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A Portrait of Manipulation and Boundary Violations

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  • #41397

    findingserenity
    Participant

    Here’s a tiny snippet from my past 3 years. There’s a lot more, but I think I’ll make some survivor friends to talk with on this forum. 🙂 This was actually a therapy exercise in spotting manipulation. I am obviously the “partner” in this story.

    A Portrait of Manipulation and Boundary Violations

    Those who are easily manipulated often have weak or non-existent boundaries. Manipulators take advantage of their target’s lack of boundaries and weaknesses to advance their own ends, especially if they are familiar with the target’s personality traits such as people-pleasing and other behaviors they know they can manipulate for their own personal gain.

    Read the following and try to spot the instances of covert and overt manipulation and the boundary violations of all parties.

    A man who lives in Hawaii had been divorced for seven years and has two teenage daughters that he loves dearly would visit his daughters and their mother (his ex-wife) who lived out of state every six weeks for a week at a time. His ex-was also originally from Hawaii. During his visits, he slept in a room downstairs, did repairs and improvements on his ex-wife’s house that she got in the divorce (along with large monthly alimony payments and child support), took care of the yard, worked on her car, and took the family on outings and out to dinner. The man had become involved with a woman in his home state that he has decided to be in a long-term relationship with, yet he did not want to tell his ex-wife about his relationship.

    His daughters came to visit and met his partner. The youngest daughter bonded with his partner; the older daughter was ambivalent and seemingly upset that her father was with someone new. As the months progressed, his partner suggested that it would be healthy to tell his ex-wife about their relationship. The man refused, saying he didn’t want any problems her, and he feared she would try to get more alimony if she knew, or make him stay in a hotel, in which case he wouldn’t be able to afford to see his daughters as often.

    This pattern of secrecy and caretaking continued for over a year, until his youngest daughter was accepted into a private school in his home state. Being that his daughter would now be living with him and his partner, he would no longer be visiting his ex-wife’s home, nor doing anything for her, such as landscape and home maintenance, auto maintenance, eating out at restaurants, or buying things for her house. Both the man and his partner were very happy and excited, planning a long-term family dynamic as life partners and imagining how wonderful things would be. The plan was for his daughter to spend summers and holiday vacations from school with her mother, and live with her father during the school semesters. He still had yet to tell his ex-wife about his relationship.

    Shortly after his daughter’s acceptance, his ex-wife’s alimony payments went down to half of what she had been getting and she announced that she was going to be selling the house their daughters grew up in, leaving her job, and moving to where the man lives (without having a new job lined up yet), in the process abandoning her eldest daughter who is in college. Both daughters were devastated; everyone was thrown into a morass of stress and anxiety. His partner said to the man, “This isn’t about your daughter. This is about her. She’s coming here for you.” The man and his partner discussed in-depth how they would handle, as a couple, different scenarios regarding his ex. The ex-wife got rid of almost everything, including their daughters’ things. A few weeks before the man went to his ex-wife’s home on a final trip to go through things in their old home and bring his daughter back with him, he told his ex-wife that he was in a relationship and that his partner lives with him.

    The ex-wife almost immediately started making demands of the man, saying that he promised many years ago that he would help her if she ever wanted to move back to Hawaii. He tried to resist, saying that that was a long time ago, and things are different now. She proceeded to become very angry, saying, “You said you would. What did that mean? Are you going to give me a place to stay? Pay for my way out there? Store my things for me?” He tried to resist, however her hostility, interspersed with periods of silence, refusal to respond to texts, and cold, abrupt communication, continued. The man told his partner, “You were right. It isn’t about our daughter. It’s all about HER.” Finally, his ex asked if she could store some of her things at his house, which he and his partner lived in. He discussed it with his partner, who pointed out to him that there wasn’t even enough room for their own things, let alone his ex-wife’s things, and why isn’t she asking her friend who lives just down the road from where she’ll be living? The man asked that his partner call his ex-wife to deal with the issue.

    Shortly thereafter, his partner had a phone conversation with the ex-wife for the first time. His partner spoke with his ex in a kind manner, stating that she hoped they could become friends eventually. His ex said she didn’t want to be friends, and expressed anger that the man never told her about his relationship, and that she knew nothing about her ex-husband’s partner but her daughter would be living there with both of them. His partner agreed that she felt the same way; the relationship should not have been hidden. His ex-wife was very frustrated, saying, “He always does whatever the hell he wants to do without saying anything or having any regard for anyone else’s feelings. What pisses me off is not that he does them, but that he only says anything after the fact.” (This quote is important, so read it again.) His partner offered to tell the ex-wife anything she would like to know to help ease her mind, and proceeded to have a nice, though slightly awkward conversation with her. “She seems alright,” his partner thought. “Maybe this can work out.” His partner, in a gesture of goodwill, offered to his ex to store a few boxes of things she might need immediately upon arriving. The ex-wife declined the offer of storing anything, and declined again after his partner offered a second time, texting back, “Thank you for coming towards me. You and he should use the space for both of your things. I’m fine.” A few days later, the ex-wife asked the man to help her find a storage unit. Again, he asked his partner to help out, which she willingly did. His partner researched storage units near where the ex-wife would be living, and texted the ex-wife to inform her that she had found several options. The ex-wife texted back “Thanks, but I don’t need any storage unit information.”

    A few weeks later, the man went on his final trip to get his daughter and go through things at the house. He helped his ex-wife have a yard sale, they attended the eighth grade graduation of their youngest, went out to dinner, and moved some things of the eldest’s to her home two hours away. The man worked long hours to try to fix up the house for sale. While there, his ex-wife asked if she could send him some boxes of things she’ll need right away when she gets there to store at his house. She also asked if she could use his P.O. box for her mail. She would be living just down the street from a good friend of hers, eighty miles round trip from where the man and his partner live, but instead of asking her nearby friend, who she would also be working with, she asked the man. To get her mail would entail a 100-mile round trip. He said yes then told his partner after the fact. His partner was very upset because the ex-wife had turned down her offers twice yet asked the man when his partner wasn’t around. His partner felt invalidated and that boundaries were violated when she wasn’t included in the decision, especially after the decision had already been made twice and was now changed unilaterally. His partner tried to explain to the man that his ex-wife was manipulating him and doing anything she could to insert herself and get close to him, but the man could not see it. She tried to explain how frustrated she was and how invalidated she felt, but it seemed to fall on deaf ears as the conversation deteriorated. The man insisted that his partner not contact his ex-wife about the matter. His partner was felt so devalued, invalidated, helpless and angry that she sent the ex-wife a text anyway requesting that she respect the boundaries of her ex-husband’s relationship and his partner, stating that she had previously turned down two offers of storing boxes and that this action was manipulative. The ex-wife became upset by the text, which clearly stated what had occurred and exposed the manipulation, then showed it to the man who likewise became upset in response to his ex-wife’s anger as well as to his partner ignoring his request to not contact his ex. His ex-wife then proceeded to vilify his partner to her family and their eldest daughter. His ex also refused to store anything at the man’s house, and refused to let any of his youngest daughter’s things come to his house other than what the girl could fit in her suitcase.

    Upon his return, he was very cold to his partner, who discovered the following day that he had been cheating on her with a long-time out of state girlfriend whenever he would visit his daughters – which was every few weeks for the entire relationship. An explosive incident took place, and his partner left and stayed with friends. A month later, the man and his partner had deep conversations; he agreed to break all contact with the other woman for good and to try to heal the relationship, and his partner moved back in. Two weeks later, his ex-wife sent boxes to the man of her work materials that she needed upon arriving, letting him know only after she sent them. Three weeks later his ex-wife moved over. Upon the first meeting of his partner and his ex-wife, his partner was warm and cordial and his ex-wife was cold and dismissive of her, acting like his partner was invisible. The ex-wife began showing up randomly and unannounced several times a day, parking outside the gate to make phone calls, and finding excuses unrelated to their daughter to randomly show up. The ex was never on time, sometimes arriving hours later than she said she would to pick up their daughter, making his partner wait. His partner was not ready for his ex to come into their living space yet, but was working on acceptance and trying to be kind to his ex. The ex-wife showed continued hostility towards his partner, being nasty to her in front of his daughter and speaking poorly of his partner to their daughters and to her friends. His partner asked that he tell his ex-wife to stop this kind of behavior, which he did. He told her to notify both when she is coming over, in case one or the other isn’t home. She did this grudgingly, and complained to her friends and daughters about it, further vilifying his partner to others. His partner asked the man if he could please set boundaries with his ex-wife by creating some kind of pick-up schedule so things could be more smooth and predictable. He refused, saying she was always able to see her daughters whenever she wanted and he’s not going to tell her no, despite the fact that his situation had changed to his being in a committed relationship. His partner felt there were no boundaries with his ex-wife, that her personal boundaries and what should be normal relationship boundaries were being violated, and she felt devalued and invalidated; that she was secondary to his ex-wife’s every want and whim.

    One day while his partner was in town with his daughter, they pulled into where the man worked to pay a visit. In the parking lot they were surprised to find the ex-wife there and the man checking and adding to her car oil. A few weeks later, the eldest daughter came to stay with the man and his partner for a few weeks. One day, during his youngest daughter’s air riflery match and one of the rare times his ex showed up for an event, his partner tried to warmly engage her in conversation. His eldest daughter was sitting next to them. His ex only gave curt answers and acted as if his partner didn’t exist. Later that day, his eldest came to him and told him his partner was really trying, but his ex just wouldn’t have any of it. At that point he and his ex-wife had an agreement that they would exchange weekends with both girls. His partner put the eldest on her auto insurance and let her use the car to go to her internship work, simply asking the daughter to let her or her father know where she was taking the car. One day the girls they said they were going to go into town, but instead called their mom and asked if they could visit her. The man and his partner were unaware of this, and had planned to do something fun with the girls when they returned from town. The ex-wife said yes, come over, rather than telling them to ask their father if he was good with them spending time with her on his weekend, or calling him to let him know of the girls’ request, as any person respectful of the other parent’s time would do. When the girls returned many hours later, both the man and his partner were upset for them not saying where they were going and because of the lost opportunity to spend quality time. His partner scolded the eldest for saying she was going to town but instead going to visit their mom on their dad’s weekend and not telling their dad, and the eldest daughter despised his partner from that point on.

    When the eldest daughter was departing at the airport, the man, his partner, youngest daughter and ex-wife were there to say goodbye. His ex parked next to the man and his partner. It was raining hard, and his partner offered for the ex-wife to walk under her umbrella. The man said to his ex, “Where’s your umbrella?” She angrily responded, “I don’t have one. I don’t have a lot of things” and refused to walk under the umbrella his partner held out for her to share. “Man, that is one bitter woman,” he whispered to his partner. Inside the airport, his eldest daughter hugged everyone except his partner, who she wouldn’t even look at. Back in the parking lot, his ex asked if she could take their youngest daughter on a trip for a couple weeks. The man was already aching from the departure of his eldest daughter, and said firmly, “I can’t talk about that right now!” His ex smirked and held up her hands like she was warding off an attack and snapped, “Fine. I’ll talk to you later.”

    This pattern continued for the next couple of months, with his ex-wife being cold and hostile to his partner despite his partner’s attempts at warmth. The alternating weekend schedule disappeared after the eldest daughter left and was back to random, last minute random pick ups and drop offs. His partner was considering being more inclusive of his ex, maybe inviting her for dinners now and then. The man and his partner became very active with his daughter’s extracurricular school activities. During this time, his partner inadvertently discovered that the man had not ceased communications with the woman he had cheated on her with as he had ardently promised to do. His partner felt very violated by the deception, and there was a big fight. About a week later, his ex showed up to drop off their daughter and he and his ex were engaged in a long conversation at the gate. After the conversation, the man informed his partner that his ex had asked him to maintain her car and he had said yes because his ex told him she was having a hard time. His partner was upset because they had previously discussed this issue in depth, agreeing that his ex would be responsible for maintaining her own car (which he had given to her) and that in case of emergency help would certainly be warranted, and if possible they would go together to help. Again, his partner felt invalidated and personal and relationship boundaries violated because he did not discuss a change in agreement with her before saying yes, and was again giving into his ex-wife’s wants. She felt that his ex was repeatedly and intentionally encroaching upon the relationship and using manipulation to get what she wanted. His partner asked him, “So if she needs her oil checked or changed, now you’re going to do it for her?” “Yes, if that’s what she needs,” he angrily replied. At that point, his partner had had enough, packed her things, and moved out.

    Within days, his ex-wife was spending time at his house, which very quickly became spending every weekend, including Friday and Sunday nights, at his house. It was as if his partner had immediately been replaced by his ex-wife. His ex-wife boasted to her friends that she was so glad she was able to get his now ex-partner out of the way, because life is so much easier for her now, and continued to vilify his ex-partner to her friends and both daughters.

  • #41436

    curly
    Participant

    Wow!! Your patience & willingness to be kind exceeds most!! So why did ex wife & he split? My guess, he’s a total CHEATER? How’s the saying go …?- “cheetahs spots don’t change”
    (even when they say they do)
    I’m so sorry for your pain & frustration…

    Your “one” is out there.. you have a good heart don’t let it be darkened by pathetic pieces of shit that can’t be honest!!

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