I couldn't pinpoint what exactly made me upset during these interrogations, and I would be punished for saying such oppositional things against my parent. And she also pulled the whole, "well now I'M upset/angry!" so she won her little battle anyway.

 I was only able to say these things as an adult.

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cant turn back

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Re: Trying to make sense of why...
« Reply #5 on: October 26, 2019, 05:28:36 PM »
ACC1984,
Iím so sorry, my heart breaks for those boys.  What mother would ever purposefully put their children through this?  To what gain?  So selfish and cowardly.  DESPICABLE!!!
On the bright side, Iím so glad your DSD15 sees through it.  Hopefully one or both of those younger brothers will eventually get it as well.

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inLovebutTired

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Re: Trying to make sense of why...
« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2019, 04:40:34 PM »
gosh, so hard to read this. But so helpful to know my feelings are shared Ė how the hell does this happen. How do people like the one you described sleep at night knowing what they have done to their own children? I cannot imagine how this can go on for years, and yet I know it does for so many people. I am so sorry, baffled; my partner's PD-ex-w would at times respond directly with a "fuck you" to her 8y/o kid when he expressed desire not to do something. He would wet his bed. How do these parents live with themselves. Wish I had good advice, or better words to support anyone in this situation.

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acc1984

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Re: Trying to make sense of why...
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2019, 01:49:33 PM »
Thank you all for your kind and helpful responses. Listening to that happen to DSS10 was so incredibly upsetting and so crazy that you just think it has to be the one and only time someone has done something that selfish and manipulative to their own child. Although it's still awful, it's somehow weirdly comforting to know that we're not alone.

DH has some theories, one being that because PD's and NPD's are so selfish that (as we know) she gets her identity and her energy from others. And when she's using the kids for that identity and they express interest in doing something she didn't initiate it somehow takes part of that identity away, maybe? I'm sure a mental health professional could give me a cleaned up explanation of that.

I forgot to mention in my first post that DSS10 immediately fell asleep after the phone call (it was the middle of the afternoon on a Saturday) but I think it must have really stressed him out. He got up later and finished the day, seeming okay. But in the middle of that night he woke up and threw up. For no reason. We hadn't eaten anything funny and he didn't have a fever or upset stomach. I can't help but think it has got to be stress and anxiety building up in his little body. He's always kind of done that (randomly getting sick and vomiting) and I thought it was weird but many of those nights coincide with altercations with BM so I can't imagine what else it could be!

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athene1399

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Re: Trying to make sense of why...
« Reply #8 on: October 31, 2019, 09:41:35 AM »
Quote
DH has some theories, one being that because PD's and NPD's are so selfish that (as we know) she gets her identity and her energy from others. And when she's using the kids for that identity and they express interest in doing something she didn't initiate it somehow takes part of that identity away, maybe?
I think he's on to something here. I think enmeshment helps them to have an identity. I also think (more on the NPD side) they may like feeling that they know everything there is to know about someone. So when them knowing best isn't fitting, they don't like that. It probably really is an issue more so when it's over the kids wanting to do something she knows you guys suggested. it probably feels to her that the kids are taking your side over hers, and I bet that hurts her so she keeps asking until the kids agree with her again. Maybe them doing something you guys suggested equals "the kids hate me" in her mind (like that black-and-white thinking).

Who knows for sure. I bet even she doesn't understand why she does it.

I'm sorry it makes DSS so sick. :( Poor kid.

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Penny Lane

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Re: Trying to make sense of why...
« Reply #9 on: October 31, 2019, 10:56:42 AM »
Oh my gosh that poor kid with the vomiting.

Yeah I think your husband nailed it. Also, at least for our BM, not only does she not want the kids to do the activities that DH suggests (even though they're what the kids want) she also doesn't want them to spend any time at all with him. So her kneejerk is to say no, partially because she doesn't want the kids doing stuff that wasn't her idea but also because she doesn't want them to have a chance to get quality time with their dad. (With our BM there's a third reason which is that any money she spends on the kids is money she can't spend on herself. But it sounds like your BM is not on the hook financially here).

It's really messed up and is in no way looking out for their best interests! I find it incredibly upsetting too.

We try really hard to make sure the kids get opportunities to do stuff like this. Sports, scouts, going to before and after school events - having that kind of enrichment and social interaction is so good for them. They really thrive being part of those communities. I'm glad your SS gets the chance to do this with you as much as his mom might try to disrupt it.