past relationships: Jessica (part 2 – seeing some deeply concerning behaviors develop)

Started in part 1

Before I go on, I’d like to say that, in hindsight, this is really interesting and puts things in a different light to me, having read Patricia Evans’ excellent book Controlling People. One thing that she mentions several times is that some controlling people don’t attempt to control others until some form of commitment or deepening of a relationship happens. For instance, many people don’t begin to exhibit controlling behaviors towards a partner until after they are married. So it is very much true that the person being controlled had no warning as to what would happen to their relationship after marriage. This isn’t true all of the time. But it is true often enough to cause me to be wary in future relationships, if a possible partner becomes controlling after a certain amount of months (or years) to think about what kind of event may have occurred that somehow “granted” them the right to see me as someone they could control.

Getting back to the original subject though, after that talk Jessica slowly became a different person. It didn’t happen all at once. It started with little things, like teasing me about friends of mine. Making little jokes about them. If I confided in her that I was worried about a friend because of a decision that friend was making, rather than be sympathetic (the way she used to be), she’d comment on how many that person wasn’t really a good friend. Maybe it was a sign that I’d be better off without them in my life (separating me from my friends as a control tactic, perhaps?). Her jokes escalated into saying outright shitty things about my friends to my face. When I told her that I didn’t care for what I’d said, she’d say I was being sensitive (minimizing my feelings) or that she’d clearly been joking, couldn’t I take a joke? (casting doubt on my ability to evaluate what happened, and also minimizing my feelings). Despite being poly, she really discouraged me from seeing other people, always having a few things about them that she’d noticed and thought were really bad signs.

Her way of relating to me also became more judgmental. Instead of offering opinions, Jessica began delivering what felt like commands or statements about what I would do, not what I could do. It began to feel like anything I talked to her about that was a problem, or a little issue I had in my life was being treated as though I was coming to her as a supplicant, in need of her help, of her decision-making, in order to make my life better. That feeling of give-and-take, giving advice from someone close to you, as well as taking advice from someone close to you slowly vanished. The dynamic shifted towards her dictating who I should hang out with, what I should be doing with my time, who I should (and more importantly, shouldn’t) be dating.

She never really warmed up to Jon (more about that in a moment). She had enough awareness of my feelings about Jon to realize that saying anything bad about him would have immediately pushed me away. But she did recognize many of Lora’s shortcomings, and did everything possible to cast Lora in a bad light, and cause friction there. During the first big blowout between Jon, Lora and me, Jessica aggressively encouraged me to push Jon to break up with Lora – but not in an honest or ethical way. She would say things like “You know that Lora doesn’t like X thing. You should do X thing more, but do it really innocently, like you don’t realize how much it bothers her. That will set her off more often. And if she blows up more, there’s a better chance of Jon breaking up with her” and “You know Lora feels insecure about Y. I think you should talk about your success with Y a lot when you’re around Lora. If she feels shitty and insecure about herself, she’s more likely to pick fights with Jon, and the more she picks fights with Jon, the more likely he is to break up with him”.

(Before I go on, I would like to address that yes, it is true that when Lora felt insecure, about 80% of the time, she used that as an excuse to attack Jon. She would occasionally actually speak up about her insecurities and ask for help/reassurance. But unfortunately, a lot of the fighting that she did with Jon turned out to be because she felt insecure and would rather lash out than ask for her. Clearly not a desirable trait in a partner. That said, not a behavior that should be exploited for my gain either!)

On my end, I pushed back against her “advice” hard. I flat out told her that that was unethical behavior to me. It was dishonest. It was shitty. It was manipulative. She told me that it wasn’t unethical, because the ultimate result (getting someone out of Jon’s life who was shitty to him) made the methods completely valid. I’d already talked openly with Jon about my concerns about Lora; yet he still dated her. It was time to take stronger measures, Jessica felt. Completely justified measures, because in the end, I would be helping Jon, and that was the most important part.

This was the point at which I fully and totally realized that Jessica was an unethical person and not someone who I could trust intimately. If she was willing to give me advice on how to sabotage other people’s relationships, then it seemed like a small jump to conclude that she’d used these same techniques to sabotage relationships around her that she didn’t like. In the case of Lora and Jon’s relationship, yes, I did believe it was not a good relationship for him. At the time, I had begun to suspect Lora of being emotionally abusive towards Jon. However, I do not feel those feelings give me the right to manipulate him secretly out of a relationship. And with Jessica, what I’d slowly learned about Jessica and what it took to cause her to not like someone, I had a bad feeling that in her mind, it was a small step to go from not liking someone to deciding that they are outright a bad person. And once she could label someone as a bad person, well, it was clear that she was comfortable using any method possible to remove the bad person from her sphere. Even if she hadn’t done that before (unlikely, but let’s say, for the sake of argument (after all, I hadn’t seen her do it before) that she hadn’t), knowing that she had the mentality and a moral code that made these behaviors acceptable to her showed me that our personal moral codes were too different to work together.

As to why Jessica had it out so badly for Lora, I honestly don’t know. It is true that Lora is (at the least) a bad partner who has a long way to go in owning her shit and taking care of herself and learning to take care of and cherish her relationships. My impression was that Jessica did feel jealous that the time I could spend with her did get limited by my need to balance not only my time with Jon but also, by my need to build a relationship with Lora. My need to spend time/build a relationship with Jon was “balanced” out by Jessica’s need to spent time/build a relationship with George, who she started dating a few months after Jon and I started dating. But my time spent with Lora (little as it was, given first the months that Lora spent avoiding me then even when Lora wasn’t avoiding me, our schedules matched up twice a month at most) seemed to be felt very grudgingly by Jessica, who was always ready to cast anything questionable that Lora said or did into a very negative light. Even though I didn’t see Lora often (and talked about her very little, after Jessica’s “relationship advise to me), Jessica would often bring Lora up, and ask questions that seemed slanted to try and stir up any possible drama that I made visible. Needless to say, I didn’t make any drama visible. And I continued to wonder what needled Jessica so much about Lora. Was it really just the time?

I think it was more than that, though. Lora made it really clear from the beginning that she was interesting in sharing a life with Jon primarily. She also seemed to be interested in making a life with me (how she really felt is something I don’t think I’ll ever know). But she also made it clear that she didn’t feel a strong desire to buy into this deeply interconnected poly family idea. She wasn’t opposed to it – and she wasn’t opposed to getting to know Jessica, Rachel and Rob (and eventually George) more once she moved closer to us. But she was perfectly happy doing her own thing, paying rent to live in the house that we bought (the same as George, who fully planned to move in, but wasn’t in a position to be a buyer of the home), and mostly having her life with Jon and me, and occasionally the rest of the group. In other words, Lora clearly wasn’t going to form any kind of bond with Jessica that would allow Jessica to control her. And I think maybe that was the crux of it for Jessica. I think that she felt that her relationship with me could get to a point where she could…oh, let’s be kind about it…get me to see the supremacy of her ideas. Convince me of the error of my ways, and that I should go with her ways. Maybe once the relationship that Jessica and I had reached a point where she was comfortable with my compliance to her desires, the both of us would have worked on Jon. We’ll never know.

But what I do know, for certain, is that Lora made it crystal clear that it would never be the case for her. And I think that for Jessica the idea of there being someone who had influence over “Jessica’s people” that Jessica had no control over whatsoever was absolutely terrifying to her.

I wonder, had Lora not been so abusive, and clearly not had so many problems, if there were other things that Jessica would have tried to find to leverage her out of our lives. I’ll never know. And anyways, by the time Lora got extremely abusive (to both me and Jon), I wasn’t confiding in Jessica anymore. I nearly completely stopping confiding in her after she started pushing me to behave unethically towards Jon and Lora, in order to sabotage their relationship. I don’t take advice from people who have proven to me that they are comfortable being unethical in relationships.

Anyways, much of this – in regards to Jessica’s motivations – is conjecture on my part. I could totally be wrong. Who knows? What I do know is that the more I saw of Jessica’s behavior towards her intimates, the more I knew that we could not build a safe, mutually consensual life together where people were allowed to make their own choices and grow in the direction that their spirits led them.

I think I’ve gotten bogged down in examples. Because I feel sensitive and vulnerable about my rejection of Jessica. I feel that way because my deciding that I didn’t want Jessica in my life was probably one of the first things to completely tear apart our budding poly family. That said, I came to believe that it was safer for me not to be in this poly family, because it was becoming more and more obvious that any poly family that included Jessica would also include a lot of coercion and control coming from her.

I am going to end this next installment here, and pick it up in Part 3.


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polyamorist, cat-lover, hopeless optimist when I'm not being a firm realist.

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