To tell or not to tell: criminal sociopath edition
March 3, 2016 1:34 PM   Subscribe

My sibling, whom I will call Jeff, is a sociopath, who has been wreaking havoc on our family for the past years. I have distanced myself from him a long time ago, as has my other sibling. Our parents still keep a sort of relationship with Jeff, mostly because of grandchildren. Recent incidents have made us consider whether or not we should warn Jeff's partner about his wrongdoings. Details within.

Background: Jeff's dealings with the family have been... difficult, to say the least. Entitlement, extortion, threats (veiled and otherwise), lies, accusations about anything and everything (without a grain of truth), a lot of conning (money and property) and so on. All in all, an unsavory and greedy character who cares about nobody and seems to live to harass and extort people and cause drama in their lives. Three or four different shrinks have told us that he is a sociopath.

Professionally, Jeff runs a business and he is not shy about conning clients (some were relatives) and employees. We know of way too many such incidents.

We also know that, at some point, many of his hobby friends were pissed off because they were stiffed by him.

There have been some short-lived periods of "peace" where my parents were able to see their grandkids and even have them stay over. Jeff often uses his own kids (ages 3 and 2) to blackmail our parents. "Do as I want and you may see them" and the like. Most recently, despite many months of babysitting, he accused our parents of never having done anything for his kids...

Out of shame and helplessness on the family's side, Jeff hasn't truly faced any real consequences for his actions. He's also good at compartmentalizing, so people rarely get the full picture.

His partner: We don't really know her that well. They have been together for 6 or 7 years and he had been quasi-estranged from the family during most of that time. After their kids were born, we saw her more often, mostly in some family events. Our parents have dealt with her more.

He has forbidden the family from speaking to her if he isn't around. We don't know how much she knows of his dealings, but we suspect he tells her a highly edited and distorted version of the events. One or two years ago, at a time relationships were strained (again) she wrote our mother an e-mail where she seemed to be venting about things being difficult whenever Jeff was frantic and obsessed with some perceived wrongdoing towards him. She said then she could never have a real relationship with our family, although she was willing to have a cordial relationship with us in "peace times". She said she had to shield their children from all "this". Our mother replied diplomatically, and in a very understanding way, and in later replies, Jeff's partner said he was the best man she had ever met and that his heart was so, so good...

It was a bit jarring and there was nothing that could be said after that. Our parents have always been very reticent about letting her know about the stuff Jeff has done (and still does).

Oh, a detail that may or may not be relevant: Jeff's partner is an ADA.

Now: Jeff is back to his antics. Only, this time he stepped up this game, increasing the criminality of his activities. Without getting into specifics, the police had to be involved because of two incidents (out of several). One report had been filed, but that one was against "unknown", although we know very well he was behind the incident.

He was very, very close to being arrested. He only wasn't because my parents didn't call the police on the last incident. They didn't want to name him on that filed report either... (while I understand that, it has been quite frustrating, too)

Since Jeff seems to be going more and more out of control, we are wondering if we shouldn't warn his partner somehow. We would want to know if we were her, but until now we always felt it wasn't our place to tell. My therapist said we had to consider the ethics of knowingly exposing their children to a criminally sociopathic father and his clueless (?) and enabling partner. We worry about them, too, but at the same time no one wants to be the messenger.

What would we like to gain from this? We would like Jeff's partner to be more aware and refrain him a bit. But on the other hand, this might (and probably will) set Jeff off. But we also feel that if we do nothing, Jeff will only keep terrorizing everyone and engaging in more and more criminal activities.

What should we do?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If he's doing crimes and you guys know it, you really need to step up and tell the police. Even if it's your parents' report and not yours, you need to provide that information.

You are right; this will only get worse. Even if you don't report him/get him arrested now, you will simply have to do so in the future.

I don't think you're going to get his partner on your side. She simply won't believe you, and you won't have enough access to her to sway her.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 1:46 PM on March 3, 2016 [27 favorites]

what do you think you know about him as a person that she hasn't gleaned in 6 or 7 years of being his intimate partner? not specific activities, but rather who he is at his core? this far along she either knows and has brushed it aside, or is in deep denial - either way, you aren't close enough to her to overcome their relationship. this must be so frustrating, but i don't think filling her in on all the dirt will end well for her, for the kids, or for your family. it will likely bring her and him closer together and keep the grandchildren away from the family for longer periods.

where you can and should exert pressure is to get your parents to stop covering for him. you can also tell the police what you know about the specific incidents under review right now.
posted by nadawi at 1:49 PM on March 3, 2016 [25 favorites]

If she had come to you, things might be different. But if she's been with him for a long time, and hasn't believed that he has problems, I don't see how this can work out well for you. Obviously he's told her you are all crazy liars, so any story you bring to her without proof won't be believed.

I agree with Made of Star Stuff that if he is committing crimes you should stop protecting him. Then the facts will speak for themselves.
posted by ubiquity at 1:50 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I would bet a ton of money that she would not believe you. She will (continue to) believe him. Even if at some level she knows something is off, it's really unlikely that she's going to give what you say any consideration, let along use it to shorten his leash. They have kids together. You are the family that he is mostly estranged from - and with good reason, he has assured her. Why would she believe you?

The only thing you can really do is work with your parents to get them past the enabling. That's going to be hard, but not as hard as persuading the partner.
posted by rtha at 1:51 PM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

We would like Jeff's partner to be more aware and refrain him a bit.

If his parents and his siblings haven't been able to restrain his actions in the past, why would you assume that his wife would be able to?

I agree with the commenters above. She is his wife, and she's in a bad position here. She's also unlikely to believe anything you have to say. The better course of action is to stop protecting Jeff in his dealings with the police.
posted by pie ninja at 1:56 PM on March 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

I'm sure that she either knows already or is never going to believe you. When I had a partner like this, I knew it, whether or not I wanted to believe it. I want to emphasize that just like everyone else has said, your family needs to stop enabling him in any way.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 1:57 PM on March 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

"Jeff will only keep terrorizing everyone and engaging in more and more criminal activities." Actually, this will happen no matter what you do or don't do if Jeff really has a personality disorder as you indicate. His wife cannot talk him into behaving differently, either.

Document everything, including all communication with the wife and kids, and report ALL criminal activity to the police. Do not report against "unknown" when you know whom you are reporting against. Name him.

If you want the wife to have a shot at extricating herself from this situation in the future and taking the kids with her, the paper trail will help tremendously. Getting him arrested may help in the long run.

The next time he pulls some crazy shit, ask yourself, would I tolerate this from a friend? From a stranger? A business associate? Or would I report it? If the answer is you wouldn't tolerate it from someone outside the family, then REPORT IT. The parents covering for him is not going to do anything to cause his behavior to change, or to improve his relationship with the parents. He cannot feel guilt. He is not thankful when you saved his ass by reporting against an unknown suspect instead of against him.

"One or two years ago, at a time relationships were strained (again) she wrote our mother an e-mail where she seemed to be venting about things being difficult whenever Jeff was frantic and obsessed with some perceived wrongdoing towards him. She said then she could never have a real relationship with our family, although she was willing to have a cordial relationship with us in "peace times"."
Made me think the door is more open for the wife than it may seem.

Be unfailingly kind to the wife and the kids. If you need to, you can couch it in language that makes it seem like it is all about the kids, when in reality it is about the kids and the wife both. Be kind to her, express your wishes for the best welfare of her and the kids, reach out at holidays, birthdays, and important times in the kids' lives generally.

Don't attempt to rag on Jeff or tell stories about the past - just let his conduct going forward speak for itself.

If something happens and you file charges, let her know. She will find out anyway at work- but you being open about it to her personally via email or a phone call also shows that you are making an effort to be diplomatic and trustworthy, and if she ever does leave him (or even just sit home at night thinking about leaving him) knowing that she hasn't lost the whole extended family will make a huge difference.

The message you need to send is "we do not approve of Jeff's actions but we are here for you and the kids because you are our family." You don't need to try to convince her of what he's done in the past; you need to set boundaries going forward by reporting, and then repeat the message to her that she is family and the kids are family and if Jeff trashes you to her, you are sending a positive message to work against his effect.

I'm sorry you are in this difficult situation. Good luck.
posted by zdravo at 1:58 PM on March 3, 2016 [51 favorites]

What's an ADA?
posted by crazy with stars at 1:59 PM on March 3, 2016 [28 favorites]

Put yourself in the mindspace of Jeff's children. They know he's their father, but they also know he does things sometimes that make them feel bad. This has got to be confusing and hurtful for them, with long-term deleterious effects down the road.

I feel like Jeff's kids should know that other family members think what Jeff's doing is wrong, and that other family members love them and will care for them no matter what Jeff does. I understand not wanting to be the messenger. But who else will they get that message from?
posted by infinitewindow at 2:02 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

But we also feel that if we do nothing, Jeff will only keep terrorizing everyone and engaging in more and more criminal activities.

If the family that raised him has never figured out how to get him to play nice, you are probably at a point where you have three options: 1) file the police reports and let the authorities deal with it (something the parents are clearly reluctant to do) 2) move him out of your lives and "live and let live" or 3) up your game for dealing effectively and diplomatically with difficult people a whole lot more than you are likely to learn from a single Ask on Metafilter.

He may have earned his partner's opinion that he has a heart of gold. You appear to know very little about her or their relationship. People who get involved with sociopaths are sometimes practicing the idea posited in the Chronicles of Riddick movie that, sometimes, the best antidote to one evil is another kind of evil.
posted by Michele in California at 2:06 PM on March 3, 2016

Your only viable option is to stop shielding him from the police.
posted by Julnyes at 2:11 PM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]

> What's an ADA?

Assuming all this is in the US, I'm going to guess that this is an Assistant District Attorney.
posted by rtha at 2:13 PM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

I think ADA = Assistant District Attorney.
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:13 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

ADA: Assistant District Attorney (that's what you mean, right?)

Are you hoping that by telling her, that she will "be the bad guy" and go to the cops? Or inform him of what will happen if he continues to do whatever he does?

She's been with him for several years and chose to have children with him. She has a very vested interest in believing he's the best man ever, and YOU are the bad guys. This will just give her fuel to keep her kids the hell away from you guys, "you evil crazy grandparents/aunt/uncles you!"

You're working with the definition of insanity here. He's had zero consequences to his behavior towards you and it's escalating. You have two options:

(1) Do nothing but pray/hope. Continue to let him get away with whatever he's doing.

(2) Let there be consequences. As in, file complaints.

IME, things never "get better" with sociopaths. There are peace times, but in between those peace times, things only escalate.
posted by Neekee at 2:20 PM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

My sibling probably isn't a sociopath (different issues, some similar symptoms), but your story is somewhat familiar to me. I've been lied to, tricked out of money, had stuff stolen, and I'm probably one of the people in the family least victimized by my brother. My mom has been in some scary situations.

In our case, telling the spouse was met with denial. She's spent years listening to his stories and believes this entirely different narrative. We've gotten some hints at various points. She once said something about how horrible it was that he wasn't allowed to have Christmas presents as a kid. As someone who sat next to the tree opening presents with him, I can say this is a lie. Anyways, she basically thinks my parents are cold-hearted monsters, that we all lie about him, and he's going above and beyond to stay in any contact with us (if she reads AskMetafilter, she probably nods when she reads all the genuinely good advice about setting boundaries and being willing to cut toxic family members out of your life). Some of the stories she's heard could be based on times when he did something terrible and went to juvie or faced some other consequence. Presumably, he hasn't told the part of the stories where he stole a car, got in a knife fight on the school bus, etc. In any event, how could she ever truly like or trust a family that she believes is toxic and abusive?

Here's what we did: my mom did tell his wife about stuff he did during his last bad period. She didn't believe him and they both froze my mom out for years. My mom also made it clear she was now calling the cops, when appropriate, and did so. That has seemed to help. She's been safer as he has curbed his behavior around her. My dad, who isn't as in to confrontation and hasn't traditionally been a big victim, kept communications open with both him and his wife. Avoided getting too much into discussing heavy issues, but offered to babysit a lot. Through him, we knew the kid was okay, and the wife had someone she was in touch with to reach out to if she needed help (important to us given the kid). Oddly enough, we explicitly planned this approach, and it worked because my parents are divorced (though more cooperative than the wife might realize on this issue).

For you, I'd suggest something similar. Your family should start calling the cops and telling the truth. Anything else puts them and others at risk. Also, I think it is worth telling the wife (she won't believe it now, but it may help her later as she starts to put the pieces together, which has happened to a limited extent in our case), but whoever does so has to know they will likely then be persona non grata. Finally, given the kids, I suggest that you keep at least one family member out of fray. Is there anyone with whom she might be a little more friendly? Someone who doesn't need to protect themselves as much? If so, position that person to stay in touch so she can reach out if she or the kids need help.
posted by Area Man at 2:50 PM on March 3, 2016 [10 favorites]

If you think he is posing a danger to the children, you could call CPS. This could be a nuclear option depending on how obvious it would be that it was a family member who called, but it would get him further into the radar of the authorities and maybe give his wife a better idea of what's been going on.
posted by chaiminda at 2:56 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

Warn the wife if he is going to hurt her in some direct way. Ditto the kids. Otherwise butt out.
posted by quincunx at 3:00 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

If he's truly a sociopath, your blood ties are meaningless. I would refuse to deal with this person in any way, even going so far as to get a restraining order. Abuse is just what it is. If you allow it into your life on any level, you simply encourage the abuser to continue their behavior. They have to pay a price or will never reform their manipulations and lies, much less the intent behind it. This person needs to be put firmly beyond the firewall in every way possible for yourself, your family and your parents especially. Anything else invites disaster. You no longer have a sibling, you have a dangerously off the rails hazard who has keys to your personal life on some level. You need to change the locks and call the police if the doors get rattled. The wife and kids are not your concern.
posted by diode at 3:27 PM on March 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

I don't think there is much you can do but stop shielding him. Let him face him consequences and call the police if he's doing crazy or violent stuff. His wife married him and has remained married so either she knows or just doesn't care, probably both. Let it go and just remain firm on your end.
posted by CosmicSeeker42 at 3:49 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]

I knew a woman married to an abuser who was almost certainly also a sociopath, and she covered and covered and covered for him. There was denial but it was really that she didn't trust herself about what she was experiencing until he started making bad decisions about their family (manipulative, abusive to her, dangerous for the children) and she couldn't countenance it any more. For all her "he's got such a good heart" talk, I would take a good hard look at what I'd seen of that marriage - it is possible that she won't believe you, but it's also possible she's his victim, too, and that she's protesting too much.
posted by gingerest at 4:19 PM on March 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

What should we do?

The opposite of everything he does. What he does in darkness, the family does in the light--i.e., file charges, document, state things plainly and unemotionally. Refuse to engage in arguments or drama. When his partner does not believe, and she won't, say, I'm sorry--we love you, we love the kids, we'll be here for you. And then end the conversation. Don't try to convince anyone.

Basically keep everything open, simple, and above board and relinquish any expectation his partner should be policing him--his parents didn't. She's just as conflicted, if not more: she has children with him.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:41 PM on March 3, 2016 [15 favorites]

Jeff hasn't truly faced any real consequences for his actions.
my parents didn't call the police on the last incident. They didn't want to name him on that filed report either...

Well, there you go.

To my knowledge, negative reinforcement/punishment doesn't really work on sociopaths. I believe they only learn through a system of rewards combined with withholding of privileges/rewards for bad behavior. And that only really works in a controlled environment (eg, prison).

The best you can do here is protect yourselves from Jeff and leave the door open for his partner and children to come to you whenever they need to get away.
posted by deanc at 5:18 PM on March 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

Are you hoping that by telling her, that she will "be the bad guy" and go to the cops? Or inform him of what will happen if he continues to do whatever he does?

It may be a problem for her professionally if she's aware of criminal behavior by her spouse and does nothing about it. On the other hand, if her spouse does end up getting arrested, the odds that she goes down with him (either formally, in court, or informally, in her career) are not small.

Women like this you cannot enlighten and you cannot save. They are deep in their own pathology and only they can pull themselves out of it. She's an ADA, for heaven's sake, she probably has witnesses lying to her all day long and she refuses to pick up on it in her own home. All you can do is be kind to her and to the kids, whenever she allows it. Try hard to stifle any judgment you may be feeling. If the time comes that she does want to leave, you want to her to think that you guys will support her instead of shaming her.

I have a relative who abused his spouse emotionally for decades. When he finally got remarried, none of his (several) adult children attended, and only two out of his large group of siblings and other relatives (one of whom brought his very old mother). Apparently this gave her no pause whatsoever. People, especially women (at least in this culture), sometimes just will not do the math. You can't do it for them.
posted by praemunire at 6:02 PM on March 3, 2016 [6 favorites]

Maybe the wife knows and sees that she's in a vulnerable position protecting two children against someone who everybody else watches committing crimes without ever even seeking the protection of the law. Why would she think she stood a chance against him if it's her against the world? Or maybe she doesn't care but I wouldn't bet on that. Please leave a door open for her if you can safely do so.
posted by tel3path at 6:04 PM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]

You can't do a damn thing or talk a lick of sense into her as long as she loves him and believes in his good heart, and there's kids to make her even more determined to shut her eyes so tight. Frankly, she'll end up having to learn the hard way when his criminal activities screw her career, because she doesn't at all sound like the sort who'd listen to anyone telling her anything bad about Mr. Goodheart.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:58 PM on March 3, 2016

Are you aware you guys are all coming off in this question like the bad people Jeff says you are? How, you ask?

Because if Jeff were truly the villain you paint him to be, you would no longer be in contact with him. But you are in contact with him. Honestly, you sound drama-making. Truly. And this is exactly what his wife will perceive if you drama-make with her.

His children have a Mother and a Father. They do not need any of you in their lives. At all. Go ahead and close the door on Jeff and his family. They are not your family, you all merely tolerate each other.

The time for you to deal with Jeff stealing from family and all the other things was BEFORE he had children, maybe even before he was married, back when this first started. None of you have any credibility any longer since you accuse him of stuff, but then keep coming back.

None of this is any of your business. Maybe you can reach out to the children after they grow up? There is no good course of action here and the fact that you keep mulling this over and think calling the police on Jeff would not look like more He Said/She Said... Sadly, that's all this reads as.

Let it go. Stop talking to Jeff. Then he can't manipulate any of you or cause any more trouble. You do not have legal right to his children, so that's that.

I think you are living in a fantasy world where throwing gas on the fire won't mess up everything more. Someone up top said it, your parents could not restrain Jeff, so what do you expect his wife to do?

i expect his wife will never ever let you see her children again. And she'd be correct to take that action. It doesn't seem like she will ever ever get "hip" to what you say Jeff is really like (sorry - I can't believe you without proof or a conviction, neither will she) and so that's that.


If you drop Jeff entirely, without drama or "last words" or explanation, and one day Jeff is caught out to be the horrible person you say he is, his wife may turn to your family at long last. But she'll have to come to that on her own, through experience. You can't get her there in any way.
posted by jbenben at 8:06 PM on March 3, 2016 [5 favorites]

His children have a Mother and a Father. They do not need any of you in their lives. At all.

I can't tell you how many people I've known who have considered themselves very lucky as teenagers to have had extended family to reach out to when their parents dropped off into some vortex of dysfunction. Those kids are innocent family, and the main reason to try to keep some kind of connection with the mom. She picked Jeff and Jeff's life; they didn't.

Jeff exploits people's unwillingness to SEND FAMILY TO JAIL, and you think that makes it all their fault. I do hope you never actually have to deal with one of these people in real life.
posted by praemunire at 8:40 PM on March 3, 2016 [31 favorites]

There is a more than even chance she's terrified of him or at the very least can't figure out how to get away. He may have had her send those emails to keep the grandparents close, he may abuse her, he may have threatened her or be blackmailing her because of her job. He may have threatened to take the kids and disappear. She may love him now, or have loved him or be very traditional. You have no idea what she's dealing with. At the very least she's looking at spousal support and a nasty custody battle and divorce if she leaves him that will probably drain her finances and you have no idea what those are like or what demands her family has on her already.

She's a smart enough person if she got a law degree and not naive. As an ADA she also has much better access to resources for abused spouses or stalked ex'es should it come to that than you can ever offer her. I think treating her like someone is not an idiot is a good start and respecting the boundaries she wants, ie not trying to use her to contact ot contorl your brother. She's been pretty clear that puts her in a tough spot so stop doing it. She is not the droid you're looking for.

If you do decide to name your brother in future police reports, give her a heads up. It's the nice thing to do.
posted by fshgrl at 9:01 PM on March 3, 2016 [4 favorites]

Assume he reads all emails to/from his wife. If you do decide to communicate with her, do it in person when you're sure he can't overhear. I think you should just tell her that if things ever get tough for her to do with Jeff you will be there for her. Leave it at that to limit any drama/fallout from the conversation. Then when she figures it out on her own (and she will, if she hasn't already) she will know she can turn to you.
posted by hazyjane at 10:21 PM on March 3, 2016 [7 favorites]

You can't do anything about his wife; his compartmentalizing has worked as planned, and she 'knows' the truth. Leave contact lines to her and the kids open, but don't expect change.

As for Jeff himself: you and your parents have a couple choices here. One is to keep on as you have in the past --- letting Jeff run roughshod over all of you, letting him get away with ACTUAL CRIMINAL ACTS rather than what, "embarrass" him?!? He'll never change (except to get even worse!), because he has no REASON to change. An alternative is to, yes, let Jeff be arrested. Let him take responsibility for his actions, let him face the consequences of his crimes.

The only thing you and your parents can realistically do is save yourselves --- there's nothing you can do for Jeff's kids as long as you're under Jeff's thumb yourselves.
posted by easily confused at 4:25 AM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]

I read "ADA" as "adult daughter of an alcoholic," for whatever that's worth.
posted by sheldman at 5:28 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

If the partner in this scenario is an Assistant District Attorney, I might want her to know EVERYTHING, mostly so that when shit implodes, she's not caught out and her job in jeopardy due to her husband's criminal behavior.

I might make an appointment with her to meet her downtown in her office for lunch. Then I'd dump ALL of it on her.

"Claudia, we've never been close, that's because Jeff has expressly forbidden us to contact you without him present. I feel that you're in real danger because he's escalating criminal behavior and he may be jeopardizing your job because of it. Last week, he did foo, bah and blah to Mom and Dad. They declined to file charges because of you and the kids. I don't expect you to believe me, and honestly, I don't care if you do because you have to live with him and I don't. I just want you to be on notice. Jeff is a sociopath. We try to distance ourselves from him, but your kids keep our parents tied to him. Jeff has been pretty good in the past at covering up all of his misdeeds, you've been with him for 7 years and think he hung the moon. But surely you must see evidence of his shady actions. If not, open your eyes. I know this is a lot to process, and I'm so sorry it's come to this, but I worry about you and the children and when it all goes to shit, I don't want you to get blindsided."

Then leave. You will have rocked her world, she won't believe you, but if she's a smart woman, she'll start to see stuff she's never seen before. You will have done what you can to alleviate future pain for her and the children.

If ADA means something other than Assistant District Attorney, butt out. There's nothing you're going to say that she's going to believe.

In the future, file the charges.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:43 AM on March 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

Boundaries seem cruel and upsetting, as you can see from some horrified reactions above. There are always consequences to setting boundaries. In this case, family boundaries seem likely to have consequences for the children, and many people can't reconcile that with their need to protect the children.

But a family must, must learn to march in lockstep and enforce a set of boundaries with people like this. He has led this family around by the nose for decades now. It's awful! It must feel terrible.

This situation is always the same. It's always "Oh well we didn't file a police report" or "Oh well he told us we couldn't talk to his wife ever so we didn't" or whatever accommodation the menacing terrible person demands to get what he wants and protect his secrets.

This is all perfectly textbook. So the good news is, other people have figured this out before.

The whole family is sickened in these situations. When you ask "what should we do?" the answer is: you have to stop. Stop talking to him, stop participating, just stop. Stop reacting. Maybe take three months away from him. Join a support group. Understand that you're always going to want to fix this somehow and that you probably can't. Talk about it with each other until you're finally done. Read about what it's like having a sociopath and manipulator in the family. Read and talk about families that are corrupted by drama. Spend a weekend in a conversation with a trained facilitator. Something. But look at what you're doing and why. Only then you can decide what an approach to living with him, or without him, will be like. You may be surprised by what that looks like.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 6:18 AM on March 4, 2016 [8 favorites]

My husband is a clinical therapist and often says that people do not marry outside of their diagnostic category -- meaning that Jeff's wife may very well be complicit in his deeds and/or has her own pathology that is fueling their relationship.

I agree that you need to just stop everything. Stop contact, stop thinking about him, stop expecting anything to be different, stop expecting your parents to behave differently.

My one caveat is that if you know that his kids are in harm's way, immediately call your community's version of child protective services.
posted by archimago at 6:51 AM on March 4, 2016 [4 favorites]

Having been the partner of someone rather like Jeff - I spent a lot of time wishing someone had warned me whilst knowing deep down that if they had, I wouldn't have listened anyway. There's some quote that I can't quite remember that goes something like "if you listen carefully, people will tell you who they really are". After 7 years together, she may well know him better than you do, and has probably witnessed his antics first hand. You don't know if she is complicit in his behaviour, sticking her head in the sand or trying to tackle it herself. I think all you can do is make yourself approachable and maintain cordial relations with her so she can come to you if she needs your help. As for tackling Jeff's behaviour, don't rely on other victims/potential victims to put a stop to it. Go to the police or other relevant authorities.
posted by intensitymultiply at 10:06 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]

I just wanted to address the part about using the grandkids as negotiating chips. In some states, "grandparent visitation rights" is a legal thing, and he could be forced to allow visits. A colleague at work found that out after his wife died when he thought he could cut ties with her slightly-insane mother. Turns out, all he got to do was spend a bunch of money on attorneys.

Note that this doesn't address most of the issues in the question, but might be work looking into in your state.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 9:30 AM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]

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