My mother-in-law, the sociopath
Welcome back, Peaceful Readers. In part 1 of this post, we looked at the similarities between sociopaths and the Titanic—puffed up, dangerous and filled with lies. On that well-tuned note, let’s take a look at my mother-in-law.
This is how I’d describe Delia, my sociopathic mother-in-law: charming, cold, chatty, detached, talented, unaffectionate, driven (professionally), hostile, beautiful, critical, hospitable, dramatic, liar, fashionable, instigator of chaos, creative, gossip…. If I had to choose one word to describe her, it would be mean. Or maybe it would be two words, control freak. Heartless and self-absorbed come to mind. Unfeeling. No remorse. Gaslighter and author of revisionist history. And more.
Gaslighting is when a sociopath rewrites history to try to convince you that he or she didn’t do what you saw or heard the sociopath do. It goes like this: “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” “I don’t remember saying that,” “You never said that,” “I didn’t hear that,” “You’re making that up,” etc. My mother-in-law loves to ooze out gaslighting because it harmonizes so well when she pulls out and fires up her Blame Thrower, one of her personal favorites.
Our nickname for my mother-in-law is Her Majesty, the Sadistic Control Freak. Sometimes, we just say Her Majesty, for short. We came up with that nickname this summer, and I must say, I like it. (Before that, I called her The Beautiful Hag.) Nicknames are a fun way to interject some humor into an extremely stressful reality. I recommend them. (Please keep the wording clean. Children are listening….)
A definite match
Check out the second paragraph on this webpage about sociopaths (persons with APD: Antisocial Personality Disorder). It describes my mother-in-law to a T (although she’s never been in trouble with the law). She’s charismatic, attractive, skilled at evoking sympathy from others, superficial, sadistic and manipulative, with no remorse and no regrets…. Yep. That’s her.
Her Majesty’s summonses, possessions and transactions
Delia, my mother-in-law, doesn’t offer an invitation. She issues a summons that goes like this (under the surface, of course): “Come or else you’ll be punished—severely—so you don’t have the audacity to ignore my next summons. Goodness sakes. Don’t you know who I am?!”
We aren’t people to her; we’re possessions. Her favorite dramatic “emotional blackmail,” as Brandon puts it, is “I’m afraid of losing you!” as if we’re a set of keys or something. Generally speaking, she treats us like unwanted furniture. We have to be there when she expects us, sitting dutifully in our rightful place in the corner at the far end of the room, so she can ignore or squash us, as the mood strikes.
We don’t have interactions; we have transactions and power plays. She lives her life like it’s some kind of sick score card. Delia operates like this: “I did this or that and now you owe me.” “I’m on top, and you’re where you should be—face-down in the dirt.”
If you’ve seen The Hunger Games, she’s The Gamemaker. Beautiful smile, beautiful image, all the while destroying people to entertain herself and her devoted accomplices.
Sad, but true
What kind of mother-in-law calls me after a family reunion and tells me “You’re not really a part of this family”? What kind of mother-in-law calls me on my 40th birthday, sings “Happy Birthday” to me, and then starts a fight with me? What kind of mother-in-law glares at me and doesn’t speak to me throughout our son’s first birthday party because we had the nerve to plan and host our own son’s birthday party? She’d already started planning it to take place at her house—without our knowledge or approval—75 miles away. What kind of mother-in-law plans a birthday party for my husband and doesn’t get around to telling me about it? It was an unpleasant surprise to both of us.
Answer? Delia, the sociopath. Or, more affectionately known as—say it with me—Her Majesty, the Sadistic Control Freak. Wasn’t that fun? Feel free to say it again. And, hey, if it describes one of your relatives, please use the nickname in your own situation if you’d like.
Holidays and special events
When you think back on the questions above (What kind of mother-in-law…), do you notice a pattern? It’s a pattern that I’d never put together until I was writing those questions for this post. Very eye-opening.
Delia, my mother-in-law, could care less about what we’re doing 99% of the time, except when it comes to celebrations and holidays—events where our absence would be noticed.
Brainwashing the newlywed
In her daily phone calls to Brandon during his morning commute to work for the first five years of our marriage, my sociopathic mother-in-law worked hard to drill her control freak requirements into his newly-married brain. She told him what to think, feel and do, and she routinely planted this essential concept: “I own you, your calendar and every holiday I want (and I’m entitled to ruin those holidays for you and what’s-her-name whenever I feel like it).”
Merry Christmas to us
The fireworks will be loud, high and sparkly when we miss our first Christmas this year. Can I tell you how overjoyed I am about that? Oh, yes.
The essential image
I didn’t really get this holiday thing with her until Matt, our counselor, said: “If you don’t come, it makes her look bad.” That was a total news flash to me. I knew immediately, though, that he was absolutely right. It’s not that she wants to see us or spend time with us. From her sociopathic point of view, Her Majesty has an image to protect: The Norman Rockwell, We’re A Happy, Normal Family image.
In other words, if we don’t show up at family holiday gatherings, weddings, reunions and so forth, people will wonder why. They’ll ask questions that Her Majesty doesn’t want to answer. She’ll look like she’s lost control over her family cluster, or people might figure out that most people in the cluster really dislike each other. The real truth—the whole truth—would look very bad, indeed.
Of course, when questioned about our absence, Delia will simply lie about us to make us look like the bad guys. That’s the way she rolls. She’s not a big fan of the truth. She prefers a constant, energetic game of I’m Perfect and You’re The Problem. C’est la vie.
The last-minute summons
My mother-in-law summons us to most family events at the last minute, as a steady reminder that we’re unwanted and an afterthought in The Game of Life—“Oh! Didn’t I tell you?” The last-minute summons doesn’t change the fact that it’s a bona fide, full-blown summons.
Here’s the key point from Sociopaths 101. Cats like toying with mice and sociopaths like toying with people. If Delia gets bored at said special event, she needs someone to mess with—someone who’s always available to be attacked—which provides some free entertainment for Her Majesty at the event, and something colorful to gossip about for weeks or months afterwards with her gang of accomplices. Long-term entertainment. Jackpot!
The image vs. the truth
The casual observer would describe my mother-in-law as a gifted artist, devoted Christian and philanthropist. Those of us who know her and have been her chosen targets would describe her as evil.
Until next time
Thanks for tuning in today. In part 3, you’ll learn about my father-in-law, Andrew. Get ready to do some serious head-shaking. I’ve known him for 18+ years and he’s still full of surprises. Bad ones.
Healing through truth and music
Peaceful Readers, I’ve found great healing in my life through the beauty and truth of God’s word and through music. I hope the truths and songs that I share at the end of each post will bless you too.
Truth from The Word: Proverbs 6:16-19 ~ the things that are detestable to the Lord
Our good Father is very much aware of evil and he detests it. He doesn’t just dislike it; He detests it. Take this as the strongest-possible encouragement, especially when you feel broken.
Rest in the truth.
Song for Healing: “Good, Good Father” by Chris Tomlin