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Monthly Archives: May 2012

The Phone Call

A couple of weeks ago one of M’s clients called and I picked up the phone. This guy talks A LOT. In fact, the first thing he ever said to me was, “I talk too much. I hope you don’t mind.” Well, he got going about greenhouse construction, gardening, etc. and I spent 15 minutes chatting with him. I finally handed him off to M and went about my day.

After M got off the phone, he told me that I had no business talking to “that man” in such a casual manner – he was M’s client and I should have nothing to say, blah, blah, blah. Okie-dokie!

Today a friend of M’s and I called. I picked up the phone. I’ve visited (with M, of course) this man’s house, he has visited here and I consider us friends. He sounded kind of down, but I handed him off to M as quickly as I could.

After the conversation was over I asked M if B felt okay, as he sounded kind of down, “but I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to be accused of flirting or inappropriate conversation.”

M said, “Maybe I should just move out. There are too many grudges here.”

I said that I was only joking. “Didn’t sound like a joke,” he replied.

I let it ride and left the room. Later I apologized (not very sincerely) if I was out of line. “It’s me who’s out of line, obviously,” he replied.

I left for work and let him brood all day.

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Posted by on May 30, 2012 in Digging Out, Today

 

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The Point System

I’ve tried to figure out a way to explain how M values my contributions to our household, and the best way is to compare the two of us using a point system. M has defined the “rules” over the years we have been together and this is my best interpretation of his opinion based on things he has said and his actions pertaining to the activities.

For a little background, M was in a life-changing car accident when he was in his mid-twenties that left him disabled, using a prosthetic for his left leg below the knee and his right leg very damaged below the knee. Another accident resulted in a broken neck which caused nerve damage to his left hand and lingering pain. Yet another accident left him with chronic back pain. He lives with physical pain every day, and I understand that certain tasks hurt him more than others, I really do, but I can’t accept his pain as an excuse to hurt me emotionally. I am able-bodied, but not driven to perform feats of physical excess. I have no desire to be a Hard Body and I resent that he feels that I should be working towards that goal, but that is beside the point. There are obviously some envy issues at play here. I NEVER criticize or demean him for anything that is difficult for him to do, nor have I ever had any “issues” of any kind with his disabilities, which surprised him in the beginning.

Enough background, on to the Point System!

Since he lives with pain every day, any task that he performs automatically earns double points. He starts the day with 100 points just for getting out of bed.

Housework: These chores must be done by someone, so they do not earn any points or recognition unless he performs the tasks. If he does any household chores that are not on his list of “regular” duties (which include cleaning the bathroom and washing the dishes with the occasional load of laundry thrown in) they automatically earn double points and require that I praise him for saving me all that effort. If I fail to notice that he ran the vacuum he tells me that I don’t care about the house or about his efforts to spare me extra chores after I’ve put in a hard day’s work. I would much rather do the chores myself and get no recognition for them than have to listen to him moan and whine about how I don’t appreciate what he does for me.

Sitting Down: Anything that can be done while sitting earns zero points unless it is sanding or painting on a boat. Most of my hobbies are done sitting down, and even though I will knit sitting on the couch, at the end of the day, after all other chores are finished, even if it’s a sweater for him, I get no points.

My Projects: Since all of my hobbies are anachronistic they earn zero points, even if they are for him or at his request. He does not value my fiber arts (although he will praise me in front of others) or my philosophy about handwork. If one of my projects earns cold, hard cash, it can earn a few points, but they are always tempered with a “discussion” about profit margins and whether or not I actually made any money after my time and materials are subtracted.

His Projects: Anything I do for him related to his projects earns me half the points that he would earn if he did it himself. Points are taken away if the work is not done to his standards. He will praise my efforts to others if pressed, but he will not complement, thank or praise me directly. He feels that it is my duty as his partner to participate in his projects with a willing heart, to be “good help.”* It doesn’t go both ways – if I’m working on something else, he interrupts me and expects me to drop what I’m doing to work with him. If he asks me to do something for him and it’s not done in a timely manner (according to his time table) he gets angry and starts to lecture me about my priorities. This is why I don’t work on my projects unless he is away from home.

Paying Work: My value at my chosen career is directly related to how much I earn. When I work at drafting, I make $30.00 per hour, which he is happy with, and he is willing to take over some chores to make it easier for me to get the work done. He makes many comments about deadlines and my dedication to the job and how he would do my work better than I can do. When I work at the two part-time jobs that I’ve taken to make ends (almost) meet they earn no points. In fact, points are taken away from my daily total because I’m away from home and care of the animals and house falls to him. That the money is negligible and there is much wear and tear on my car are frequent topics of conversation, as are our money woes. It’s a no-win situation for me – I need to be bringing in money, there are no jobs in my industry in this town, therefore I have to take a minimum wage job (or two, or three) with no benefits to get some cash coming in, but he would prefer I made more money and worked fewer hours. Surely there’s something I could do to earn more money!

Travel: We sometimes go on long car trips. He drives because of his car accident – he has a fear of giving up control of a car on the freeway. This leads to his being very tired sometimes and resenting me for not taking on some of the driving duties. Problem is, when I drive, he constantly advises me about what I’m doing wrong and how I can improve my technique. In the end, he is a nervous wreck from not being in control and I am furious because of his hectoring. I mean, really, I’ve had two accidents in 25 years of driving (both occurred more than 15 years ago) neither of which resulted in any injuries, so I guess I can do an okay job, right? So, triple points for him and negative points for me, especially if I fall asleep. My duties are to get the dogs and all their accessories ready and take care of them for the whole trip. I also procure and pack all food and ask him the proper questions to verify that he has everything he needs for the trip. No points for me!

What else? There’s more, but I’m drawing a blank at the moment. I’ll update as things occur to me.

* Good Help is defined as someone who knows what the project is, what the next step is and what materials/tools/supplies are needed next and to bring those things to him, to lay out the work as it progresses. Any lack of knowledge or enthusiasm is the same as saying, “I don’t want to be here, your project is not important to me, and you are not important to me.”

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2012 in Today

 

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The Bill of Goods Speech

Tonight was another installment of what I call the Bill of Goods Speech. It consists of M telling me, at not quite yelling volume, how very disappointed he is with “what I have become.”

It starts with him reminding me that he fell in love with a very different woman, one who was riding her bike to work every day, had a very strong sex drive, was not smoking, who seemed devoted to getting into racing shape. He says that I was “less fat” and ate better then. He goes on and on about how I’ve changed “for the worse” and how he feels cheated by “what I’ve become.” He says over and over again how unfair it is that I’m not the exact same person he fell in love with and that he is the same and feels that it’s wrong to sell someone a Bill of Goods that is false.

Let’s take a look at reality, shall we?

The only truth to his speech is that I was riding my bike to work every day. I actually weighed more and was still smoking, just not where he could witness it. I ate crap food every day, which made my complexion bad and my body considerably more flabby than it is today. I was not working outside in the yard, nor was I making a point of getting any exercise whatsoever – it was against my religion, actually. I did not do housework if I could avoid it, nor did I keep my car clean. I was much more outspoken, happy, and convinced that I had some talent in the fiber arts arena. I had a horse that I loved, a huge stash of materials for my art, a group of friends that I met with regularly to knit and chat with, a well-paying job that I loved, and seemingly endless inspiration.

Today the picture is quite different, it’s true. Now I do not ride my bike because there is no safe place to do it unless I load it onto the car and drive some place, which kind of negates the whole point of riding, doesn’t it? I quit riding when M made it into an endless competition – he was a long-distance rider and wanted a partner who could keep up with him, so he began to set goals for me – each day I should have a faster time on my 6-mile ride to work, and my average speed should be greater. I should leave earlier and add a couple of miles to the ride for “training” etc. He began to criticize me for taking a day off and for not improving as fast as he thought I should. It became so painful to report to him that I just quit. I couldn’t take it any more. I had my own goals, but they were never good enough for M, and so he criticized me for “setting the bar too low.” I just felt crushed by the pressure to meet his expectations. I should have broken it off with him right then, but I stupidly stayed on for more punishment.

I weigh less and have much less flab because I live with the Food Police who monitor every bite of food that goes into my mouth, constantly reminding me that I’m “getting heavy” or digging my grave with my teeth* but that’s another post for another day. I very rarely eat junk food, and in fact no longer have a tolerance for it – one order of McD’s fries and I have an upset stomach for the next two days.

I have no sex drive because I am being told every day how disappointing I am in every way to the man who professed to love me, who told me he would make my dreams come true, who told me he had spent his entire adult life learning “what NOT to do in relationships,” and how to treat women with love and respect. He yells at me almost every day. He insults my intelligence and personal appearance nearly every day. He criticizes something about me every single day. He makes me feel useless, stupid, ugly, fat, lazy, slovenly, provincial, and uneducated. Not exactly a recipe for romance.

I work outside in the yard, all year ’round, gardening and growing food, mowing the lawn, chopping wood for the stove, etc. I’m outside every damned day, rain or shine.

I do housework every day because M suffers from allergies and if the floors aren’t vacuumed several times a week he has a runny nose and sneezes constantly. I do not vacuum when he is in the house because the dust it stirs up makes him sneeze, so he is under the impression that it never gets done. I am constantly picking up my stuff because he complains bitterly about what a slob I am and he hates the fact that I have so much stuff, again a post for another day.

I keep my car washed and vacuumed because I can’t stand to hear about how I have no Pride in Ownership one.more.damned.time.

I have no friends, nor do I go anywhere to sit and chat and knit with others. I am not a part of any group of any kind. I am alone with him.

I am working TWO part-time minimum wage jobs to make ends (almost) meet. M is not able to work a regular job** (another post, another day) so any income that comes in has to be made by me.

I am not inspired to do anything with my fiber arts. I still have some stash but it has become a burden because M begrudges me every square inch that I occupy in “his” house. He enclosed a car port when he moved into the house*** to make a work space for himself. When I moved in he said that the room was mine to turn into a studio and that he expected the bulk of my stuff to live there. Fine. Except that it has to be kept neat, with nothing blocking this corner, a clear path three feet wide all the way through, oh, and the dogs and their kennels have to live in the room, too, and we have to have access to the futon bed if company comes, etc. etc. It’s not really “my” room, any more than any other space here is – it’s all his, paid for with his savings, and I am only tolerated because…Hmmm…Why, really? I’m so fucking imperfect that he can’t stand anything about me and says that “pussy isn’t worth it” several times a week, so why am I still here? Oh, yeah, I don’t have the means to leave right now.

A healthy relationship does not look like this.

* The changes to my diet since we’ve lived together bear mentioning – M is a nazi about food – it must be Real Food, which means cooking from scratch using only fresh ingredients, very little meat, very little oil, dairy, etc. When I moved in with him most recently (3 years ago) he declared that he had lost his enthusiasm for cooking. I took over cooking and food shopping and have caught hell ever since. We actually eat quite healthy, but it’s never enough. His latest obsession is for me to go in for a complete blood panel to “prove” that I don’t need to watch every single calorie that goes into my mouth.

** When he’s feeling particularly cranky he likes to say, “When we first moved in together I had $200,000 in the bank. Now, ten years later, I have nothing. Now…I’m not blaming you for anything, but it’s quite a coincidence, isn’t it? That’s $20,000 per year to “keep” you. Doesn’t seem like much of a bargain…” and other things along those lines. What he is forever forgetting is that he hasn’t worked a regular job in those almost 11 years, nor has he tried to create an income stream that would allow him to work from home. He owns a home, two cars, many boats, etc. etc. so it’s not like he’s living in a tent somewhere (but we will be if I don’t start making some “real” money! is the constant threat) It’s maddening! For the record, I worked most of those years and supported myself and my son. M did put the down payment on a house, but only because he couldn’t bear visiting the tiny duplex we were living in at the time (which was totally within my budget, which is why we were there) because it wasn’t up to HIS standards of living. Yeah, it does sound crazy.

*** Oh, that’s a long post for another day. Still fuming about that!

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2012 in Today, Verbal Abuse

 

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The Calm Before the Storm

We’re in a phase that doesn’t happen very often, a phase I call the Calm Before the Storm. He seems to feel guilty about something (his “old lover (who I still care about)”?) and is treating me much better than usual. This is one of those phases that makes me doubt my sanity. If I had not recorded our conversations over the last couple of weeks, I would be questioning my memory, especially since he regularly denies many of the things he says to hurt me.

For instance, last week he said that, “it would take eight of you to keep me entertained. Do you understand that? Eight of you.” I have it on tape, so to speak, so I know for a fact that those were his exact words. It was not said in jest, but to point out how boring and stupid he thinks I am. Other things were said in the same vein during the conversation. He made it very clear that he needs many more people than stupid little me in his life to keep things interesting for him.

I brought it up last night after he asked me why I was making intelligent dinner conversation (I generally let him lead any conversation to avoid his dismissal and/or a lecture on how boring/uneducated/naive I am) I told him that I was stepping up my game so he wouldn’t need to go out and find seven more of me to keep him entertained.

“I never said that,” he protested.

“You said exactly that just the other night, that it would take eight of me to keep you entertained. Exactly that,” I replied.

“I was just joking…” he muttered.

Right. He “jokes” like that constantly. I’ve told him in plain English that he hurts my feelings with his constant put-downs and that I would like him to stop. He tells me that I’m “too sensitive” and shouldn’t take it so seriously, he only jokes with me out of affection.

Where does one draw that line? I do understand joking, and in fact have been told that I have a great sense of humor. A “joke” doesn’t go on and on until the person being lampooned is in tears, right? That’s not joking, that’s torture, right? Doing it deliberately with no witnesses, over and over again, day after day isn’t joking, is it?

Where do you draw the line between joking and verbal abuse?

 
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Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Gaslighting, Today, Verbal Abuse

 

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Translations Part Five

What he says: “I admire people who have made a success of their lives with no college education.”

The first time he said this I was amazed. He is college educated and holds three degrees (only one of which ever had any bearing at all on his career – the others my have developed his mind, but they did nothing for his bottom line, as even he will admit on occasion) and can be a terrible snob. I was desperate to escape my father’s clutches and there was no money for me to go to a “real” college so I made the decision to attend a technical school for a year in order to gain marketable skills* and get the hell out of my parents’ house. I had some very educational experiences along the way that I would not have had at a Real College.

What he really means: “Anyone who has not been exposed to a “culture of ideas” (Real College) is a moron, with no valid opinion or point of view (unless they are a man who has made a good living working with his hands and has skills that I appreciate.) I will use your lack of Real Education as the last word to win an argument even if it makes no sense in the context of the conflict. I will point out my educational superiority often as a way to cut you off if we disagree about something.”

He often points out my “barbarian” ways and lack of social graces and I always worry about making some unforgivable mistake in front of his High Class friends. My personal view on the matter is that I have no time for snobs. I value people for who they actually are as a human being, not their lineage or education or snobby table manners. If more people spoke plainly and were true to themselves I can’t help but feel that there would be a lot more happiness in the world and far fewer stupid misunderstandings.

I don’t play Office Politics, either. I don’t believe in getting ahead by sabotaging or bad-mouthing co-workers, although both tactics have been used quite successfully against me. If workers at a company are engaged in a constant political battle, clawing their way to the top, I leave that company – life is too short to waste so much time and energy pulling others down for what could end up being no gain at all.

* I supported myself and my son for over 20 years on the income produced from my “inferior” education. Oh, sure, I was married for some of that time, but somehow the men in my life did little or nothing when it came to “kid” stuff and I feel like I was a single mom all that time. My son feels the same way, but I’m not sure how much of that is because of my influence. Oh, the tangled web to sort through to get to the bottom of this situation!

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2012 in Red Flags, Verbal Abuse

 

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Husband #1

When M first started asking me about former lovers, he said it was so he would know “what not to do,” and would bring us closer. I had my doubts from the beginning as I’ve learned that men do not want to know who came before. I gave in to his demands, reluctantly, and nothing good has come of my compliance.

One of the chapters of my narrative concerns my first husband, Mark. I have no fear of sharing his name or his mother’s name as neither of them would ever dream of touching a computer so I have no fear of them reading this. The whole chapter can be found here.

The short version is this – Mark was a Bad Boy. I was desperate to free myself from the clutches of my father and Mark was the perfect lever to use. He was tall, blond with blue eyes, muscular with not an ounce of fat on him (I would later learn that was because he was shooting crank every day) and he had a really Bad Attitude. In short, he was perfect for a naive teenager looking for a way out of her boring little life. I fell hard and stayed down for five years. We had a son together who I ended up raising alone. Surprisingly, H has grown into a good man who is a joy to be around. There were some rough years – a story for another day.

Anyway. Here’s the chapter on my first husband. Please leave a comment if you can (or can’t) relate.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in History, Intimacy, Secrets

 

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Rolling in the Deep

Adele’s new album, 21, says it all.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2012 in Digging Out, Music

 

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