Boundaries, anxiety and letting too much in
Sorry, this is lengthy.
Hi folks. I'm a guy in my 40's, divorced with 2 kids, a teen and a tween. I have my kids every weekend. I've been in a serious relationship for 2.5 years. We spend Monday to Thursday together, and have started to spend most weekends together with my kids. Her kids are 19 and 18, the 19 year old lives with his dad (gamer, no job or school). Her daughter moved away for university.
It's been a challenge, as I'm sure most of these situations are. My kids love her, and she's really good to them. She does struggle with some things, like my meddling ex-wife and my controlling mother. My teen son is also starting to push back about spending weekends at her house - I get him, his mother is unstable and has them all over the place when they're with her. She was (I'm hoping not anymore, she claims no) involved with some bad people and did bad things. Everyone says their ex is bad...the stuff she did was shocking. We've been divorced for a long time now, and although the meddling and manipulation has subsided somewhat, when she gets in her 'way", I often bear the brunt of it. Think of intentionally messing with my plans/life - using the kids as she knows what buttons to push and how to ramp up my anxiety and mess with me.
I've learned over the last few years to not engage her - getting angry or reacting simply gives her what she wants. Fuel on the fire. I learned long ago to just mute her. It's been mostly an effective strategy. But when something goes wrong for her or she does something stupid or reckless, or is just miserable, the texts start and my ignoring her doesn't always work - she'll use the kids to get a reaction from me because she knows how to create situations I simply can't ignore. It's bloody awful. My partner absolutely hates it, and she has every right to. She moved to another town, and on Fridays I have to drive there after work - it's a dangerous and stressful drive, especially in the winter. But years ago she found some guy and uprooted them, again, and moved in with him. Shockingly, they are now broken up. She picks them up Mondays. Last weekend, she got the compulsion thing going and texted me Sunday night "I want to pick the kids up tonight, it's going to snow and I don’t want them on the roads in the morning". Note: She has NEVER done ANYTHING to put their safety first. She's a drug addict (or former, so she claims). What was actually happening is that she knew we were at my gf's house, and that I'd have to drive to my place that night (she won't drive to my gf's house to pick them up) and that that would ruin the evening. It did.
It was going to snow that night, and I actually didn't want them on the road in the morning either, so I agreed. The second my phone lights up and I see it's her, my blood pressure goes up and my vision goes wonky. "Oh no, what is it now?" The forecast changed, and there was no snow. I texted her and said "no, snow, you can just pick them up in the morning". Of course this messed with her attempt at control and ruining the evening, so she had a freak out. Instead of engaging, I simply said "oh please. Just pick them up tomorrow". And I muted her. It's difficult. She's a total failure at life, but absolutely skilled at manipulation and conniving to cause grief when she's feeling in "a way".
Then there's my mother. She was a great mom, until I was 15, when she had an affair and left for her rich, powerful affair partner. I stayed with my dad, who was a mess, in a tiny apartment. My sister went to live with them in his mansion. She became a selfish, egomaniacal person. This lasted for years and we were not close. Power and money. That was it. She is married to the man she left us for. When I went through my divorce, they swooped in and took me under their wing. All of a sudden, my caring, loving mother was back. I bonded with my stepdad. They remained, however, the ego driven, high power couple they always were. If you're in the circle, you're blessed and it's a gift. If you're out, you're trash. They were very, very kind to me, and had me all to themselves. I dated and sewed some oats, but nothing serious.
My mother is a type A personality, very accomplished, high energy, gets things done, takes care of things, is a doer. She's also controlling and domineering. She knows me extremely well. I have suffered from generalized anxiety disorder since I was a small child. She reads me like a book.
2.5 years ago, I met a woman and we fell deeply in love. At the time, she was in remission from a chronic disease. She was healthy. She met my folks and they fell in love with her. And vice-versa. When they disappeared south as they do every winter for 6 months, she was actually hurt and saddened. Her mom died several years ago and she is estranged from her dad. She felt like she had parents again. When my folks are here, we were focused on deeply. When they go, they're GONE. Deeply entrenched in their "lifestyle". I'm used to this, it actually was a bit puzzling and hurtful to my gf. All of a sudden, you're nearly ghosted. I explained this to her...she was sold by them - they're salespeople. I told her there's another side to them, she didn't get it. I've learned to accept them for who they are - I'm estranged from my father (awful story) and his father. My mom's folks were religious (cultists) who didn't associate with me, ever, I didn't know them. So, like my GF, my folks became very important and not something I wanted to lose. I don't have much family - I didn't want to lose this.
Of course my gf coming in as an objective outsider, she saw some behaviors (control, etc) that were red flags to her. I acknowledged but explained I was making some sacrifices to preserve the relationship. You do have to "walk the line" with them, or as she put it, there's a "protocol" you have to follow to remain on the "inside". I know this was difficult for her.
Last October, while my folks were away, my gf was diagnosed with cancer. Her other illness came back as well. My folks offered to come back a month early to help her - with her house, cooking, cleaning, whatever. A very kind gesture. So they did. Now, the deal with anything you get from them is - there are caveats, rules, that come with it. It's not totally selfless - it's on THEIR terms. My gf was a passive woman who was pushed around a lot as a child and a younger woman. After leaving her ex-husband, who was abusive, she began to assert herself and "speak up". The terms which my mother dictated would be in place for the help, in short, did not work for my gf. She was never disrespectful, but she would decline if something didn't work for her. She was fighting cancer and another illness...and had other drama going on. This, of course, was extremely offensive to my parents. Passive-aggressively, my mother let this be known. She started doing under-handed, manipulative things to slight or disrespect her. My gf was baffled and hurt.
Example: she gives my daughter a check for her bday, then contacts my gf and says "will you take her to the mall to spend it Saturday". My gf replies, I can't do it this Saturday because of xyz, but if that's ok I'd be happy to do it another time". I wasn't told of any of this.
I get a text from my mom: "I asked (gf) to take (daughter) shopping but she said she wouldn't do it, so can you?" This infuriated my gf. This kind of thing kept happening. She did call her on it, saying "I didn't say I wouldn't do it, just that I couldn't this Saturday....". No reply of course. This behavior continued and my gf started to become resentful. Then my mother starts texting me at work, at dinner time, later in the evening...and I wouldn't necessarily respond right away - sometimes not the next day either. These were intrusive texts, when she knew it wasn't right for me to engage her. It escalated....things like texts at 11pm "HELLO??" "Nice talking to you!!". "Why does it take you so long to text me back??". This was causing me great anxiety and aggravating my gf. I started to reply "mom, I'm not attached to my phone, and don't text very much". Trying to be gentle but firm...but knowing how sensitive this is and that she does NOT take that well. ANY criticism is a slight, an attack. "How DARE you after all I've done for you" sort of thing. I knew this, and that the last time I confronted my mother (when I was still married), it EXPLODED and we didn't talk for months.
And so, my fear of that happening again, stopped me from putting up the boundaries I should have. Not cool. And this was starting to affect my relationship. My anxiety has been high, and growing, and I resent being put in this situation. I started pulling back from my mom - and this drove her NUTS. She ramped up this behavior, and started being more koooky, more inappropriate. More disrespectful. They have been gone since October. Things have been very awkward...no blow ups, but obviously something is wrong...my gf and I have purposely been VERY calm, cool, collected...hoping she would get it and back off. She didn't. A simple phone call from her on a Saturday afternoon would now set my gf off, and I would get angry at her..."it's just a phone call, I have done nothing wrong!!". One of my deep rooted issues is - I get angry as hell when I feel I'm wrongly accused of something....that goes back to my past. I'm usually very chill, calm...then I feel accused wrongly, and I will explode with anger. Bad, I know.
One of these phone calls happened Saturday, she got angry, I got angry, and I left. I was going to end it. I didn't see her side...I only saw me being in sh*t for an innocent phone call...
We patched it up, had a long talk, and I saw her perspective..she saw mine. My mother (and ex) are causing us grief...it is giving me anxiety, and anger...and that is damaging my relationship. And I'm not blameless...I know. I have an anger problem...rooted in anxiety. I am afraid of losing my folks - so I tolerate things and fail to put up boundaries. I am SICK with anxiety over this.
For xmas, my mom sent my kids checks for $100 each. There was a problem with inactivity on my daughter's account, so I couldn't deposit it. I hadn't got around to going to the bank to deal with it. The other day my mom texts "I see you haven't deposited those checks". Tisk tisk. I explained the situation...she gets on the phone and raises hell and now the bank has unfrozen the account. She included me in the email thread. I email back a thank you. She texts me the next day, looking for praise. I reply, "yes, I emailed you, thank you again for doing that". "Well I didn't get the email".
I didn't reply.
Then this at 6pm:
"Now you have to promise me to help them deposit their cheques this weekend please. I wonder what happened to your Email"
I was eating supper with my gf, didn't reply, didn't tell her. Put it out of my mind - not letting myself get angry. I'm in my 40's and she types that?
Then 1.5 hours later, this:
"Hello? I’d just like a response as I pushed for this and need to know you will address depositing the money. I push for something but need a response."
Well, there it was. I cracked. My gf says "OMG what happened?". I show her the texts. She says "well this is the crap she's been doing all along, why are you angry now?"
I texted back "mom, please don't do this".
"Demand I respond on your time. I am not attached to my phone. I JUST looked at it. It is NOT urgent that I promise you I'm going to the bank on the weekend. You know that. And I am not promising that. Thank you for the checks. If they come with rules and regulations like that, let's not do that".
That was 2 nights ago. Haven't heard a word back. I knew it - this would blow everything up. Now? We're on the outside of the circle. DONE. My gf said - "I've never seen you like that. You broke. I could see it all over your body".
I almost collapsed from emotional exhaustion. However, I am relieved. I finally put up the boundary, and it's cost the relationship. Lame. I know what will happen. She's composing an email - it will be an "I am SO hurt, how could you say that, after all we've done for you, etc etc". There will be zero self-reflection or awareness. I'm just an angry ingrate.
And that's where I'm at. Saddened, but relieved. My gf is obviously happy I did that. She's disappointed with what's happened, but as she said, this was damaging us.
I obviously need to figure out how to control my anxiety an how much I let others in to cause it. I guess that's on me. I'm going to the Dr tomorrow to talk about my anxiety. It's better, but I feel too much - I'm too affected. I hate generalized anxiety disorder. I resent my mother, my ex, and myself in some ways. Obviously I need to make some changes.
Comments/feedback appreciated. Apologies for the novel.