The Preemptive Strike-Kissing Up To Your Spouse, Or Getting Rid Of Him
THE PREEMPTIVE STRIKE-
KISSING UP TO YOUR SPOUSE, OR TRYING TO GET RID OF HIM
By Rev. Renee
When you begin seriously dating someone, announce your engagement, or walk down the aisle, you are likely to start seeing a reaction of some kind from your abusive birth-family. Having an “outsider” enter the inner sanctum of a toxic family throws things out-of-kilter. For example, it is very common for a narcissistic sister to become hysterically jealous that her sister is getting married before her, or that her brother has a girlfriend, and to cause nothing but drama from then on.
Abusive parents will also display behavior that at first appears irrational, but in reality, is quite rational- and calculated to counter the effect your new love’s presence is bound to have on their ability to maintain control. Depending on what they actually do, you might be amused or confused by their reactions. But they are not at all amused, or confused. Their seemingly strange or out-of-character behavior is an investment in the future- a preemptive strike in the battle for YOU. It is a cunning manipulation put into effect as quickly and unexpectedly as possible, before your new relationship can get enough of a foothold to affect the dysfunctional status quo which they strive to maintain. It is deliberately premeditated to allow them to stay in power in the years to come, and hopefully for the rest of your life.
Many of us are familiar with the stereotypical possessive mother, who thinks that no girl is good enough for her son, or the intimidating father, who tries to scare off every man who shows an interest in his daughter. No matter how old their children get, these parents view every potential mate as a threat to them and their control. Abusers know that having someone to support and encourage them gives victims courage. Once you have someone else in your life who cares for you and loves you, they know that you will be less likely to put up with their abuse for fear of being alone, because you won’t be alone anymore if they disown you. If your spouse is protective of you, they will have to start controlling their behavior, or risk a confrontation with someone who is not their child and who doesn’t have a history of tolerating their baloney.
Many abusive parents look at new spouses as competition. They don't want us to have anyone on our side, or anyone else in our lives besides them. If we have a spouse to support and love us, then we need them less and eventually might not need them at all, which would make it easier for us to stand up to them or dump them, because they would no longer be the only family we had. When a potential mate appears on the scene to threaten their sovereignty, abusers must quickly gather their forces and launch a pre-emptive strike to prevent him from supporting and being loyal to their victim. They must neutralize him somehow. There are two ways to make sure that we continue to have nobody on our side:
1. Get rid of anyone who looks like they might be getting serious about us.
2. Turn him against us and win him over to their side.
TRYING TO GET RID OF YOUR SPOUSE
Selfish and exploitative as always, the abusive parents’ goal is to keep their child all to themselves, and definitely not to share her with a boyfriend, husband, husband’s family, or her own future children.
Why, if there was another person, much less his whole family, in the picture, it would mean a constant battle for their child’s undivided attention. She would not be available to cater to their every whim. It would be much more difficult to use and exploit her. There would be a clash at every holiday as they fight to monopolize their child’s time. Not to mention the endless phone calls, unannounced drop-ins, unreasonable demands, thoughtlessness, criticism, prying and interference that a spouse might put a stop to. Narcissistic parents do not want to compete with spouses, or spouses’ families, a battle they might very well lose, so they manage to “get off on the wrong foot” right from the very first meeting.
They might be cool and aloof, or downright condescending and insulting to any potential mate. They might be outright hostile and pick fights with him in an attempt to scare him off. If that doesn’t work, they will criticize him, trash him and express their disapproval of everything about him in their conversations with you. They will point out every flaw, including the imaginary ones, in an attempt to get you to question your judgment, second-guess your choices, and hopefully dump the loser before it goes any further. And there you’ll be, all alone again- except for your abusive relatives who can relax now that they have you totally dependent on them again. They don’t want you to be happy, and they sure don’t want you to have anyone else in your life. They like being the only family you have. Isolation is an abuser’s number one control tactic.
When my divorced, forty-something birth-sister moved in with her next husband-to-be and began to combine households and finances, our abusive birth-father placed a secret man-to-man call to her boyfriend, grilling him on what his intentions were, and telling him to keep the call “between us”. My future brother-in-law refused to keep secret this obvious attempt to warn him off and told all to his wife-to-be, who, not surprisingly if you know the characters involved, was okay with it because her daddy was “just trying to protect her”. (see “Spin Control- Making Abuse Look Like A GOOD Thing” on our site).
But if Daddy Darling had succeeded in angering future hubby enough to break them up, he would have gotten exactly what he was aiming for- continued sole control of sis. He also would have been sole heir on her will, and beneficiary on her life insurance, or at least that’s what he thought. The intention was to stake out his territory as alpha male and head of the family, and hopefully get rid of the competition for my birth-sister’s money and attention. Unfortunately for him, it didn’t work out that way, because future hubby was smart enough to see through his devious little plan and expose him.
KISSING UP TO YOUR SPOUSE
And then you have the abusive parents who are not so obvious in their divide-and-conquer strategy. They’re even more conniving, subtle, and also more capable of foreseeing the future and deciding how they can use it to their advantage. These are the ones who don’t view your spouse as an enemy, but as a potential ally against YOU, and a future Silent Partner and Devil’s Advocate for them. Perhaps they hesitate to outright attack your prospective spouse because it’s too risky- they might lose you both. Or perhaps they realize that they can manipulate and con him, taking advantage of the fact that he’ll probably be anxious to get along with his new in-laws.
In this scenario, your abusive family will do everything they can to appear sweet and innocent, so that later on, when they upset you, they can enlist your spouse as an ally and make you look like a crazy battle-axe. They can get him to intervene when they upset you, and pressure you to make up with them or to overlook their offensive behavior. They can plead with him to reason with you and get you to give them another chance, over and over again, without ever having to agree to change and stop hurting you. Once they have him on their side, they will use him to help them continue abusing you.
Lavishing phony love and flattery on their child's spouse is another version of the common abuser's tactic of isolating their victim so that no one will believe her or support her. They want her to feel all alone, like she has no one she can trust in her life, not even her husband. They will butter him up, because they think they will be able to use him in the future, when they escalate their abuse and their child wants to set limits on their behavior, or be free of them.
If you happen to realize what’s going on, no one will believe you. After all, they’re being NICE, aren’t they? How can you complain about THAT, without looking like a nasty, paranoid, pain-in-the-neck who’s never satisfied? You will feel helpless and frustrated, knowing that questioning them is only going to make YOU look bad.
If your birth-family pulls this stunt, you will be amazed at how nicely they treat your partner. You will be wondering, “Who ARE these people? Maybe these are my real parents, and I was raised by their evil twins.” You might be tempted to let your guard down a bit, breathe a sigh of relief, and start believing that maybe, just maybe, they might finally be mellowing and changing for the better. At which point I would say to you, “Not so fast.” Give it some time first. It’s wise to be suspicious of any uncharacteristic changes in behavior. Try not to get your hopes up, but instead to view this supposed about-face with a healthy dose of skepticism until you can see where it’s leading.
When the inevitable abusive parent/ child victim confrontation eventually explodes, abusers will often start circumventing their child and approaching her spouse behind her back, making her out to be the “enemy”. They will try to tell him "their side" of the story, convince him of their innocence and good intentions, look as pitiful as possible, deny everything, and even beg him not to let her (his evil wife) withhold their grandchildren from them. Maybe he can even sneak over to their house with the grandkids, excluding their daughter and not letting her know!
This was my birth-father’s delusional plan when he announced that my husband and sons were welcome in his house, but I wasn’t! Well, surprise, surprise. They never set foot in his house again. If I wasn’t welcome, then they sure weren’t going to betray me and carry on as if everything was normal, pretending that they loved him so much that they would choose him over me. His pathetic ultimatum totally backfired on him.
One reason this little power play didn’t work was that my husband and sons had witnessed him abusing me many times, because he never hesitated to do it in front of them. They had seen it with their own eyes, and they believed me. I would hope that they would believe me even if they hadn’t witnessed it personally. But sadly, other victims aren’t so lucky, because their abusers are slick enough to mistreat them when no one else is around to see it. At best, their husbands and children think they’re exaggerating when they try to tell them about the abuse. At worst, depending on the abuser’s talent for putting on a good act, they don’t believe them at all.
Some abusive families succeed in forming an unholy alliance with their victim’s spouse. More than one divorcing husband has used her victimization against his ex-wife, making HER look like an abuser or a lunatic to their children, their friends, or in court by claiming that “she can’t even get along with her own family- and they’re such wonderful people!”
I know of several toxic parents, and siblings, who went to court and testified against their own child, or sister, during her divorce proceedings, causing her to lose custody of her children to the ex they had kissed up to all those years. They smugly thought that they had succeeded in conning their child’s ex into thinking that they were loving and harmless, innocent victims, all those years, of his ex-wife’s irrational resentment and lies. Furthermore, by testifying for him against their own blood, they were trying to obligate him to them, figuring that he’d owe them one. They calculated that he would be more likely to allow them visitation with the grandkids than their own daughter would have been, because she understands their true nature and knows what they are, and he doesn’t.
Thankfully, this often backfires on abusers when their ex- son-in-law decides to exclude them from his new life, and his children’s lives, anyway, or when he remarries, and his new wife doesn’t want his ex-wife’s family around. It frequently turns out the ex-son-in-law wasn’t so gullible after all, but was using his ex-in-laws for his own ends, just like they used him all those years. Abusers never anticipate that two can play the same game, and they never give anyone the credit for being just as sneaky, dishonest, underhanded and manipulative as they can be.
WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE….
Every now and then I actually learned something useful from my abusive bully of a birth-father, and one of his favorite pearls of wisdom was “The best defense is a good offense.” This is a gigantic hint on how to handle many abusers, right from the horse’s mouth.
What Daddy Darling was saying is that the best way to protect yourself is to strike the first blow. Abusers are very much aware of this battle strategy. That’s why while we’re “taking the high road”, protecting them with our silence, keeping our “family business” private, and not telling anyone about their behavior, they’re taking advantage of our hesitation and running around like crazy lying about us to anyone who will listen. The way to combat our abuser’s tactic of eliminating or befriending our spouse is to pre-empt her preemptive strike. We need to use her own strategy against her, and give her a dose of her own medicine. You snooze, you lose.
And the way we do that is to beat her to the punch. Tell our prospective spouse all about her, no holds barred, before she can get to him. Tell him that her nasty criticism and interference is intended to get rid of him, and reassure him that you love him, and will never allow her to come between you, even if you have to break off contact with her to protect your marriage. Warn him that her sugary sweetness is just an act designed to hide her true nature so that later on, when she is abusing you, he won’t believe anything you say. Point out that, just as much as she might trash you to him, she will also be trashing him to you, and anyone else who will listen. He is not immune to her slings and arrows. Once she is done using him, she will lie about him just like she lies about you.
Tell him that no matter what picture she tries to present to him, you know her better than he ever will. Ask point-bank for his loyalty, understanding, and a promise that he will believe you and support you. Ask him to respect you enough to allow you to make the decisions about your future relationship with her and not to try to sway you if you need to divorce her.
And be prepared to do just that if you feel that your relationship with her will negatively affect your marriage and future family. This is a boundary you must have. You, your husband, and your children must be a unit, a sacrosanct little family that no outsider is allowed to interfere with or cause problems in. Troublemaking relatives need to be kept at arm’s length, or eliminated completely, if need be. Don’t wait for the situation to get out-of-hand. Keep your past and present worlds separate, right from the beginning. The earlier in your marriage that you do this, the easier it will be to build a happy life together, free of evil people who will try to come between you and destroy your relationship.
BUT FOR ADAM NO SUITABLE HELPER WAS FOUND. SO THE LORD GOD CAUSED THE MAN TO FALL INTO A DEEP SLEEP; AND WHILE HE WAS SLEEPING, HE TOOK ONE OF THE MAN’S RIBS AND CLOSED UP THE PLACE WITH FLESH. THEN THE LORD GOD MADE A WOMAN FROM THE RIB HE HAD TAKEN OUT OF THE MAN, AND HE BROUGHT HER TO THE MAN. THE MAN SAID, “THIS IS NOW BONE OF MY BONES AND FLESH OF MY FLESH; SHE SHALL BE CALLED ‘WOMAN,’ FOR SHE WAS TAKEN OUT OF MAN.” FOR THIS REASON A MAN WILL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE UNITED TO HIS WIFE, AND THEY WILL BECOME ONE FLESH…..Genesis 2: 20-24 NIV.
FOR THIS CAUSE SHALL A MAN LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL BE JOINED UNTO HIS WIFE, AND THEY TWO SHALL BE ONE FLESH. THIS IS A GREAT MYSTERY: BUT I SPEAK CONCERNING CHRIST AND THE CHURCH. NEVERTHELESS LET EVERY ONE OF YOU IN PARTICULAR SO LOVE HIS WIFE EVEN AS HIMSELF; AND THE WIFE SEE THAT SHE REVERENCE HER HUSBAND….Ephesians 5: 31-33 KJV
BUT AT THE BEGINNING OF CREATION, GOD "MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE." FOR THIS REASON A MAN WILL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE UNITED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO WILL BECOME ONE FLESH. SO THEY ARE NO LONGER TWO, BUT ONE. THEREFORE WHAT GOD HAS JOINED TOGETHER, LET MAN NOT SEPARATE.....Mark 10: 6-9 NIV.
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The Lord specifically called Sister Renee to minister to Adult Children, not their parents, estranged siblings or friends, abusive or abused spouses, or victims of other types of abuse, although what we write here can often be meaningful for those folks as well. Because of this, our ministry and website have a narrow focus which we will not be changing. We simply can't cover everything. In addition, it is not our purpose to help you re-establish contact with someone who felt it was necessary to cut you off for the sake of their own well-being. We do not keep a list of resources for estranged parents or any other type of abuse and suggest if you are sincerely interested in making amends with an estranged relative, you do an internet search for a website or group that will be more relevant to you. If you cannot find a group or site that you can relate to, we suggest you start your own, and bless other people in your position as well as find support for your personal issues.
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