Thursday, June 28, 2007

As Seen in "The Spleen"

This next story is for the benefit of those readers who are not Knitty Coffeeshop regulars:

"Do I love R more than I hate his dad? It's getting tougher to answer that question.

Little bit of background info - my husband R and I married four months after our Beebie was born, against my FIL's advice. This was the only time I've ever seen R do something that his father told him not to do. FIL has never liked me. For years he had not one kind word to say to me or about me. Until fairly recently, he honestly believed that I got pregnant on purpose to trap R and make him marry me. Yeah, like I was really hoping to take on R's $20K of credit card debt (which we've since gotten out of, thanks in large part to my parents).

Two years later, R and I were looking to buy a house. Why? Because FIL thought we should, and R didn't want to admit to his dad that we were in a huge amount of debt and we really shouldn't have been looking for houses then anyway. But what do we do? We put a offer in on a house.

My parents were thrilled for us. R called to tell his parents that we "were looking at a house" (didn't tell them we'd already made the offer), and R's dad ripped him a new one, saying that we hadn't done enough research, the area where the house was a bad area (even though it was where R himself had grown up), blah blah blah, bottom line was we rescinded the offer because it didn't have FIL's stamp of approval.

That story still pisses me off, not only because FIL was able to destroy the happiness we might have had, but because R allowed the whole thing to take place and then didn't have the fucking balls to tell FIL the truth. R should have either told him that we couldn't really look at houses at this point in time, or he should have told ME that this maybe wasn't a good idea.

In fairness, yes, I'm glad we didn't buy that particular house, but the way R went about the whole thing was just horrible. And at that point very early in our marriage, I had no idea that I had an entire lifetime of FIL bullshit ahead of me.

Fast forward to now. R and I have been actively looking for a house for the last year and a half or so, and there's something wrong with every house we can afford. R's trying harder to see things as critically as his father would, which, on the one hand, I respect, but I'm getting really effin sick of it. God bless our realtor, she's really been stellar.

At the root of the problem is the fact that I want to stay in the school district that we live in now. Beebie is in the gifted program, which is outstanding. She also has good friends here, and after her best friend died two years ago, it's really important to me that she is able to maintain her friendships. I also really like the area of town that we live in. I like the library, the boys' preschool (which I've already paid for), the proximity to the important stuff, all that.

And if we want to stay where we live now, we have two choices of school districts, and R knows that I prefer one to the other. I thought he was with me on that. He said he was. I told him that I was sorry to be stubborn about this one point, but that I felt very strongly about staying in the district. He said that was fine and that he agreed with me. Many times, he said this.

Last night, during R's weekly call to his parents, I was sitting beside him on the bed and I heard him say "Well, Sarah's pretty adamant that we stay in this district..." then he got up and left the room. Hmmmm.

I spent the next hour trying to keep the kids quiet so he could talk on the phone, and then I walked out to the kitchen and saw that he was on the computer, researching area school districts. Even in areas that he knows I don't want. And I didn't think he wanted them either.


Honey, what are you doing?

Well, I think maybe we should start looking at other districts... look, this one has a good gifted program...

I don't want to live there.

I thought it was all about the gifted programs and if we found another one we liked...

It's about the gifted program AND it's about staying close to where we are now. I thought you and I were in agreement on this. I DID the research to confirm that I feel strongly about staying here.

My parents just think we could get a better house for our money if we looked at other districts. My dad sees a house as an investment.

I understand that, but I see my children's education as an investment too, and I kinda thought you had my back on that.

Well, I'm SORRY! I don't know what else to say!

I told him that I wished he had just ASKED me how I felt about looking at other areas before he went behind my back, insinuating that I hadn't done enough research (I had), simply at the behest of his father. He could have approached it with me in a way that made it less of a Sarah vs. Dad situation. I also told him that I felt horrible that he was in a spot where he had to choose between his dad's wishes and mine. It's an impossible position for him, I know.

And finally, I said to R that I don't want him to have to decide where his loyalty lies, BECAUSE I KNOW IN MY HEART THAT I WILL NEVER WIN.

And what did R say to this?

Nothing. Didn't dispute it for a second. That absolutely broke my heart. I'm crying now, as I type this. Aren't I his family too?

We went to bed angry. I got up in the middle of the night and sobbed on the sofa for hours. I needed a Middle of the Night Friend. I just felt sick.

I want to feel like he's in my corner, and I don't. I feel like he's turned on me and abandoned what I thought was a goal we came up with together. I can't remember ever feeling so deeply hurt by him.

And he apologized for the wrong thing. He apologized for the looking at other school districts part, not the hurting my feelings part. I believe not only in apologizing for the action, but also for the effect that the action had on another person. There's a huge difference, to me. He doesn't seem to get that.

He's under a huge amount of pressure at work, and obviously from his family, so I know he's stressed out. But so am I. I seriously don't think I can take being married to R's dad anymore.

Just to clarify a few things - my inlaws do not support us financially whatsoever. They gave us $2000 for our wedding, which they probably intended us to use as a down payment on a house. We used the money to chip away at the mountain of debt they knew nothing about. They also gave us $500 several years later when R and I were both unemployed for four months, during which time my parents (who I must remind you are NOT wealthy people, by any stretch of the imagination) paid our rent. That was right before the Easter Brunch Epic Debacle, should you wish to refresh your memory of one of the worst experiences of my life.

R and I have actually been to counseling together before, and I continue to go to the same counselor (whose name is Penny), who's been with us for years. She gets it. She's heard all the stories. You almost can't believe that a person can be that bad, and yet, he is. And he will never, ever change.

I feel as though I personally have made progress. And honestly, R has also made progress. And in general, the FIL situation has improved since he and I first got married, but just when I think FIL has turned a corner, he pulls the same manipulative crap and I've come to learn what R has had to live with his entire life - it really is easier on everyone to just go along with whatever he says and not rock the boat.

I totally know there's no way to change him, and all I can do is change how I respond to him. And I have to pat myself on the back because I have come a long way in that regard over the last 10 years. I am finally able to see that he does mean well, in his own fucked-up way. And his own father died when he was 13, so he's kinda been the boss of his universe since then. It doesn't give him the right to be a dick, of course, but it does kinda help one understand him a little bit.

I still don't know for sure if he's aware of the effect he has on other people, or if he even cares. Doesn't matter, really.

What sucks the most is that I know I'm a strong person, and he makes me feel like a worthless idiot. I feel like he erodes my self-esteem and R's every chance he gets, which is obviously the complete opposite of what a parent is supposed to do. It's a control thing. It's also clearly an abusive situation.

It's very interesting to me that FIL has NEVER pulled his manipulative crap to my face. It's always in private with just R. It makes me think of how abusive husbands isolate their wives from the outside world. I think maybe it's because FIL knows that I have absolutely no loyalty to him, and that any normal human being wouldn't allow another human being to have the amount of influence he has over our family. And I'm sure I don't hear all of the details of their every conversation because R knows that it will probably just piss me off. It could be even worse than I realize.

R is a filter that goes both ways, and I really do feel bad that he's in the middle of two extremely stubborn people. He has to decide who is going to be happy at the end of the day, and no matter what happens, he's the one who's most unhappy, and he doesn't deserve that. I worry that R thinks that I think he's a puss for not telling his dad to FRO (eff right off), and I used to think that but now that I've experienced FIL, as much as I'd love to tell him to go eff himself, it's really not an option.

I mostly hate bitching about him to R, because, even as big an ass as FIL is, he's the only dad R has. That's the worst part. R deserves better. Perhaps that's why God sent him Me.

---- End of Spleen Vent ----

So anyway, R was in the doghouse for a couple of days, but yesterday he redeemed himself when he fixed the brakes on the car for about $250 less than it would have cost us to take it to be serviced. And I got to help. I helped him change the rotors and calipers, top off the brake fluid and bleed the brakes. It was very empowering. And afterwards we all went to Beeb's PSR fundraiser for The Heifer Project.

Here's another reason why R rocks. He shares my ability to see inherent delicious beauty in irony. I can ask him to stealthily take pictures with his phone of me everyday things in amusing juxtaposition, and he'll do it. He sneaks fantastic pictures. Here's a great example. Here's me, in my Nine Inch Nails concert shirt and the Church Nazi in the background, just over my left shoulder. I absolutely love this picture. And P.S., she did come up and say hello to us. I avoided eye contact.

And here's yet another reason why I'll keep R around - yesterday we were looking at this house that we like (in the school district that I want, thank you very much), and the realtor/owner was there to answer our questions. He totally reminded me of Lt. Jim Dangle of the Reno, Nevada Sheriff's Department, minus the uniform. He had the posture, the mannerisms, the voice, the whole (ahem) package... and thank God R and I didn't make eye contact while the dude was talking because after we left we discovered we were both thinking Holy shit, that dude is Lieutenant Dangle.

I totally want to buy Lieutenant Dangle's house.

But I should probably let R and FIL go look at houses and give me a list of the top three pre-approved choices (WITHIN MY SCHOOL DISTRICT) and I'll select from them. Y'know, since my opinion is only a tertiary factor in where I get to live.


Dame Wendy said...

I am right there with you sister. Right. There. With. You. With us it's his Mom and there are times when I honestly think that she may be the anti christ. It's what I fear may break us eventually. Not her being the anti christ. That might actually be cool to be able to tell people that I know and have stood up to the anti christ.

Some of the worst times of my life have occurred because of that woman so you have my hugest condolences. It's a burden that is so difficult to make others truly understand and to live with it day in and day out with your significant other is a feat of strength. It's the most wrenching emotional ordeal I've lived through so far and, like you said it's not like it ever goes away. You can't exchange their parents.

So if you ever need an ear I'm so there.

AuntieJimbo said...

So, wait, he looked like Lt. Dangle without the uniform? He was NAKED?

I PMd you my phone number and then changed my screen name, so you maybe thought there was some stranger after you.
No, just me. Even in a NIN t-shirt your rack is awesome.

Shelly Kang said...

Hi, I just wanted to offer you my sympathy. My husband and I don't usually have this kind of problem any more, but we did before and right after our marriage.

My husband finally realized (after much explaining from me and especially after having heard it from several respected third parties) that on marrying me, his first loyalties shifted to me. I am now his immediate family, and his parents are now his extended family.

Our rule is that we decide together what *we* want, and then we work out how and whether we want to compromise with what *they* want. It was horrible having DH feel like he was in the middle between us.

Best Wishes!

Bezzie said...

I say fuck it. They're not giving you any support. Even though you can't change R, what's the harm in letting FIL know what you're really thinking when you're around him?

Sounds like no one's ever told him like it is and he's been able to continue his manipulative ways for this long.

Poops said...

So your FIL and R will go look at houses, pick three and let you choose? That means you have the deciding vote! You have EXECUTIVE VETO power!

You could go up FIL's ass sideways with this, you know that, don't you? Reject them all and then after about 20 or so houses, say you liked the third one...

buttercup said...

I think R and I have the same father. I'm so sorry for both of you.

When I was reading this I thought of one of your Father's Day post where you said something back to FIL and he backed off, but you did it. I know it wasn't a big messing with your family thing. But it was a small victory and maybe you can remind yourself of that. Maybe after all these years he may have a very small chink in the armor (that he has already buffed out) but you have to take your victories where you can get them.

Evil Baritone said...

Here's a gentle pat on the back and a big hug from the Evil Baritone. You are indeed a very strong woman. You are a great mom and wife. Keep the faith. :)

Carol said...

Oooh, I like Poops' suggestion. For that matter, now that you have the requirements engraved on hubby's brain, let THEM do all the legwork and then you can pick. Truly executive style. Or rich person's presonal shopper!

Cheesy Knit Wit said...

Even though I do not care for helping my husband when he works on our vehicles, I have to say, I know more about mechanics than most women. MOF, I know enough that I wouldn't feel like I was getting taken advantage of if I had to ever take a vehicle to an outside mechanic.....except with the price. I can't help that one.

Ed said...

Bezzie hit the sentiment that I feel towards your problem bang on the nose. Next time either you or R have dealings with him either by phone or in person, just imagine FIL sitting on the loo, trousers around his ankles and in some considerable distress (add some funny faces), childish and not very helpful but it should go some way towards cheering you up.
What Poops said had me rolling about trying to catch my breath, such larks and japes.
Finally you have to understand (and are probably aware already) that FIL is a bully, he wont double deal with you face to face because he knows he has no power/hold over you, so we now know he is scared of you. He has abandonment issues by the sound of it, probably brought on by the loss of his father at such a young age.
Still it's no reason to ride rough shod over everyone, especially the wife of his boy.
That's all I have to say on that matter.
Chin up.

LilKnitter said...

Poops has an idea there. You are like the PRESIDENT. You are PRESIDENT PK! [insert "Hail to the Chief here]

Good luck with all of it. It just...well FIL asshat just blows goats and I wish you had never had to deal with him.

Elspeth said...

I am so sorry you have to deal with this. I'm lucky that my DH gave up on his parents years ago and actually I see them more than he does. I hope R will understand that you are the first person he should be talking to about your kids and your marriage, not his dad. Good luck to both of you.

cpurl17 said...

I don't have a FIL so I don't have any great advice.

I do have a blender and tequila in the cabinet so run away any time you need a break!

Wendy said...

I say you discourage the "weekly" phone calls. What the hell is that all about anyway? I talk to my parents once a month ... if they call ;).

What Shelley said - YOU ARE his family. His parents are ... well, kids are supposed to GROW UP and MOVE OUT, right? Live on their own and raise their own families. Sounds like R needs to MOVE OUT of his FATHER'S HOUSE, and make a home with you and the three children you both have brought into the world.

turtlegirl76 said...

I'm with Cpurl. I'll bring the limes.

And would that be an angel or a devil on your shoulder in that pic?

Batty said...

In-law situations are difficult under the best of circumstances, and you're dealing with this amazingly well.
By the way, you're a strong woman, you have a great sense of humor, and you're very observant too. Your commentary on things is always worth reading, so don't you let anyone talk you into thinking you're anything other than fabulous!

Heh. The church Nazi looks so harmless, but then, they always do...

Ferris Family said...

Wanna be my neighbor? Tito and Nel-bomb can car pool to pre-K. The house finally went on the market last night!!! There's a sign in the yard. It's in the pre-approved school district, and you'd have me as a neighbor. What more could you want?