My cousin’s wife is a friggin’ snake in the grass! She was nice to me just to get at my cousin, but then turned my whole family against me. She’s cool with me when she needs something or holidays or birthdays, but then she’ll have bitch sessions with my mom and has totally come between me and my brothers. She’ll be nice to my face, but then ignore me on Instagram and Facebook and spread rumors about me being a know-it-all and anything she can. She has even pumped my friends for information. My family believes everything she says, so there’s no point in me saying anything. What can I do to block her b.s.?
–Make it Stop
She certainly sounds like a poisonous peach. Your letter doesn’t say how long she’s been in your life, but it did make me wonder why your family hasn’t caught on or questioned her. The saying that comes to mind is, “Don’t tell me what they said about me. Tell me why they’re so comfortable telling it to you.” Did your cousin’s wife create a rift that wasn’t there or did she merely take advantage of a piece of the family dynamic that existed before she sunk her claws into your cousin? She strikes me as an opportunist who saw you as a scapegoat and decided to get stature in your family by exploiting this. You don’t describe your cousin in your letter, but he strikes me as an egotistical sort who needs to see himself as special so his place in the world is justified. Sorry to be harsh, but narcissists like this are easy to play if you come along and flatter them. You also don’t talk about your relationship with your cousin before this chick came along. I get the strong feeling that her putting you down somehow made your cousin feel better about himself. Your cousin’s wife appears to have a couple sociopathic traits, true, but she wouldn’t have gotten this far if your family wasn’t priming you for the role in the first place. My first piece of advice would be to examine your family relationships before and after Hurricane Mega Bitch. I strongly think you’ll see the seeds were planted long before she spread her manure. I’ll lay out some cards in a minute, but I think the first part of your strategy needs to include dealing with your whole family differently. If you find that you want to take this exploration of the family dynamic deeper, I would suggest finding a counselor and working through the Adult Children of Alcoholics workbook. You can get that here:
I asked the cards what we need to know about this woman’s issues with you and I got: Five of Swords (number 5, a no-win situation, not open to negotiation, the need to choose your words carefully, someone falsely thinking they have the upper hand, speaking one’s truth to cut through deception, and the need to admit defeat); Ten of Wands (number 10, martyrdom, a heavy burden, the need to delegate, taking too much responsibility in a relationship, or using the burden as an excuse not to change one’s situation); The Hermit (number 9, turning away from the outside world to work on oneself, preparing for major changes, being alone to experience what is meaningful to one, seeking answers from within, or isolation); and The Emperor (number 4, control issues, the need for discipline, issues with authority, a warning against being overbearing or rigid, and the need to take charge of one’s own life). The first two cards, the Five of Swords and Ten of Wands, are incredibly telling for several reasons. It shows me why your cousin’s wife took the course she did. She was calculating enough to observe your family before starting the relationship and saw you as the go-to girl, the one who picked up the slack, but never got the credit. The transcript of her inner monologue was probably something like, “Easy Peasy! They’re all relying on this person that they never really take seriously (you). What if I start taking on her role, but demand credit for every damn thing I do? Oooh!! I’m sooooo clever.” (If this chick used that energy on doing something with her life—rather than acting like the world is her high school fantasy chess board—cancer might get cured, but never mind.) Take a look at this person’s role in the family now that she’s poisoned the roots of the family tree: she goes out of her way to play the hero and makes it known the whole way. The Five of Swords talks about power plays created through deceit and mistrust. She’s about as real as a reality show house wife and should not be treated as having substance, which tells me your family is invested in denial for some reason. The solution presented by these two cards is simple. If you don’t like this tug-of-war, drop the rope. Don’t even try to play her game. The game is all she has and she will protect it at all costs. Your family is into denial and will not welcome you ripping off the yarn-like extensions of delusion from their heads. All you can really do is keep them at arm’s length and stick to the facts. Don’t talk about emotional anything with these people. The messy details of your life are power pellets for this chick’s game. If you do have to talk about your life with your family, keep it solution-focused and don’t let on that you’re scared or feel victimized by anything in your life. Be honest, but don’t spill your guts. In fact, the more honest and nonjudgmental you are when you deal with them, the less fuel this chick will have for the gossip fire. The second two cards in this spread further speak to the solution, as well as provide insight into why you tried to play the game in the first place. This chick all but had you tarred and feathered, but you stubbornly held onto your family role because so much of your life energy was invested in gaining the approval of your family (The Ten of Wands and Emperor). Your family felt powerful and took this as justification that they weren’t doing anything wrong (even though I suspect a couple of them wondered), so they kept raising the bar for you not to win (The Emperor and Five of Wands). The Hermit speaks to your sense of isolation and is a sign that now is the time to work on yourself and complete a project (or projects) that you weren’t able to do because you were so busy trying to get their approval. Skip a family dinner or two to work on your novel. Buy them less expensive birthday presents (or no birthday presents) and use the money on that vacation you wanted. That, my dear Make, is how you shut this crap down.
So to recap, I feel that your plan of attack should include three things. First, work on yourself and explore your place in the family dynamic. Second, use the more detached approach I outlined in the above paragraph. Lastly, take a long, hard look about your role in these relationships and only fix what you broke. Only apologize or make right what you messed up, but don’t expect them to do the same.
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