Dark and Light…

The journey of my broken marriage has some real darkness, and difficult holidays aren’t necessarily real darkness (perspective). I realize as I write this post how many old pains, deep wounds there are to mend. Please bear with me as I work through these things. I’m sorry if I seem trivial…and thank you for visiting.

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Last night. In a beautiful connection, we felt each other and held each other and caressed each other. It was significant because Christmas was unexpectedly challenging-actually, painful. We struggled to stay connected over the last couple weeks, and I spiraled into a pretty dark place.

Last Christmas, the first following the discovery that much of my married life had been a sham, we fled. Husband, our three boys and I loaded up in the car and drove 20 hours to meet up with daughter and her fiancé, and to meet his family. It was a completely different environment, including places we’d never been (Adirondacks), places we love (NYC), meeting delightful new family and friends and a focus on the upcoming nuptials of daughter and fiancé. From beginning to end, the holiday season was entirely different than any year since our marriage, and our little family unit worked hard together to make it all work – and it did.

This year, Husband offered to let me “drive” the decisions for what our Christmas would look like, and I considered traveling again but having just hosted a wedding, paying for college for two students and thinking I was ready, I decided we could return to old traditions. The Christmas Eve tradition, in particular, in which we go to the in-laws along with 60 other people and lots of booze and presents and brokenness.

It was excruciatingly difficult to walk through the path and actions we had taken for the majority of our marriage, smiling and nodding at all the folks. The Christmas Eve events had always been marked with pain for me: my MIL had decided after year one of our marriage that I was the HATED ONE, and everyone else either agreed, or avoided me so year after year it was a miserable experience that I endured for HUSBAND and our children.

Everything in our world is so dramatically different than it was in December 2013, yet that scene played out just the same as it always had through the many years of our shared life. The same masks were tightly adhered to each of the players in the drama. Same words were falling out of their mouths. Same pretenses and cliques and ridiculous bullshit.

BUT IT IS ALL SO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

Being present in the PRESENT that looked so much like that past was literal crazy-making. Then, MIL does her annual ding ding ding time…listen to ME because I pretend “it is all about Him and all about others” time…and then pats herself on the back for the good deeds she has done over the past year…

And this night, she reports her faith leader has declared the upcoming year the Year Of Jubilee. What does it MEAN? It means, she tells us, that the year is to be marked with mercy. MIL continues on, reading a description of what mercy is.

She described…ME.

You know, the one who was WRONGED from head to toe, beginning to end, for 25 years and chose not to seek retribution. Who chose not to seek revenge. Who chose to, despite her own personal and gut-wrenching pain and ache, to care for her husband, and to find a way to somehow include the lying, nasty, manipulative group who are his family in their lives…in my life. That would be me.

But the self-righteous MIL went on and read a whole page of words, smug look on her face, choosing from time-to-time to look at me (and she normally looks anywhere BUT me). Not with kindness or humility or appreciation, but with nasty little brows raised high in loftiness, daring me to forgive – her? Her son? It was so incredibly sickening; eventually I could not allow myself to look at her, and instead looked around the room. Such fraud played out before our eyes, but in this sick family system, no one calls BULL SHIT. This woman, who slays people with her tongue, lies and carries out retributive actions on so many, is educating us – ME – on mercy and forgiveness. And everyone stands there and nods despite having been victimized by her at least once through the years.

I’m SICK, literally sick.

Then, the annual gift-giving. HUSBAND and I had contributed to the group gift for MIL and FIL, but in addition, I gave MIL three more gifts, wrapped in lovely wrapping accompanied by personal notes. The frenzy of gift-giving happened, the 15 cousins exchanging, and then MIL giving out the child/in-law and grandchild gifts…there were diamond earrings and canvas photos and elaborate American Girl sets. Nothing for my kiddos, nothing for me. MIL comes along and says, Oh HUSBAND, come out here with me so I can give you your gift, and presents him with some camo chair for hunting. Nothing for our kids, nothing for me. MIL comes along and hands me 3 ornaments saying daughter already got hers, nothing for our kids, nothing for me. We are getting ready to go, MIL says DON’T LEAVE YET, I NEED ALL MY CHILDREN NOW BACK HERE and someone says Should Spouses Come? And MIL says NO! Off they go, to the back of the house with MIL’s oblivious husband/FIL remaining at the party, at the bar, engaged in conversation and laughter while the drama goes on around him. HUSBAND returns, we gather ourselves and our kids and our cousin gifts and our sister-brother gifts and make our way to the door…which takes 20 minutes…and eventually tell MIL goodbye (and she looks at me with a beady piercing stare and says curtly Good Night, stiffly throwing her arms toward me) and thank you and still nothing for our kids, nothing for me.

In the car, HUSBAND asks our kids if their grandmother gave them a gift.

No. They answer.

But it’s our fault I guess, says the youngest. Our fault because she didn’t know we were coming since you didn’t RSVP.

Stunning silence. I’m stunned, and can only remain silent.

My baby-boy has been made to believe by MIL – his GRANDMOTHER –  that if he doesn’t do things JUST SO – according to her rulebook or expectations, then he shouldn’t expect a gift. From his grandmother. On Christmas.

And it’s his fault.

And he’s okay with all that.

I realize how very very very broken my children are. I realize how very very very broken HER children are. This is their normal, and it is so not-normal, or loving, or kind, or merciful. But this is HUSBAND’s life experience, what shaped him, and is now – to a lesser degree – shaping our children.

There is so much work to be done to right the wrongs that started long ago.

Incidentally, there were gifts. When we got home, there was a bag that HUSBAND thought was from his SIL, but there were gifts inside for the boys and me:

Each boy got a hoodie, and a book on how to be a gentleman. And there was a $25 gift certificate to each for a fast-food chain. And for me? 8 Christmas-decorated hard plastic luncheon-sized plates.

I’m regifting the plates next year. Regifting them to MIL, since she obviously really liked them.

Finally, last night wrapped in HUSBAND’s arms, I began to see light again. I am thankful for that.

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37 thoughts on “Dark and Light…

  1. Your husband’s family is almost identical to my father’s family. My grandmother, on the surface, was a godly woman. She was in church when the doors opened. She was in a prayer group. She neither smoked nor drank. She used tiny, tiny verbal needles to skewer her children. Two married and moved away and escaped her but two, including my father, stayed. My mother despised her but I did not know it until I was an adult. I had heard her make a sly remark to her daughter and asked my mother. That is when the floodgates opened. She told me all the ways my grandmother had wrecked her daughter and son. All done in the sweetest, calmest voice ever.
    You need to let your children know what she is up to. There are many people like her in the world. How they wound you twice is the first needle and then your feeling petty for your reaction. My mother finally left my father because he never saw the damage she was causing. He was a sweet, damaged man and I lay all his issues at her door. As I matured and married I saw just how good she was at “killing” people who loved her. My husband was transferred, we moved far away and I was so estranged from her that I was not notified when she died. Forgive my snarkiness but I tell people if I knew I would have given her a going away party.
    Don’t put your family through this again. Some people are so toxic that only complete distance is healthy. I imagine your husband has wounds from her. If they were lifelong I recommend EMDR therapy by a trained counselor who helps retrieve buried memories and sheds the healing light of day on them.
    I wish you and your family a healing New Year.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Oh Let Go…thank you so much for this post. Your words describe exactly, precisely how she operates. It is one of the most cruel, damaging things I have ever witnessed, and I’ve sat by through the years in silence as it slayed me, my children…and now I’ve learned, HUSBAND. We are addressing some of these things in counseling, but the wounds are deep. Again, thank you for sharing. I feel less alone.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Saving, your husband only had one childhood so it seemed “normal” to him. He has to have a good therapist to help him get to the buried pain. Tell him to be ready…..there is childhood rage buried in there as well. He cannot heal himself and you are too wounded from the affair, and love him too much, to heal him. I am so angry on behalf of children who should have been nurtured but were quietly tormented. His mother has no depth to her. Love, as you know it, is missing in her. He needs to stop hoping for a miracle. He needs to love himself first. God made him, he is special and he needs to know that. I don’t excuse the affair but I certainly understand his scars. My Dad had a boatload of them.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This is terrible. Even reading it… It’s like… I can feel actual evil. Most of the time you can chalk things up to people being selfish or disordered. She sounds like she is… Housing demons. Have you ever read perettis ‘this present darkness’? It’s a book that is kind of experimental in its application of satan/demons influencing the world, and for the most part it seems over the top. But sometimes, something seems so… Vile. That to me it’s similar. Sorry you endured this. *hugs*

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, CR. I have read the book…and never related the two, but YES! That is EXACTLY what it is like! Demons that lurk in the corners, waiting to get their claws in. Oh my… I will definitely rethink this situation from this light. Hope you have a wonderful last couple days of 2015. HUGS.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Just. Don’t. Do. It. Again. You know the toxicity. I distanced myself from all in law events. They are toxic. Not as bad as you describe here, but the sisters in law especially have caused a lot of damage. They are sort of trying to scoop us back after 9 years in the wilderness. Nope. Not happening for me. I’ve made my position clear to Roger and the kids. They are welcome to do what they like. But I’m not getting involved with people whose idea of sport is to set me up and then tear me down.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I am incredibly humbled to read that so many of us share the same kind of situations – not only with our cheating spouses – but with their hurtful families. I’m so sorry you also traveled this SHITTY path…but ADMIRE you for saying NO. MORE. !!!! I hope I will have the guts to draw this same line in the sand. I need it. We need it. Thank you for your insight. HUGS.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It took over 25 years and this horrendous period in my life to grow a pair! But I have no regrets. Rog gets it. But he would like to try to repair the rift a bit. I get that. But not my circus, not my monkeys. And I have explained how they affect me to the kids. They have all experienced the games and playing favourites of their aunts. So they also approach the family cautiously. Forewarned is forearmed 😉

        Liked by 2 people

    2. A lot of “good” people feel obliged to keep on attending family functions as IT IS FAMILY. I disagree, family or not, if there is no respect….and even worse straight out nastiness and jealously and evil actions….let hem go….you deserve better!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a witch! Don’t subject yourself or your children to her treatment. It’s never too late to put a stop and say good riddance to toxic people. My sister did just that this year with her MIL, she said enough is enough and will not subject herself to her anymore. My mom did the same with SIL (dads sister) a few years back and we are better off now.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. My friend and neighbor is married to a surgeon. Her MIL feels her son married down( she’s a nurse who grew up in a blue collar family) and has never accepted her. Every Christmas my friend’s children are given one gift while the other grandchildren are smothered in gifts. The adults receive grand things and my friend is lucky to get a box of cheap mints…….and she returns every year to be treated this way…….We can’t chose our parents or in-laws, but we can by damn chose whether or not they’re worthy of our love and attention…….Wishing you peace and more healing in the new year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Anna…my heart goes out to your friend and neighbor. You’ve described our situation…and why the birth children (both recipients and victims) take it is beyond me. That is a pain, a betrayal, in and of itself. I guess what I never realized is that my children, growing up with this as their normal Christmas with that side of the family, believe they/we deserve it…so now they are wounded in a deep place that they can’t even see at this point…but it will likely reveal itself as their lives unfold. Pain…it always finds a way to be quelled…and it isn’t always in a healthy way. Thank you for sharing, and much peace to you in 2016! HUGS

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  6. As hard as it is toxic people even if they are family have to be banned from our lives. My mother hasn’t spoken to her mother in almost 8 years, it has been 3 years for me since I’ve spoken to her as well. She is a very negative, draining, miserable, hateful woman. I’ve always been able to handle her crazy, manipulative ways until she treated my youngest like shit one year that we went to visit. She was always good about making sure no one heard when she wanted to talk nasty and mean to you, but she screwed up that year and laid into me in front of my youngest and my husband. I let her have it and we packed our stuff and left. I never spoke to her again and don’t care to.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Interesting how calculating and careful these toxic people are…HUSBAND’s aunts (SIL to my MIL) warned me five years or so into our marriage to make sure I was never in a room alone with MIL…that THEY made sure of it for each other because of her vile when they were alone. Saddest part for me is that the kids of MIL, including HUSBAND, have a very hard time seeing it…this is their mom…and their normal…even though we have lived a dramatically different reality in our home. But you all are inspiring me to be strong!!! Best for 2016! HUGS

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Normal doesn’t mean ok. Happier at home means we stay home, this is my personal motto. I’m done hiding things or doing things because of status quo. Spackling for not just spouses but in laws and other disordered people? Nope. Screw it. Mail her some presents, politely decline and enjoy YOUR LIFE.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I have written a bit about my narcissistic MIL and cold, heartless FIL and how I tried to run interference for my husband and boys for years. The day my MIL started trashing my kids to me and saying they were spoiled and ungrateful just like their mother, was the day I went no contact. That was about three years ago. A month and a half post d-day (his parents know nothing of his indiscretions or his sex addiction), as my husband started to dig into his FOO issues and attempt to come to terms with who and what he really is, he went no contact with his parents. It was actually prompted by an email from his parents that said, “If you cannot be a better son, then please don’t contact us anymore… we are so disgusted with you and your behavior that we would take your name away from you if we could.” In the email they also accused him of letting himself be manipulated by me and they just didn’t recognize him. This is after me putting up with their horrifying abuse for more than 30 years, after they emotionally, physically and sexually abused my husband, AND, four years after their youngest son committed suicide after years of severe depression that they wouldn’t acknowledge. In his suicide note (well letter, it was 14 pages long), he said he never felt good enough in his parent’s eyes. Sometimes people are just toxic and being subjected to further punishment is not fair. Our older son still has contact with his grandparents. He is able to deal with them and their issues in a mature manner. Our younger son has no contact. He is going through depression issues of his own right now and they have always made him feel inferior to his older brother. They always put their own children in competition with each other and they did the same with our boys. Our older son is precocious and outgoing and driven… our younger son is timid, shy, and empathic. You are not being petty. You are a vulnerable human being that doesn’t deserve to be treated badly. For me it wasn’t until after d-day that I really realized how much damage my in-laws had done to me as well. Big hugs to you for peace in the new year. Also, it was heartwarming to read that you and your husband were able to make such a nice connection after the stressful holiday. {{{hugs}}} ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh Kat. I have read much of your story, and was sickened to see the parallels. There are so many surface jokes about “in laws” but the pain of this dysfunction is real…it is staggering…it is broad. From the comments today, I see there are far more people who suffer in these sick relationships, and honestly, it is making me realize that there is literally nothing to be gained by continuing the pretense, even in the name of civility. The damage MIL has wrought on all 4 of my kids…subtly or overtly…makes me so angry with myself. But I see now how tightly it was wrapped up in the dance of our marriage that allowed me to accept the lack of communication or care and the depth to which my husband is impacted. Oh…how I wish he would choose NC with them…for his own healing, and for ours. HUGS to you too.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. What a story SH! How cruel some people are. It is hard when it is family members because we feel we should love them and forgive them their faults . I so disagree with this now. We need to remove the toxic people from our lives and not have anything to do with them. If they were just random people in our lives then it would be easier to just not have anything to do with them but they are family and so it is harder. I have told my sister that her treatment of me upsets me but she just can’t see it. She thinks she treats me well. So, I try to not have to spend time with her. It is the only answer for me to keep my sanity.
    All the best xxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Your MIL is exactly why my Mom (a Eucharistic Minister who taught religion for years) called herself spiritual and NOT religious. Because so many people go to church every day or week but obviously don’t learn a damn thing about how to be good, loving n kind. I’m sorry but for your son to EVER think that it was ok he wasn’t given a Christmas present is on u n husband. Please show them they matter, RSVP or not. And teach them to be strong enough to stand up for themselves to anyone, including their toxic grandmother. She’s a bully n a coward. Growing up the only people my brothers n I were allowed to bully was a bully lol. They always backed down so quickly. The only power people have over us is what we give them. Be well.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Sadly, my father died in August, 2014. There was so much “stuff” wrapped up in his illness, his presence here, his revelations through his sickness. I will write about that over the next months. I’m sorry about your mom…

          Liked by 1 person

        2. I’m so sorry for your loss. I hope your Mom is okay. Years ago, my H’s ow actually called me after he broke it off. My Mom’s cancer had just gone to her brain n I was appalled that she knew this n STILL had the audacity to call me. But I’m glad she did even though the timing really sucked. She was never my problem, he was ya know? I think focusing on him n us rather than her definitely helped me heal.

          Liked by 1 person

        3. Wise words…and I’m slowly getting there. HUSBAND definitely has faced my pain, wrath, confusion, hurt, etc. I’ve struggled that the OW has never had to, in any way. I’ve thought about calling her, trying to meet with her, but never followed through. I know I need to let go…and I will…just not quite there yet 🙂

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        4. My story is somewhat different. My ex n I both went almost 2 years without sex before we cheated. Affairs suck and they never work but I was foolish enough to believe I could separate love n sex. I will never make that mistake again. I loved the letter you sent her. It wasn’t vindictive or cruel like it could’ve been. You showed remarkable grace, integrity and courage in a horrific situation.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. The apple never falls far the tree. My ex’s parents are very different to mine. Very. And on reflection, their coldness/ability to go months without speaking to their grandchildren etc – that wasn’t right – loving, engaged, grandparents would want to be involved.

    Liked by 1 person

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