Looking for advice on how to resume contact with new boundaries

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Quilt

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I know this is really long and detailed and maybe confusing to outside readers but I am so desperate for advice. I would love to get some replies to this. I have a therapist but therapists don't give advice! I would love opinions as I choose what to do next in my journey trying to protect myself and my boundaries.


My stepmom is only formally diagnosed with depression and she takes an antidepressant but doesn't go to therapy. She is very pushy, very needy, and always trying to make me feel guilty for not seeing her enough. My baby and the pandemic made this 100x worse. She acts completely oblivious to my physical and emotional boundaries even though I have told her my boundaries so many times. (for example, that I don't like hugs or being touched in general really, that I didn't want to see people until they're vaccinated, etc).

We have a long ugly history. It's not JUST the things that have happened this year. I met her when I was 12, then had to move in with her and my dad at 16 when my mom died.
 It has been constant power trips and guilt trips and goading me into blowing up as a defense mechanism and then making me feel guilty for getting mad, all sorts of different weird unique conflicts, some culminating in me blowing up trying to defend myself, and some in me just silently enduring the feeling of disrespect.

This year though, we had a few main things happen. She sent me and my friend nasty texts/FB messages when she found out that they threw a 3-person surprise baby shower for me and didn't invite her. This is a friend who she has met maybe one time and always gets her name wrong when I'm talking about my life.

Then I endured a year of her pressuring me to let her hold my newborn, promising to wear a mask then taking it off, telling me all about all the salons and restaurants and friends' houses she would go to while hovering over my baby's face, then wondering why I stopped making in-person plans with her and acting all hurt and dejected that I kept saying I wasn't comfortable socializing anymore due to the pandemic getting worse.

She "forgot" that my SO's mother was fighting cancer...even though I have talked about it multiple times. I really can't tell if she genuinely forgot or was just playing dumb when I brought it up recently saying that we had been stressed and upset about it. I also don't know which is worse, if she forgot or was just acting like she forgot.

And then sent me an accusatory, woe-is-me text about how his family "always comes first" because I had mentioned that we saw his mom before a big surgery she had recently.
I don't feel I need to explain myself or my actions, and I ignored her texts playing the victim and making me a bad guy, but the context is that I had told her I would see her again when her and my dad got vaxxed. She was not vaxxed yet. My SO's mom was fully vaxxed, and was about to have major surgery, so she wanted to see her granddaughter. I was very upset that my stepmom felt like she had the right to criticize me over texts and tell me I was being hurtful to her because of this.

I saw her and my dad 2 weekends in a row as soon as she was vaccinated. She was "nice" both times but covertly rude and not accommodating to the baby, although she is SO obsessed with the baby, she ignored my request for a towel to put on the grass outside. She let her dog jump up on me and the baby and nip my baby's foot, and then laughed at me for being concerned about the dog's behavior. I want to keep listing every weird, rude thing, but I just feel this is so longwinded, sorry!!  After I left she posted on FB a stupid meme about how when children come over they should be locked up in a crate while the dogs roam free. But also texted me saying how she LOVED LOVED LOVED seeing me and the baby and how her heart was so full or whatever. It all feels so STRANGE and icky to me whenever I see her.

A few days after my 2nd visit in May, she texted me asking me to come over again the next weekend. Which would be 3 weekends in a row. I genuinely had plans, so I nicely said I have plans! I would expect a regular friend or family member to then say something like, okay, let me know when you'd like to get together again, enjoy your weekend! But she then texted me back saying WELL then she expects me to come over the next weekend because it's father's day. And they have plans this day so I need to come the other day. I couldn't believe it.

After a whole year of me constantly trying to push back, enforce my boundaries, not allow her to speak to me in a mean way, not respond when she tries to guilt me and bully me into plans, she still thinks she can text me telling me what to do and when to do it because what SHE wants is the most important thing in the world. HER feelings are the only ones that matter.

I blocked her number without even answering her text about father's day weekend...

And then I texted my dad and told him I need to talk to him. I invited him over and he came on his own a couple weeks after I blocked her. I asked if he knew what I wanted to talk to him about. He said he had no idea. I then completely unloaded on him. I was totally honest.

Hes aid he understood what I was saying and that I'm not the first person in the family to have an issue with her. He said that he doesn't feel the same way as her at all, that he doesn't ever think I've been rude to her or that I don't see them enough, or that I was being mean or silly or rude when I was social distancing with a newborn. He said my boundaries are totally normal and fine and that she has a warped view of what family is. He told me that she has revealed that she thinks I am treating her differently than my in-laws, and that she often feels excluded. I was like, the things she's been excluded from are things like.... me hanging out with my friends that she doesn't know, or seeing my MIL who is fighting cancer. It's not reasonable at all for her to be included in these things. I thought there was a chance that my dad would get mad at me for ranting to him about her, but he wasn't mad at all. He was very supportive and understanding. I told him that I am not trying to cut her out of my life, but from now on the plans need to be made between me and him. He agreed.


Oh yeah and isn't it weird that she wasn't freaking out to him that I hadn't texted her in 2 weeks? sShe would text me every  other day before this, and if I didn't answer even a "have a good day" text  I would get a "hello???"
 She barely mentioned it to him, just said something to him 2 weeks after I blocked her being like, "I texted our daughter and she hasn't answered me" and he was like "oh sometimes she takes a while to see her texts..." and that was it.

I just don't know what to do now. Do I unblock her? Do I have a talk with her ( I really don't want to do this, because I have done it before, and she just doesn't hear me. I feel it will just frustrate me and she will try to make me feel bad for her and feel guilty for my decisions. I just don't think it would be an emotionally safe conversation for me.) Do I unblock her and message her saying something like I have needed some space recently/that I'm going to make plans with my dad from now on because I felt a little uncomfortable with all the confrontational texts she's sent me over this past year?

Do i just leave her blocked and see what happens whenever I go over there and see her in person next?

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Cat of the Canals

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Re: Looking for advice on how to resume contact with new boundaries
« Reply #1 on: June 29, 2021, 05:25:38 PM »
I can only answer how I would handle this myself. So I'll speak to your direct questions first:

1. Do I unblock her?
It seems to me that you blocked her in the first place to make some space for yourself. If you unblock her, the mostly likely scenario is that she'll go right back to her normal behavior (i.e. texting with her pushy, boundary-trampling demands). Have you gotten to a place where you can handle that without it making you angry/upset/etc.? If it were me, I think I'd need more time. It's taken me about 5 months of giving myself a LOT of extra space to get to a point where I can mostly tune PDmom's nagging messages out.

2. Do I have a talk with her?
Talking it out makes sense... when dealing with non-PDs. In my experience, and the experience of everyone I've ever read on this board, I don't think "having a talk" with a PD has ever worked. I gave up on trying to talk with PDmom years ago. She has no capacity for empathy that way. Everything is happening to her, so seeing things from my perspective and respecting me as an equal are frankly impossible for her. I've watched my husband try to get through to PDmil many times over the years, and it's like watching someone knock their head against a brick wall.

3. Do I unblock her and message her saying something like I have needed some space recently/that I'm going to make plans with my dad from now on because I felt a little uncomfortable with all the confrontational texts she's sent me over this past year?
See above.  ;)

4. Do i just leave her blocked and see what happens whenever I go over there and see her in person next?
This is what I'd do, and I'd prepare what to say if she confronts you. (Something along the lines of, "I've needed some space recently so I won't be available to text the way we used to.") I wouldn't offer further explanation. In my opinion, addressing their behavior at all just opens the door for them to gaslight you or play the waif game. "I don't do that! How can you say I'm confrontational?! You're so mean!" There's something to be said for speaking your truth, but I think that is usually done best when you can say your piece and leave without it becoming a big fat dramafest.

I guess what I'm really trying to get at is the big old "B" word. Boundaries. You say she never respects them? Yeah. That's par for the course with PDs. What you do now, moving forward, is construct your boundaries for YOU. Because the only behavior you can control is your own. There's no set of magic words to find that will suddenly make your stepmother understand your boundaries. So you set them for YOU and your baby, and if they are violated, you get out.

Example:
You go for a visit. Dog jumps on you or does something else to make you uncomfortable.
You: I don't like when the dog does this. Please make him stop.
Stepmother: Oh, you're being silly! He's just excited.
You: I understand that he's excited. But if you don't put him inside/in another room/etc., I'm going to leave.

If she puts the dog out of reach, you can continue the visit. Otherwise, you get up and leave.

You can take this same approach to pretty much any situation.
1. Something happens that makes you angry or uncomfortable.
2. You say, "I don't like this. Please stop."
3. She tries to spin it as "not a big deal" or that you're somehow being unreasonable.
4. You ignore her attempts to make the discussion about ANYTHING else. Repeat the boundary.
5. If she refuses to respect the boundary, YOU LEAVE (or hang up the phone or block her number).

Some things, like her insistence that you'll have to make up visits, can simply be ignored. Not allowing yourself to be pulled into circular arguments is a boundary in itself. She wants to piss and moan about you visiting your MIL? "I'm sorry you feel that way." In fact, get yourself acquainted with the Medium Chill guide in the toolbox. There's a response for almost everything in there.

As for everything else: stop worrying about what she thinks or is going to say and start putting yourself at the center. What's best for you (and your baby)? What do you need?

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Quilt

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Re: Looking for advice on how to resume contact with new boundaries
« Reply #2 on: June 30, 2021, 11:16:16 AM »
Wow, thank you so much for taking the time to respond. Your response is SO helpful! Everything you say sounds very reasonable. I am so used to feeling guilty for treating her "badly" when she does things that if any of my friends or other relatives did, I would definitely never be talking to them again. It's also hard living in a world with texting sometimes where you're perpetually reachable. It has been so nice since blocking her number knowing that she's not able to just text me and affect my mood anytime of day.
I think I will take your advice. It's the answer I wanted to give myself.

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Cat of the Canals

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Re: Looking for advice on how to resume contact with new boundaries
« Reply #3 on: June 30, 2021, 01:07:24 PM »
I am so used to feeling guilty for treating her "badly" when she does things that if any of my friends or other relatives did, I would definitely never be talking to them again. It's also hard living in a world with texting sometimes where you're perpetually reachable.

This is something I remind myself about my mother CONSTANTLY. If she were anyone else, I would have cut her off years ago. Which I think on some level she knows, and absolutely revels in the "special treatment." There are even times when I've stated a general boundary and her first response is, "But not me, right?" She thinks the rules don't and shouldn't apply to her.

Another thing that's helped me is realizing that my boundaries aren't asking for much. No one likes guilt trips, so is it so bizarre that I don't want to be guilted by her when she doesn't get her way? No. Almost every other adult I interact with can handle hearing "no" without having a tantrum or giving me the silent treatment. Are you asking for that much when you request that she not allow her dog to jump on you or your baby? NO! Her refusal to comply with your simple requests is her showing how little she respects you. In her mind, you should put up with whatever she throws your way.

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moglow

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Re: Looking for advice on how to resume contact with new boundaries
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2021, 02:28:51 PM »
 :yeahthat: All of that!!

Mine has a deep seeded entitlement mentality where she's the mother and can therefore do and say whatever she wants. As a mere child of hers, I have no say and no option but to sit there and take it all in. Do exactly as she says for as long as she says, etc.  Yeah no. Took me way too many years, but No it is and No it shall remain.

A counselor said to me years back, "think about this - if anyone else treated you the way she does, with the complete lack of care or compassion, no regard or respect for you even as a fellow human being, what would you do?" I wouldn't have anything to do with them! She sat there and looked at me while it sunk in - "so why does your mother get a pass? Yes she expects it. And? As your mother honestly it's even worse that she treats you that way - and yet you allow it!" Mind blowing. I was an adult in my 50s, still under mommie dearest thumb!

My vote: Leave her blocked. You make your plans and let them know when you'd like to visit, call dad whenever you want to call. Erase the expectations that you comply, and continue to live your life. You and your family have plans - just to be a family if nothing else!
"Expectations are disappointments under construction.  ~ Cap'n Spanky

Stop Stinkin' Thinkin'!

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moglow

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Re: Looking for advice on how to resume contact with new boundaries
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2021, 02:54:38 PM »
And boundaries ... Live your boundaries, act on your boundaries. Don't think for one minute you can lay them out as rules of engagement and all is right with the world. Someone who thinks they have special privilege is still going to be who they are, same as anyone else. That's on them, as is your obligation to enforce and live your own boundaries. Work at seeing her demands as requests you either can or can't meet and act accordingly , just like you do with everyone else in the world. Just because she demands special treatment doesnt mean anything changes for you. She can get mad or get over it - As my grandfather used to say "she's got the same britches to get glad in."
« Last Edit: June 30, 2021, 03:44:29 PM by moglow »
"Expectations are disappointments under construction.  ~ Cap'n Spanky

Stop Stinkin' Thinkin'!

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MarlenaEve

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Re: Looking for advice on how to resume contact with new boundaries
« Reply #6 on: July 06, 2021, 06:39:02 AM »
Your stepmother sounds like a terrible person. Anyone would react like you if they were in your situation.

Those questions are for you to answer BUT, from experience, when I do something that sends a message to a person that I don't want them in my life (block them, unfriend them on Facebook, not see them for a long time), I know that they're not safe and I don't go back to that relationship, NO MATTER HOW HARD it is for me (feeling guilty and such). This is your intuition speaking and your intuitive voice is always right.

Unfortunately, I did unblock family members after long periods of guilt and obligation and it has been a disaster.

Now I'm trying to fix the disaster I caused but I don't regret unblocking them. I know I'm human and make a lot of mistakes.
Narc people have a way of making you feel you should not abandon them, that, if you do abandon them, you have committed a crime. This sounds ridiculous but their gaslighting feels incredibly real...
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing:
the last of the human freedoms-
to choose one's attitude in any
given set of circumstances, to choose
one's own way.
-Viktor Frankl