Staving off the malicious narcissist
June 11, 2014 7:16 AM   Subscribe

We all know of them, and some of us are unlucky enough to know one or more in real life - the narcissist, the emotional vampire, the malicious manipulator without a conscience. Some of us have seen them in action for years, but the malice was never turned our way. And now, my partner and I are on the receiving end of that malice. What safeguards can we put in place to protect our family?

My brother-in-law is handsome, charming, and has outgrown the outright smarmy nature that would sometimes put people off. He is also malicious, and when I think about it, has been since I first met him when he was in his teens. Back then he would scream profanities at his parents until they gave in to whatever he wanted (!), usually trips overseas, and before his 20th birthday would tell his parents of the elaborate stories he made up to bed various women.

He calls us when he wants something, usually once a year. Now he wants money from us very badly, and believe he's owed it for various reasons. At first, we were supportive, kind, loving. Then the emails and texts got progressively more horrible, insulting and threatening, so we stopped responding.

Brother-in-law is using the rest of the family to try to make us give him money. The lies, of course, change daily and vary by the person he is talking to. We've stood firm in ignoring all this. But given the viciousness of some of his messages directly to us, I can't help but worry that at some point he will try to hurt us seriously - say, by calling CPS and leaving anonymous tips. He's done things like this before and laughed about it, and gotten very angry when confronted with the magnitude of wrong he'd committed against other people for fun.

So. Knowing all this about someone, and not wanting to give him too much headspace, what are some safeguards we can put in place to protect ourselves from him? He lives in another state, but knows our phone numbers and address, and our children's names. We also have to see him in person in a few months at a family gathering.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Keep meticulous records of all his communications to you. If he tries to hurt you reputationally or even otherwise, your attorney will find these super useful.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 7:18 AM on June 11, 2014 [21 favorites]

Cut off all contact, never respond to any communication from him, cut off contact with any family members that advocate for him or pressure you on his behalf, do not attend events he will be attending, contact the police if there is any sense of a threat, make it clear to family members that you no longer have contact with this individual, contact an attorney and get them up to speed for future use. Change phone numbers and limit who you give the numbers to.

Make sure that anyone caregiving your children (for instance, their school) has this individual's name and limits who your children can be released to. Put fraud alerts on your financial accounts.

Good luck...
posted by HuronBob at 7:30 AM on June 11, 2014 [34 favorites]

I hope you have already made sure that you and your spouse are on the same page with this. I would signal to extended family members that discussion about giving money to the brother in law is off limits and leave/end the phone call if they bring it up, and do not show up to any family events where he will be present and leave if he shows up someplace.
posted by alphanerd at 7:33 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

The lies, of course, change daily and vary by the person he is talking to. We've stood firm in ignoring all this.

It seems like an important step might be for your spouse (if brother-in-law is spouse's brother, manipulating your other in-laws? that means it's spouse's job) to talk to other family members individually, and give them the facts. Explain the truth of events brother-in-law is lying about, and explain the lies that were told to the other family members. Explain that you just want them to understand that when you avoid brother-in-law, there is a reason, and you need them to support you in protecting yourself and your family from brother-in-law.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 7:49 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

You will need allies. Make more of an effort to befriend people who can, for instance, tell CPS that you are good folks. Keep contact with people who can knowledgeably discuss his personality and history, and sound calm and informed while doing it.

This sounds like a serious problem that demands serious strategy.
posted by amtho at 7:58 AM on June 11, 2014

Also: document these occurrences, what he says, what he does, etc. Keep records.
posted by amtho at 7:58 AM on June 11, 2014

Have you ever done a background check on brother-in-law? It seems unlikely that he hasn't had a run-in with the law or the civil courts if he consistently acts this way. It might be valuable to do so; if he does make accusations, him having a criminal record or other issues is going to help you. Possibly he has been smart/lucky enough to avoid that, but it can't hurt to check.
posted by emjaybee at 8:15 AM on June 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would make a police report for harrassment/stalking, keep your records and when it gets to a certain point, it may make sense to get a retraining order against him.

You're right not to blow this off, and so far ignoring is the best way to deal with him.

I'm sorry this is happening. But the earlier you make police reports, etc, the easier it will be to discount his claims, if he does go to CPS or some other agency.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:53 AM on June 11, 2014 [8 favorites]

Unfortunately, you will not be able to rely on the family for help in this. They will be all over the map in terms of how they deal and bargain with him. Some of them will likely trade information for protection, without even realizing they are doing this. It would be *ideal* if you could get everyone on board to deal with him, or to freeze him out entirely, but it almost never works in practice. Families with damage like this all have members that deal in different ways, including in ways that you would call betrayal. Or worse. It's a shame.

You use the techniques here you use for any stalker. Continue to let him have access to whatever voicemail he is reaching, and move on to a new phone. Never respond, EVER. In many ways, particularly when dealing with him IRL or with other family members, pretend it is not happening. Meanwhile, yes, DOCUMENT it all. And also you should, even though it sounds wacky, put an order in to the school to not let anyone reach your children who is not you or someone using a code.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:54 AM on June 11, 2014 [12 favorites]

My first thought is that you should get a lawyer for all of this.

You have everything to gain from dealing with this in a professional and comprehensive manner.

Once you have retained an attorney, you stop interacting directly with your brother-in-law. Similarly, you tell family members in the most dispassionate, succinct, and non-drama way possible that you can not discuss the matter with them because you have an attorney who is handling the matter on your behalf. You want to convey that you take this seriously and that you are taking appropriate steps to address this in a mature and professional fashion. The gist is that this is not family high drama or an inter-personal disagreement. Other than this, do not elaborate or gossip if asked.

It's hard to say more because we don't know why he thinks you owe him money. Maybe an attorney can shut this down from that perspective? Do you owe this guy money either legally? Morally? Ethically?

I'm not suggesting you ultimately give in to bro's tactics. It's just hard to give more than generalized advice because complex situations often don't translate well onto the internet.

Usually, though, financial disputes and harrassment are best handled by legal professionals.
posted by jbenben at 10:06 AM on June 11, 2014 [2 favorites]

Inform CPS of your concern regarding false or malicious reports, this works best if you are in the same state or county. Find out which police officers specialize in harassment, extortion and protective orders, and print out the emails you have, and find a way to talk to them about your situation. You don't want a routine patrol officer, you want someone who knows their salt on this, because at worst, he is a threat to others, at best, he is abusing local resources.
posted by childofTethys at 11:09 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

CPS has dealt with this before. Unless your parenting is verifiably sketchy, a call will result in little action. If your parenting is sketchy, obviously you should attend to it. You're in a rotten situation, but keep in mind that if you give in, he will be more likely to try extortion in the future. Be as positive, courteous and steadfast as possible.
posted by theora55 at 11:38 AM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, do find some means to make a record that will protect you and do find some means to let people know in advance that you have an issue with this man. Also, if you belong to a church or do volunteer work or anything like that, let people know you are in a situation where you might need "character witnesses" and ask if they would be willing to testify as to your good character, etc.

I was basically wrongfully reported to a school social worker once (without malice, but still potentially problematic). She already knew both my kids and called me and said, in essence "Both your kids are great kids and you don't see that with bad parents. This seems like a misunderstanding to me. But I am required to check." We talked on the phone for 45 minutes and she concluded "Nah, I don't need to see you in person." And nothing came of it.

So, yes, if you can establish character witnesses and/or a positive record of some sort, it can help protect you from unfounded accusations. In this case, yes, also look into the possibility of establishing evidence of his bad character and malicious intent.
posted by Michele in California at 11:42 AM on June 11, 2014

From the OP:
A life insurance policy was paid out in equal shares to one sister and two brothers. The brother-in-law in question insists that the parent's intent was that the other siblings use the majority of their benefit payouts to fund brother-in-law's vanity project. This is not documented in a will or anywhere else. Other sibling seemed willing enough to do this until my partner started asking questions. Now the sister and brother are inclined to keep their shares and let brother-in-law use his equal share to fund said project.

We are not sketchy parents, and we do have a good network of friends, neighbors, churchgoers, and lawyers who know us. However, Brother-in-law has a history of targeting the most sensitive areas of people he decides he hates - he once asked me how to file an INS overstay report on a former friend here on a work visa. (For the record, I told him that was a terrible idea, and to try to let go of his hatred. And that's a mild example.)

He's dull-witted, but malicious and persistent. And when he blows through his money, his rage will be incandescent.
posted by mathowie at 7:29 PM on June 11, 2014 [1 favorite]

You brother-in-law sounds like he might be a sociopath rather than a narcissist. The difference is that a narcissist needs constant praise from others, whereas a sociopath enjoys manipulating others to feel powerful. If he's a narcissist, he would want you guys to tell him continually how amazing he is, and once he has that, he wouldn't need to play mind games. A sociopath doesn't care about getting praise, but loves tricking others, in order to feel superior.

If he's a sociopath, you need to stop any kindness or support. He will simply view those as weakness. The more kind you are, the more he will think of you as easily-manipulated suckers and will work harder to trick you. You also need to disengage as much as possible. If you start playing the mind games, he'll think "Game on!" and amp up his efforts.

I recommend the book "The Sociopath Next Door".
posted by cheesecake at 8:26 PM on June 11, 2014 [6 favorites]

Your brother in law sounds like my brother. The manipulation and "punishing" for not doing what they want is pretty classic narcissist behavior.

Go no contact. The less you say, the less he can use against you.

Document everything if you have to communicate with him, every communication, every phone call every conversation every text, with anyone that relates to this matter. Keep it in a notebook with who was involved dates and times and what was said. Keep copies of all emails etc, document document document. If the shit hits the fan chances are he'll be lying out of his ass and won't be able to prove anything, you need to be able to calmly present proof of your side to whoever he is trying to get you into trouble with. Rinse and repeat every single time. He will eventually move on to easier prey.

Do not say anything to him that could be used against you. Check your legal rights regards recording phone calls and record them if you can.

The second the harassment starts if he does anything of questionable legality report him, and then report him every single time. No one thing he will do will be enough to get any sort of restraining order but if you need to at a later stage a history of being a nuisance to you is important.

He may try too gaslight you,do not doubt yourself and check your notebook.

Make sure you and your husband present a united front, if you can get other siblings on side too then all of you should band together, all have the same "script" prepared and stick to it.

Do not let him back into your lives later on just because you think it has blown over, trust me it hasn't, in his mind you have to be punished and he will get back into your life just to get back at you. My mother didn't learn the first time and it cost her a lot of money.

In the end my Mother and SIL had to get restraining orders and change phone numbers/email address/Facebook pages and go No Contact to get him to go away because he was so intent on punishing them for perceived transgressions (his punishments included trying to get my mother committed for dementia and punching and spitting at her when she would not withdraw an affidavit, stealing money from her and destroying family heirlooms).

TL;DR - Document every single thing. Don't trust him ever. Present a united front.
posted by wwax at 4:20 PM on June 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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