So we had my Mum’s 70th birthday party on Saturday night and it was a good night except for one thing. Oliver, my sister’s scumbag husband, turned up when he had been specifically asked not to, when my sister had assured my Mum he would be nowhere in sight.
They turned up together, over an hour late, bearing flowers and gifts as if that made everything all right. Oliver actually got on his hands and knees, in tears, begging my mother’s forgiveness. My Mum didn’t know what to say or do. She was humiliated and embarrassed. I was angrier than I have ever been in my life.
It has been so hard for my Mum to play the tough love role with my sister. But she did it. She put her foot down and told Millie that Oliver wasn’t welcome at her party. For him to turn up anyway shows such a huge lack of respect for all of us that I start to shake all over when I think about it. How dare he. Respecting our wishes is all party of the reconciliation process.
There is nothing worse than someone who appears to care about what you think, who acknowledges the part they play in your stress and discomfort, but who continues to do whatever they want anyway. It’s like when someone is picking on you or harassing you at school or work and you confront them about it and they apologise, saying they had no idea they were affecting you so much. Only the next day they do it all over again.
How can you win against someone like that? To me Oliver’s behaviour is not a good sign. He seems to be slotting back into those trademark abusive patterns – the disregard for others, the manipulation, the over-the-top apologies. ‘I am the sorriest man in the world,’ he says.
‘You will be,’ I think. ‘You will be.’
My Dad asked him to leave. My sister looked worried and I wondered if she might pay the price later. We all did. But my Dad held firm. Oliver didn’t argue, just slinked off.
Afterwards it was like one of those scenes from a movie where something awkward has happened and everyone starts speaking at once. The entire room had been transformed into a gaggle of geese. The relief was palpable.
Then Millie started. ‘Why can’t you forgive him?’ she whined. ‘Can’t you see he’s repentant? He feels he can’t move forward without your forgiveness.’
Aaah, the games people play.
To me it’s not about forgiveness. It’s about knowing that what Oliver says is what he means. It’s about knowing that my sister isn’t living in fear for her life. It’s about honesty, consistency and trust.
If I knew for sure that by granting Oliver my forgiveness he would treat my sister with love and care for the rest of her life I would do it in a heartbeat. I would write it out and sign it in blood. But I’m not ready to do that yet. None of us are. He needs to prove himself first. I am disconcerted by his urgent need to get us back on side. His impatience unsettles me.
The rest of the night was good but we were on edge. My Mum kept looking towards the door, worried Oliver was going to come back. I suddenly realised how hard it must be for her to let her little girl go home to someone whom she thinks is a monster. How impossible must that be to bear? I know she lies awake at night wondering if she will see her youngest daughter again in the morning.
Towards the end of the night I went to the bathroom and caught sight of myself in the mirror. When I am nervous or worried I bite my bottom lip. There was a tiny speck of blood in the corner of my mouth, a fragment of my rage.
There is a kind of bleakness in knowing that the situation you most want to change may not. That you are holding your hands upraised, seeking rescue and that your rescuer may never come.
Dreams of misadventure filled my head on the drive home. Oliver’s misadventure. Hiring a hitman, a fatal injection, a fall from a twenty-storey building, a poisoned cup. All fantasies, of course but nice thoughts while they lasted.
Somedays no matter how things have turned out in your life, you think : ‘How did I get here?’ It’s the curse of being human, to question things, to wonder if your life would have been different if you had turned left instead of right. It’s easier to imagine what if instead of dealing with what is.
Today I saw a little butterfly. Pure white, fragile as tissue paper. She was buffeted by the wind, sinking and flailing as she tried to fly towards the sun. Over and over again the wind pushed her back, her little wings trembling, her tiny body almost bent in half. Over and over again she flexed her wings and pushed forward, determined to outfly the breeze. With one final burst she did it, swirling and dancing in the sun. Her success was such a joyful moment, she inspired me to do the same; to keep on trying. To be stubborn, immovable, bravely facing the what is with my head aimed squarely at the sun.
I had hoped this wouldn’t happen, but feared it would. As hard as it might have been, your dad did the right thing. Oliver will never understand the respect issue, because he doesn’t respect anyone, especially anyone in your family. He doesn’t want forgivness, he wants absolution, past and future sins erased forever. Icky, icky man.
The part about the butterfly is beautiful, and you are so wise to keep your eyes on the goal even during the struggle (but I did enjoy the lovely daydreams you were having).
I cannot believe you sister had the nerve to bring HIM to your mothers birthday. How totally rude, and completely inappropriate. I am sitting here with my jaw on the floor. Does no one have boundaries?
“I suddenly realised how hard it must be for her to let her little girl go home to someone whom she thinks is a monster. How impossible must that be to bear? I know she lies awake at night wondering if she will see her youngest daughter again in the morning.”
Oh my god. That breaks my heart. Thats just awful.
Oliver and your sister behaved in such a selfish manner. You are right, Oliver’s impatience is worrisome. It is definitely a red flag, a sign that he is not really invested in doing what needs to be done to regain the trust of your family.
Reading this post I could literally feel your stress. I am sorry your mom’s special ocassion was ruined this way.
Sorry to hear about this incident. This a tricky situation especially when that someone (Oliver) is family (in a way), as you noted in this paragraph (so true):
“It’s like when someone is picking on you or harassing you at school or work and you confront them about it and they apologise, saying they had no idea they were affecting you so much. Only the next day they do it all over again.”
I don’t know the history but just wanted to add that maybe the family can take a look at and get help for Millie’s perception of Oliver and the situation. Like most people in her shoes, she’s stuck in the denial and dependent stage.
Anyway, good wishes to the family from me.
The gall of that man to show up to your mum’s party. And I think your sister either didn’t consider anyone else’s feelings or was somehow forced to bring him (i.e. he wouldn’t ‘let’ her go without him). If it’s the first, shame on her and if the latter, can’t she see how manipulative he is?
Good for your father for asking him to leave!
What a rat this guy is. 😦
Could he not find the decency to stay away when asked, from this very special gathering? I feel for you and your family Selma, I really really do. Your sister is enabling this man to continue in his wayward course. I still say: stay firm, stick to your ‘guns’ as the saying goes. It WILL sort itself out, things always do even if at the time it seems like that is impossible. I’ve faced (too) many intolerable and unbearable situations in my life already. At my darkest moments of despair, I couldnt see the light at the end of it all. But it came. Often in a totally unexpected way. Often, much too slowly. But it came.
In the meantime, if you need to vent, want to just ‘talk’ your friends are there for you, including me. Email if you like too (my contact email is on my blog). I wouldn’t have survived without support. It really was what kept me alive, nothing else.
Big hug to you and your dear mom and dad too, G
What a drag. Not only is it disrespectful of him to ignore your family’s request, but his “I don’t care what you said, I’ll show up anyway!” attitude reveals his true color, as well. Selfish to the bone, I say. Forgiveness, at least in human terms, is somewhat earned, I think. And your sister needs a kick in the butt too… I hate to say.
Oh no! Grrrrrrrrrr. I was so hoping your Mum would have a really great birthday celebration 😦 How terribly unfair.
“Somedays no matter how things have turned out in your life, you think : ‘How did I get here?’” – I feel so deeply for you and your family. This is not something you did to get to this position; someone else has forced themselves on you all by entrapping someone you love. I can’t even bear to try to imagine what that must be like, to have your own life tainted by something out of your control and with no bearing whatsoever on who you are as a person and what your values are. This man makes *me* so angry; it must be hell for you.
“There is nothing worse than someone who appears to care about what you think, who acknowledges the part they play in your stress and discomfort, but who continues to do whatever they want anyway. ” Hear-hear!! Its that old saying, “pay attention to what someone does, not what they say”.
I’m so sorry your mom had to endure that. You’re right, it must be torture to know her child is in the company of such a …person.
I love white butterflies. To me they symbolize rebirth.
You’re a good sister and daughter, Selma. Don’t ever forget that.
I’m with Epiphany, above, here..you ARE a great daughter and sis, and I hope you’ll continue to nurture YOU. Take care of you, be the strongest, brightest you, and you can handle what the world gives you. I love your butterfly analogy. Another reader mentioned “rebirth”.
A white butterfly is purity, too. Blissful purity, that which is un-tainted, un-jaded by the world, I think!
God Bless You & your Mum(HAPPY BIRTHDAY!) and Dad. And your sis, too.
I’ll even pray for that smug “man” in your sister’s life. I hope he gets help(and gets OUT of your sis’s life, too!)
I hate to suggest it, but it seems that the wrong end of a baseball bat is all this creep undertands.
Full marks to your parents for standing up to him … personally, between you, them and Auntie Jo, I’d hate to get on the wrong side of your family … and happy birthday, Selma’s Mum!
Often, I think, it is not caring for others, but caring about their place in others’ thoughts. Basically, he doesn’t like to be disliked. It chips away at the self-esteem.
I suspect it is this he wants to change, and any change in behaviour is with this in mind. In other words, what he is trying to do – and failing – is still feeding on his own selfishness.
You do right not to give him a chance.
Hang in there.
There is no such thing as someone like that proving themselves.
They aren’t sorry. They are biding their time.
And they can do for weeks, months or years if they have to.
The only way to forgive a man like that is after he is gone.
KAREN – at the back of my mind I suspected he might try to worm his way in too. Dropkick. What is with these guys who are abusers and the amount of control they have to have? It’s scary. I will admit to you that those fantasies of mine brought a little smile to my face. I knew I should have made my special ‘Ratpoison Casserole’ for the party. 😉
MELEAH – my jaw dropped too. I almost couldn’t speak. I think that’s the problem – my sister has no boundaries. Never has. She really disappointed me.
INGRID – oh the impatience definitely worries me. Why can’t he wait? You are right, I was a little stressed at the time but I’m beginning to settle down. It’s weird but I find going to work really helps. We;ve been really busy and it’s been a godsend!
AUTUMN – you are so kind. I just wish my sister could see him for the rat he is, but as you say she is in the denial stage and is wearing her rose-coloured glasses. I hope that soon she comes to her senses.
LINDA – I think she’s definitely in that stage where she’s only seeing what she wants to see. It’s so frustrating. My poor Dad was shaking after he asked Oliver to leave. I think he thought he was going to make a scene. I am so proud of him for doing it.
GERALDINE – You are a truly lovely person. It warms my heart to hear from you. Thank you.
CHRIS – oh, my sister needs a major kick in the butt mostly for marrying that bonehead in the first place. I agree with you completely, in that I think forgiveness must be earned to a certain extent. He needs to show us he’s worthy of our forgiveness.
DAOINE – I have days where I think :’It’s OK, I can cope with this’ and then other days where it’s all too much. If my sister were more consistent I would feel better, but right now I’m on tenterhooks. Hopefully, things will settle down soon.
EPIPHANY – thank you so much for your support. White butterflies are such potent little creatures, aren’t they? It’s almost as if they are little angels sent to us. I always feel better when I see one!
LISA – thank you, my dear. I pray for Oliver too – that he gets abducted by aliens or spontaneously combusts. It could happen, right?
TRAVELRAT – I keep remembering those old Roadrunner cartoons where Wile. E. Coyote gets squashed by a tonne of bricks or an enormous anvil. That kind of thing might sort Oliver out once and for all. You have also reminded me of the family’s secret weapon – Aunt Jo. We really should unleash her…..
ANTHONY – you are completely right. It’s odd though that he doesn’t like to be disliked yet keeps doing things which make people dislike him. I don’t get that. It’s not rational, is it? Thanks for your encouragement.
BRITT – oh these are my sentiments exactly. I fear he is biding his time. It scares me. I live in hope that one day though i will be able to say HE’S GONE, HE’S GONE – and it will be true!
you are seeing evidence of both of their inability to know what is real.. to them,, even tho you said so,, you don’t mean it.. that is the cornerstone of their relationship.. saying and doing things that are later recanted as things they didn’t mean to say or do.. they did what they did because in their world,, he was asked not to attend out of anger,, and surely,, who ever asked didn’t really mean it…
strange but true…..
PAISLEY – Oh God, you are right. You just understand people so well.It is uncanny. How sensitive you are. I really value your opinion.
The strength in you, the loyalty to family..The passion about your convictions..these are the things that make me admire you. I am pleased to know you. You are one of those most special of people, the ones who others can look at and know, know, know they are loved, respected and just plain supported by. I love you girl, just thought you should know.
Ps. Paisley!!! You are one of my poetry peeps for this very reason!! Rock on girl! We got Selma’s back!!
NECTARFIZZ – how lovely you are. Come here and give me a great big HUG! XXOOXX