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Chapter 9, Part 7: Solo Therapy, and the End of the Long Summer of Terror 2.0

caninelover's picture

So let me start off by saying that I’m really not into therapy.  I dislike talking about myself to start with, and I generally operate under the principle of I’d rather be happy than perfect.   But in this case I was less than happy after Bratty’s arrival in our home and I needed to do something to alleviate the anxiety I was feeling.

So going into my first therapy appointment, my mind was racing and I was nervous.  The therapist was immediately comforting and that put me at ease.  As we got into why I was there, I started talking about Bratty, her messiness, and her being home a lot.  Funny for someone who doesn’t like talking about herself, once I got going it was hard to shut up.  The frustration had built up and now all the words were just racing out of me.  It was helpful to even just say some of the things out loud.

After a couple of individual sessions, the therapist noted that SO and I were not on the same page regarding our home.  It may have seemed that way, but it was not the reality.  Nothing would improve until SO and I sat down, agreed what our rules were, then SO needed to enforce them.  No making excuses or minimizing concerns.  So that was one of my big homework assignments.  We also talked about my feelings about Bratty as a person.  How it was uncomfortable for me and I felt like I was on eggshells all the time since Bratty really never spoke much to me.  The therapist suggested we try and do things together (the three of us) but that I also take initiative and spend time with Bratty myself. 

After getting home, SO asked me how it went.  I said it was enlightening but we should talk in a couple of days after I had time to think about it.  We did and it still made me very emotional as I told SO how it made me feel unimportant to him when he trivialized my concerns.  He listened carefully and said he understood and wanted to do better.  We ended up agreeing on some clarifications to our house rules, such as Bratty needed to clean her day’s dishes by 4 pm each day so I didn’t come home to a full sink.  Also we agreed that I would try and find some things for Bratty and I to do together.

I felt a lot better having a plan, and SO stepped up over the rest of the summer.  He did take better charge of Bratty and enforcing house rules.  Bratty mostly kept up with the new rules once SO was clear about them – I came home to a clean sink, closed doors, a clear driveway, no messes, and a clean upstairs bathroom.

As SO worked on keeping his end of the deal, I worked on mine – I found events and activities that I thought Bratty would like and invited her to go.  A couple of times she said yes, a couple of times she said no thanks.  I would usually go for a walk after work when I came home, and would ask Bratty if she wanted to join me.  Same result – sometimes yes, sometimes no.  Often she was still quiet and I had to force a lot of the conversation.  Except for one day, when Bratty decided to accompany me on a walk and she mentioned that a couple of high school friends had invited her out to dinner and bowling.  She said she wanted to go bowling (they had some free coupons) but didn’t want to spend money to eat out (Bratty is REALLY cheap about spending her own money).  I had prepped a casserole for dinner and knew it was more than enough food, so I suggested she invite her friends over for dinner.  Bratty immediately lit up – she was so excited.  Her friends (who seemed very nice) came over and had dinner outside in our yard and SO and I stayed inside and ate separately.  I had to admit it was nice seeing Bratty happy and behaving like a normal kid, for once.  Bratty even sent me a lovely email the next day thanking me for letting her invite her friends over, and telling me what a wonderful time they all had.

At this point, I was feeling a lot of relief.  Things seemed to be going much better.  I was still a bit stressed but now confident that SO and I would be fine.  I stopped seeing the therapist.

Of course, the road to stephell has its ups and downs.  Looking back, that was as up as it ever got, which is partly why I felt such disappointment when the relationship ultimately devolved.   Our next chapter finds Bratty back at school and considering her career options.  Meanwhile SO makes a big overstep that led to a big-@ss fight between us…


BPDHell's picture

I felt that! This is what I have been struggling with regarding the SKs, the ups and downs. When everything is running smoothly, we seem to forget that it's temporary. Probably VERY temporary. We are always blindsided by whatever new chaotic hell appears (well, for the girls we have been blindsided, we expect it with the son). There was another discussion on personality disorders on here somewhere and a couple posters were of the opinion that a mental illness diagnosis is just a label/excuse for bad behavior, but I'll tell you what it meant for me - it helped me realize that the SKs behavior is never going to change. The fact that their behavior was bad enough to actually be diagnosed means that it significantly impairs their lives AND the reality is that personality disorders are rarely treated successfully, because of the unwillingness of the affected person to seek treatment (which all of my SKs have shown, none of them are in treatment). It was realizing that they are all diagnosably mentally ill that helped me to stop reacting to the ups and downs and recognize this will always be the way it is, which means they need to be a smaller part of our lives. Now DH and I are in negotion about what that will look like. These boards, the other posters, and you sharing your story are helping me a lot to get perspective in this situation, so thank you for taking the time to share your experience!

caninelover's picture

And I know what you mean.  I think Bratty is NPD and while she is in and out of therapy the nature of that personality disorder makes it very difficult to successfully treat (because NPD sufferers have an inflated and fundametally distorted self-image).  I am coming to the same conclusion you are, that disengagement at some level will be a permanent state for me.


advice.only2's picture

This entire post reminds me of when Spawn first came to live with us and we were all scrambling to figure out how to make it work.
My therapist suggested I do special things with just Spawn so she and I could bond. I took her to get her ears re-pierced, I took her to get her hair and nails done, I took her and her friends shopping, I took her to get a make-up tutorial...notice all these things pertained to spending money! If I offered up stuff like going for a walk, teaching her how to cook a meal, etc. she had zero interest.
Even when we were doing "paid" things she was quiet and non responsive and barely spoke to me. I stopped doing special things for her after a time because it did nothing to help foster any type of relationship and I was tired of just being used for what I would spend on her.

caninelover's picture

Looking back, is that the effort to connect was 100% on my part.  Bratty never one reached out to me to see if I wanted to spend time - go for a walk, watch a movie, anything at all.  I get that I am older and would expect to take the initiative most of the time but not all of the time.  There is no relationship when the effort is that one-sided.

advice.only2's picture

Exactly! Spawn never came to me for anything, she would wait for DH to get home and then be all about "can you help me with homework, want to watch this show with me? Listen to this new song I love...etc." I realized it wasn't just about me being a SM, she just didn't even like me as a person.

caninelover's picture

She doesn't relate in the same way as 'normal' people do.  In Bratty's world I exist as a threat (for splitting SO's attention away from her), or as an accessory that is tolerated next to SO (like a suitcase he might carry).  I don't think Bratty was or is capable of seeing me as a complete human - so it isn't really dislike but more like ambivance - unless the threat aspect is at the forefront in which case there is a passive-aggressive type of response from her.

Stepdrama2020's picture

at least you had some good out of brattymcbrat. 

caninelover's picture

It didn't last but at least it was there.  For the record I don't think Bratty is evil.  I do think she is doing the best she can but was and is fundametally ill-equipped to cope with the reality of her life.

CLove's picture

Im in a mood today. 

Glad that you were able to understand after all that, that you needed to disengage from her. Im at the point soon, Im sure that Munchkin will regress. Im trying to hold on to the good but shes just getting more and more like her sister and her mother. Ungrateful and spoiled and lazy. Luckily not rude.

caninelover's picture

I certainly hope Munchkin is not a lost cause.  You seem to be the only thing keeping her from the dark side to be honest.