Editor’s note: The following email was sent by the Lovefraud reader who posts as “OpalRose.”
I’m not a good writer, but I’ve learned so much the past 3 years from Love Fraud that I decided to write about my “Long Night’s Journey into Day” about emerging from childhood with a sociopathic mother.
My first experience of something amiss that stuck with me was probably pre-school when she had a full-blown temper tantrum that I brought her too many envelopes. She had asked for “a few envelopes” and I had brought 7 — she even counted them out and screamed that I should know that “a few” means 3. So much for my ability to read minds. She insisted that “if we really loved her, she wouldn’t have to ask for anything, we should just know.” She was always writing letters and letters and letters and could not keep enough envelopes in stock.
Fast forward to her death in 2003 and the little black book with over 100 addresses and receiving really weird condolence letters from many, many people who were “heavily involved” with writing sexual content back and forth with her over the years. Yes — I burned everything — very cathartic. Now I know that sociopathic people can follow a pattern of multiple affairs of all types concurrently. Thank you LF for that information.
The sexual pattern unfortunately extended to me her daughter and my older brother; that is until she began a heavily involved emotional (maybe more) affair with a young mother who moved into the house behind ours. I was 14 at the time and it confused me tremendously as to what she was up to, even spending the night claiming that the young mother of 3 was afraid when her husband was out of town (yes — I worry that she probably molested the little ones). The 2 women would spend time harassing me about everything personal — my hair, my gangly teenage body, my teeth in braces. I had no idea what to do about it, so I remained cheerful and never complained. This was my first experience of devalue / discard.
The only times she was “nice” to me were at church and when I was a good line on HER resume. I never once saw her express a single real emotion. Good report cards were never celebrated, after school activities were banned even though she did not want to spend any time with me, she gave my clothes away to other people at the drop of a hat, she would go into “charm mode” when anyone called or stopped by, she wanted me to be “outgoing and entertaining” whenever we interacted (like a movie script), she was thoroughly bored every night that she was home, she hated being home at all, she harped about her days as a young beautiful thing who charmed everyone and broke all the hearts (dating married men and jilting her fiancÃ© for my father whom she married after 2 weeks of “love at first sight”). Wow — exhausting stuff.
At age 19, I was still living at home attending a community college as a conscious decision to protect my by then disabled father, my brother long gone (good for him). Somehow I decided to run an “experiment” and do everything she wanted for 1 full year (except for the deviant sex stuff — she wanted me to flirt with men and women of all kinds and help her meet them — uh NO). The young mother had moved away with her 3 children so I guess I was the “best game in town” and she came back to me with her demands. By this time, she was in her mid-50’s, but nothing ever slowed her down. That year, I took her to every social outing, store shopping (working nights to fund her purchases — all of them frivolous), kept her completely supplied and entertained. At the end of the year, I looked back and saw the bottomless pit that she was and stopped everything. I was burned out and she was still demanding, still restless, still pushing for extra sex of all kinds (while going to church like she was a saint for caring for a disabled husband). Endless supply — pattern of a sociopath – thank you LF for that sharing that insight.
Once I stopped everything – what next ? You got it — extreme measures to bring me “back into line.” Physical abuse, using every acquaintance to harass me, phone calls, lectures from the minister (all lies), and of course holding my father’s safety over me as a very effective threat. So I stayed and I stayed and I stayed until 27 years old when I deliberately married someone she hated and moved out of state. My father’s older sister later moved in with them and it was a big relief for me for his safety. She was an awesome geriatric nurse and she remained living in the house until he died. Thank you Auntie !! Of course she moved out immediately after his death.
I ended up way across country and participated in an informal peer counseling therapy group for women who had “issues with their mothers.” Nobody knew me there and that was very freeing. Wow — open sharing and nothing was sacred. Did that ever open up my deepest wounds for peers to see and I learned the phrase “reality check.” That group with all its foibles started my journey out of darkness. LF is right — you see much more clearly when you are away from the toxic environment.
We noticed similar patterns in all our childhood homes: the financial drains, the sexual abuse, the incessant gossip as weapons (gaslighting), the no real emotion phenomenon, the restlessness, the sexual appetites that knew no boundaries, the falling asleep instantly at night (like turning off a switch), the instant mood changes when visitors arrived and left, the masks they wore, everything was there. We would meet for 2 hours every week and then go to a nearby small outdoor eatery where we would talk for hours and hours on end. There was a young man who worked there who joined us and opened up completely about his journey. We had no way to organize our experiences around “sociopath,” but wow — we were awesome together. So much gratitude for that time in my life. I could say anything I wanted — anything and there was nothing but validation. Pure healing balm. Quality listeners — right ?? A whole nest of them !! Like the LF site.
During my 3 year stint in that healing place, my father passed away. I went home for the funeral and spent 2 weeks in hell with my mother as you can imagine. I “escaped” (literally) back to my new home and then guess what started ?? Love Bombing !!! I had never experienced the amount of flirting, presents in the mail, phone messages about how amazing a person I was, yada, yada, yada from MY MOTHER. Totally weird and I totally ignored it. Next came the police visits with her claiming I had stolen things from her house, phone calls from “concerned” religious ministers whom she had recruited in my new town, registered letters containing blank paper just to get a “registered receipt” sent to her, really ugly letters from relatives claiming I had “abandoned this poor widow.” What a blessing that I had my group to give me constant reality checks and I was never in danger of succumbing to her antics.
I instinctively went No Contact and it worked for me !! I learned to have papers ready for the police about her accusations and got to know them on first name basis so that when someone tried to break into my home while I was there alone, the police were there right away. I suspect she was behind the break-in attempt as it was a group of people who were more bent on intimidating me with screaming threats and name calling (some of which could have only come from her), although I don’t know what might have happened if they had successfully gotten hold of me physically. The most important piece that kept me safe and sane was permission to have my feelings in the moment which my peer group provided me. I was never fooled by her or successfully manipulated by her again. I was never within a 1000 mile radius of her again (conscious decision). Yes, I was extraordinarily lucky to be able to make the decision to be physically unavailable to her.
Careful with my brother
When she passed away in 2003 and I traveled to attend her funeral, I was “ready” for the snide remarks towards me, I was ready for the claims I had severely disappointed my parents (meaning my mother), I was ready for all of it and it definitely came. I also saw my older brother for the first time in years and got really clear that he had gone back and forth under pressure and had yet to begin recovery. He still struggles I think because he does not see that it is NOT his fault and actually had nothing to do with him. That 1-year experiment when I catered to the majority of her supply needs cured me of thinking I could change her in any way. He never got to have that lesson and cannot understand when I talk about my recovery journey. For now, he is fragile and I am careful with him. We did have an amazing moment — in the movie, “The Savages,” the brother and sister were making care decisions for a parent who had been abusive. During one conversation, they said, “we are taking better care of him than he ever did of us.” My brother and I had that moment — wow — what a load off our shoulders when we realized we are separate souls from hers and that we are okay — not without our nightmares and recovery issues — but our souls are okay. We did make sure her needs were met as she aged, although we both knew enough to stay away for our personal safety and to avoid police involvement from false accusations.
Grounding my experience
I came to LF because of a current relationship issue and here is where I have begun to completely ground all I have learned, with ways to organize my thoughts and experiences, with blogs from peers (oh how I value all my peers), with reminders that I have more work to do and a path that I am determined will continue forward. My best medicines ?? Quality listeners, plenty of sleep (still recovering from years of sleep deprivation and hypervigilance issues) and reality checks (it was always about keeping the supply coming).
When I started writing this, I had no idea I would end up on a positive note — I usually don’t write at all — so this is way cool. Thanks for being here.