I just got out of a meeting with my team lead and the project lead. The meeting was supposed to be an hour, ended up being near two hours. Project lead, known as PL from here on out, spent about an hour-ish telling us about the disaster of her son’s engagement with a woman that was like me in an unsettling way.
Even as I sympathized with PL about what the ex-fiancee put her, her son, and the rest of her family through, I thought to myself,”Ah, this is what I seem like from the outside. What I seem like to others.” I’m not entirely like this girl.. But there are echoes.
Ex-Fiancee came from a troubled family. For the first eight months of the relationship the girl seemed fine, but didn’t talk much about her family. The father was bipolar, very controlling and demanding, going so far as to monitor his wife’s car odometer and prevent her from the use of the car with a steering wheel lock. The girl’s brother was also bipolar. The mother? Probably Stockholm syndrome, very nice.
When PL’s son popped the question and the ring, everything changed. She became downright controlling and manipulative of the son. She became cold and standoffish to PL and PL’s daughter. She was even rude to PL’s 80-something mother. As PL put it, she was trying to put a wedge between PL’s son and PL’s family.
A few months ago, PL, her son, daughter and the Ex-Fiancee go on vacation together. From the family’s standpoint, this is Ex-Fiancee’s time to make amends. Ex-Fiancee is even explicit as to, this is your chance. But instead, Ex-Fiancee blew it. She blew small events wildly out of proportion, freaking out when the family placed their wet shoes on the opposite side of the deck from her wet shoes to dry. She thought it was a snub. Another event is when PL noted her son’s side looked blotchy while they were at the beach, and asked if he had applied sunscreen. Apparently, that was Ex-Fiancee’s job.
For the entirety of the trip, Ex-Fiancee barely spoke. She wouldn’t speak to PL or PL’s daughter when they entered the room, even when they greeted her. On the 13 hour trip back, Ex-Fiancee didn’t speak a word.
Needless to say, PL’s son told Ex-Fiancee,”Look, we need to put off the wedding. We need to work on these issues.” PL went hot and cold on this, saying at times “Yes, I’ll go to therapy with you” to straight up “No, the wedding is now or never.”
Rather than do the reasonable thing and go to couple’s therapy and put the wedding off, Ex-Fiancee refused. Refused to cancel anything. They had a bridal shower even while PL’s son was trying to get her to cool down and put off the wedding. Ex-Fiancee forced PL’s son to sit with her as she opened gifts, which was embarassing for PL’s son. And not a single picture of the bridal shower included PL or PL’s daughter. When PL’s son and Ex-Fiancee returned home, they found presents from people who couldn’t attend the bridal shower. Ex-Fiancee cursed and kicked the presents, saying she didn’t care about them. Then pretended, later on, that coming home to the presents was like Christmas.
Needless to say, the wedding is off. PL is dealing with the Ex-Fiancee demanding money for all the things they had to cancel and not get money back for. She refuses to return the ring as well. PL and PL’s son are out of a lot of money to get this girl out of their life.
What really struck me was Ex-Fiancee’s hot and cold disposition. Little things seem like huge insults, indicators of how people really feel about you. Being utterly silent, to a troubling degree, in the presence of others. Hiding her dysfunctional family. Being on best behavior for a long while, then slipping up, revealing the damage. These things, they are spot on between me and Ex-Fiancee.
What isn’t spot on is the outright selfishness. The attempts to wedge the Mother-in-law and family away from the son. Refusal to meet people in the middle on matters.
The difference between me and Ex-Fiancee seem to be self-awareness and a willingness to not hurt others. I do tend to discard relationships, however. I discarded my husband’s friends, based on the conflicted and flawed perspective of “I’ve made too many social blunders and can’t undo it” and also “knowing” they didn’t really like me and judged me negatively. I don’t think I’ve hurt them by doing this, as they never really cared about me. They care about Husband, and my presence at social events is not important to them. Now that I’m figuring out how to have casual acquaintances, I can start speaking to them again.
Husband’s friends might be one thing. But I would never discard Husband’s family, or force a wedge between him and them, because I care about Husband. I don’t want to hurt him, though I’m sure I have. Fourish-years in, we seem to still be working together.
Also, I’m self-aware enough to know that maybe these “slights” I perceive aren’t slights at all, or at the very least, not worth blowing up over.
The whole thing is quite eye-opening. As many chances as PL and PL’s family gave Ex-Fiancee to make up with them, she kept thinking that there was no resolving what she’d said and done. I am certain that Ex-Fiancee is like me in that social failure weighs heavily on the heart, and while maybe they’d forgive her, they wouldn’t forget. And it’s that they won’t ever forget that burns the most. But we don’t get a new, blank slate with other people, though. We have to live with the slate we have.
Need to remember this. That while maybe forgetting isn’t an option, forgiveness is worthwhile. Working to keep the slate from filling up more is worthwhile.