~Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Old Patterns (or how I've become Nancy Drew)

I've been feeling a lot of anxiety lately over living with someone who just lies and sneaks around all the time. When I originally told my therapist this, she said she won't prescribe me anything because she wants me to feel pain. Instead, she taught me breathing exercises and told me to keep an anxiety kit—something to distract me, focusing on the five senses to bring me back into the present&—on me at all times. I've tried the breathing thing, but the fact I have to breathe differently because I'm so damn upset makes my chest pull even tighter and causes me more pain. And the kicker is, it's not Scott that I'm living with who just lies and sneaks around all the time. It's my step-father.

The day my mother left to go out of town, my step-father said he was going outside to cut the hedges. I made myself dinner and decided I wanted dessert enough to get in the car and drive to the store. As I was leaving my driveway, I saw my step-father standing in a hidden part of the yard still in his teaching clothes and talking on his cell phone. And he looked busted when he saw me. He didn't wave or acknowledge me other than the oh shit look on his face. When I came home from the store, chocolate pie in hand, my step-father had at least moved to the proximity of the hedges, but was still on the phone.

I was sitting on the couch crocheting myself a scarf six months early when he came in the house. I silently wound the lime-green cotton around my index finger when, unprovoked, my step-father explains to me why he was on the phone. "The computers at school are down and I'm the only person who can fix them, so they were harassing me to help them," he explained, going into more detail.

What you don't know is a) my step-father has had no computer training. He's a math teacher. b) It's a county rule that the custodians leave, lock the door, and turn the security system on by 9 p.m., and it was way after 9. c) I find it hard to believe that my step-father, who has no administrative role, would be the only person who can run the school computer system when county has their own tech guys. So I'm concluding that my step-father is a big, fat liar in this case.

I pursed my lips, pretending to concentrate on the leaf applique in my hands. "Well, I'm going to the grocery store. Do you want anything?" he asked.

"Nope. I already went to the store tonight." He should remember, hounding me about my whereabouts when he first came in the door.

And then he was gone for hours, just like Scott. A fifteen-minute trip lasted over two hours. I packed up my yarn and was fixing to head to bed when he came back home with exactly one item, a bottle of Arizona green tea. I know this because I snuck in the kitchen and checked his bag, just like I did when I didn't trust Scott.

Things escalated when I found his wedding ring on the couch Saturday morning. I already knew what had happened before my brain had time to process it. I had arrived home to an empty house Friday night at midnight and I was already asleep before he came home. And he was already gone again when I got up at 8 on Saturday morning. Which means my step-father wasn't wearing his wedding ring.

I fumed and my anxiety and chest pains returned. I frantically called my mother 500 miles away and told her about the phone calls and the ring in the couch and how he is out not wearing it right now. "But how would his ring fall off while he was sleeping on the couch?" she asked. "He wears his college ring on top of his wedding ring."

"That's because he wasn't wearing his wedding ring. Based on the ring's placement in the couch cushions, it would only make sense if it fell out of his pocket!" I cried, feeling like Nancy Drew.

My mother sighed, resigned to the whole situation. "I could ask him about it, but he'll only lie. What's the point in bringing it up if he'll never tell me the truth anyways?"

We ended the phone call, but my mom felt the need to call me back and explain. "If I leave him, I'll have to give him half of the house, and I'm not willing to do that when I used my house that I had with your father to pay for this house, and I'm the one who paid the mortgage off. He's not getting half a house for free."

This time I sighed. We've had this conversation before.

I tried to put the whole thing out of my mind. If my mother knew the truth and didn't care, there was nothing I could do. You know, other than taking my step-father's wedding ring and keeping it until my mother returned home, making him sweat a few days for not wearing it in the first place.

But, to make things worse, he never came home that night. He left early Saturday morning, not wearing my mother's wedding ring, and never returned. Never called me nor my mother. Look, I know my thinking may be skewed from what I just went through, but I don't think I'm reaching far to make conclusions. I'm feeling the same anxiety I felt with Scott, and I'm not even in this relationship. I've fallen into the same patterns of checking up on people when I don't trust them. It makes me feel bad, like I haven't tried to move on and do better for myself. I feel stuck. Helpless. Hopeless.

At noon on Sunday when he still didn't return, I called my mother again. She was a little more concerned, but still resigned and wished him an early death. That may sound the worst of all, but I felt that way with Scott. It was when I thought there was no other way out of the relationship and I felt trapped and desperate. I wonder if my mother feels this way about my step-father: trapped in a relationship she no longer wants to be a part of.

It makes me wonder how I got here in the first place.


AmyB said...

Ho-ly SHIT. As if you don't have enough on your mind?!? Does your stepfather take you for a complete idiot? I reckon not, which means he doesn't give a shit if he gets caught or not. Ugh. Some men are scum. I'm so sorry you are having to endure yet more bullshit from the men in your life. I hope your mom talks this over with him and finally sticks up for herself.

J said...

This situation would cause me unmeasurable amounts of anxiety. Based on the behaviour you have described I would be coming to the same conclusions.

I am not going to be eloquent here...this just sucks. Sucks. Big. Time.

Lpeg said...

Wow. What an ass. It's amazing how we can fall into the same trap as our parents without realizing we ever put ourselves there in the first place.

TropicGirl said...

I'm sorry for you and your mom. Your step-father sounds like a loser. Cheaters always are!

I'm going to say this even though we don't know each other. It's what I say to my friends, so here goes. (We don't know each other, but I don't mean for it to sound mean or snarky by any stretch. I'm speaking from personal experience).
Often (usually without knowing it), we end up with someone like our father or male-father-figure because that's the type of person we're conditioned to find. The person we're comfortable with. Certainly they have their faults, but to quote my sister, "The devil you know is better than the one you don't!" Until we (speaking to myself here, and hopefully this resonates with you) learn to acknowledge the disfunction we see and learn from it, we will continue to make the same mistakes again and again. Until we learn how hot to. (usually with some therapy).
Again, I'm learning as I go, just as you are. But this I know for sure; we'll continue to repeat our mistakes until we understand why we make them and how to stop.

Erin said...

My father is exactly like your step-father. My entire life he has snuck out on my mother, lied about what he was doing, made sneaky phones calls, etc... He's at the point now, where only after being caught repeatedly, he has admitted that he has a girlfriend, but he claims my mother told him "he could" because she had emotionally checked out of the relationship. Finally, my mom filed for a divorce after my father told her that he would leave her with nothing after 30 years of marriage. She would have been content to stay married until he died (which she said often).

We can either repeat their mistakes or learn from them. I try to learn from them. Try to ignore your step-father and concentrate on centering yourself.

Lisa Chelle said...

JERK! Your mom, like you, deserves better. I hope she decided to make it better. As for you, hang on, this will get better.

MamaBear said...

Your goal: Break the pattern.

You learned how to conduct yourself in life, and what you "deserved", from those around you.

Now, learn to love yourself, to respect yourself, and _then_ find someone who can do the same.

Sorry about the loser in your house. Again. I know how it feels. Disengage!!!!!

dont eat the token said...

SOunds like your mom taught you how to find poor partners... I'm so sorry! Be strong and remind yourself that this isn't your battle, it's your moms.


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