I’ve been on a sort of boycott of Paul’s mom since the beginning of July. She’s consistently disrespectful and rude, so one day I got a little sassy and defended myself, and it got back to me that this didn’t go over so well with her. Between Paul on night shift, which significantly complicates that whole thing where we spend time together, and her complaining about me to him on a semi-regular basis when I wasn’t even around her for weeks, I had a minor meltdown, which I’ve mentioned before. To recap: I avoided her like the plague because I’ve learned that my best bet when dealing with toxic people is to at least get as close as I can to removing them, but she was still saying shit and it was still getting back to me. And you can only hear someone nitpick everything you say and do before it ends with your boyfriend holding you while you cry about once a weekend for a month. Obviously, this is also where my shiny new therapist comes in, though with her, I tend to have my moments of self-loathing and pity, maybe have a good cry about it, rant to Terra, and move on. After all, if I don’t think very highly of her and she doesn’t think very highly of me, I must actually be doing something right.
Now, I successfully avoided her most of the summer, made easy by working Saturdays all through August and therefore barely leaving the county. I saw her twice since I started my boycott–once at a church function and once very briefly at the house. I was going to pick Paul up to trek to Gettysburg with Brandon, Kelly, and my dad, and his parents were heading out for the night. The main goal was to avoid his house because I knew that’s really where the trouble is. Sure, she’ll still complain when I’m gone and she’ll still be rude, but in a more social setting, there’s less one-on-one interaction and therefore less room for one of us to piss the other off. And if we succeed in it somehow, we’re less likely to make a scene, though I’m getting so frustrated with some people these days that I’m one bad day and snide comment away from a public screaming session. Short version: you can’t just say whatever you want to people, no matter what, because it’s just not okay. But on top of that–and this might play a bigger role than I realize–when someone disrespects me regularly and the nitpicks everything and complains about it to my boyfriend behind my back, I end up feeling like she doesn’t like me at all and thinks I’m not good enough for her kid, which as a result makes me feel like I’m not even wanted in the house. And I think we can all figure out I’ve had enough of feeling unwanted.
But Paul’s youngest sister, Emily, turned 16 over the weekend. On the hierarchy of Paul’s family and how they feel about me, Paul is obviously at the top and Emily is next in line. When I made that first appearance at the house in months, Paul made sure he let Emily know I was there and told me later she was happy to see me. So for one, I’m not gonna refuse to hang out for Emily’s birthday. On top of that, I’m actually kind of a sucker sometimes, so all Paul had to do was tell me Emily was asking for me to join them at the movies Saturday. Don’t tell him that, though, because I do not need him knowing he can use Emily to talk me into doing things. He already figured out I give in when he pouts, but he does the same to me…after he tells me to stop pouting because I look ridiculous.
Thing is, it actually went pretty well. We saw Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, which I wasn’t interested in but ended up being cute and punny–keep in mind Jonathan is 11. Paul and I joked to each other that we hoped she’d request Don Jon. I also insinuated that we should take her to see World’s End one of these days, which, by the way, was great. Paul loved it. Which means Paul loved two movies we saw this year, which is basically a miracle.
We also went to Pizza Hut, then they invited me back to the house for cake. And here’s where the boycott needed broken. I didn’t go over right away because I wanted to do laundry at my parents’ house for free, plus I wanted to show Brandon BioShock Infinite because I finally bought it and it’s blowing my mind. Paul actually wanted to watch me play it a little bit the night I bought it just to see how excited I was, but we can discuss my love for BioShock another time. I did all that, tackled my grocery shopping, then called to see if it was too late to come out, but of course it wasn’t, and his house isn’t too far out of the way from the route to my apartment, so I gave in. I mean, cake and Emily’s birthday.
And that went really well, too, to the point of Paul’s mom saying outright that she declares a truce and just has to accept that we’re both opinionated, sometimes on opposite ends.
I appreciate and agree to this, but I’m extremely cautiously optimistic. I guess that’s kind of been the theme the past year or so–shitstorm abounds, amends are made but I stay guarded. I’ve watched a lot of Oprah since last summer, and a frequent theme is the idea that when people show you who you are, believe them. I don’t believe that people are 100% unwilling and unable to change, but I do believe that change is hard and an apology and intentions to do better are no guarantee that better will actually happen.
Part of the problem is I don’t think she really understands the major problems. At this point, it’s not even a matter of strong, conflicting opinions–we never argue or anything–except maybe the fact that she keeps demonstrating she can’t handle strong, opposing opinions. Really, the problem for me here is not that we disagree on things like whether or not people on welfare are lazy but rather that she says whatever she wants to me like it’s okay, but even worse, that she continues saying these things when I’m not around, including when I haven’t been around for a long time, and they’re nitpicky, silly things. As I said, when they get back to me, they make me feel shitty and unwelcome, especially when they’re often contradictory. I feel like I can’t do or say anything right because no matter what, something about it is bad or wrong. So for me, the truce isn’t in accepting our differences, or at least that’s not the focus–I need her to lay off me, and Paul needs to be included in this truce, too, so he’s not constantly hearing his mother put down a girl he’s suggested he wants to marry. And by extension not hearing that girl cry about it. And really, for anyone to actually see tears coming from my eyes, that means shit is bad.
I definitely think there are still some things she needs to hear and understand, and despite my caution, overall, I really do think this is a promising baby step. If it sticks, it’s a win/win.
Meanwhile, something somewhere significantly improved my relationship with Paul. I think a lot of it was a conscious effort on my part to stop talking about his mom, because it was obviously a dominating source of tension. Plus I was all cried out. But we also spent more time alone at my apartment, which did gradually turn from a cryfest into, uh, more fun stuff–we finally watched Serenity! But we also started going out. Aside from grabbing food briefly here and there and an excursion to find me a bigger, better bookshelf, we really weren’t going on dates. I’d been wanting to go to the movies for a few weeks, so we finally did it for World’s End. We both think actually getting out and doing something was really good for us–him so much so that he actually sounds like he thinks that one trip to a Simon Pegg movie actually pushed us up out of a rough patch. I think it was just going out in general. We’ve also seen Muse, gone to RenFest, taken in some theater, and had nice dinners out. Now we’ll probably end up trapped inside all winter.
In one of my earlier sessions with my therapist, he asked me to rate my relationship with Paul on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best. At the time, I gave it a 7, but in retrospect, it was probably closer to a 6, especially considering things are way better now and he asked me to do it again in our last session and I still gave it a 7. It’s been a few weeks since then, and I’d say we’re at a solid 8.
I don’t think we’ll ever achieve 10. Nobody’s perfect. Maybe it’ll happen if he stops invading my side of the bed in his sleep.