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Before you can make things better, you have to stop making them worse... Have you considered that being critical, judgmental, or invalidating toward the other parent, no matter what she or he just did will only make matters worse? Someone has to be do something. This means finding the motivation to stop making things worse, learning how to interrupt your own negative responses, body language, facial expressions, voice tone, and learning how to inhibit your urges to do things that you later realize are contributing to the tensions.
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Author Topic: You can go but you better not!  (Read 6164 times)
Guts42
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« on: June 02, 2021, 09:00:28 PM »

I've really only suspected that my wife has BPD for a few weeks now... 4 weeks and 2 days to be exact and what a ride it's been!

I have the opportunity to visit some friends I haven't seen in about 8 years.  The stars have aligned and all three of us can get the time off and have the means to get together (coming from a few different states).

I've let my wife know that we've been wanting to get together for months now and like most things of this nature it came together quickly.  We all managed to find flights at reasonable prices for three weeks out.

My wife was very encouraging through the planning process.  I kept her up to date the whole time.  I even suggested I talk to the kids about me going before I finalize plans and she said "no, let's not bother them until it's a sure thing."

So, today we all booked our flights (I even asked my wife one last time and she said to go for it!)  At first she seemed nervous about having the kids for the 3.5 days... then apprehensive, then resentful and then fiercely angry all in the course of 4 hours.

She says that I never think about anyone else, just me, and that the thought process was "my friends want to this trip, I have time, I can afford it, so I'll do it" and I had zero consideration about how the kids might feel.  She also claims she said "okay" only because she didn't think it would happen.
"I want you to go but just know I'm not happy about it and it's going to be really hard on me and the kids.  Once again you get everything you want at my expense!  We're also supposed to visit all 50 states together and you're going without us!!"  (I've been to this state before...)

My wife then left for dinner with our daughter and came back like everything is fine.  She's downstairs right now while I finish up some work.  I have a feeling we're going into round 2 of this.

I'm talking with my therapist tomorrow about how to cope with this sort of thing.  I haven't seen my friends in so long... in fact the last time she "allowed" me to see any friends outside of work was about 8 years ago and she tagged along.

Any suggestions or tips on how to handle this?  It feels like manipulation... I don't want to explode but reflecting back on the years she's done this every time I'm about to go somewhere without her.  I even missed my grandmother's funeral.

I am pretty sure this marriage is done but I want to remain civil.
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Guts42
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« Reply #1 on: June 03, 2021, 07:03:19 AM »

Well round 2 was bizarre.

It flipped around all over the place but the final accusations are that I didn't do enough to comfort her and didn't have a plan to console the kids.  It's 3.5 days.  I wanted the kids to talk to their therapist about it before I booked... But that doesn't count?

She tried a lot of the usual scripts but I'm not playing along and that just made her angrier.  I used the "I'm getting this from you" and "I'm getting angry, I need to walk away for a few" and it just enraged her more.

"I didn't think you'd actually go"
"You're locking me and the kids in the house while you're gone!!"
"You don't pull your own weight around here!  I have to carry everyone because I'm empathic!"
"I don't know what I did so wrong!"
"I didn't think it through so you're right!! This is all my fault!!"
And my favorite:
"I wouldn't have said no even if I had thought it all the way through!"

Now I'm actually worried about her creating a "crisis" while I'm gone to either lure me home ahead of time or to prove a point.  I told her that I thought it'd be okay because she has friends and family near by and she cut me off by saying "you're right!! It doesn't matter if you're hear or not!"
I am starting to worry about the kids while I'm gone, not because I'm gone but because their going to be alone with their mother.

While planning this trip one of my friends recounted how everytime I went somewhere without her she'd constantly text, call, ask where I was, when I'm coming back, that she's having a panic attack and this was before we even living together.

I don't know what to do.  I desperately want to see my friends.  Planning this trip involved the first time I've talked to a non work/family/medical person on the phone in 8 years.

I know she's terrified of me leaving her but this behavior is just pushing me closer and closer to kicking her out.  I work from home, a full time job and a freelance schedule.  I take the kids to/from school and just about everywhere.  I don't "need" her but up until recently I've wanted her and now I'm not so sure.
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Ozzie101
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« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2021, 07:42:14 AM »

Hi there, Guts! Welcome new member (click to insert in post) I haven’t had a chance to welcome you yet.

I’m sorry you’re having to deal with this. I know from several years of experience what this can be like: something you want to do or that should be a pleasant time is marred (if not entirely derailed) by our pwBPD’s disordered behavior. Many times, I’ve missed out on something I want to do just to avoid the inevitable episode.

This is a pattern I’m slowly but surely breaking.

This is going to sound insulting to our adult pwBPDs but in a way, it’s like dealing with a small child or toddler. The child wants something. He throws a tantrum. Dad gives in. What’s Kid going to do next time he wants something? A pattern is born. If Dad suddenly changes his reaction and gives in, what will Kid do? Chances are, he’ll ramp up the tantrum to epic levels, thinking that will do the trick.

In this case, it sounds like major abandonment issues and separation anxiety — so common with BPD. Like most of our loved ones, she doesn’t have the emotional maturity or coping mechanisms to handle her anxieties in a healthy, productive way. So it comes out like an emotional geyser. Add super-intense emotions and it equals something not fun for you.

I can’t tell you what to do. But it sounds like you know that being isolated from your friends/family isn’t good or healthy. At some point, while trying to please our loved ones, we can lose us. And that’s harmful to us and potentially deadly to a relationship. It sounds like this trip is very important to you and it would be a very good thing for you to go. Around here we tend to be caretakers. It’s so important to remember to also take care of ourselves.

How are you with boundaries? With expressing empathy? Validating her feelings?

Sometimes it takes holding the course with a firm but gentle and empathetic manner.
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Guts42
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« Reply #3 on: June 03, 2021, 08:10:30 AM »

Thank you so much for the welcome!  I feel like I haven't been on here in months but it's really only been a few weeks!
Time gets all wibbly-wobbly sometimes.

I agree - it's abandonment issues for sure- she's even said that.  She's allowed to go do things with friends but I am not.  I'd plan something (years ago) to only have 'something' happen that has to be dealt with "right now!!" or else... but I'm at the point of letting "or else" just happen.

I feel like I spend most of time validating her feelings.  I'm her sounding board and have been since we starting dating.  I've done a lot of reading over the years on the importance of just listening and not trying to "solve" everything.  I let her cry, laugh, scream, etc and historically I just take it.  I never try to invalidate her feelings, always try to be encouraging.

You're right, it feels like dealing with a child.  A few people have pointed that out.  I've been keeping a log since I first started suspecting BPD and read 'Eggshells.'  It's been really helpful looking back and seeing a pattern - even a micro one.

I think I have to go on the trip.  Not going is giving her the ultimate reward for the behavior.  My only concern is that she'll try to get the kids to cry and act out before I go to either make me feel more guilty (hey it's a guilt trip!) or keep me from going.  She knows how much I love being a dad (almost every handle I have uses some form of "dada" in it).  My kids mean everything to me.  I want them to be safe, happy, and well adjusted.  I know in the long run me going is probably good for them but it might be hard to explain that, especially with their mother spinning.

Of course the kids won't want me to go... so how I do explain it to them?
My wife has already framed it with me as "how the hell do you expect them to understand 'Daddy's leaving you so he can go have fun without you!'?"  They're 8 and 10 and I've only ever been away for work (once or twice) and a house hunting trip.  I have plans to call every night/video chat if possible.  I said we can talk to them about what I can do before/after to help them feel okay with and that really pissed her off.

I'm confused and I think she's conflicted.
Round 2 started off with what felt like a concession/acceptance: "for your trip how about we get them build-a-bears with your voice in them so they can hug it.  That's what my military friends do when their husbands are deployed."*
"That's a great idea!  That'd be fun!  We haven't been to the mall in so long!"
I guess that was the wrong answer because then it flipped around and turned into anger...

Not that it matters... but on this trip the plan is to pig out on junk food, watch some old school horror movies and do some mild day hikes.  None of us drink, most are married, and we're staying at a cabin one of them owns.  Nothing crazy or scandalous just reconnecting with some friends that haven't gotten together for nearly a decade.

*Yes, I see her comparing me being gone for 3.5 days for a few day hikes to a lengthy and dangerous military deployment.  It's insulting to my military buddies but also points out how she's perceiving me being gone for any amount of time.

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GaGrl
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« Reply #4 on: June 03, 2021, 08:46:32 AM »

Children at 8 and 10 years old are quite capable of accepting that a parent goes away for a few days with friends. It's a good example to set for them -- friendships are important, and friendships are for a lifetime and need to be nurtured.

From the way you described your wife's attitude toward leaving the children, I thought they were in the 3-5 range. Her messaging is off-target for their ages. They are more mature than she is treating them. Lots of abandonment projection going on there.

My advice is to go on the trip, and turn off your phone for the hikes. Make a call home, but give yourself space to enjoy your friends.
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"...what's past is prologue; what to come,
In yours and my discharge."
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« Reply #5 on: June 03, 2021, 08:57:27 AM »

This is a textbook example of what happens with my uBPDw in these instances.  We could swap our usernames and I would believe that I had written it myself.

Back when I was flying blind and didn't know what I was dealing with I would get sucked into these things and try to discuss and settle it as a rational human being and that only made matters worse.  As time went on, after experiencing several of these instances, I came to realize that the person I was dealing with was not rational herself, so trying to respond as such is fruitless.

It sounds like you have your head wrapped around the situation pretty good.  I can tell you what I do these days, but what I do here may not be right for the particular person you're dealing with as all of our circumstances are unique.

1. I start making notes for myself about what I said and when because I know at some point I am going to get told that I either did or did not say something (basically, whatever I did in real life, I am going to be told the opposite happened).  The notes help keep me sane and it helps me to stay on track because you can only keep so much sorted in your head once the artillery starts flying in.  I don't keep the notes so I can argue with HER (because there will never be a victory) -- I keep the notes for ME.

2. Once plans are made and approved, I stick to it.  I don't entertain an energy-draining barrage of back-and-forth.  It is fruitless and only escalates things.  Just like in physics, "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" -- so, when I can, I squelch any action I am about to take that is going to produce that opposite reaction out of her.

3. When the confrontation comes, I simply lay it out that, "Everything was planned and agreed to before I proceeded.  Now other people have made their own plans based on mine and it would be extremely unfair and selfish to everyone involved to do a u-turn now" and I leave it at that.  When the artillery comes flying in, I  simply say, "I have stated my case, the decision is made, the time for discussion has passed, and I am proceeding just as you are allowed to proceed in peace whenever you decide to go away on your own".

4. After I'm gone, when the inevitable fabricated crisis rears its ugly head (and the intent is either to spoil my trip or to cause me to come rushing home), I tell her, "I have every confidence that you can handle this crisis without me.  If I did not, I wouldn't have gone ahead with my trip.  Let me know how it works out".

As to intent, you'd have to decide that based on your own personal experience.  In my case she's making me choose between her and someone else, pure and simple.  In every instance that is what it boils down to because everything is set up and approved and then the bomb gets dropped.  All of her excuses that you stated, I have heard exactly the same.  These days my answer to any one of them is, "okay", and that's it.  I'm sure at this point it comes through that I'm pretty burned out!  I know there is this school of thought that every event like this should involve a long circuitous process of diplomacy through validation and I simply don't have it in me anymore.  When I have tried "validation" it turns into something she will latch on to, distort it, and turn it into another tool to say that I know I'm doing wrong and shouldn't have gone.  

With respect to children, I'm in the same boat as you.  They're even just about the same ages.  I spend a lot of time with my kids joking and playing and would do anything for them and when she uses them as a tool by making statements like you have shared, I simply reply that is not true, part of becoming a well-rounded adult is learning that people need time together and time apart, and this will be a learning experience for them that will make them better.  If she does try to use them as a tool, that will no doubt hurt, but keep in mind that being a child is a very dynamic thing.  They are learning and growing daily and who they are today is not who they will be tomorrow.  Have a big-picture view.  In the moment they may not like what is occurring, but if they see mommy going off the rails and daddy keeping a level head and being reasonable.... five years from now, ten years from now, they are going to look back on these events with the benefit of experience and realize who was playing what role.

Go on your trip and detach for a few days.  You have earned it.

    
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Ozzie101
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« Reply #6 on: June 03, 2021, 09:19:55 AM »

My gut response is that, yeah, you should go. I would also really read up on boundaries and SET to prepare.

It’s admirable that you’re such a caring, involved dad! But it is good and healthy for kids to know their parents can go away for a trip and they’ll be fine. Sounds like your wife is projecting and embedding her fears and anxieties into the kids. Not unusual, but not healthy either. And difficult to deal with.

Sometimes, making too big an issue about something or talking a lot about something can actually increase a child’s anxiety. It’s sort of like telling them “the adults are worried about this so you should be too.” I’m reminded of a family story. At a big family gathering when I was a toddler, I fell down a few steps. No one reacted other than to look over at me but since I got up and kept going, that was it. My great-aunt was amazed that I hadn’t started screaming and crying (her daughter had been extremely dramatic as a child — partly because her parents tended to overreact). My grandmother just shrugged and said “she wasn’t hurt. If the adults stay calm, she knows she’s ok.”

Chances are, though, your wife’s anxieties will make it more complicated with your kids. I’m sure others will have good advice here. Personally, I would keep things light and easy with them. Don’t invalidate any anxiety they might have, but keep things matter of fact and confident. You’re coming back. You know they’ll be fine. Maybe even giving them something to look forward to when you get back?
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kells76
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« Reply #7 on: June 03, 2021, 09:52:09 AM »

Great points from Ozzie101.

Kids' brains are designed to draw interpretations of emotionally ambiguous situations from the adults around them.

Sadly, your W is "vibing" that your trip is a 9/10, and "abandonment is imminent".

Countering those "vibes" with your "calm, confident, chill, pleasantly in control" 2/10 will help your kids regulate.

They're probably already old enough to process some basic examples of "you know how different people are afraid of different things? I hate clowns but not snakes, and Uncle Phil hates snakes but not clowns. Well, people are the same about trips. Some people worry about other people going on trips, some people don't. You can check in with yourself and see how you feel about people going on trips. What are some trips you've liked? What are some trips you didn't? What is it like for you when Grandma comes here, goes away for a while, visits again, and leaves again?"

Also consider asking if they want souvenirs... IDK, maybe that's leaning too close to manipulation, but I kind of think it isn't.

It shows that you will be thinking of them when you are away temporarily. That seems like a really big deal of a message to send.

And, it gives them a positive association with your trip: "Wow, I can't wait to see the Beanie Boo that Dad brings back for me!"

...

I also think Couper had a great line:

Excerpt
"I have every confidence that you can handle this crisis without me.  If I did not, I wouldn't have gone ahead with my trip.  Let me know how it works out".

I agree with both -- you need to go.

Maybe schedule follow up with the kids' T's after you get back... check in to see if Mom has done a number on them with making your trip a 9/10 instead of a 2/10, or if the kiddos have tracked with your "vibes" more and are doing fine.
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« Reply #8 on: June 03, 2021, 09:54:27 AM »


Hmm....I think you should go.

Also just agree with most of what your pwBPD says.

"Yep..Daddy is going away to have fun.  See you in a few days..." 

Best,

FF
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« Reply #9 on: June 03, 2021, 09:56:00 AM »


Souvenirs is a great idea.  Especially if "gift giving" is a love language.

My last trip I was deliberate to have something for everyone...it really seemed to hit the mark.

Best,

FF
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« Reply #10 on: June 03, 2021, 11:29:25 AM »

In the event you have not already seen it, you might find more inspiration in this recent thread:

https://bpdfamily.com/message_board/index.php?topic=285200.0
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Guts42
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« Reply #11 on: June 03, 2021, 02:39:23 PM »

Thank you all so much for the replies!  I'll admit I'm a bit teary from it.  Lately whenever any is nice to me I find myself getting a misty eyed.

Some AMAZING advice here!

We talked to this kids this morning and it started off okay... but then spiraled out of control.

My youngest was actually okay with it (6).  He seemed sad but then said "as long you take one my pokemon and take lots of pictures and send them to sissy's phone so I know you're both safe I'll okay.  I think you will have a happy time with your friends."

Not the answer my wife wanted.  So she turned to our daughter.
She seemed sad but okay with the idea and then my wife said "it's okay to cry."  It was like someone scripted it.  Boom.
TEARS.  "Dada please don't go!  I don't want you to go!  What if you get hurt and I'm not there with you?!"
I was fuming.  This felt like a setup.
The kids are dismissed and my wife says, "I just wanted you to know what it's like when you're not here and how it's going to be.  But you go- have fun - I'll make it okay like I always do!"
-Silence-
Then she says "what are you thinking?"
"I think I have a lot of work to do, I'm really upset, I want to cool down so I'm going to get to it."
"F&CK YOU!"
"You know what, f@ck you too!  I'm done playing this game with you.  I'm not doing it anymore."
Well that didn't go over well.  I lost my cool... but hey I made it 10 years so that's good right?
"What do you mean?!"
"You paraded the kids' emotions in front of me to manipulate the situation.  You do it all the time!  And I'm done.  I'm done with you."
Yup.  That was dumb.  That was really really dumb.
"You're just throwing a baby fit because you didn't get your way!  Where are you going?!"
"I'm too upset to continue this conversation, I've already lost my cool.  I hear our daughter crying and I'm going to check in with her."
"No"
"Yes I am"
"Fine!  You know, this is what YOU wanted!  All of this, this life, well you got it!"

My daughter overheard us fighting- for the first time and was really upset.  She was worried that we were fighting because of her.  I consoled her and told her it's not her fault, it had nothing to do with her, she didn't do anything wrong!
My wife storms upstairs and wraps her arms around my daughter.
My daughter sobs, "I just don't want you guys to split up!"
I glare at my wife... where did she get that phrase from?  In all my frustrated moments I have never hinted or even vented about anything going on with us.  My wife does frequently threaten to leave, so I wonder if that's it?

I internalize that I made daughter cry and it's a deep cut.  I feel so guilty.
My wife jumps on this and by the end of the conversation I'm apologizing- feeling so defeated for making my daughter cry.

I've had some time to reflect.
I absolutely should not have lost my cool.
It's also pointless to point out the manipulation, that's just playing her game.
However, I feel it's not fair to drag the kids into making the decision about me going on this trip.

I like Couper said... all of my friends have made arrangements now that I have.  She agreed to this.  It's done.

I don't know what to say to her though.  I'm at a loss.  I feel beat up.
I love her.  I do.  But this isn't okay.  I'm not innocent here (obviously!) but I can't take it anymore.
I'm going to try to get us into couples therapy... but I think it might be too late.
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« Reply #12 on: June 03, 2021, 03:48:37 PM »

Been there, done that, have the t-shirt.  It's unfortunate, but you can't undo what's done.  Take your own words to heart -- "I'm done playing this game with you".  It's easier said than done, but the more you practice not engaging and returning fire, the more reflexive that will become rather than what comes naturally.

To make lemonade out of lemons, doing that from here on out, your kids will notice the contrast.  Once they have seen both sides of the coin they will realize that you are making an effort not to have such an exchange again.  Even before I knew what BPD was, I came to recognize a long time ago that when my wife does something like this, she is setting up the situation to paint herself as the victim.  That is the point of every action leading up to the altercation.  Even after realizing that, it took more exchanges like you outlined above for me to figure out that the trick is to take away her victim card.  I think you get the idea.  It won't come second-nature right off, but I suspect you will have plenty of opportunities to practice it in the future!

There is no law that says you have to respond the instant something is thrown at you.  Hold your tongue, take a deep breath, and the discipline you need to follow through civilly will follow and when she sees that she can't trigger you it will be like taking away her ammo.  
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« Reply #13 on: June 03, 2021, 04:35:01 PM »

I need to chime in here because I too experience very similar situations and attacks.  Every single time without fair when I want to do something for me it ends in a fight.  When she wants to do something, no issues.  Unless what she wants to do directly impedes on what we had already discussed and agreed to.  Her being able to live her life on impulse and desire is completely okay because she has a diagnoses of BPD and thats normal for her.  But I am the stable one and should not have that.

Ready this thread is honestly like reading my own story!  Two kids 3 and 6. 
Divorce is most definitely in our future but what about the kids and their safety with her?  All scary stuff and wild to hear I am not alone in this.

This is a textbook example of what happens with my uBPDw in these instances.  We could swap our usernames and I would believe that I had written it myself.

Back when I was flying blind and didn't know what I was dealing with I would get sucked into these things and try to discuss and settle it as a rational human being and that only made matters worse.  As time went on, after experiencing several of these instances, I came to realize that the person I was dealing with was not rational herself, so trying to respond as such is fruitless.

It sounds like you have your head wrapped around the situation pretty good.  I can tell you what I do these days, but what I do here may not be right for the particular person you're dealing with as all of our circumstances are unique.

1. I start making notes for myself about what I said and when because I know at some point I am going to get told that I either did or did not say something (basically, whatever I did in real life, I am going to be told the opposite happened).  The notes help keep me sane and it helps me to stay on track because you can only keep so much sorted in your head once the artillery starts flying in.  I don't keep the notes so I can argue with HER (because there will never be a victory) -- I keep the notes for ME.

2. Once plans are made and approved, I stick to it.  I don't entertain an energy-draining barrage of back-and-forth.  It is fruitless and only escalates things.  Just like in physics, "for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction" -- so, when I can, I squelch any action I am about to take that is going to produce that opposite reaction out of her.

3. When the confrontation comes, I simply lay it out that, "Everything was planned and agreed to before I proceeded.  Now other people have made their own plans based on mine and it would be extremely unfair and selfish to everyone involved to do a u-turn now" and I leave it at that.  When the artillery comes flying in, I  simply say, "I have stated my case, the decision is made, the time for discussion has passed, and I am proceeding just as you are allowed to proceed in peace whenever you decide to go away on your own".

4. After I'm gone, when the inevitable fabricated crisis rears its ugly head (and the intent is either to spoil my trip or to cause me to come rushing home), I tell her, "I have every confidence that you can handle this crisis without me.  If I did not, I wouldn't have gone ahead with my trip.  Let me know how it works out".

As to intent, you'd have to decide that based on your own personal experience.  In my case she's making me choose between her and someone else, pure and simple.  In every instance that is what it boils down to because everything is set up and approved and then the bomb gets dropped.  All of her excuses that you stated, I have heard exactly the same.  These days my answer to any one of them is, "okay", and that's it.  I'm sure at this point it comes through that I'm pretty burned out!  I know there is this school of thought that every event like this should involve a long circuitous process of diplomacy through validation and I simply don't have it in me anymore.  When I have tried "validation" it turns into something she will latch on to, distort it, and turn it into another tool to say that I know I'm doing wrong and shouldn't have gone.  

With respect to children, I'm in the same boat as you.  They're even just about the same ages.  I spend a lot of time with my kids joking and playing and would do anything for them and when she uses them as a tool by making statements like you have shared, I simply reply that is not true, part of becoming a well-rounded adult is learning that people need time together and time apart, and this will be a learning experience for them that will make them better.  If she does try to use them as a tool, that will no doubt hurt, but keep in mind that being a child is a very dynamic thing.  They are learning and growing daily and who they are today is not who they will be tomorrow.  Have a big-picture view.  In the moment they may not like what is occurring, but if they see mommy going off the rails and daddy keeping a level head and being reasonable.... five years from now, ten years from now, they are going to look back on these events with the benefit of experience and realize who was playing what role.

Go on your trip and detach for a few days.  You have earned it.

    
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« Reply #14 on: June 03, 2021, 04:40:44 PM »

In my experience couples therapy is pointless unless she gets help with herself first.
 My wife and I tried couples therapy a few times and dear god it was a PLEASE READ show.  Therapists most common response to my wife was " you are asking to have your cake and eat it".  Also, everything is and will be your fault in some way or another.  Hell even my wife cheating on me multiple times was my fault Laugh out loud (click to insert in post).  Do not want to discourage you because I firmly believe in looking back on your time with your wife and children and knowing that you did your best and tried everything you could.  That is a great place to leave and live a full life. 

So sorry you are going through this drama!

Thank you all so much for the replies!  I'll admit I'm a bit teary from it.  Lately whenever any is nice to me I find myself getting a misty eyed.

Some AMAZING advice here!

We talked to this kids this morning and it started off okay... but then spiraled out of control.

My youngest was actually okay with it (6).  He seemed sad but then said "as long you take one my pokemon and take lots of pictures and send them to sissy's phone so I know you're both safe I'll okay.  I think you will have a happy time with your friends."

Not the answer my wife wanted.  So she turned to our daughter.
She seemed sad but okay with the idea and then my wife said "it's okay to cry."  It was like someone scripted it.  Boom.
TEARS.  "Dada please don't go!  I don't want you to go!  What if you get hurt and I'm not there with you?!"
I was fuming.  This felt like a setup.
The kids are dismissed and my wife says, "I just wanted you to know what it's like when you're not here and how it's going to be.  But you go- have fun - I'll make it okay like I always do!"
-Silence-
Then she says "what are you thinking?"
"I think I have a lot of work to do, I'm really upset, I want to cool down so I'm going to get to it."
"F&CK YOU!"
"You know what, f@ck you too!  I'm done playing this game with you.  I'm not doing it anymore."
Well that didn't go over well.  I lost my cool... but hey I made it 10 years so that's good right?
"What do you mean?!"
"You paraded the kids' emotions in front of me to manipulate the situation.  You do it all the time!  And I'm done.  I'm done with you."
Yup.  That was dumb.  That was really really dumb.
"You're just throwing a baby fit because you didn't get your way!  Where are you going?!"
"I'm too upset to continue this conversation, I've already lost my cool.  I hear our daughter crying and I'm going to check in with her."
"No"
"Yes I am"
"Fine!  You know, this is what YOU wanted!  All of this, this life, well you got it!"

My daughter overheard us fighting- for the first time and was really upset.  She was worried that we were fighting because of her.  I consoled her and told her it's not her fault, it had nothing to do with her, she didn't do anything wrong!
My wife storms upstairs and wraps her arms around my daughter.
My daughter sobs, "I just don't want you guys to split up!"
I glare at my wife... where did she get that phrase from?  In all my frustrated moments I have never hinted or even vented about anything going on with us.  My wife does frequently threaten to leave, so I wonder if that's it?

I internalize that I made daughter cry and it's a deep cut.  I feel so guilty.
My wife jumps on this and by the end of the conversation I'm apologizing- feeling so defeated for making my daughter cry.

I've had some time to reflect.
I absolutely should not have lost my cool.
It's also pointless to point out the manipulation, that's just playing her game.
However, I feel it's not fair to drag the kids into making the decision about me going on this trip.

I like Couper said... all of my friends have made arrangements now that I have.  She agreed to this.  It's done.

I don't know what to say to her though.  I'm at a loss.  I feel beat up.
I love her.  I do.  But this isn't okay.  I'm not innocent here (obviously!) but I can't take it anymore.
I'm going to try to get us into couples therapy... but I think it might be too late.

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« Reply #15 on: June 03, 2021, 09:39:20 PM »

A big part of BPD behaviors also includes manipulation and control.

She's surely had many years becoming an expert manipulator.  You're doing a lot of stuff as father that mothers often do.  Yet when you want a mere few days, whamo!  After all, she managed to get you to apologize for normal stuff.

She isn't feeling in control and she's determined to make you suffer for it, whatever the consequences for the children.

Reminds me of what happened when I was engaged.  I had gotten passes for what could have been a once-in-a-lifetime event.  (It was a religious gathering, very orderly, nothing to criticize.)  Her parents refused to allow their adult child to attend, it would look improper, etc.  I was stunned, it made no sense then, but later I discerned they had PD patterns and had to control everything.
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« Reply #16 on: June 04, 2021, 06:08:28 AM »

Yup.  Manipulation and control.

My therapist had a good point- "Don't try to prove to her that she's manipulating you.  She's probably had lots of practice by now and is very good at it.  That's just playing into her game and she's going to win."

My daughter had an upset stomach.  We ordered food from a new place (fast food and shrimp tacos don't mix!).  My W of course made it not about the trip but the drama around the trip (the fight we had earlier in the day).  I wasn't in the room for the conversation but we do have a baby monitor the flips between hers and her brother's room.  It wasn't until I told my wife I wasn't listening that she came at me with, "she's scared we're going to sit up!  She's scared she's going to have to go back to regular school, that I'm going to have to go get a job and get an apartment somewhere and that life as she knows it is over!"

I felt my eyes glaze over.  My brain felt like it was crumbling like a old Vegas casino being demolished.  And of course she could see that.

"So- if you think you going on this trip is good idea when you're daughter thinks you're going to go and abandon us- then go but I don't think you should go."

I start to cave... "I think you might be right."
My stomach drops, what the hell did I just day?!  Her tone changes drastically.  I'm on the ropes, time to finish the job.

"No no don't pin this on me.  It needs to be your decision.  You're her father.  You know what's best for her."

I swear I can't feel my face.  I can't talk and I'm dizzy.  I started to rub my arm.  (I donated blood a few days ago and a nerve in my forearm got a little irritated.  I out together her new spin bike (concession prize for allowing my trip...) which irritated the nerve).
"Please don't hurt yourself!!!"
"My arm is sore"
I must have said it in the most pathetic and defeated tone.  She knew I was caving.  So she switched modes.  She knew she'd won.
"Do you want me to get you an ice pack or wrap the heating pad around your arm?"
It was the warmest, kindest tone she's ever used.
"No" I managed to whisper.
"I'm going to take a shower, when I'm back I want to resolve this.  You know I don't do well going to bed with unresolved issues."
I thought about it more and it gave me time to reset.  She was warm and kind and caring when she came back down.
"So... Have we resolved anything?"
"... I... Think I should plan on going.  I'll work with her to make sure she understands and is okay.  I want her to see that grownups can have friends as adults outside of marriage and that it's healthy to go on trips like this.  I'll show her a map of where we'll be.  She can help me pick out hiking trails and even suggest some stuff we get from the store for dinner or lunch one night.  I'll involve her in the process."
Yup. Wrong answer.  Her face twisted.
"Fine.  I have nothing to say.  In fact I'm going to brush my teeth and go to bed."
"Okay."
She sits there longer.  Fuming.  Rage boiling up.  "No, no I have nothing to say."
"Okay.  And what can I do to help you get ready and be okay with the trip?  I haven't seen my friends and it'll be good for the kids to see that I can have friends too."
"No!  You don't give a PLEASE READ about me!  You never do!  It's always about you!  If you cared about me at all you never would have said those things this morning!"
"I do love you and I agree my outburst was uncalled for.  However I'm not the one who threatens to leave.  I've had one outburst.  You've said you want to leave everytime you get upset."
"I know!  You're right!  I get it!  I'm horrible!  My whole family always tells me I'm too much and don't deserve you!  And now you're going to go on this trip and come back wanting a divorce!"

Ah back into a classic BPD script.  Thanks to "Eggshells" I'm prepped for it.  I stood my ground through the rest of her fit.

Now's the hard part... enduring the abuse for the next three weeks.

Thank you again for a the support!  Hearing that this is what a lot of you deal with is helpful (but also sad!)
We do have a couple's therapy appointment on the books but it's a week after I get back from the trip.  Who knows.
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« Reply #17 on: June 04, 2021, 06:52:56 AM »


As I read that "discussion"...I participate in a bazillion of those.

When it's that far off the rails, I decided to "flip it" and "hand it back to them".  Let them wrestle with their own dilemmas .

First of all...find something you and she can "agree on".  Get her onboard before moving forward.


"So..it sounds like you are suggesting what's best for junior is your primary focus."   "Is that right"?

If she won't commit...just stay there.

"Hey babe...this seems important to you.  What values are you trying to express?"  (get away from specific....."I want my child to have a toy.." is not a value.  How I go about giving rewards (toys) to a child usually comes from a "place of values"

Anyway...for this particular trip issue, it seems to me that "resilience" or "building resilience" in children (and adults for that matter)...is the real issue.

So gently try to guide discussion there.  Obtain agreement that more resilience is better than less.   Then ask how Dad going/not going affects resilience.

Don't provide answers...ask questions for understanding.

Best,

FF

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« Reply #18 on: June 04, 2021, 12:27:26 PM »

"I do love you and I agree my outburst was uncalled for.  However I'm not the one who threatens to leave.  I've had one outburst.  You've said you want to leave every time you get upset."

"I know!  You're right!  I get it!  I'm horrible!  My whole family always tells me I'm too much and don't deserve you!  And now you're going to go on this trip and come back wanting a divorce!"

Expect for her to bring this up again and again.  Your apology once is not enough in this PD.*  An apology will be demanded again and again, and still always simmering below the surface ready for the next time.

Notice how she's already primed the next argument post-trip?  "I knew you would want a divorce after you came back!  See how bad your decision to go was?  Let me rip you apart some more..."

So sad, but a person with BPD will feed off the dysfunction.

This is a side observation, but it's been commented that a BPD+NPD marriage can last... because they feed off one another's patterns.  But you're not Narcissistic and the beatdowns you get are crushing you.  No amount of appeasing will be enough unless you are fully compliant.

Not a good example for the kids of a normal adult relationship.  When they're grown and looking for their own adult relationships will they gravitate toward someone like you or like her?

* In the year before my separation and divorce I tried to apologize according to my then-spouse's demands.  Often I'd apologize 5 or more times.  She wouldn't like that I left something out and would demand I repeat it correctly to her satisfaction.  (Of course I'd then leave something else out, oops.)  Over and over and she never realized I was trying to teach her a lesson you don't dictate apologies.  They are sincere or they don't mean anything, once is enough, not to be rehashed over and over endlessly forevermore.  Our marriage imploded months later.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2021, 01:08:37 PM by ForeverDad » Logged

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« Reply #19 on: June 04, 2021, 12:52:47 PM »


This area of my relationship still has lots of sadness for me.  Probably going to stay that way (lots of other areas are much better)

I'm Christian so "asking forgiveness" is a central part of a Christian relationship (or at least was for me).

Until I asked forgiveness for the "wrong thing".  That was a few years ago...I haven't asked forgiveness since then..and doubt I ever will again.

I do say "sorry" for things that I do such as "spill milk" or if I forget to pickup milk (even after I promised) or things like that.  But I rarely...RARELY say sorry for relationship issues.

Best,

FF
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« Reply #20 on: June 04, 2021, 03:04:09 PM »

I'm new here and have been struggling mightily in dealing with my now ex-wife. 

I am absolutely floored by this discussion, there are examples after examples of behaviors in this thread alone that I have personally been through. 

*Trips with friends (business trips didn't trigger this)
*Getting the kids together for family meetings, pre and post divorce, making a big production to get a reaction from the kids
*Her only toolkit was negotiating via guilt
*Logic has no seat at the table in any discussion


I ended our marriage 3 years ago when I realized I had become a workaholic primarily to avoid being around her.  I realized that I was doing this while sitting in my office, I vomited into my trash can at this revelation.  Since then I've been relentlessly beaten up by myself, former friends and my ex wife.  I feel like I could have written every single line of this post and the responses.  I am gobsmacked...
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« Reply #21 on: June 04, 2021, 05:00:18 PM »

I am so glad your kids are already in therapy.  Those reactions were very disproportional to reality (obviously, encouraged by mom).

Dad is going away for 4 days to have fun with friends and then is coming back.  Normally a 6/8 year-old would say they would miss you and that would be about it. 

Children that age should not need daily pictures to prove that you are okay or a map of the hikes or any other kind of detailed reassurance that you'll be safe.  That is parentifying them - giving them the illusion that they get to determine whether or not you are safe enough.  It should be enough to reassure them that you'll be safe and have fun.  If they need more than that, they are seriously having issues (poor babies).

When me stepdaughter was about 7, her uBPDmom was also very obsessed with safety.  She wouldn't let SD ride the school bus (from their very safe neighborhood) because "it wasn't safe" for SD to be outside alone.  SD rolled her eyes and said "what does mom think will happen?  A garbage can will reach out and steal me?"  At our house, the kids had a radius they were allowed free range in.  SD knew mom was overreacting because we modelled different - and more realistic - behavior at our home.

I'm glad you are still going on the trip.  Don't give in to the manipulation.  Your kids will be FINE while you are gone.  Even if your W works them into an emotional tizzy, their therapist can help them reset.  They need to see that you left and came back and it's okay.  They need to see that you kept your word (to your friends, to them), that you can keep yourself safe, and that it is very important to have a life outside of being a spouse or parent.





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« Reply #22 on: June 04, 2021, 08:42:38 PM »

The kids seem excited... And that just pissed her off.

We've had a few more rounds of it and I've just accepted that I'm not dealing with a rational person so any logical arguments fail.  She constructs a new reality, a new excuse, or new reason I've been wrong the whole time.

She said the heart of the issue isn't whether or not I go.  The issue is that I asked permission without considering how she or the kids might be affected by me being away.  So then logically if I take care of that I should be "allowed" to go.  So I tell her my plans for making the kids okay with it and implement a few immediately...

Now it's back to "well you can go but I won't be happy about it but I said okay so it is what is."

Even if I arrange a damn spa weekend for her while the kids are away at her parents' it still wouldn't be okay.

She said it isn't about controlling me (and how dare I have such a low opinion of her...) But it's that I expected her to think of everything so I could go have fun.
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« Reply #23 on: June 04, 2021, 11:58:41 PM »

So her irresistible force (pressure) met your immovable wall (boundary).  Good for you, nice strength.

Most people don't realize what practical boundaries are.  It's not forcing boundaries on others, they can resist them and sabotage them.  Boundaries are what you do for yourself in response.

A very simplistic example is, "If you do or don't do ___ then I will or will not do ___."  For example, "If you are ranting and raging, I will take the kids to the park, to a restaurant, etc until things are calmer."  Read the articles in the above link for other examples.
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« Reply #24 on: June 05, 2021, 12:40:31 AM »

At this point I am done.
Looking for advice on how to end this relationship.  She's a master at blame shifting, gaslighting, manipulation.

I am done.
She's fulfilling her own prophecy.
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« Reply #25 on: June 05, 2021, 07:59:20 AM »

I wanted to clarify on that last post in case anyone has been here.

We've had several long talks.
I've met the condition of making sure the kids will be okay.  As I expected, they're fine with it.  Sad that Dad will be gone for a few days but fine with it

What concerns me is that she's going to guilt me into not going the day I leave because the kids will likely cry.
I can see it now...
"See!  They don't want you to go!". As the Uber pulls up and I start to open the door.  "You said you wouldn't go if they're not okay!!  Look at them!!"

During our long talks I did tell her that this whole thing is ultimately about controlling me.  She did some amazing mental gymnastics and elegantly laid out an argument that made it seem like I'm manipulating her.  I'm gaslighting her.  In fact the little things I do "wrong" are micro-aggressions (not bringing her vitamins during the day and at night).  Me not yelling and screaming or crying and staying "cold" is borderline abuse.  Because I refused to say anything back to her until I was in a place I could calmly talk I'm commiting emotional abandonment and abusing her.

I told her that her behavior reminded me of my mom (who had uBPD) and by the end of the conversation she'd convinced herself that I'm the one who was acting like my mom AND abandonment behavior like her Dad.

She frequently invoked her double standard- her intentions override my feelings but her feelings over ride my intentions.  So she can say whatever she wants but can later say "I didn't mean that!  You heard me wrong that's not my fault!" while me not responding made her feel abandoned so that's what I must have been trying to do.

I let her tire herself out thinking that it would be done.  We revisited the whole conversation before bed and talked until almost 1am... Where she turned everything on me.  "I know I pop off and say mean things but I have PMDD and I wouldn't tell or feel this way if you weren't being an a$$hole!".

She's also hesitant about couples therapy.  We each have our own intake forms to fill out... This is a therapist she's seen before but 'fired' because she gave her homework to do and said she felt "judged."
Should I mention my BPD suspicions on my form?

I suspect something will come up and "we" won't be able to go anyway.

So I'm done.  I need to go on this trip to clear my head.  When I get back I'm going to start the process of ending this.  The last straw, the thing that made it obvious there's no hope came up last night.
"I'm pretty self aware.  If I was manipulating you do you think I'd cry and scream and bring the kids in?  No, if I was I'd be calm and cool about it and you'd never know."

Any advice on how to handle the inevitable tears from the kids the day I leave?
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« Reply #26 on: June 05, 2021, 09:39:32 AM »

It sounds as if these encounters over the trip have brought your wife's dysfunctions into focus for you. The trip will indeed be an opportunity for you to think about next steps with a clear head. As you move forward, we can help.I

As to the children crying when you leave...

Why do you expect them to cry? Is this typical behavior at your house? If so, why? Is your wife instigating it?I

I think you are beginning to get a sense of behaviors in your household  that don't happen in other households.
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« Reply #27 on: June 05, 2021, 09:49:24 AM »

At this point I am done.
Looking for advice on how to end this relationship.  She's a master at blame shifting, gaslighting, manipulation.

I am done.
She's fulfilling her own prophecy.

I've been here. 

I think one thing that I wish I knew when I started the separation/divorce process was just how vindictive she would be.  She went absolutely scorched earth, reaching out to all of my friends, coworkers and family and convincing them that I am a truly awful person.  I lost several lifetime friendships and have relationships with almost none of the people I was friends with at the time.  In hindsight, I wish I had a strategy for this but I also didn't know what I was dealing with (uBPD) and felt enormous guilt over ending the marriage.  At the time I felt like I deserved that.  I didn't.

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« Reply #28 on: June 05, 2021, 10:04:41 AM »

One think I noticed is that the given "reason" is often not the actual reason ( which is some fear or anxiety- fear of abandonment, fear of being alone, or just general anxiety) and the source of of the real reason is projected on to some external reason "the kids might be sad".

What you have probably done before many times is try to solve the "reason" or discuss it logically assuming that if you fixed the "reason" the issue would be resolved.

But it isn't solved because the "reason" given isn't really the reason, and if the reason is their own feelings, it's not possible to fix someone else's feelings for them.

Your wife's "reason" is that the kids will be sad and you have made efforts to deal with that. The kids will be fine and you know that. Many children have parents who travel for business or other reasons and yes, it might feel scary for them that mom or dad isn't there, but the parent knows they are being cared for and in safe hands and they learn to deal with that. One very important skill children need to learn to be capable adults is emotional regulation. It's a learning process and it needs to be age appropriate as we of course need to protect them as well. But they need to learn to manage the inevitable difficult feelings - the kid who won't play with them on the playground, the time they didn't get a toy they want. If we, as parents, step in to manage all their feelings, we take that learning experience away from them.

What if you were a parent that had travel as a work requirement. Your kids may cry, and then you assure them that Daddy loves them and will be back. Upon your return, bring a small present ( and something for your wife too). You come back, they see you come back. They learn that they will be OK. My father travelled sometimes for work and he always brought back something for me, not an expensive things, but a little souvenir or  something from his trips and yes, I missed him but I knew he'd come back and bring me a surprise. However, he also arranged for help with child care as my mother has BPD and her emotional reserves with small children are limited.

So you can deal with the "reason" but I think you know the actual reason is your wife's emotions and her difficulty handling them, and I imagine that  being an emotional caretaker- feeling responsible for someone else's feelings- is one of your superpowers if you were raised in a home with a BPD parent and that your default is to not do what upsets her ( or in her words, what upsets the kids). But remember that every time we step in to manage someone else's uncomfortable feelings we take away their opportunity to learn to deal with them themselves.  She knows it won't be as acceptable to say she's afraid of you going on the trip and so the reason is projected on to another more acceptable one " the kids are afraid". This may not even be conscious for her, it may be how she deals with her own fears.

I also wonder if she's afraid of being on her own with them without you helping. I think this is something you need to be realistic about. She may be an adult, and it's natural to expect that a mother can manage with kids, but depending on her emotional state, it may be more like asking a 12 year old to babysit for 4 days on their own and I think that is too much for a 12 year old.  My own severely BPD mother was a stay at home parent but needs considerable support.


I think you understand that as the trip gets closer, your wife's anxiety about it will likely increase and so is the likelihood she will try to find a "reason" for you to not go. This feels like manipulation and in a way it is, but it's also how she copes with her feelings and so far, this may have worked for her. She does need to learn to cope with them in another way, which means you need to allow her to do this and not step in to fix them. If she's not used to being alone with the kids without help, you may need to find a ways for her to have help without it being seen as "you can't do this". Maybe something like "you deserve some time to yourself so sitter is coming over to watch the kids so you can go for coffee with a friend" or something like this. If she's fine being on her own, then you go, come back with a small thank you gift for her, and a treat for the kids. I hope this works out for you and if it does not, then try doing shorter ones- a day out "with the guys" or something like that to ease her into it, but don't continue to not do things you really want to do ( within reason)  to ease her fears as this perpetuates the issue.
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ForeverDad
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Gender: Male
What is your sexual orientation: Straight
Who in your life has "personality" issues: Ex-romantic partner
Relationship status: separated 2005 then divorced
Posts: 16525


You can't reason with the Voice of Unreason...


« Reply #29 on: June 05, 2021, 05:49:45 PM »

I'm wondering whether there's anything you can do to minimize the chaos of the upcoming departure.  Have you reached out as father to the children's counselor and your concerns that their mother is likely to use the kids to make the trip virtually impossible to start, whether there is any way the counselor can fortify the kids beforehand?

On a recent thread PearlsBefore remarked that people with BPD (pwBPD) are known to make emphatic false claims (perceptions as "facts") appear very believable and credible.

... the pwBPD is able to combine false facts with GENUINE emotion. They aren't doing pathetic crocodile tears on the stand, they REALLY genuinely "feel" like their mother died in the blitzkrieg even if they still live with their mother and she's sitting in the front row... but with a pwBPD the listener's every instinct tells them that the story must be true because she demonstrates such genuine emotion recounting it. Good luck.
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