Updated: Dec 30, 2021
Yes, you read that right. Not only my mother and father are narcissists, my mother in-law is one, too. Not only this, she also is smarter than my mother, which means she is a more skilled gaslighter. Being in the midst of all the terrible things she did, I really believed at some point that I was as bad as she painted me to be. Accordingly, I did everything to be better and almost lost myself in the process. I am almost out of words for how awful this journey has been.
So what is gaslighting? Gaslighting is a form of manipulation designed to dismantle and disarm a person, so the gaslighter can control the victim (meaning the person who is gaslighted). Basically this means that the gaslighter gets to hold all of the power in a relationship. This is happening in such an isidious way, that the victim doesn't know what has been thrown at them. By the time, the abuser is done with the victim, they feel like they are losing their grip on reality. You feel depleted, very anxious, incapable, unable to make your own decisions, you cannot concentrate on even simple tasks anymore, you feel the need to record your conversations just to prove to yourself that the abuser really said that, you feel isolated, because you cannot talk about what is happening in your relationship. You don't even know how to discribe what is going on. And if you do, no one believes you. Your story just sounds too crazy.
So What Does It Sound Like, If Someoe Is Gaslighting You?
"Stop being so sensitive!"
"That never happened." "I never said that."
You really can't take a joke, can you?"
"Why can't you let go of the past?"
"Your feelings are completely unjustified!"
It's all in your head!"
I have heard all of those phrases myself. As I wrote before, this is meant to take your power and also your self-trust away. Narcissistic people feel very insecure. This is why they need to be grandiose, arrogant, entitled and seek attention all the time. They feel so insecure and full of self-hatred underneath (which by the way they are not in touch with - there is not an ounce of self-reflective capacity there), that it is very difficult for them to regulate their emotions. This is why they fly into a rage so often. In order to regulate themselves they need other people. What is essential to them is to feel safe. To actually achieve that they need to control other people. And guess what, if you refuse to be controled, they either upfront scream at you to put you back in line or they gaslight you into submission by making you feel crazy. By the way, rage is also a form of manipulation, though, it is not gaslighting. Rage is meant to frighten you. Being afraid, you then give in to them and they have you were they want you - small and powerless in a child-like position.
Enabling The Toxic Person
So, this post is about my mother in-law and my partner. Why is it about my partner, too, you may rightfully ask yourself. Well, I don't know if you ever heard about the term "flying monkey" or "enabler", but this is basically what he is. He enabled his mom all his life. She brainwashed him into doing this from day one. To understand the dynamic between a mother and a son, we need to remember that this realtionship is the most profound one you will ever have in your entire life. A child cannot say: "well this is toxic, thanks but I'm out of here, moving into my own appartment by the end of the month"! A kid is fully dependent on his mother. For mere survival. And a child knows and feels that. No child in the world wants to think ill of their mother. This would literally feel life threatening to them! So what do you do as a child of a narcissistic / gaslighting mother? You find rationalizations and learn to gaslight yourself. You also loose touch with your gut feeling. Which probably was pretty accurate all along and warned you that something was wrong. But you learned not to listen and instead blame it all on yourself to justify their behaviour. These patterns persist well into adulthuld and basically never change without psychological intervention. You besaically got conditioned to become a slave of your own mother for a life time. Sounds familiar? So what do you say to yourself to justify staying in that toxic relationship with your mother?
"Maybe she's right and I have a terrible memory."
"I need to proof my love to her!"
"She only needs me to rescue her from her pain!"
"She is probably so rageful because I utterly disappointed her. I need to be better."
"Maybe I am just worthless."
"She is just stressed and this is why she gets so irritable."
"Maybe I need to try harder to get everything right next time."
"I probably am too fat and need to lose weight."
In my own personal case with my own mother I went this far to tell myself that making a living out of stripping is actually something to be proud of. (My mother told me at the age of 13 that I was too stupid to do anything other than stripping for a living.) I believed that well into my twenties... Another thing I told myself to justify her cruel words was that I really was that stupid. This believe still hauts me to this day (I turned 32 last week).
Remember: all of this is unconscious. You don't even know, you are doing it! My partner always took his mother's side. He always defended her. As I wrote before, he was brainwashed from day one into doing so. Somehow I saw right from the get go what a controlling and abusive jerk his mother was. It was utterly confusing to watch him bending over backwards to please her and to feel guilty if he failed to get it just right for her. I tried to educate him. I tried to make him see that what his mom was doing to him (and everyone else by the way) was wrong. Suprise! He didn't get it. It ended with me banging my head against a wall in New Zealand 4 years into the relationship. I wrote about this nervous break down before.
Actually just recently, my therapist strongly urged me to consider breaking up with my partner. I was completely shocked when he said that. Of course, we talked about my mother in-law at lot and so he had a lot of information. I even brought into the sessions emails and voice messages from her to her son! My therapist basically said, that if my partner didn't get this and didn't take my side, than there was nothing I could do to make this relationship work. I do not want to put him into a position were he has to choose between her and me. If he didn't do so willingly, than there is nothing for me to do. He also pointed out to me that maintaining a relationship with this woman would mean bending to all of her demands all the time for the both of us. The funny (or not so funny) thing was, I knew this all along. I just needed someone to validate it for me. I was not wrong. I was not a bad person. I could actually trust myself. (This, by the way, makes therapy so valuable, too.) But my therapist suggesting to leave my partner felt devastating. I am aware that therapists are not supposed to suggest such things and he told me this too, but he also said that he couldn't sit there and not point out to me what I needed to hear. Wow. Basically he said to me, I should set a mental timer for myself for probably one or two years. During that period of time I should watch him carefully. Will he implement the necessary change or will he not? My therapist pointed something out to me that I, myself, couldn't see (and I guess, that's another point that makes therapy so valuable): My happiness is important,too. I should not sacrifice my own life for his decision to sacrifice his to his mom. Wow. That was a mind-blowing revelation to me. One, that I had to digest before I would even be able to think it through. We have been together for more than six years. We had so many dreams. And even though I've been doubting our dreams ever coming true for quite some time, what would my life even look like without him?
To be honest, I am still digesting...
So, What Exact Abusive, Gaslighty Crap Did She Actually Do?
This might help you to identify abuse and gaslighting, done by a narcissist, in your own life...
She said to her son that I itend to get pregnant to use the child for blackmailing him into staying away from his family. (Mind you, I have an illness called endometrioses (I won't go into the details of that illness here, but you can google it) which, apart from enduring unbearable pains during my period, makes it very difficult for me to get pregnant. This was so cruel.) Also I find it very interesting that she seriously believes to be able to read my mind. In reality, I always said to my partner, that I can't have children with him, if the situation doesn't change significantly. I won't subject my children to such an abusive grandmother.
Once, after I had surgery because of that illness I just talked about, I needed someone to look after me at home. Just in case someone was there to drive me to the hospital fast, in case I started to bleed uncontrolably. This sadly sometimes happens. My partner wanted me to come home from the hospital so he could take care of me. So I went home. I trusted him. His mom then called him during that week after he announced to her that he wouldn't be able to attend to an important celebration their church was organizing for Ascension Day. (I know, I am such a monster! How dare I have surgery right before church celebration week!) She yelled so loud at him, that I could hear every word even though he didn't have her on speaker. She said that he needed to make clear to his selfish and unloving girlfriend, what was really important to him. Guess, what, he went to the party, to not upset her.
Another time, when I was at a rehabilitation center after another surgery I had to have, she decided to scedule her moving day (she moved into her freshly built house) the exact day, a professor would come to hold a speech at the rehab for the partners of the women suffering from endometriosis. This would have been important to me. Just saying. Of course did she demand her son to be there and drive the truck. The moving date could not have been changed and the truck could not have been driven by someone else "because she only trusted her son". You better believe, he went to drive the truck even though he knew how much he was hurting me (he even cried in regret afterwards), just to "prove" his loyalty to his mother.
Let's move on to the time when we've been to Australia on work and travel. She started to demand him to come back home after a year of traveling. What she told him was that he was making the entire family sick with his abscense and also that she was thinking about cutting him out of her will if he refuses to give in. She even guilt tripped him into believing that he didn't care about her and didn't love her. And he really thought about that this could be true... Of course was this all my fault. In her sick and twisted mind, I kept him away from her. I only did this because of her. Because everything always is about her! It was utterly impossible, that we simply loved Australia and therefore wished to extend our time there. No, it must be me, the evil person, trying to seperate her from her son. Because for the narcissist, everything is always about them.
We actually had multiple incidents like this, but let's discuss the time we actually spent together in Australia. Mommy dearest demanded to go on vacation with us. And I ended up apologizing to her for all of my countless faults and she possessed the grace to forgive me. Then she came to visit us, brought along her lovely narc off-spring, my sister in-law, and presented us with an unforgettable time. It was hell. Not even being in the presence of my own mother is that bad. I literally watched her verbally abuse my partner every day for 4 weeks straight. My mother in-law and my sister in-law criticized him, mocked him and devalued him, every day. They screamed and threw tantrums, whenever they didn't get their way. My partner went into auto pilot mode. He only just functioned. That was literally all he did. The man who was so passionate about this country was gone and replaced by a roboter. And this left me shocked. Also did he command me to just sit there, do nothing and just shut up. He seriously believed that it was essential for our future to be quiet about this. All I could think of at the time was just WTF... When I confronted him about all of this, he just told me, I was over exaggerating. It wasn't that bad. He dedied to be in auto pilot mode. Yes, he was actually gaslighting me in order to protect his abuser.
Over time, because of his mother, he gave up on our dream of actually moving to Australia (we had a sponsor already toward the end of our time abroad). He threw me under the bus time and again, when he made me move back to Germany when covid happened, he accused me of being at fault that his mother hates me and rages at him for being with me, "because I threatened the peace". When all I did was to keep my distance from this toxic person. I had no protection whatsoever. Not one second. So all I could do to protect myself was to distance myself from her. I stopped going to family gatherings. Which only infuriated her more. By now, I am the antichrist in her mind. When all I did was keeping my distance from her. She now has all she wants. We are here. We stayed in the area where she lives. She gets to see her son on a regular basis. And she still paints me to be the villain.
So now what?
Actually, because she didn't even stop harassing us when she got what she wanted, my partner finally got it, that it wasneither me nor was it him, but it was her who was toxic all along. He now is about to start therapy and again demands me to be patient with him and to understand that all this is a process for him. He didn't know any better so I must be forgiving, right?
You cannot begin to comprehend, how angry I am. I am angry at this evil person for controlling my life for so long. I am mad at him for betraying me so much. He chose to take the comfortable position in the middle. I do recognize that he was abused and brainwashed his entire life and so he felt powerless and also confused. I realize this. But it doesn't make it okay. I am mad at myslelf the most, though. Because I allowed all of this to happen to me. Wid did I not walk away? Why did I make it my mission to anti-brainwash and "save" this man who didn't even want to be saved??? His only intention all along was to keep his fantasy of a happy family intact. Why did I let this happen to me?
Well I guess, this is the only serious question, I will have to ask myself. I even know the answer already. I unconsciously believed, to not deserve any better. And this makes this sting so bad. I was devalued and abused by my own parents my entire life. Now I cut ties with them, but found a surrogate-mother to continue to devalue and abuse me instead. Isn't it hilarious? Except for that it isn't.
My therapist pointed out to me, that my mother in-law's abuse is a huge trigger for me. It hurts me so much and also by now makes me physically sick, because it reminds me of the abuse my parents put me through. And I guess, this also is the answer to the question above. Because I didn't know any better, I stayed. Just like my partner was in auto pilot mode around his mother, I went into "justifying my entire existence mode". Not only to this evil woman, but also to her flying squad. This is what I was programmed to do. I never was listened to. I never was seen or even recognized. I learned early on, that I didn't matter. So I made it my mission to prove that I mattered. What would be a better way to do this than rescuing someone else out of an equally abusive parent-child relationship?
Except for that it didn't work. He didn't want to be rescued. And I should have left this relationship after seeing the first red flags which probably happened only a few months into the relationship. I would have saved myself a lot of heart break and suffering. This is a sad realization. By now, I just want my life back. I can't sleep anymore. I can't concentrate on my classes at uni anymore. I lost all my power over my own life in this relationship. I couldn't even decide which uni to go to, because we had to stay close to mommy dearest. I had skin rashes that didn't make any sense, I had worse pain flare ups during my period than I had in a long time, I have one bladder infection after the other. This is making me sick. I ruminate all day every day compulsively not only about what she will do next, but what my partner will allow her to do next. I wonder how I will ever be able to gather the strength to put an end to this, focus on my studies, deal with my own mental issues steming from my own abusive childhood all on my own and support myself financially while doing it?
Only one thing, I know for sure: I will never be able to heal in that environment.
Sending all of you hugs!