Emotional Manipulation #5 – Guilt Trip 

photography of a person pointing on something

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

Narcissists are able to manipulate others so well because they are continually on the lookout for our vulnerabilities.  Once they hone in on what’s important to you, they will use those things against us.  Some examples of vulnerabilities might be our children, any self-esteem issues or insecurities we might have (weight, appearance, etc.), or fears – such as being alone or threats of violating court orders and finances in my case.  Money was a major issue during our divorce.

The narcissistic psychopath will place a guilt trip on you when they want you to do something for them. They will make note of all the sacrifices they have made for you, the gestures they have made for you, and any minuscule compliment they have paid you. Your actions should be in recognition and repayment of those things. And when you refuse to comply or pay up, they claim it is your fault, with no other choice available but to comply and wield to their wishes. 

It’s all your fault.  Somehow in someway, his cheating, lying, and other bad behavior is also your fault.  Perhaps he’s telling you that you needed to be home more, or to spend more time with him, lose weight, gain weight, dress sexier, dress less sexy–whatever.  According to him, his behavior is your fault. (This is the classic, “Look at what you made me do.”)

I can remember one perfect example where my narcissistic partner used guilt as his weapon of choice to get me to wield to his will.  We were living in the same house during our divorce.  Regardless of our agreement that we would each have our own separate bedrooms; he hated losing that one piece of control over me.  He would constantly pick my bedroom lock breaking in, insisting it was HIS house, HIS room, and HE should have access to my bedroom anytime HE wished.  So after numerous times of my privacy being invaded, I had hired a locksmith and installed a pick-proof lock.

I had planned to get away for a few days, leaving for the weekend.  Prior to my departure, my narcissistic partner insisted that I leave my bedroom door unlocked, providing him full access. Using guilt as an emotional tactic he stated, “If you don’t leave the door open when you leave, I will call a locksmith and personally charge you the $300 that it cost to open it.”  He was going to charge me for HIS breaking into my bedroom!

He knew I was concerned about the finances.  His spending was out of control. Yet, every minute of every day he was claiming that I was the one violating the court’s status quo order, holding threats of motions over me.    Pouncing on my vulnerability and fears, I fell for his guilt trip hook, line and sinker.  I welded to his wishes and left my door unlocked. He had guilted me into thinking it was my fault he had to hire a locksmith to break into my personal bedroom!

He also tried many times after that to punish me using guilt where our children were concerned. After various court appearances, regardless of his illegal activities and high priced attorney, it was my fault he was spending so much money on our divorce.  Then telling our son he could no longer afford to help with his rent one week before it was due because it was my fault.

The same day we signed our settlement agreement, after much negotiation, he stated “I hope you’re happy, I can’t afford to support our children’s education because of you.”  When I wouldn’t agree to his demands, he followed through on his threats telling the children all their college funds were gone because again it was apparently all my fault.

Deep down I knew it wasn’t true, but he had hit below the belt where it hurt most – our kids.  And he would continue to do so over the months that followed, trying to guilt me especially where our children were concerned.  He stayed true to his threats over the years, that if I ever left he would leave me with nothing, and turn my own children against me.  He certainly tried.  Alienation and disparagement are also common tactics the narcissist commonly use.

Once you learn these manipulative tactics, they’re easy to spot.  However, not always easy to control your way of responding to those actions that have been conditioned over the years. Especially when they prey upon your fears and vulnerabilities.  Stay true to what you know – what you feel is your truth.  And as I quote Disney’s Elsa “Let it go” as best you can.  You’re not crazy or delusional.  You have a right to your own opinions, beliefs and integrity.  Believe in yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

January Recap ….

planner

Photo by Bich Tran on Pexels.com

January Summary – One Month Into My Divorce

Amicable?  Peaceful?  Let our attorneys work it out?   Scott had been anything but amicable one month into our divorce ‘process’ as he professed so often to anyone who would listen.  (They say hindsight is 20/20 – the following year would be ugly, malicious and devastating. I still can’t believe I survived it all, despite everything. Then there’s that age old saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”   … Call me Hercules!)

Over the course of the past month, Scott had sabotaged my client / attorney relationship, which compromised my subsequent filing for divorce.  He then filed as the plaintiff and had me served at the same time as my father’s open heart surgery.  He also tried to set me up and incriminate me by staging three separate events.

He continued to spin an evil web of lies and deceit that put me on a crazy wheel.  He maliciously used manipulative tactics like Gaslighting, Words of Affirmation, and Verbal Abuse.   Scott accused me of hiding funds and having an affair, things he was doing himself!

Scott started alienating me from our finances and stopped paying the credit card bills.  He refused to give me any money, which forced me to stay in the marital home for the sake of our children, and thus began my nightmare incarceration in his House of Horrors.  Scott blatantly began to violate the very orders that he put in place by cashing out stocks, forging my signature, and hiding funds.

Scott invaded my privacy repeatedly.  He started breaking into my files, my emails, my bedroom, and my car.  On two separate occasions I called the police, fearful for my safety.

Scott’s behavior started metastasizing like a cancer that, throughout our marriage, had been eating into the relationship, damaging it beyond repair.  Now, however, I was seeing how deadly and malignant Scott could really be. He set out to ruin my life and my relationship with our children, my very sanity.  To him, it was a game, one he had to win at all costs.  He gave me no choice but to play by his rules.

And just like a cancer, he didn’t care what he destroyed in his lust to win; eating my life away, piece by piece.

Here’s a Brief Recap of January’s Events:

EMOTIONAL MANIPULATIVE TACTICS (the first 3 of 17)

Emotional Manipulation #1 – Gaslighting  

Gaslighting is a form of persistent manipulation and brainwashing that causes the victim to doubt oneself, and to ultimately lose their own sense of perception, identity, and self-worth.  Gaslighting statements and accusations are usually based on blatant lies or an extreme exaggeration of the truth.  The term is derived from the 1944 film, “Gaslight”, in which a husband tries to convince his wife that she’s insane by forcing her to question herself and her sense of reality.  When someone is gaslighted, the narcissist will tell you, “That didn’t happen.  You imagined it.  You’re crazy. You’re delusional.”  In a nutshell, the narcissist will lie and that instills doubt.  Scott now proclaiming that he never agreed to reside in the guest bedroom during the divorce was a perfect example.  It’s easy to see how powerful this can be, as it allows the abuser to deflect all focus from their own actions and shift it to something completely irrelevant. Or, Scott would twist it so I would doubt my perceptions of what really happened time and time again.

Emotional Manipulation Tactic #2 – Words of Affirmation

“Words of Affirmation” are just what you want to hear from your significant other – that they love you, how important you are to them, they are sorry, and how they will never hurt you again. The only thing is – you never hear these things from them unless you are extremely upset and threatening to walk away. Or when they feel the need to exert their power over you in some way. It could be when you’ve reached your boiling point, like a frog about to jump out of the pot, but these words of affirmation are what your abuser knows will get you to stop being angry and stay. Unfortunately, this probably isn’t a true feeling of love or respect for you. It’s just giving you what you want to hear (or gifts) to calm you down – that’s appeasement, not love.

Emotional Manipulation #3 – Verbal Abuse

Verbal abuse is when a person forcefully criticizes, insults, or devalues someone else. Characterized by underlying anger and hostility, it is a destructive form of communication intended to harm the self-concept of the other person and produce negative emotions in attempt to control another through non-physical means. Verbal abuse, and most other types of abuse, is caused by an underlying disorder. Most often, the disorders are borderline personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder, or sociopathy. Healthy people might occasionally lose their temper, leading to an outburst, but a consistent pattern of hurtful verbal abuse can only be the result of a deeper problem.

STAGING

Staging #1 – Scott lied and sabotaged my attorney and filed as the plaintiff

Staging #2 – Amicable recording

Staging #3 – Scott planted a BB gun in my bedroom, claiming to be afraid for his safety

POLICE REPORTS

Police Report #1 – Missing tax files/chasing me into my bedroom

Police Report #2 – Locksmith, gaining key, and entry to my bedroom

FINANCES

– Scott excluded me from finances

– Scott depleted our local bank account

– Scott refused to pay visa bill

– Scott demanded my ring to sell for attorney fees

– Scott changed statement mailing address to his office

– Scott Sold E*Trade Stocks and changed statement mailing address

– Scott had E*Trade stock check overnighted

– Scott cashed $71,000 check at Chicago bank

– Scott removed/hid Puerto Rican Bank Statements

INVASIONS OF MY PRIVACY

– Scott refused to move to guest bedroom as previously agreed

– Scott broke into my bedroom repeatedly

– Scott hired a locksmith to break into my room and get a key

– Scott broke into my home computer files

– Scott hacked my personal emails

– Scott broke into my locked car and stole files

MY FIRST MONTH

– My father had heart failure, heart surgery

– I hired my 2nd attorney

– I hired a (CDFA) Certified Divorce Financial Advisor

– I met with Chicago Bank and got an ATM card working

– I began working on interrogatory questions

– I hired a locksmith

– I moved Scott’s items to the basement

– I called Police twice

– I began to research, read and understand

Our divorce wasn’t going to be amicable or peaceful as Scott professed over and over. He had declared war; trumpets blaring, sword drawn, and riding high on his horse.   He had always threatened he would do whatever it took to destroy me, to leave me with nothing and ruin my relationship with our kids. True to his words, January was just a small taste of things to come. In the months to follow it would get worse.  Much, much worse.

War of the Roses?  Nah, I wish.  That was peanuts.  It was just the beginning of my Year of Thorns.

 

One Year Ago – Liberation Day

business calligraphy close up composition

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One Year Ago . . . a day of reflection

I’m jumping ahead here to my journal entry from one year ago on 9/11.  It seems to be a day of reflection.  What a difference a year makes.

I had met Scott thirty years ago to the day.  I remember vividly because it was my friend Karen’s birthday all those years ago back in college.  And being that it falls on 9/11 also makes the date easy to remember.  I will always remember 9/11 moving forward as my Liberation Day.  The day I singed our Settlement Agreement.

Psychiatric Evaluation Results 

Our attorneys had asked to meet prior to my deposition to see if we could finalize a Settlement Agreement regarding the few remaining issues prior to our scheduled trial to begin the following day:  Child Custody, Alimony and Child Support.  (Scott had already been disposed by that point.)

To my advantage and delight we finally received the psychiatric evaluation results that morning.  Scott’s entire case was based on claims that I was an unfit and uninvolved mother — which, after his deposition, we knew was a lie.  Scott couldn’t answer a single question regarding our children.  Scott’s only alternative was to claim that I was mentally unstable, bipolar, delusional, etc….  Everything was riding on the psychiatric evaluation results.  For us both! 

I received the results literally as I was walking out the door to meet Kelly, my attorney a few minutes prior to our Settlement talks.   I couldn’t read through the report fast enough as my heart pounded, with each sentence filling my heart with joy. 

The results were even better than I imagined! Having just read the report myself, I couldn’t help but gloat.  It was Scott’s final nail in the coffin.  He had no case against me.  He had to know that if we went to trial he would surely have lost taking into consideration both his deposition and his personal psychological assessment results.  Then there was my boat load of evidence pertaining to his forgery, perjury, documented abuse through police reports, hacking, evidence of staging and lying to our co-parenting therapist, plus my documentation of over 100 violations.  Scott really had no choice but to settle. 

*           *            *

September 11 – Settlement Agreement, My Liberation Day! 

During our final negotiations, we knew Scott wanted to avoid going to trial.  However, his settlement offer was much less than what I wanted, but significantly more than his original offer of ZERO.  Slowly over the course of the morning we made headway.  During our negotiations I stood my ground and refused Scott’s last offer.  I had calculated an amount that I thought was fair and refused to go below that amount.  (It still wasn’t what I wanted financially, but I also wanted it to be over!) 

My attorney, upset with my stubbornness, actually asked me to step outside into the parking lot.  As we stood there, Kelly with her voice raised proceeded to tell me while pointing her finger in my face that I was making the biggest mistake of my life if I wouldn’t accept their latest settlement offer. It was much less than I was willing to go; especially after my research in talking with my CDFA and court ‘calculated’ recommended amount.   I dug in my heels and for the first time I stood up to Kelly and said “I am willing to take my chances.  I’d rather go to trial than compromise my integrity.”  Which is exactly what I would have done if I had agreed to Scott’s pittance of an offer.  Up to this point I’ve been fighting for my life.  I was not about to quit, after everything Scott’s put me through not just this past year, but in all the years before.    My attorney couldn’t possibly understand the pain and mental anguish I’d endured. 

Kelly, not happy with my refusal, stormed back into the building.  Throwing her arms up in the air as she walked into the conference room announced “We’re going to trial.  Negotiations are done. Offer refused.”  Following a few feet behind Kelly I sat down and clipped the mic on stating that I was ready to start my deposition for our trial tomorrow. I was not playing around.  The look on Scott’s face was priceless, seeing I was dead serious, he stated, “I told you she would do this,” to his attorney and stepped out asking for a few words in private.  

Approximately ten minutes later, they came back into our small conference room where I was waiting with the court stenographer who was there to record my deposition.  Scott had agreed to our Settlement offer and alimony from our last round of negotiations (still lower than I hoped, but I could live on).  There was no reason to continue with my deposition nor preparations for trial. We also agreed that we would continue the personal property and status quo violation issues with the arbitrator (Big Mistake – Huge.)

The four of us proceeded to write out the agreement around the conference table dividing the assets effective September 1st retroactively.  We all were then required to sign the document.  When the papers came around to me, I had a last-minute thought and refused to sign. The silence in the room was deafening. I proceeded to state “I will only sign our agreement today if I get the dog.”  Scott had threatened all along to take the dog as well as the children from me.  

Scott actually began to refuse and argue, when his attorney hit him on the arm and told him, “Give her the damn dog!”  Scott reluctantly agreed, and I signed.   I was disappointed in the final numbers, but happy that chapter was nearly closed. I actually felt guilty that I was so happy – so close to freedom!  (I was so misguided — it was far from over.)

I was hopeful that the divorce was nearly over and the Judgement of Divorce (JOD) could be entered. (It wasn’t entered until January!)  We still had a few loose ends with the arbitrator regarding our personal property and Status Quo violations, but I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I was nearly free!  For the first time in what seems like ages I could breath and feel a sense of hope for my future.

Signing the Settlement Agreement was by far my biggest mistake leaving the rest of the issues in the mediator/arbitrators hands.  I should have gone to trial.  As part of our Settlement Agreement I agreed to waive all attorney fees.  This was also a huge mistake.   It wasn’t mutual.  Meaning that Scott did not agree to waive attorney fees and would come after me for Arbitration and Mediation attorney fees later.  Scott’s attorney fees were 2/3 higher than mine.  But Kelly insisted that it would be difficult to get reimbursed given that the fees were already paid in full.  But according to Kelly, going to trail would cost significantly more, and I would be taking a chance at recouping those attorney fees and sanctions.  One can’t predict the future, but in hindsight, I had already come so far, I should have taken the chance.  It wasn’t over.  Not even close and Scott would continue to bleed me dry after signing the Settlement Agreement.

*           *            *

The Aftermath 

Scott lost the battle; we both did.  The only winners were the attorneys.  Finally, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  I should have been relieved, happy that this war was nearly over.  But I had this foreboding feeling that there was more to come. (There was!)

As anticipated, the malicious messages came rolling in immediately.  Using all the manipulative tools Scott knew, he tried to shame me; guilting me by projecting his own insecurities onto me through a barrage of texts. Scott said, “I hope you’re happy. Now I can’t afford to support our children’s education.”  He continued calling me greedy, claiming that the children would suffer because of me!   

I couldn’t help but reflect how much money we wasted, literally thrown out the window, much in part to Scott’s actions (and significant attorney fees).  Yet he blamed me, using the only weapon he had left to hurt me, the kids. Just as I feared. Just as he threatened.  Scott had 14 days to write me a check for half the equity of the house, boat, cars and E-Trade compensation.  (Having those funds allowed me the financial freedom to move out finally). Scott didn’t want to give me one cent, but he  was a smart man, backed into the corner with his failure of a deposition and an even worse psychiatric evaluation in hand. He was a wounded warrior, out for revenge.

I should have refused to settle and gone to trial. What I didn’t understand at the time and do now is that the narcissist show their true colors in conflict. One should abandon all hope of a reasonable negotiation or mediation; the true narcissist does neither. The narcissist’s policy is to scorch the earth, destroying everything and leaving nothing behind.

Chicago Bound

river between trees and city skyscrapers

Photo by heather bozman on Pexels.com

January Journal Continued . . . 

I needed a break and I needed to get my finances in order which meant meeting with our bank branch in Chicago. Road trip time.  For the first time in months I actually smiled and felt a thousand pounds lighter leaving behind all that baggage — and Scott.  I couldn’t wait to be free.

Before I left, Scott sent a text demanding I leave the master bedroom door unlocked.  It was His room, His bed.  Of course I refused.  I hadn’t worked hours upon hours moving all his belonging to the guest room for no reason.  Who knows what he would do now – possibly start selling off my jewelry?  Hack my files?  Who knows! His erratic behavior and outburst were anything but status quo. Scott scared me. And he didn’t like it when I didn’t obey his demands.

Another text from Scott followed with, “Don’t tell anyone while on your ‘visit’ that we’re getting divorced.  It may impact my career.” I’m sure Scott doesn’t want me telling any of our friends about our impending divorce.  Besides, I don’t believe for one moment that a major Fortune 500 company will fire an employee for getting divorced.  It was all about his ego, and Scott’s need to maintain the perfect image.

Secret Mission

I went to stay with our friends Tim and Alyssa Johnson.  We met 26 years ago when Scott started working for “The Cereal Company” the same time as Tim.  They have continued to be our dear friends ever since. We visited them constantly over the years after we moved away.  They even managed to visit us while living abroad in both Ireland and the Caribbean. 

Now while staying with them in Chicago, I confided in Alyssa about the divorce.  She wasn’t surprised having known us for so many years and the struggles I’ve endured.  I asked her not to tell her husband, Tim, initially about the divorce.  First, I wanted to quiz him about the various savings and investment plans The Company offered.  Tim was close to the same level in The Company as Scott and I needed to know exactly what investments that entailed. So, over the next few days I cleverly worked in various questions about the plans and retirement programs that they were both participating in and took meticulous notes.  

Inside Scoop

Shortly after filing for divorce I’d reached out to another Company wife, Kim who had recently signed her Judgment of Divorce.  She had a difficult divorce as well, and warned me early on, even bringing me a journal instructing me to write down everything during the process. I am forever grateful to Kim for her advice and gift that day.  It’s the same journal I am referring to now.  She indicated that her ex-husband had failed to disclose a few of those retirement plans during their divorce. To her dismay, there was nothing she could do now to recoup those lost funds.  Knowing what had happened to Kim, I wasn’t about to let that happen to me as well and so I drilled Tim for information as best I could.

Retaliation 

Scott continued to inundate me with messages while I was in Chicago, now proclaiming that he was taking the kids to Florida for spring break among other things.  We had discussed this before and had agreed that, because our daughter had won the state competition for DECA, she was going to go to California for the national competition.  We simply couldn’t afford to do both.  Besides, we had agreed that she couldn’t take that much time away from both her high school and college classes. Scott just wants to punish me for going to Chicago. It was ok for him to travel and go on numerous “guy trips” each year.  But not ok for me to even take a weekend away.  That was his retaliation.  

(Scott claimed later that every time I left the house I was abandoning the family – even when I would drive an hour away to meet with my attorney.  He would state this repeatedly in our child custody and arbitration hearings.)

I spent a few blissful days with the Johnson’s free from obligations and divorce able to exercise my free will and just go with it.  I can’t remember the last time I did that.  I also made the rounds and visited a few other friends from the old neighborhood where we used to live in the Chicago suburbs.  Finally I met with our banking account executive and got access to the accounts online and a working ATM card. I informed him of our divorce and asked that he alert me if Scott made any other changes to our account. 

(I am surprised that our bank neglected to inform me that Scott had made special arrangements to cash out our E*Trade stocks at that local branch receiving $71,000 in cash just a few days prior.)

Battleground – January

War of the Rooms

I made a mad dash for the master bedroom, purposefully going to bed earlier than usual to claim my ground.  While I was sound asleep, Scott picked the lock once again. Startled, I awoke to Scott poking me on the shoulder.  Obviously rattled with a angry tone he asked me, “What did you do to MY (not our)  Merrill Lynch account!”  

Stunned and baffled why he woke me up, I assured Scott, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.  I haven’t done anything to your account.”  Reluctantly and obviously agitated, he gave up and stomped out.  I was grateful he left, and didn’t climb back into my bed again.

Stupidly, I admit that I had left all the finances up to Scott. It was my job to pay the bills and run the house.  Scott would always make sure there was enough money in the checking account to cover those bills each month.  That was our arrangement over the years. Scott invested our savings into various stocks through E*TRADE, Merrill Lynch, and into investment properties.

New Attorney #2

men s wearing black suit jacket and pants

Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

After much searching, and five consultations later, I found and hired a large firm with a good reputation to handle my divorce.  I explained my marriage history and warned my new attorney, Bob, that I think this was going to be an ugly divorce.  This was already evident by Scott’s threats and behavior already.  Bob reassured me that this is normal, and that his large firm will protect and serve me well. I signed the appropriate documents, handed Bob my retainer and a copy of my original filing for divorce along with our box of tax files for him to copy.

Interrogatory Questions

agreement blur business close up

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

After I shared my new attorney’s information with Scott, we immediately received his interrogatory questions for me to answer. Bob was stunned. He has never seen such an extensive packet of questions.  According to him, I have just 28 days to complete literally hundreds of questions. These ranged from the typical financial questions to the ludicrous such as “#121 – Describe your current emotional and physical state,”  or “#78 – Why do you think you are a good parent?”  Those types of questions weren’t simple yes or no answers, and will take me hours upon hours to prepare.  I can’t figure out what Scott hopes to learn from his extensive list of questions.  I am a simple housewife.  I have nothing to hide.  All our bank accounts are joint.  In return, my attorney sent out a standard set of interrogatory questions for Scott to answer with a few tweaks here and there. 

dollar-currency-money-us-dollar-47344.jpeg

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Financial Alienation 

Since the day we decided to file for divorce, Scott has put me through deliberate and intentional alienation from our finances.  He shut them down, stating it was his house and his money.  Scott refuses to give me money, knowing I don’t have a working ATM card with our main bank in Chicago.  I always thought it was strange that he kept our bank account in Chicago, even while living abroad.  After we moved back to the States, Scott still kept that account, even though the bank is more than a three-hour drive away.  Scott coordinated most of our banking and managed the checkbook.  We had opened a small account at the local credit union who financed our mortgage, but there is never much money in that account.   

It wasn’t until months later that I learned Scott had once again hacked my Yahoo email account; once at 7:17 a.m., and again at 8:39 a.m. that day.  He was also busy violating both the MRO and MSQ Orders moving joint marital funds around and selling off E*Trade stocks. Now it all made sense, why Scott was so upset when he had problems accessing the Merrill Lynch account that day.