My Son’s Psychopathic Grandmother is Wrecking His Life

Reader’s Question

My adult son’s psychopathic grandmother is controlling his life and destroying his independence. My son is 22 years old and has Asperger’s Syndrome. Because of this, he is somewhat naïve and easily manipulated. His grandmother has taken advantage of these traits and completely derailed the plans he once had for his future.

I thought I was doing what was best for my son by allowing his grandmother to be in his life. I respected her and now instead of reciprocating, she has brainwashed my son and effectively shut me out of his life. She doesn’t allow my son to do anything for himself and now he seems to believe that he is incapable of accomplishing anything without her. She has spoiled him and turned him into someone we don’t even know anymore. She has always wanted him to live with her and even set up an internship and job interviews in her town during his last visit without consulting him or his parents. She manipulates and forces her own agenda by “helping” or giving gifts with strings attached. I have learned not to accept anything from her because she always expects something in return. My son doesn’t get this yet.

Before her husband passed away (Grandpa), he told me that he set aside enough money for my son to attend any college he wants to attend, including graduate school. Sadly, his widow (Granny) is the only one who can make good on this promise because she controls the purse strings. Granny whined to my son about her declining financial situation, so he decided to attend an inexpensive college instead of the school of his real preference. When he began to explore graduate school, she told him there was no money left in his college fund. When I confronted her about this, she said she had to spend my son’s college fund on her grown daughter’s divorce lawyers instead of my son’s tuition!

Her own adult children have never had to grow up and face reality because she bailed them out of every difficulty they have ever encountered. She has crippled their independence and she is attempting to add my son to her collection of irresponsible dependants.

Her interference has caused him to resent and distance himself from me. He won’t return my calls or respond to my emails.

My son graduated from college in June. He is very shy and wanted to skip the graduation ceremony; however, his Granny insisted he participate, saying she paid for his degree and she was going to see him walk at graduation. She recently traveled to his college as he was preparing to come home and virtually “kidnapped” him.

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She brought him home with her, and now he is living in her basement rent free and free of any responsibility. He is consumed by his interest in internet gaming and has been avoiding the rest of his family and the real world. I don’t know what to do and can’t just allow her to turn him into another one of her incompetent children. I feel like he has been brainwashed by a cult! Now that he is legally an “adult” am I powerless?

Psychologist’s Reply

Of course it’s not possible to make a definitive assessment of your situation on the basis of the information at hand. However, certain things stand out so dramatically that they merit comment.

You describe “Granny” as a psychopath. By definition, a psychopath has no capacity for human empathy and is a heartless, conscienceless predator who uses, abuses, and exploits others for amusement and personal gain. Such people don’t make efforts to line up job interviews or give financial aid for college.

You also complain that Granny does far too much for your son as well as her own children, crippling them in the process by fostering inordinate dependency. Yet, you complain she isn’t doing enough for him financially.

Lastly you complain that you have always tried to see to it that your son’s Asperger’s Disorder doesn’t keep him from functioning in the world. Yet, you complain that Granny did not allow him to avoid graduation and succumb to the social anxiety typical of individuals who have his syndrome.

In short, she does too much but not enough. She has no heart but does so much for everyone that they are reduced to complete incompetence. And she tortures your son by making him do the kind of things that would help “normalize” him socially.

There’s something drastically missing from this picture. You project upon this woman unbelievable power to wreck the lives of many around her. This, of course, is simply not reasonable.

You are right that your son is an adult and has legal charge over his own life. And you have had his entire developmental years to cement a relationship with him. It seems clear that Granny is the target of much anger, but the actual root of such anger does not seem so clear. My guess is that whatever “issues” you’ve had with her run deep, have been around for a long time, and aren’t going to be resolved anytime soon.

You do have a legitimate concern when it comes to not wanting your son to be inordinately crippled either by his disorder or by the “enabling” aspects of others who promote too much dependency. And you have the power to provide loving guidance for him. My suggestion is that you forget “Granny” and focus on your relationship with your son. He is an adult and even with his disorder is capable of understanding the nature of your concerns if you are open and honest with him and appear to be coming from a caring place.

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