Going back nearly 10 years, I split up with my then-boyfriend, who took it very badly and spread malicious gossip about me to anyone who would listen. I moved away and a year or so later he phoned me to apologise for his behaviour. Ok, no hard feelings, we moved on. He then moved away and I moved back (unrelated).
A woman who didn't like me much anyway was one of his chief listeners. She then took it upon herself to take on the job of slandering me (same stuff, with her own additions) to all newcomers to the church we both attend. I talked to her about it once and she absolutely believes that what she is saying is true and she's right to tell people and will not be moved from that stance. I was really shocked at how much she hated me and she pulled no punches in telling me exactly what she thought of me.
Our chat was about 6 years ago and this has been running in the background ever since. I've tried to rise above it, to ignore it, to be kind to her, but I've got to the point where I admit defeat. On Saturday we had a church Christmas party and I walked into the room where she was, said hello and she and the person she was standing with started laughing and making loud 'opaque' comments. I went home and cried.
Honestly, what can I do? There's no point in me talking to her again; she obviously hates me and has made it her mission in life to slander me. I can't just go to a different church as we have to go to the one for which we are in the catchment area. It's got so bad that I want to move house just to get away from her
Have you spoken to your vicar or priest? The way she's behaving is hardly very Christian, apart from anything else. And it strikes me that you are being bullied if she is goading others into ganging up on you too.
Personally I'd try a head on approach - public confrontation where you ask her firmly to stop repeating lies and gossip about me, especially since she knows none of this firsthand but through a third party who has since apologised for it.
Is she still in contact with your ex? Could he speak to her?
Why do you HAVE to go to the church in your catchment area? What would happen if you went to the neighbouring one? Could that vicar/priest make an exception for you under the circs?
I would go for head on approach in a church group referencing her un-Christian and uncharitable behaviour, shaming her publicly and threatening that if she does not stop you will be getting a solicitor on the case.
The trouble is, I don't know exactly what was said to her or what she's saying now so I have nothing concrete to say other than that she's being mean to me, which is a bit playground-style! When I spoke with her, it was all 'I know what you did. You think you are so perfect but I know you are a two-face cow' type rubbish. So I have no idea
I have spoken to a bishop before but it's changed since then so I think I will speak to the new one, thanks.
To answer the other questions, I haven't spoken to my ex since that phone call several years ago. I could contact him if I really needed to but it's something I'd like to avoid.
There's nothing stopping me going to the church in the next town over but DH has responsibilities at our local church and being a long-term visitor as opposed to a member of that congregation would mean I would lose out on certain things which are important to me. I have never heard of a family being officially transferred to a non-local congregation for this kind of reason, although it's something I could explore if needs be.
"On Saturday we had a church Christmas party and I walked into the room where she was, said hello and she and the person she was standing with started laughing and making loud 'opaque' comments. I went home and cried."
I think laughing and making comments about you is playground type behaviour. This is what young children do - not very becoming of someone who participates keenly within the church.
She sounds throughly unpleasant and I doubt you're the only one that dislikes her but it's possible that no one calls her on her behaviour because they don't want to become her next target. Why not take the bull by the horns and tell others what's going on - just tell them exactly what you've said here. Once they know it's a load of made up bollocks she loses her power.
It's a bit difficult as she's a bit hot & cold with church and so the general emphasis is more on working to include her, which is why the last bishop took a view of me trying to rise above it and she would grow up (we were all late teens when this all started ). Established members of the congregation know the backstory as it got very nasty and public when ex and I split up but it's the new people our sort of age she hangs around with. So far they've all worked out what's going on and drifted away from her but then someone new arrives and it starts all over again.
I know you say that you would like to avoid contacting the ex but he might be the only one she will listen to as he was the original source. I also second speaking to the vicar (why should she be making you feel so awful in an environment where you should be happy and feel welcomed?). I would also sabre rattle - this is slander (or is it defamation of character? I am sure someone with a legal mind can advise) and you could suggest that if it does not stop then you will be getting solicitors involved. Poor you - she sounds utterly vile.
Thing is, when people behave like this woman, it just makes them look like the nasty ones. New people may play along for a bit with her as they want to be accepted into the group, but behind the scenes I bet everybody thinks she is a nasty gossip and she isn't doing herself any favours behaving like this. The best thing you can do (and the hardest) is to smile and hold your head high. It must be awful for you though- there is nothing worse than an adult who hasn't grown out of bullying.
I would ask my minister to allow me to speak from the platform/pulpit, and would confront, in detail, the things that your ex said about you, and the fact that he later retracted those things, and would ask anyone within the congregation who has heard these rumours, or who hears them in the future, to stop spreading the lies even further. I would say that I knew people within the church were spreading these rumours, and that this was an un-Christian and disgusting thing to do - and would ask them to examine their consciences and decide if what they were doing was acceptable in any society, never mind a church.