> No More Secrets And Lies: Living on a Fault Line: The Warning Signs of Parental Alienation Part I

Monday, June 30, 2014

Living on a Fault Line: The Warning Signs of Parental Alienation Part I

"We were never the aggressors; we only defended our lands, women and children."    Sitting Bull.
(The way some parents describe their positions in custody battles.)

None of us realized we were living on a fault line of seismic activity that could easily crack open and tear our family apart. None of us saw this; neither the girls nor I.  I especially didn't see what our post-divorce situation had come to. But looking back, I now realize I should have heeded the warnings that my ex's ceaseless attempts to take my children away provided me.

But I didn't know about parental alienation warnings back then. No one did. Instead I thought the turmoil from our divorce was a think of the past and all our problems had died down or gone away. After all, we had maintained a fifty/fifty split of everything, including our children, for the ten years following our divorce with the only problems being my ex's periodic disruptions, which predictably only happened a few times a year.

And I was getting used to these by then and didn't give them much thought. And I don't think the girls did either. For all I knew they thought their mother's regular interruptions in our lives were how all divorced families lived. Or else they thought it was the price we had to pay to be able to live together. They knew sacrifices were involved. There wasn't much they didn't know after ten years of custody battles, no matter how hard we tried to keep it all from them.

But to be honest, I never know what the girls thought because we never talked about the big bad thing that tore our family apart. As topic of discussion the divorce was off limits – at least in my half of the family – and so we pretended like it never happened. And we also pretended like their mother's constant attempts to take them away weren't happening either.

And that was a mistake.

Because pretending something isn't happening doesn't make it so; it just makes everyone more detached from reality. And after a while you forget you ever fabricated your little make-believe world in the first place and you start to think it's real.

And that's a very scary and a very dangerous thing to let happen.

And even though deep down I knew what was real from not real, I didn't want to admit this to myself. Even though deep down beneath my surface I knew that just beneath my ex's surface there seethed a bubbling, hot cauldron of animosity ready to explode. And I think the girls knew this too.

But we didn't talk about this because we didn't want to think about it. We preferred, instead, to believe that the long and painful decade of custody battles was over-with along any threats associated with these battles. 

And that turned out to be a mistake too. A deadly one.

Deadly, because one of the warning signs of parental alienation is  a history of one spouse trying to take the children from the other spouse. And when there's been a decade of someone doing this, alarms should go off and flags should be raised and you should be alert to the very real possibility that you could lose your children to this person.

Because this is more than someone who is merely annoyed with the outcome of a divorce. This is someone on a crusade, and their perpetual rumblings are neither a sign of any custody battle dying down nor of them moving on. It's anything but this. These are symptoms of someone who feels slighted, who has internalized their slight, and who has chosen to remedy it by retribution, retaliation, and revenge. This is someone who sees your well-being as the cause of all their problems and sees your demise as the solution.

But most importantly, this is person you should be cautious around because their modus operandi has become deeply pathological, deeply troubling, and deeply troublesome for everyone involved. It's something no parent should fail to see – especially the parent who is in the crosshairs of this rage.

.      .      .

But I did fail to see it and that's inexcusable. And I blame myself for the problems it caused the girls and me and for the fact that they're now gone from my life. 

But no one wanted to hear me talk about my divorce any more no matter how contentious it had become. And telling people I thought my ex was still trying to take the girls from me sounded crazy and paranoid and I risked being accused of starting trouble simply by mentioning it.

And even though I would still get reports from the girls that their mother was still bad-mouthing me, I ignored these reports and failed to see them as threats. Threats from her at this point seemed nonexistent and distant. We had all been down that road too many times, and I chalked any threats or her bad-mouthing as last gasps of her last terrors, death throes of her lost battles, and a need to show us she was still a force to be reckoned with.

And, I assumed, even if she tried to poison my girls and make them hate me, I was certain they were too wise to be manipulated by her, too savvy to be deceived by her, and too loyal to be turned against me. We had been through the worst custody battle together – absolutely the worst – and we were still together. And that was huge. 

And they loved their dad and I loved them and that was also huge. It was incomprehensible to imagine us ever being separated from each other, mostly because we had never been apart from each other more than a week.

And that turned out to be one of the biggest mistakes of all.

Because once we were separated from each other – even for a short period of time – the bad-mouthing had a chance to sink in. And that was all it took. 

Because it took them from me. 

Almost overnight.

I had only been gone from my two youngest daughters for a few short weeks, but yet when I returned they had changed drastically. They were different people, and I couldn't believe what I was seeing. 

I refused to believe it.

They were not the little girls I had left behind, and I was sure they were joking when they told me they hated me and never wanted to see me again.

But they weren't joking. It was all too real and they meant every word of it.

.     .     .

And now as I write this, it will be four years since I've seen my two youngest daughters.  I know nothing about their lives anymore. Literally nothing. They couldn't be any more distant from me then if they had died, because that's exactly what it's like for me. And I'm guessing it's like that for them as well. 

I never hear from them anymore. There are no calls or birthday cards, no letters or emails, and certainly no visits.

And no reason.

Never has been a reason for the deathly rejection and vile hatred towards their father except that they were told that they should hate me over and over in a constant dialog drummed into their heads. 

A dialog similar to the following...

You know you girls really shouldn't feel good about visiting your father. I don't even know why you want to.

He's not a very good parent. He's not even a very good person, and everybody knows that. I'm just trying to help you understand this for your own good.

And his house isn't even that clean. He doesn't do the dishes all that well or feed you all that well. If it weren't for me you wouldn't have anything. I do most of the things for this family. Always have. You're lucky to have me.

I was always the best parent and you know this. Even the teachers and other people know this. And you have to believe them.

Besides, your dad doesn't really like you anyway. He just pretends like he does so he can get back at me. 

The only reason he even wants to be around you is so he can hurt me. That's the truth.

And he smokes.

This is exactly the kind of bad-mouthing alienated children are exposed to. It's the kind of bad-mouthing I know my children are exposed to over-and-over at their mother's house. I know this because they've told me. That is, when they used to talk to me and were able to see this for what it was. They don't see it any more.

There's no way a child can fight against this whether it's true or not (it isn't) or whether it's ever been part of their experience or not (it hasn't). None of that matters because it becomes part of their experience once they're exposed to it relentlessly. It really does. It actually forms the substance of their memories with the parent who is the target of this stuff – the denigrated parent. Or me, in this case.

It really does work this way.

And like all poisoned children, my girls had no idea this was happening to them — that their minds were being reshaped regarding the way they saw me.

Within a few weeks they had changed they regarded me so drastically that they no longer wanted to spend any time with me anymore. And after a few more weeks they told me they never wanted to see me again  never wanted me in their lives again. Ever.

And that's the way it's stayed. 

No matter how close you are to your children, and no matter how savvy you may think they are, they're sitting ducks to this type of exploitation. It's beyond the ability of any child to resist.

.           .          .

Before we knew it the ground had shifted beneath our feet and our world had cracked open. The girls and I were living in two different worlds separated by a chasm so wide and so deep that it was impossible to bridge no matter how hard I tried, all because I failed to see what was right in front of me – a shifting, rumbling fault line right beneath my feet waiting for the day it would spew deadly hatred and poison as part of a plan to terminate my relationship with my girls.

Missing this warning sign turned out to be a fatal mistake for all of us.

End of Part I


Tracy Smith said...

I just read part one & I am so amazed at how similar your words are to my situation. I did not see this coming either & it has shattered the ground beneath me. I had been divorced for 8 years from this man & had a beautiful daughter, Sam. It wasn't until I got remarried 3 years ago that he began gradually, but mythodically putting his plan into action. I have not seen my daughter in over a year now. I look back & I should have seen this coming? not really, who would ever imagine one person could do such a thing to another!! Now I know there were signs but I knew nothing about parental alienation. This man did not stop until he had my child, my brothers & their wives, my cousins & even my own parents aligned with him. I was clueless at the time. I feel like my Sam was kidnapped from her bed in the middle of the night. She left when school got out for the summer to spend time with him & she never came back. Nobody could have ever told me that this little girl that had been my heart & soul for 12 years would EVER turn away from me, but she did. My heart actually stops beating sometimes & gives me a dull thud of pain when I think of her, then I take a few deep breaths & get busy doing something!! Pulling weeds soothes me a lot!! I will never give up on my Sam. She would never have done this to me on her own. He made sure when he felt the time was right to strike that he had a lot of help. I have faith that one day we will be reunited. She is now 13 1/2 & I heard through the grapevine that she has started her period recently. I know that she needs her Mother. I cringe when I think about the damage that has been & will be done to her by this. Lord help us all. Together forever, stuck like glue, I don't want to live without you!!! She & I said that daily while locking our pinkies together. He has stolen her mind!!! Thanks to people like you, I am just now becoming aware of parental alienation & want to help others before this happens to them!! Bless you!! Tracy

Michael Hartman said...

You have great writing skills! Thank you for posting this

John Brosnan said...

Nicely said Tracy -- shattered the ground beneath you. I like that. Our stories are errily similar. What you describe is classic PA because you lose, not only your children, but any family associated with them. Even your own extended family. How that is possible?

I love your descriptions. You need to write your own blog.