Whitewashing a sociopath's actions
June 18, 2014 8:48 AM   Subscribe

My BIL is a sociopath. We don't deal with him. But the parents still do. Therein lies the problem...

BIL managed to wreak havoc on the family for the past few years, and last year was awful for everyone involved. My partner made a great personal sacrifice (let's call it a BigThing) to put a stop to the drama and make things easier for their parents. So BIL got what he wanted (but was not entitled to) and things seemed to be calming down a little bit.

We don't deal with BIL at all, as we regard him as highly dangerous and manipulative. Before doing this BigThing, partner asked the parents to be more careful in their dealings with BIL and not to encourage him down the path of insanity and self-entitlement. As there are grandkids involved, it was assumed the parents would still be in some sort of contact with BIL.

While the drama was ongoing, the parents were absolutely terrified of BIL and his threats (even thinking he could go after them or us with a gun, burn down our houses or something like that). Partner was emotionally manipulated by the parents into doing that BigThing, even if partner didn't believe BIL would change his M.O. at all.

Fast forward to now. With the benefit of hindsight, partner wouldn't have done BigThing. BIL keeps asking for things he isn't entitled to and being furious at parents when he doesn't always get what he wants. BIL uses his own kid as bait. Everything is frustrating and tiresome, but what is really troubling us is that there seems to be some revisionism going on, especially on the part of partner and BIL's mother. She seems to have forgotten all about the threats, the drama, the BigThing, the things BIL still does. It's extremely off-putting. While it's understandable that the parents want to have a relationship with their grandkid, the way BIL's actions are being whitewashed is disturbing. Last year they were terrified of being shot by their own son, and now they invite him into their house for dinner with family friends and the like.

We also recognize some of the signs and behaviors that led to the original drama -- and we are not willing to go through again.

Partner's relationship with parents has been damaged by their disastrous handling of BIL and related issues, but we still see them often. How do we deal with this?
posted by lost_lettuce to Human Relations (24 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
I would continue to visit the parents if you want to maintain a relationship, but refuse to speak of BIL at all. Warn them ahead of time that he is not an acceptable topic of conversation, and be prepared to leave when they tell you about the latest drama. You cannot control what they do in relation to BIL - they know how he is and choose to be in denial about it. You can only control your own boundaries. Set them firmly and don't deviate.
posted by desjardins at 9:11 AM on June 18, 2014 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Your partner needs to sit down with their parents, and say, "I want you to know that I am never going to do BigThing again. Nor will I do MediumThing or even SmallThing or TinyThing. I want to let you know now, so that you're not counting on me. If the choice is between TinyThing and BadConsequence, this time I am just going to let BadConsequence happen."

Then your partner needs to refuse a few TinyThings, to show that things have changed.

Right now your parents are following the rule of "Actions speaker louder than words". Your actions were that your partner did BigThing. You might be protesting now, but last time you protested too and you still did BigThing in the end, so parents are currently operating under the assumption that BigThing is a reliable solution. If shit hits the fan later, it'll be time to nag and get a second and third dose of BigThing.

For example, let's say BigThing was that partner gave BIL a large gift of money. Partner would now need to say "I will not give my brother money again. Not even $5, if he were hungry and about to be evicted." Then the following week, parents call in tears saying that BIL just needs $100 or else his driver's license will be suspended, it's such a small amount, please please, you won't even miss the $100, are you a heartless monster? Partner needs to say "I told you no" and then refuse the $100.

Once the parents realize the consequences are actually on themselves, they may act differently.

Even if they don't act differently, you will be actively going through the pain of sticking up for yourself and getting backlash from parents, instead of just dreading how bad that's going to be when it happens later. The parents' revisionism will bother you less if you know it won't result in you getting nagged / pressured to do BigThing.
posted by cheesecake at 9:14 AM on June 18, 2014 [42 favorites]

Best answer: Some parents will choose the 'black sheep' over the healthy child. They see the child as in more pain, or they feel guilty whether it's real or not, or they buy into the lies. It is crazy-making and it feels like a huge loss because it is - your partner is losing the parent-child relationship and being explicitly chosen against another sibling. Stings like hell. But it's not your partner's fault and not thyour partner's decision to withdraw if your partner sets reasonable boundaries like "I will not discuss BIL, and I will not give further help to BIL" and the parents won't respect that. You can drown with them or you can mourn them while you get away in a lifeboat.

If you have kids, make sure you tell people in their lives that BIL is not allowed access to them. If he starts making false claims and crap against you, better to have everyone already know that you've cut him off than your friends and colleagues being surprised by that awful story Nice Brother told them.
posted by viggorlijah at 9:22 AM on June 18, 2014 [23 favorites]

How do we deal with this?

Deal with what, specifically? Are they ambushing you so that you think you will see just them for dinner, but BIL is there as well? Do they want your partner to do other things that will benefit BIL?

If it's that they're retconning everything that happened (but not actually asking you to), then let it go. If they're continuing a relationship with BIL but not asking you to, then let it go. If they're caving to his demands and complaining to you about it, tell them you really don't want to hear it any more. They are adults, and they are well within their rights to make even bad decisions. You're within yours to not participate in any way, including drawing boundaries with them over what you will or won't discuss with them.
posted by rtha at 9:25 AM on June 18, 2014 [4 favorites]

I would suggest talking to a domestic violence specialist. Dealing with abusive behavior like this is terrifying and if you can get some feedback from a specialist they can help you devise a strategy that will match best possible practice in extricating yourself from this situation as much as possible without setting him off, and leaving open whatever room is possible for contact with the parents. You can call a local domestic violence shelter for recommendations on therapists who have particular skills with these situations or possibly if counseling is available for you or your parents there.

If there have been acts of violence already committed, or anything resembling abuse or neglect to the child, it might be worth considering if you or your parents would be willing take over custody if needed currently or in the future. I don't know how dangerous he is, but if you report a certain level of violent behavior it's possible that any professional (who are usually mandatory reporters of child abuse or neglect) you talk to about it may feel it necessary to report, so you might want to consider whether you or your parents would be willing to step in with custody and what the legal process is without before you get into any such details. It's also possible in describing the situation that it's not as bad as you think and your recommendation would be to relax and extricate yourself from both the BIL and the parent in laws as much as possible.

I don't know how dangerous your BIL is, and it's of course possible you're misreading or over reacting to his behavior, since you did not describe what he has been saying or doing to make everyone afraid he is capable of assault or taking lives. However it's possible when you start talking it over with someone, it will indeed become clear that everyone involved has been under reacting depending on the level of his threats/violence.

Dealing with people who may be sociopaths is not a thing that most people have appropriate tools for, any time that is a concern I think it's a good idea to at least have a few sessions with professionals who work with these situations and can help you devise a strategy to keep yourself and any one else who may be at risk as safe as possible (and to identify what of that is in your control and what is out of it).
posted by xarnop at 9:33 AM on June 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'm in the "put your foot down" camp.

This is not a casual comment on my part. Some problems do not have a satisfactory solution. Your choice, as you've stated it, is to continue to support the BIL's behavior, or not. If you continue to support BIL you will remain another of his useful tools.

You cannot force your parents to adopt this posture.

Mrs. mule and I have had to make a somewhat similar decision, in this case regarding outright criminal behavior (and subsequent prison time) with one person, and yet another sad series of trials (involving the theft of several thousand dollars and child abuse) in another. We coped with this behavior in various ways for several years. The emotional drain was enormous, and the financial drain, though not ruinous, was significant. At a certain point we drew the line. In our situation, we appeared in the offices of a county agency to testify, and we faced the sad prospect of seeing two children taken into the system.

Part of the problem was rendered moot only by the death of Mrs mule's father--that was the only way he was able to step out of the cycle of enabling (it was he who suffered the theft and a large share of the attendant emotional torment caused by the two people involved).

Mrs mule and I came to certain painful and heart-rending conclusions, and then acted on them. I can honestly report that the drama eventually settled down a great deal: one of the persons moved across country and we don't hear from her much. The other still lives nearby. The heartache is still there, and there's no way the damage will ever be undone, but at least we aren't continuing to pile one outrage upon another.

Please accept my sympathy. I suggest that you and your SO discuss this situation with some professional person (in our case it was social workers who were already involved) to see if you can discover some options that may not be apparent to you now. I realize that one of your concerns is alienation from your parents. Yeah, that's possible. It may even be what's necessary to help break this chain--at least inasmuch as BIL's behavior directly affects you and SO. But you may discover that your parents, with your support, can deal with this in ways that put them outside the direct influence of BIL's manipulative tactics.

Best wishes.
posted by mule98J at 9:48 AM on June 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @xarnop: No records of actual violence. There were psychiatrists involved during the Drama/BigThing (unfortunately, BIL *is* a sociopath) and they said violence was a possibility. Looking back, I am not sure it would have gone so far, as I believe BIL's MO is all about *constant* harassment, verbal aggressivity and threats. I am not afraid of him, actually. But at the same time, we don't want to go through that drama again.

Identifying what we can control is good advice, though.
posted by lost_lettuce at 9:48 AM on June 18, 2014

Best answer: My brother is a Naracisst, and along with that comes a whole mess of sociopathic tendencies. Add to that he has started taking Meth and the crazy really hit the fan. My mother was told by me, by therapists, by police and by a cousin who is a recovering addict what she had to do, block him from her life, don't trust him, do not do a Big Thing of any sort. She was good for about 3 months, he came back in all contrite and her old baby boy she remembered, she fell for it and she did big thing, huge thing, scary leave her with no savings thing. He took the money, called her a bitch assaulted her for not doing enough to help him, wished her dead and ran with the money.

Afterwards we asked her why she took him back. She said she knew he would do all those things, but he basically held one of her grandkids hostage and the part of her that is his mother wanted to believe he had changed and her baby boy was back and so she did the big stupid thing. She hasn't forgotten the threats, she hasn't forgotten anything, she just really wants to believe it is all back to normal. Imagine it was your child and how hard it would be to just cut them out of your life, now add to that a child that knows exactly what buttons to push and how to use that love and BILs mother doesn't stand a chance. My mother now has a restraining order against my brother it's been in place 4 weeks and she is already thinking about taking it back "in case he needs her".

All you can do is make sure you and your family is OK, do not do a thing of any size for the BIL again, and then support and love the parents when the shit hits the fan. It sucks, God I know how much it sucks. Watching what my brother did to my mother and not being able to help no matter what I did or said. Telling her over and over what he was and having her go I know and doing stupid shit anyway because she loves him even if he doesn't love her sucks, oh lord it sucks.

If the mother is up for it I'd suggest she talk to a therapist specializing in abuse to learn tools on how to deal with the crazy, my mother took me begging her to do it for me because I was pretty much having a nervous breakdown watching what he was doing to her. It is slowly starting to help.
posted by wwax at 9:49 AM on June 18, 2014 [9 favorites]

Partner was emotionally manipulated by the parents into doing that BigThing

some revisionism going on, especially on the part of partner and BIL's mother

If you hear partner participating in talk that sounds to you like revisionism, I recommend bluntly and factually stating exactly what happened. Don't use euphemisms or generalities; say it like a lawyer about a criminal defendant: "Partner, BIL called your mother 20 times a day, every day from February 1 to March 15 to demand money. Those phone calls included threats to burn your parents' house down unless you gave him $5,000 that didn't belong to him."

Try an "I" statement: when I hear you say [specific revisionist-sounding stuff], I worry that you don't remember how terrible BIL's behavior was, and I worry that forgetting about it so quickly sets it up to happen again.

State what you need:
I need you to go with me for a session with a domestic violence professional (good call, xarnop).
I need to know that you will not waver from [agreed upon approach].
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 10:00 AM on June 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: In general, there's really nothing you can do about what the parents do for and with the BIL. It's totally their prerogative. No amount of convincing, cajoling, reminding, or other BIL related intervention is going to change what they do. They must be the initiators of their own change. I have seen this time and time again with family friends who have a difficult, violent, extremely mentally ill, and wholly unmedicated adult child. No amount of advice, even when explicitly solicited by them, changed their course of action until extremely compelling reasons to do so altered their own behavior toward him.

As desjardins points out, all you can do is manage your *own* behavior and boundaries. Do nothing for the BIL. No more BigThings. Or AnyThings. Do not attend events BIL will be attending. If you feel it is absolutely necessary, leave if BIL arrives. Do it politely and non-confrontationally, especially if safety is a concern--if it's easier to just find an excuse/white lie, do that.

Of course, you do have to have the initial conversation with Parents of BiL about your intentions if they're continuing to try to involve you with BIL. It's very important to frame this in such a way that only delineates what you will and will not be doing, and make no demands on what they will be doing with and for the BIL. You can only make requests regarding what they are permitted to do with you. Tell them that the subject of BIL is closed and that you have no intention of interacting with him or doing anything for him. Once you do this, you must be firm and consistent. If your partner is likely to waffle, it's not even worth doing in the first place. In that case, you will have to have conversations with your partner along similar lines. It's also very important to understand that the Parents of BIL will probably not *choose* your partner over him. BIL is the sick and wounded one, and they love him and want him to be well.

(Anecdote: My brother had a similar conversation with my parents about me. I have bipolar disorder and a bunch of other mental and physical health problems that caused him great distress as we grew up together. He basically said, "After you guys are gone, I do not intend to bear any responsibility whatsoever for my sister's well-being, mental health, financial status, or anything related to that. I will not be her parent, nor will I step in to take any of those responsibilities on. I will be sad if she ends up homeless and/or destitute, but will do nothing to assist her. Make changes to your various plans wrt your will, financial trusts, etc., accordingly.")

I'm sure that my brother found this conversation very difficult to have, and my parents were a bit saddened by it, but it helped them get very clear about what the future would bring and they consulted their attorney to investigate their options as they relate to my legal status, prognosis, and financial outlook.
posted by xyzzy at 10:03 AM on June 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Simply put, do what is in the best interests of your immediate family; you, your spouse and your children.
posted by 724A at 10:04 AM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

It is hell to live through a psychopath in close proximity. Check out the Aftermath Surviving psychopathy website.. in time you might be able to suggest it to your parents too. There is also a book I written by a nurse Joyce Alexander who is a contributor to Lovefraud and the mother of a psychopath who campaigns to keep him in jail. You may find her interesting she is very passionate about the subject.

You may want to try an online support forum where people have been forced to figure out ways of surviving it all.
posted by tanktop at 10:06 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @ Bentobox Humperdinck: sorry, I meant that as in *their mother*.

Fortunately, Partner is not doing any revisionism whatsoever.
posted by lost_lettuce at 10:10 AM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Lost_lettuce, you have my profound sympathies. Are you and your partner talking to someone, outside the family? What is your support system like?

I have kind of a similar story to Mule98J, only it was one of my grandparents whose safety was jeopardized. It's so vital that you have support around you if you have to take that kind of step someday, and involve authorities, social services. The ramifications can be long-lasting, but having said that, they are worth it. Even knowing what I know now - I would still call the authorities all over again. But it would have been easier to cope with it if I had had good people backing me up, as well as a therapist.

If your BIL was just a garden variety jerk, or someone who is no longer an active threat, I would think that drawing a boundary would be enough - i.e. "We won't discuss so and so", but since it appears he's been DX'd as a sociopath, and has threatened violence against your partner's parents, you have to kick it up another notch. I'm so sorry.

You can try family therapy with both parents (but not BIL), and also get therapy for you and/or Partner individually. I would encourage your partners' parents to participate in activities and friendships outside of the family, so their social sphere hasn't shrunken to something so small, that they are especially terrified of losing BIL.

They need to be encouraged to draw boundaries. That they might still be speaking to BIL is one thing, but in order to encourage the grandchild bond, they are inviting a guy who threatened to kill them to dinner at their house? That is really scary. I think so much harm can be done ostensibly "for the children" that does nothing but make things worse. I think at minimum any activities need to take place outside the home: drawing that boundary between them and him. Having it at home, with BIL's spitting image young son, may encourage your partner's mother to return to a starry-eyed, nostalgic view of when BIL was a young kid himself. He's not a young kid, he's terrorizing them. You can't control what they do, but perhaps, you can suggest other activities.

How does Partner's father view the situation? Could he at least be encouraged to get outside help and draw some lines, even if his wife won't?
posted by mitschlag at 10:51 AM on June 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: @mitschlag:

There is already a family therapist. It started as a way to try to fix things with BIL in front of a professional but BIL refused to go. So, the first sessions were with just the parents and partner, which was helpful. Then BIL showed up out of the blue and now the sessions are all about him airing his grievances and making demands. Partner still attended a few of these but got so fed up with BIL (who denies that BigThing was done, even!) and the therapist (who seemed to be encouraging him) and stopped going. We know, though, that BIL is still being a jerk to the parents during the sessions and making all sort of outrageous demands. Which is why we are baffled when we learn about him being invited into their houseā€¦

I have talked about therapy for Partner individually (or even with me, if needed) and they are open to the idea.

Partner's father is the bury-head-in-sand type and can't take any sort of criticism. He knows BIL is dangerous and is very saddened by it, but at the same time he still does all sorts of dumb things. But basically he just wants to be left alone and pretend everything is fine. The mother is so obsessed with grandkids that she seems to be willing to do anything to keep in touch with the kid through BIL. Even to the point of grovelingā€¦and we know she can be overwhelming about making others (husband, partner re:BigThing) do what she wants. In that aspect, she isn't very different from BIL.

It's hard to watch.
posted by lost_lettuce at 11:33 AM on June 18, 2014

In my personal experience, the only way to deal with a sociopath in your close circle is to make a hole in your world where that sociopath used to be, and if that requires also ending contact with those who refuse to recognize the sociopath's destructive behavior, then putting them in the same hole as well. It may sound extreme, but if you continue to maintain contact with those who enable the sociopath, he will use them to get at you in some way.

If you truly believe BIL is capable of violence, then there is literally nothing stopping him from commiting violence against you other than his fear of societal consequences. If he can engineer a means to commit violence without facing those consequences, he will do so. Again, I know that this sounds extreme, but if it were me? I would move, change my phone number, and cut off all contact. I would make contact with the parents one way only - i.e., you call them, but they don't know how or where to call you. Maybe the parents will call you paranoid, but hell, they put up with a sociopath, so they should be fine with a little paranoia - this is the safety of your family we're talking about.
posted by ereshkigal45 at 12:44 PM on June 18, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I would suggest talking to a domestic violence specialist.

I want to favorite this so hard it squeaks.

Obviously your therapist isn't doing enough.

As a grandmother, I get where the mother is coming from. She'd love to protect the kids from BIL, but that can't happen unless he is shown to be a present danger to them. Where is the mother in all this? Why isn't she divorcing him and restricting his access to the kids? Obviously, she needs (or will need) help and support if this is an option.

You need to document, document, document--every threat, every abuse, every demand. Date, time, witnesses--all the awfulness. If police have been involved, get copies of the police reports.

Don't allow this person around your family. If there are dinners, reunions, or holiday gatherings, politely say to your in-laws that you won't be attending if BIL is going to be there. Or if you choose to go, limit your interaction to hello and then stay away from him. Should he start any shit, say excuse us, and leave immediately without engaging. If he slags you or yours, ignore. If he puts a hand on anyone in an aggressive manner, call the police and explain that you were attempting to leave, and he assaulted them.

Holidays can be spent with your in-laws by taking them out to dinner or having get togethers at your house without inviting BIL. Should he attempt to crash the party, politely ask him to leave. Again, call the police if he doesn't do as requested.

Anytime you call the police, don't threaten first or do it in front of him. Excuse yourself to the bathroom if you have to.

Good luck. It sucks.
posted by BlueHorse at 1:23 PM on June 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: @BlueHorse:Where is the mother in all this? Why isn't she divorcing him and restricting his access to the kids?

BIL's partner doesn't know that he is a sociopath. Frankly, she must be pretty oblivious. She doesn't know about the whole drama with the threats, etc, either. He fed her his own version of events (parents were horrible to him, family doesn't care about him, wahwah). I believe shit will hit the fan sooner or later, but it's not my place to warn her about him, especially if parents and partner won't do so.
posted by lost_lettuce at 1:36 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I understand, and certainly your place is not to warn, just to be supportive once Mrs. Clueless wakes up. I certainly fear for the kids, and hope she can realize what's going on...
posted by BlueHorse at 1:45 PM on June 18, 2014

I've read through all this thinking the parents were showing some genetic resemblance. Then I got to "In that aspect, she isn't very different from BIL". Yup. I'd suggest you take that realization to heart, and let it impact all decision making. The parents are behaving so strangely that I wouldn't put surprising and extreme behavior (if not actual violence) past them. Surprising, extreme older people can be handled. But surprising, extreme older people with a sociopath in the mix can be a very volatile combination with considerable splash-back on you.

Second thought:

You say you're not afraid of him. I'd say this might reflect a less than perfectly appropriate and clear-headed emotional perspective on your part. And that's dangerous. I'm not suggesting you pick up and move, per one suggestion, above. But if you're not feeling fear, that means you're not completely clear on the situation. And if you're not clear, you need to take extra precautions to compensate for your lack of clarity. In your situation, I'd remove and protect myself by an order of magnitude more than my instincts were telling me to. And the "not-sure-what-they're-capable-of" parents in the mix merit yet one more level of precaution, removal, and protection.

Hope this helps.
posted by Quisp Lover at 2:00 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In my personal experience, the only way to deal with a sociopath in your close circle is to make a hole in your world where that sociopath used to be, and if that requires also ending contact with those who refuse to recognize the sociopath's destructive behavior, then putting them in the same hole as well. It may sound extreme, but if you continue to maintain contact with those who enable the sociopath, he will use them to get at you in some way.

Yes, this, unless you want to perpetuate drama in your lives for all eternity. My father was exactly like your BIL, and my grandparents exactly like your in-laws, down to the grandfather just wanting to keep the peace. My grandmother used to say "right or wrong, my son", put up with my father's threats (and come crying to me) and bail him out, again and again.

The only way to extricate myself from it was to not talk to her while she was on speaking terms with him (there were times when she wasn't). Otherwise 80% of our relationship was the drama my father caused - including the heartbreak of repeatedly watching her get screwed over that you also mention.

Good luck. It's a massively sucky situation.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 2:01 PM on June 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

While the drama was ongoing, the parents were absolutely terrified of BIL and his threats (even thinking he could go after them or us with a gun, burn down our houses or something like that).

In most places, uttering death threats or threats of harm is flat out illegal. If you have proof, go to the police. He'll be arrested, most likely placed under psychiatric evaluation, and thus may get the help he needs to deal with this dangerous (in his case; not all sociopaths are dangerous) mental illness.

I'm personally terrified for his child(ren).
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:35 PM on June 18, 2014

Best answer: Popping back in to second the recommendations to make a hole in your life where the BIL is. Which will seem hard and unfair as the parents will most likely "choose" (using the term loosely because I doubt he is giving them a choice) to side with BIL. Doing it without confrontation with a slow fade is the easiest way, something big and dramatic will switch his focus onto you.

Also seconding the document everything. Every single thing. Get a notebook and write it all down. Write down past stuff to the best of your memory. Include times, dates, locations and who was present. Put in proof such as receipts or bank statements. Keep it all in a safe place. It sounds like with his denying big thing happened that he is big into Gaslighting having written documentation will help if he ever manages to make you doubt yourself and also if things become legal. It becomes your carefully documented truth against whatever he is trying to convince them happened. You need this becomes just your word against his, he will win. Sociopaths can sell lies, I have seen them stand there in front of police, judges and therapists lie their hearts out and have the "experts" believe them. So document document document. Also report every threat he makes to the police. They won't be able to do anything to start with, but you are setting up a history in their files just in case.
posted by wwax at 9:22 AM on June 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is so rough. Bearing in mind the additional info about your partner's dad being an ostrich, his mother being desperate about the grandkids, the attempted therapy... Document everything as advised earlier... Its OK to feel compassion for the parents but protect and support you and your partner first, and hold that line. Your partner deserves / is worth getting therapy on their own, not because they are sick, but because they are not, but are in a sick family structure.

If it helps, my dad, mother and I started with family therapy, but she wouldn't participate. So dad kept going to the FAM therapist and I got my own. This is years and years ago when I was a teen. Changed my life. My dad too (he eventually divorced my mother). I hope that having someone validate you and your partner's attempts at sanity, the sacrifice Partner made, would also help. Also, if partner gets help, pain can happen. It feels worse rather better for a little while. Its like the alcoholic family where the alcoholic gets help, gets sober...and suddenly one of the enabling family members becomes very sick, because they've adapted to holding up this dam...then whoosh! All their adjustments, including those that make them sick, have become bare. BIL and parents didn't suddenly get this way, unless a brain injury was involved. Partner might have a hard time when they realize this is far reaching, and just how much barge toting they've done.

I would also suggest Partner look at communities for family members/spouses of those with NPD, sociopathic personality, bipolar, and borderline. Many people with these issues never try to hurt their families in these ways, especially bipolar and borderline sufferers, so this is not to disrespect those people. But, there is a common dynamic where a troubled or disordered individual becomes the sun that everyone orbits, obsesses about, and other family members, especially siblings, can be scapegoated or forced to take on unreasonable responsibility, or are told, "You're wrong, wrong, wrong... The sky is green and grass is blue!" Partner can see patterns and it may help, a lot.
posted by mitschlag at 9:03 AM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

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