Reading through my old journal entries, I’m recalling the constant feelings of dread, hopelessness, oppression, and despair. During the time we lived with my in-laws, my narcissistic mother-in-law engaged in gas-lighting, verbal abuse, rewriting history, blatant attempts at manipulation, playing dumb (or forgetful), projection, lying, denial, double standards, tantrums, crocodile tears, threats, bullying, emotional blackmail, and at least one meltdown of nuclear proportions. The majority of it was directed at my husband, while I was mostly treated as a non-person; the in-laws wouldn’t even address me by name when they were speaking to me, they would simply start talking at me.
At the end, when the tension was almost unbearable, I would often reflect on how the narcissist and her flying monkey would go on the offense in order to keep her targets busy running defense. It was the same way, years ago, when I lived with my narc. Abusers put so much effort into creating discord, and then they pretend they’re the victim. Today’s post is a prime example.
About a month before we went no-contact with the in-laws, I was exercising in one of the guest bedrooms. (The room Tim and I shared was crowded full of furniture, and there was no space to move around.) For some reason, Chet keeps his clothes in the closet in that room instead of in their bedroom. It was early evening, and my husband was still at work. When I was about halfway through my workout, I heard Chet come through the front door. I had the music up loud enough that he would know I was in the guest room, and the light could be seen shining under the door. As usual, I had a chair propped up against the door to A). get it out of my way and B). provide me with a very minor sense of security knowing that no one could just barge right in on me.
Very shortly after I heard the front door open, Chet knocked on the bedroom door and then immediately tried to open it. As usual, I shouted that I’m working out, but this time, instead of going away, he kept pushing at the door, and he started yelling. Alarmed, I pressed the door shut so that he would get the point. That’s when things got ugly, as he tried violently shoving his way into the room, and I had to apply a good amount of pressure to keep the door closed. He was yelling and swearing, and he kept trying to force his way into the room with me, and it seriously freaked me out. At one point, I fought back the urge to let out a blood-curdling scream; I was scared. It didn’t go on for more than a minute or two; he stopped and went away. I’m strong, and with my adrenaline pumping, there was no way he was getting into that room, especially not since I was in fear of bodily injury at that point.
My immediate thought was to call 911, but I paced around for a few minutes wondering if I was overreacting, what would I say, was this really as serious as it felt, that type of thing. I eventually decided that since he hadn’t come back after a couple of minutes, it certainly wasn’t an emergency but that I should definitely call the police non-emergency number, because I wasn’t going to feel safe from this point on, unless someone in authority came out to explain to the in-laws that their son and I have rights, whether they like it or not. I was shaking and my heart was hammering, and it took me a minute to go through the process of turning on the Wi-Fi on my phone and Googling the number I needed; I couldn’t focus on what I needed to do. I finally got it together and dialed. Meanwhile, I could hear the in-laws conversing in low tones in the dining room.
I spoke to a dispatcher who informed me that Chet had already called, and police were en route. When the two officers arrived, they spoke with the in-laws for several minutes. (I stayed put, figuring I’d let them give their side of the story first.) At one point, I heard one of the officers telling them that he (the cop) can’t make me leave that room, or he can’t make me let Chet in, I don’t recall the exact wording. Chet responded by asking, “Can I make her?” Holy shit, that actually happened. The officer advised against it, reasoning that trying to go that route would likely instigate a physical altercation and “then somebody’s gonna get hurt.” It was about this time that Maude started mouthing off about something and was told that I was gonna get the same speech that he just gave them and that he had explained to her what the rules are but he would be happy to come back out later and tell her again.
After that, the two officers came to talk to me. Basically, my husband and I were designated one bedroom, and that’s the room that the in-laws couldn’t enter (they had previously violated this). They also couldn’t walk in on one of us when we’re in the bathroom. Same rules, of course, applied to us – we couldn’t walk in on them in the bathroom or enter their bedroom. Not that we would want to. But the rest of the house was shared space, and therefore fair game for any of us. So, they couldn’t tell Tim he couldn’t sleep in the guest bedroom, but Tim had no recourse when the old man came in to change clothes right in front of him in the mornings.
I didn’t want any trouble, so I stopped working out in there; it wasn’t worth having my stomach in knots. However, after all that, Chet made no effort to avoid conflict. On the contrary, it seemed that he was trying to provoke one, when he went into the spare bedroom the very next morning to change clothes in front of Tim. It’s not unreasonable to expect your father-in-law to pull an outfit out of the closet and take it to his own room the night before. It certainly took more effort to be a passive-aggressive exhibitionist. Especially considering that when Chet arrived home that evening, he brought Maude into the guest room with him to change his clothes. He not only had to walk all the way across the house and risk causing a confrontation (if one of us had been in that room), he now also needed a chaperon. All of this was easier than simply changing clothes in his own room, in private? It’s also worth pointing out that, later that morning, Tim told me when they were both in the kitchen, Chet said, “Good morning” to him, as if nothing had happened at all.
On a side note, I’m slightly curious about what Chet said to the police dispatcher when he called. I was freaked out and scared because an angry old man was trying to force his way into the room I was occupying. But what did Chet say when he called? My daughter-in-law (he would never acknowledge me as a relative, so what? a woman who lives in my house?) won’t let me in the guest bedroom while she’s in there? True, 911 dispatchers get dumber calls than that, but still…
Looking back, I think Maude triangulated the whole thing. She put her flying monkey in a situation where he kept provoking, then when he escalated things, she advised him to call the police. And she wasn’t actually a participant in the events that led to the call, so she wasn’t in the hot-seat in any way; she was able to sit back and take it all in. She played it like Chet had acted on his own, and she had nothing to do with any of it. Chet doesn’t lack assertiveness, but he certainly isn’t an overtly confrontational person. Tim thinks his mother called Chet’s manhood into question in order to incite him into action.
None of that last can be proven, of course, so let me close by restating the facts and reiterating my point. The example here is that Chet tried to violently force his way into a room with me. I reacted by freaking out and holding the door shut until he retreated. Because I defended my position, Chet called the police, which means he must have claimed to be the victim of… something. Narcissists go on the offense, forcing their victims to play defense.